St. Louis Scientists Invited to the White House

The White House invited Dr. Terry Woodford-Thomas, director of science education and outreach at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center along with Dr. Cindy Encarncion, director of life sciences at the St. Louis Science Center to D.C. during a recent Champions of Change award program event. The event recognized American citizens’ contributions to their communities and highlighted “citizen science” projects across the nation.

champions-of-changeDr. Woodford-Thomas and Dr. Encarncion, were invited to attend the event because of their contributions to a White House report on the impact of citizen science programs across the nation, as well as for leading Backyard Biofuels, a collaborative program between the Danforth Plant Science Center and St. Louis Science Center.

With funding from National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy, the Backyard Biofuels project opened to the public in 2010. Since then, thousands of algae collection kits were distributed and several hundred “algae hunters,” ranging from the age of six to adults contributed algae from across the nation. The Backyard Biofuels Project not only contributed valuable sets of naturally-occurring oil-producing algae to bioenergy scientists for investigative research; importantly, it allowed students whose interest in science could be enhanced by working side-by-side with “real” scientists in cutting-edge research laboratories to be identified and nurtured.

“Citizen science drives people to engage in discovery, both scientific discovery and self-discovery. It also helps to translate this understanding of science into action,” said Dr. Woodford-Thomas.

For three years, a celebration of “All Things Algae” or Algae Palooza, was held at the Saint Louis Science Center to engage citizens in various activities such as algae identification from pond water, making biofuel from plant vegetable oil, painting with algae, making algae ball “bling”, observing science grade algae photobioreactors in action and meeting Danforth Center scientists engaged in algae biofuels research. Continue reading

Houses Passes Revised Version of Farm Bill

The House has voted to pass a partisan, revised version of its farm bill, H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (FARRM) 216 to 208. The Chairman Frank D Lucasversion does not include food stamp authorization but keeps in tact current agricultural programs. The debate over the bill has been long and drawn out and took up most of yesterday and today before the bill was brought up for vote with pleas from Chairman Frank D. Lucas to pass the bill and go home to their families.

The House claims that FARRM helps diversify the nation’s energy supply and creates new economic opportunities in rural America by promoting the development of advanced biofuels and renewable energy. However, the bill eliminates mandatory funding and reauthorizes programs at reduced discretionary funding levels that they say will save taxpayers $500 million. Energy programs affected include: Rural Energy for America (REAP), Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), Biorefinery Assistance Program (BAP), Biobased Markets Program, and the Biodiesel Fuel Education Program.

In addition, FARRM reauthorizes the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels, the Repowering Assistance Program, the Biomass Research and Development Program, the Feedstock Flexibility Program, and the Community Wood Energy Program. It repeals or ends authorizations of the Biofuels Infrastructure Study, and the Renewable Fertilizer Study, the Rural Energy Self sufficiency Initiative, and the Forest Biomass for Energy Programs.

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 3.51.47 PMIn response to the passage of the bill, Brian Jennings, executive vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) said, “Now that the U.S. House has adopted its version of the Farm Bill, ACE will be working to encourage the House-Senate conference committee to finalize legislation that mirrors the Senate Bill. The Senate version contains support for important Energy Title initiatives, particularly mandatory funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).”

Jennings continued, “These REAP funds provide vital cost-share assistance to help petroleum marketers make upgrades or install new equipment at retail stations, ensuring consumers have access to renewable and affordable fuels such as ethanol. We are hopeful Congress enacts a multi-year, comprehensive farm bill that resembles the Senate legislation before the September 30 deadline.”

The Senate version includes a robust portfolio energy program as well as funds the programs. The next step is for the House-Senate conference committee to draft and present a compromised version of the bill.

EU Votes to Cap Biofuel “Food” Feedstock Use

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 12.58.19 PMThis week the European Parliament Environment Committee voted for the European Union (EU) to cap the amount of food used as biofuels at 5.5 percent. Groups opposed to the measure want to see an end to biofuels created from “food” crops. The EU’s Renewable Energy Directive requires EU member states to use 10 percent of the road transport fuel from renewable sources by 2020. Historically, the mandate has been met with feedstocks also used to produce food (corn, wheat, soy).

The first generation cap on “agri-fuels” is an attempt to help the country transition to advanced biofuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions resulting from indirect land use change (ILUC).

“I nonetheless think that the industry must be given time to adapt, and I shall propose a compromise to this end in plenary session,” said rapporteur Corinne Lepage (ALDE, FR) after the vote. Her first-reading report was approved by 43 votes to 26, with one abstention.

“While today’s vote for a 5.5 percent cap is better than no cap, it still means that people in the United Kingdom and Europe will put food in their cars that could have fed tens of millions of people. This is not acceptable at a time when 1 in 8 people go hungry globally,” said Anders Dahlbeck, Head of Policy at ActionAid UK.

EU Parliment copyThe EU is revising its biofuels policies and this week MEPs on the Environment committee voted on proposed amendments that will not have to be accepted or rejected by the European Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg in September. After that, the European Parliament will have to negotiate with the European Council (made up of EU governments) before a final revision to biofuels policies can be implemented. Continue reading

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFPOET-DSM Advanced Biofuels has hired Michael Nealon as the new Corporate Controller. Nealon will be responsible for planning, organizing, directing, and controlling the consolidated accounting and financial reporting function for POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels, LLC.
  • Omnitek Engineering Corporation has been selected by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency for a pilot project to demonstrate its diesel-to-natural gas engine conversion technology for drayage trucks serving the Port of Seattle, Washington, in support of the Port’s Clean Truck Program.
  • Principal Solar has acquired the 3 megwatt Powerhouse One solar power farm that consists of four 750 kW ground-mounted PV systems located in Fayetteville, TN. PH1 is one of the largest operating PV systems in Tennessee.
  • IHI E&C International Corporation has been selected as the contractor for the Sundrop Fuels inaugural natural gas to gasoline plant project in Alexandria, Louisiana. The plant features Sundrop’s proprietary gasification technology for making renewable “green gasoline” from woody biomass.
  • Soitec has completed construction of the 1.5 MW Newberry Solar 1 project in San Bernardino County, California. It is the largest concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) power plant in California, featuring Soitec’s technology with modules manufactured in San Diego.

Vivergo Fuels Opens Bioethanol Plant

vivergo_site_webVivergo Fuels Ltd has opened the United Kingdom’s (UK)  largest bioethanol plant based on Praj technology and design. The greenfield biorefinery is operating on wheat produced in the UK and according to Praj, the feedstock is highly energy efficient due to the integration of the distillation, dehydration and evaporation processes that reduce energy consumption. The plant adheres to European Union (EU) sustainability criteria for greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions.

Vivergo Fuels is a joint venture between AB Sugar, BP, and DuPont. The plant is capable of producing around 1/3 of the UK’s current bioethanol demand for petrol and will be UK’s largest single source supplier of animal feed. Vivergo Fuels has already gained International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC), certifying that bioethanol plant and their business fully comply with the requirements of the EU Renewable Energy Directive.

Dave Richards, Managing Director of Vivergo Fuels, said, “We’re very pleased that our plant has officially opened and look forward to a successful future as one the Europe’s largest bioethanol businesses. We’d like to thank Praj for their support throughout the delivery of this project.”

Praj provided the license for the technology, basic engineering as well as certain equipment for the core process block which includes liquefaction, fermentation, distillation, multi effect evaporation and molecular sieve dehydration. The plant is designed to use 1.1 million tonnes of feed-grade wheat to produce 420 million litres of bioethanol and 500,000 tonnes of protein rich animal feed per year.

The CE marked ready-to-install equipment were designed, manufactured, assembled and tested at Praj’s manufacturing facility in SEZ, Kandla. This enabled quick and easy installation on-site. The large size equipment with diameter of 4.6 m and height of 37.75 m were shipped in one-piece.

“It’s been a great experience and a matter of pride for Praj to be associated with the ‘Largest Bioethanol Project’ in the UK for Vivergo Fuels,” said Pramod Chaudhari, executive chairman, Praj Industries Limited. “With Praj’s experience of nearly three decades, we have designed an energy efficient plant with minimum energy consumption leading to 30-40 percent saving in water and steam. This is the 2nd bioethanol plant in U.K. based on Praj technology.”

Abengoa Inaugurates First Waste-to-Biofuels Plant

Abengoa has inaugurated its demonstration plant that uses Waste-to-Biofuels (W2B) technology. The plant has a capacity to treat 25,000 tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) from which it will obtain up to 1.5 million liters of bioethanol for use as fuel.

The demonstration plant located in Babilafuente (Salamanca, Spain) and uses W2B technology developed by Abengoa to produce second-generation biofuels from MSW using a fermentation and enzymatic Abengoa Salamanca-1-large_300hydrolysis treatment. During the transformation process, the organic matter is treated in various ways to produce organic fiber that is rich in cellulose and hemicellulose, which is subsequently converted into bioethanol.

Abengoa says the the production of bioethanol from municipal solid waste is a major technological breakthrough in the waste management model, since it increases the recovery rate, minimizes the carbon footprint and generates major benefits for society. The company says the fuel produced from its plant will reduce greenhouse gas emissions per kilometer travelled by 70 percent. In addition, Abengoa’s technology maximizes the recovery of the organic fraction of the MSW and  prevents more than 80 percent of the waste ending up in landfill.

During the opening, Manuel Sánchez Ortega, CEO of Abengoa said, “This plant once again highlights Abengoa’s commitment to technological research and innovation, which has enabled it to maintain a competitive advantage in its sectors, leading projects with huge technological potential and programs that involve world-leading research centers and strategic partners.”

The bioethanol produced at the W2B plant has multiple uses such as an additive for gasoline, increasing its octane rating; as fuel for cars; for use in the chemicals and pharmaceutical industry (in solvents or cosmetics, for example), and even as an intermediate product in producing jet fuel.

Biobased Products Made in Europe

Bridge 2020 logoThe European Commission is having a busy week with much of it focused on efforts to mitigate climate change. One such move is the proposal of a €3.8 billion Public Private Partnership (PPP) on Biobased Industries, an initiative that would accelerate the commercialization of biobased products in Europe. The European Commission will invest €1 billion and industry €2.8 billion, from 2014 to 2020, to boost market uptake of new biobased products that are “made in Europe”.

The goal of the partnership is to promote the use of various sources of sustainable biomass and waste to produce everyday products such as food, feed, chemicals and fuels. The use of local biomass and waste will generate growth and jobs in rural areas across European regions, while reducing the European Union’s (EU) reliance on fossil fuels, thereby offering sustainable alternatives to oil-based products and enhancing energy and food security.

Novozymes is part of this initiative alongside 47 leading European companies in the novozymesbiotech, chemical, energy, agro-food and pulp and paper sectors.

“The Biobased Industries PPP is essential for Europe to remain competitive in the global race for the development of a biobased economy,” said Novozymes CEO Peder Holk Nielsen. “It is an opportunity for reindustrialization and for reversing the investment trend currently going to other regions of the world because of more attractive policy frameworks.”

The PPP will capitalize on Europe’s innovation and technological leadership to bring biobased solutions from research labs to the market. Various sectors will be brought together to optimize and create new value chains, such as connecting farmers and foresters directly to consumers.

Obama Launches Power for Africa Initiative

President Obama made his first official trip to Africa last week and while there announced his Power Africa initiative, an effort to bring reliable, safe and affordable energy to the country. One Sunrise, Florida-based company has already been working to provide Africans innovative energy solutions: SKYei – formerly SKY Energy International.

Ethiopia4The company has recently completely a U.S. $5 million solar panel manufacturing facility in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. At full manufacturing capacity, the assembly plant, a collaboration with a local government-owned company, will ramp up to three shifts turning out panels capable of generating 20 megawatts annually. SKYei is also developing hydropower and is in the early stages of a U.S. $300 million project in Tanzania. The project is expected to provide a significant source of electricity for the region.

Doing business in Africa is challenging, but doable, according to SKYei CEO Roland “Mack” McLean, because all equipment, materials and supplies must also be shipped to the remote regions. “Simply put, Africa is a long way away and it’s just not easy to get there,” he said, noting it can take as long as 51 hours and up to five flights to reach the remote regions where SKYei is working. “That said, the payoff, in terms of ROI [return on investment] for investors, is great and the impact we can have on the lives of the communities where we’re working is even greater.”

Aaron McLean in TanzaniaAaron McLean, SKYei Director of Business Development, is currently on the ground in Tanzania. “Diligence and organization of human resources, both in-country and out, are essential,” he said. “The ability to provide power to regions in dire need far outweighs the challenges we face.”

In addition to a team of engineers and technicians, SKYei also employs a Director of Corporate Giving, Dr. Jerry Huson, to ensure that local residents benefit most from the development, a cornerstone of SKYei’s business philosophy. In addition, the company plans to develop potable water resources for locals living near the Tanzania project.

Hybrid PVT Solar System Successful In Oahu

The SunDrum Hybrid PVT solar system operating at the Inn at Schofield Barracks, a large hotel in Oahu, Hawaii, has returned 25 percent of its installation costs in the first six Solar PV Panels at Inn Schofield Barracksmonths of operation. Installed by AllNuEnergy, Inc., the system is expected to break even in less than two and a half years and provide an ROI of more than 29 percent.

The SunDrum thermal collectors are a unique design in that they take advantage of the excess heat generated by the solar PV panel. Solar PV panels convert only 10-15 percent of the Sun’s energy into electricity. The remainder is thrown off as waste heat. By attaching the SunDrum thermal collector to the underside of a standard PV panel, the SunDrum System is able to capture up to 75 percent of this waste energy, thereby heating fluid running through the SunDrum system which heats the hot water of the hotel.

The unique SunDrum System allows the greatest amount of renewable energy to be generated in a given amount of space. Also, by drawing heat directly from the PV panel, the SunDrum collector cools it, thereby improving the electrical output between 5-10 pecent. In contrast, according to SunDrum Solar, dual systems require their own space and are unable to generate both electrical and thermal energy in the same footprint.

By utilizing the SunDrum Solar unique PVT design at the Inn at Schofield Barracks, SunDrum says the hotel will realize over 27 percent or an additional $1.1M in total savings even though only 40 percent of the PV panels have SunDrum Solar attachments.

OnStar & TimberRock Partner on EV Solar Charging

OnStar-TimberRock-mediumOnStar is partnering with TimberRock Energy Solutions to develop advanced EV solar charging technologies. TimberRock uses aggregation software and solar charging canopies with integrated storage to manage the flow of solar power to the electric grid. The project will be the first “real-world” use of OnStar’s Smart Grid solutions.

As part of the project, TimberRock will monitor the output of its solar charging stations, how much stored energy is available and when it can sell energy back to the grid to help meet peak demand. To help balance this system, TimberRock will then manage its fleet of four Chevrolet Volts to help regulate energy flow. This practice is known as Market-Based Regulation.

“The future of electric vehicle charging will be a marriage of renewable energy and battery storage as we look to address the intermittency of renewable solar and wind power,” said Rob Threlkeld, General Motors’ manager of renewable energy. “This project supports GM’s goal of using all factors of the charging equation: electric vehicles, solar power, and battery storage.”

The ability to control the Volts’ charging using software algorithms is made possible by an OnStar solution called Demand Response, accessed through OnStar’s Smart Grid application programming interface, or APIs. OnStar has given TimberRock access to this solution so that it can start, stop and modulate the amount of charge going to a particular Volt in coordination with energy need. TimberRock’s software determines when the EVs can be used to support the grid. Continue reading

EDP Adds Natural Gas to Fleet

Portuguese energy company EDP is adding a compressed natural gas (CNG) refueling station to fuel it’s fleet with natural gas. In addition, the company plans on purchasing 20 natural gas vehicles. Ballast Nedam IPM has been hired to install the CNG station in Porto, Portugal and the CNG station is expected to be online by August 2013.

Ballast Nedam has designed a customized fast-fill refueling installation for CNG. The rapid and complete handling of the vehicles will require the compressor installation to be Ballast Nedamequipped with a storage facility, and there will also be a specially designed dispenser with fast-fill connector. A release and recording system will also be installed, allowing only authorized EDP users to operate the installation, and supporting the periodic remote reading of volume and consumption information by the company.

According to Ballast Nedam, the market for natural gas as a vehicle fuel is growing in Portugal. There are only a few natural gas refueling stations in Portugal currently, but increasing awareness of the environmental and financial benefits of running on natural gas is creating expectations of a sharp increase in the number of stations over the next few years.

Ballast Nedam has selected a Portuguese partner for the local work. ERI Engenharia S.A. will take responsibility for the permit acquisition, civil engineering and technical installation on the project site. After commissioning, the company will continue to handle the service and maintenance for the station.

State RPS’s Hold Steady

The Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University has released its most recent white paper, “State Renewable Portfolio Standards Hold Steady or Expand in 2013 Session,” as part of its series on legislative policy trends in advanced Energy. The white paper was based on data analyzed in the AEL Tracker dataset.

Center for New Economy at CSUAccording to the report, at the beginning of 2013, there was a great deal of public discourse around efforts to roll back state renewable energy generation standards. These efforts appear to have failed thus far in the 2013 legislative session. While more than 30 states voted on or considered legislation this session to change their Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), only eight have enacted modifications or increases to existing policies and no state has rolled back an existing standard.

The Center for the New Energy Economy’s Advanced Energy Legislation Tracker database contains a comprehensive inventory of over 2,300 state advanced energy bills including the 121 bills introduced this session that would increase, modify or decrease RPS policies. Of those 121 introduced bills, 16 have been enacted to date, none of which would repeal or delay RPS statutory requirements or generation deadlines.

“Despite attempts to roll back state renewable energy policies this year, the net impact thus far in the 2013 session is that the U.S. renewable energy market is stronger, particularly in the three states that increased their RPS standards – Nevada, Colorado and Minnesota,” said Bill Ritter, Jr. Director of the Center. “States are clearly defending their RPS policies and in some cases, increasing them,” Ritter added.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFIMPCO Automotive, a subsidiary of Fuel Systems Solutions, Inc., has received ship to commerce approval from General Motors to release completed model year 2014 2500 GM Crew Cab Bi-Fuel Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fuel systems for shipment. IMPCO also obtained certification by the California Air Resources Board and Environmental Protective Agency for its bi-fuel systems installed in the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD and GMC Sierra 2500HD pickup trucks.
  • Canadian Solar has completed construction on two utility-scale solar power projects in North Carolina with a third expected to be completed in mid-July. The projects, Lenoir 1, Lenoir 2 and Wilson 1, total 18 MW and are part of a 15-project portfolio totaling 85 MW being jointly developed with Strata Solar.
  • Register now for the ACORE U.S. Military & Renewable Energy Industry Forum to be held in Washington, D.C. on July 18, 2013. The event will include discussions with military and industry leaders, as the military services and renewable energy industry continue to strategize ways to address the challenges that remain for renewable energy in military operations, transportation and at bases.
  • Solectria Renewables has introduced the PVI 14TL and PVI 20TL, three-phase transformerless, 600 VDC inverter. The inverters are designed to maximize return on investment through their lightweight design, high efficiencies, easy installation, dual MPPT zones and wide MPPT range.
  • ET Solar Group Corp is supplying 10.8MW photovoltaic modules to Ormat Technologies, for their first photovoltaic power plant in California. The PV plant is located near Ormat’s geothermal power plant in Imperial Valley.

PSEG Open Largest EV Charging Station in NJ

PSEG has opened the largest electric vehicle (EV) charging facility in New Jersey with 13 electric charging stations in its headquarter garage. Eleven of the spots are designated for employees’ use and two spots are used for company electric cars.

This week also marks the start of the PSEG Employee Electric Car Incentive Program at three company locations: PSEG Headquarters in Newark, the PSEG Edison Training Center and the PSEG Energy and Environment Resource Center in Salem New Jersey. Participants in the program have access to no-cost charging through July 2016 and in Newark, have access to no cost parking through July 2016.

“This is a great example of ‘if you build it they will come.’ In just a few weeks since this program was announced, we have had nine people sign up for the program – and most of them have gone out and bought an electric car because MAL_5803of the program,” said Randy Mehrberg, executive vice-president of strategy, PSEG.

All participants agree to complete regular surveys about their electric car experience. The first was on motivations for purchasing an electric car. Reasons listed included helping the environment, liking to be on the cutting edge of technology or saving money on gas or parking. Cars bought by initial participants included Chevy Volts, Honda Fit, Nissan Leaf, plug-in Toyota Priuses and a plug-in Ford Fusion.

“PSEG has been a leader in reducing pollution from our power plants but that will not be enough,” said Ralph Izzo, chairman, president and CEO of PSEG. “It is important that we also make efforts to reduce emission from transportation – be it from electrifying our ports or increasing the use of electric cars. I am proud that our employees – as is so often the case – are leading the way.”

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFThe National Algae Association (NAA) is hosting a workshop on September 27, 2013 focused on algae cultivation, extraction and harvesting technologies. NAA is currently accepting presentation abstracts. Deadline is August 15, 2013.
  • Exhibitor and attendee registration is now open for the Geothermal Energy Expo 2013 being held September 29-October 2 in Las Vegas.
  • The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has elected Nat Kreamer, president and CEO of Clean Power Finance, to serve on SEIA’s board of directors’ executive committee as vice-chairman.
  • MarketResearchReports.Biz has announced the addition of the new report, “Analyzing Renewable Energy in the United States.” The report analyzes the following energy sources in the U.S.: wind power, solar power, biomass power, biofuels, fuel cells, geothermal power, hydropower, distributed generation technologies, microgrids, combined heat and power/cogeneration, waste-to-energy, waste management, and the smart grid.