Iowa Wind Energy Conference Around the Corner

The 7th Annual Iowa Wind Power Conference is just around the corner taking place at the FFA Enrichment Center on the Campus of Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny, Iowa, March 11-12, 2014. Sponsored by the Iowa Wind Energy Association (IWEA), there is a strong line-up of speakers, informative sessions, exhibitors and new research displays.

IWEA logoThe general sessions planned feature nationally recognized leaders in the wind energy industry, elected leaders, policy development specialists and utility leaders in the wind energy industry. A special feature of this year’s conference will be the first ever Education/Job Fair on March 11, 2014 which will provide wind energy companies an opportunity to meet with wind energy training programs and job seekers. There will also be an opportunity for K-12 students and educators to learn more about job opportunities in wind energy.

There will be 30 exhibitors showcasing their products and services during the conference including dozens of university wind energy research project displays will be available during the conference. These project displays will be judged by a panel of experts and cash awards will be given to the top projects in several categories.

Registration is now open.

Smithfield’s Renewable Energy Commitment Tangible

Smithfield Foods commitment to renewable energy is showing tangible results according to the company. During the past several years, the company has been monitoring scientific advancements that have removed barriers to efficiently and sustainably create renewable energy from agricultural waste, in particular the use of anaerobic digestion processes that covert decomposing organic matter, such as hog manure, into renewable energy.

“The bottom line is that our company’s commitment to creating renewable energy is about to produce some very tangible and beneficial results,” said C. Larry Pope, president and chief executive officer of Smithfield Foods.

cute pigsPope noted that two Smithfield Foods strategic partnerships at Murphy-Brown LLC facilities in northern Missouri and Milford, Utah, involving anaerobic digestion technology are seeing results and the projects will soon deliver electricity to neighboring communities.

“Our Missouri and Utah projects are a classic win-win. We will considerably reduce the greenhouse effects on the Earth’s atmosphere by recycling agricultural waste, help to protect our natural resources and provide a more environmentally friendly energy source,” Pope said.

In northern Missouri, Murphy-Brown of Missouri, LLC (MBM) and Roeslein Alternative Energy, LLC, have announced joint plans to develop a $100 million renewable biogas project. Biogas produces energy when organic matter decomposes without oxygen present. The biogas will be harvested from MGM finishing farms in northern Missouri and construction is set to begin this spring.

In addition, the company’s project Milford, Utah, is ramping up. Murphy-Brown’s
Circle 4 Farms will be producing electricity via two methane digesters. In this project, manure will be converted to energy and as a result, the manure, or solid waste, will no longer be stored in lagoons.

Pope added, “Our manure-to-energy projects are just another step in our sustainability
journey.”

Ormat Completes Kenyan Oklaria III Geothermal Plant

Ormat Technologies has successfully completed construction and reached commercial operation of Plant 3 in the Olkaria III geothermal power plant complex located in Naivasha, Kenya. With Plant 3 online, the complex’s total generation capacity has increased to 110 MW. The power generated by the Olkaria III is sold under a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Kenya Power and Lighting Company Limited (KPLC).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Olkaria III complex was financed with a $310 million debt facility provided by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). In November 2013, Ormat drew down the remaining $45 million available under the project finance debt facility for the completion of Plant 3.

“Olkaria III is a prime example of our multi-stage approach to project development generating higher investment returns and reducing risk,” said Dita Bronicki, chief executive officer of Ormat. “In less than one year, we’ve completed construction of two additional plants and, over the course of five years, more than doubled the facility’s generating capacity.”

Bronicki added, “Due to our operational expertise and innovative technology, we’ve accomplished that growth ahead of schedule resulting in a significant increase in revenues. As we complete this project, we remain committed to support the growing power needs of Kenya with this indigenous, reliable and environmentally friendly source of electricity. Kenya is an important market for our future growth due to its high geothermal potential and we are focusing our efforts on increasing our operation in Kenya.”

Princeton Power, EnStorage Awarded BIRD Grant

Princeton Power Systems and EnStorage have been awarded a $950,000 grant from the Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD). The grant will support the commercialization and deployment of an energy storage system based on EnStorage’s proprietary hydrogen bromide (HBr) flow battery and Princeton Power Systems’ inverters and site controller. The first system will be deployed to support a photovoltaic (PV) installation and would be able to support the grid for at least six hours per day for a minBIRD winner logosimum of 20 years.

“The BIRD Foundation grant will enable our companies to develop a comprehensive solution for PV installations and various other applications,” said Marshall Cohen, Chairman of Princeton Power Systems. “We aim to develop inverters as well as software for EnStorage’s HBr technology to add to our long-term energy-storage offering.”

The commercial system will be a 150kW/900kWH containerized system, to be based on EnStorage’s grid connected 50kW/100kWH technology demonstrator.

“Our partnership with Princeton Power Systems will allow us to expedite the commercialization of our technology,” said Arnon Blum, CEO of EnStorage. “The ability to deploy our battery at a customer site and rely on Princeton Power Systems’ experience in optimizing the interaction between the grid and our battery’s performance will serve as a significant step for future deployments.”

Solar Lights Up Students in Zambia

SolarAid and Yingli Green Energy have “lit up” Mayukwayukwa High School in Kaoma, Zambia by installing a solar PV system on the newly built UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) School. The project was successfully completed with partner contributions including Atama Solar Energy, Kingspan Energy and Solar Roof Systems. YINGLI GREEN ENERGY HOLDING COMPANY LIMITED ZAMBIA STUDENTSThe High School is located in the Mayukwayukwa Settlement, one of Africa’s oldest refugee camps that was established in 1966 following the break-out of Angola’s 27-year civil war, 300 km to the west of the capital city, Lusaka. About 15,500 refugees reside in the Mayukwayukwa camp at the moment and many of them know no other home, having been born in the camp.

UNHCR representative to Zambia, Laura Lo Castro, said in a statement that her organisation appreciated the solar lighting system and that it would help them meet the lighting needs at Mayukwayukwa High School. “At UNHCR, we appreciate the donation made by Yingli Green Energy and their partners, through SolarAid. We are aware that this school will greatly benefit the refugees and the host community, thereby enhancing co-existence,” said Lo Castro.

The construction of the high school started in September 2008 as UNHCR intends to provide education for refugee students who struggle to access day school because of the limited school places in the area. Thanks to the solar system installed, Mayukwayukwa High School is now able to light one of the school’s large classrooms, the Headmaster’s office and a dormitory, helping scholars with studying and providing security lighting at the same time. The solar system can also charge cellphones.

“The solar system, donated by Yingli Solar and their partners through SolarAid, will meet the lighting needs at the school and will provide safe and clean electricity, bringing huge benefits to the 600 students between 14 and 19 years old who are in the school, as well as staff and the host community around. Yingli Solar together with their partners support SolarAid to fund specific schools in Africa to provide lighting and get study lights into the hands of teachers and pupils through school campaigns. The solar lighting lengthens learning hours, improves education quality and reduces dependence on expensive and toxic kerosene lamps,” said Richard Turner, Chief Fundraiser at SolarAid.

Liansheng Miao, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Yingli Green Energy, added, “We are pleased to know that hundreds of students and teachers can now use the power of the sun to extend the time for study and other community activities. We are happy to support SolarAid’s ‘Lighter Learning’ program together with our partners. Bringing clean safe light to communities in Africa helps create brighter and better futures for students and families currently living without electricity.”

Only 9 percent of rural sub-Saharan residents in Africa have access to electricity and families can spend up to 25 percent of their income on toxic kerosene for lighting.

Despite Record Offshore Wind Projects, Industry Slows

Despite record offshore wind energy projects coming online in 2013, a recent report shows that new projects have slowed. Last year, 418 offshore turbines came online in Europe making a record 1,567 Megawatts (MW) of new capacity. This is one-third more than the capacity installed in 2012.

This makes a new total of 6,562 MW of offshore wind power – enough to provide 0.7 percent of the EU’s electricity.

European Offshore Wind in 2013However, the report finds that when taking a closer look at what happened, there was a slow-down during the year: two-thirds of the new capacity came online in the first six months. With 11 projects now under construction, down from 14 this time last year, market and regulatory stability is critical to bringing forward the 22,000 MW of consented projects across Europe.

“The unclear political support for offshore wind energy – especially in key offshore wind markets like the UK and Germany – has led to delays to planned projects and fewer new projects being launched,” said Justin Wilkes, Deputy CEO at the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). “This means installations are likely to plateau until 2015, followed by a decline as from 2016.”

Wilkes added, “An ambitious decision on a 2030 renewable energy target by the Heads of State in March would be the right signal to send to the offshore wind sector that Europe will develop its massive offshore wind potential for green growth, jobs, industrialisation, technological leadership and CO2 reductions.”

In 2013 Siemens was the leading turbine supplier (69%), DONG Energy the leading developer (48%), and Bladt the leading substructure supplier (37%), as they were in 2012.

First Magma-Enhanced Geothermal System Created

During the Icelandic Deep Drilling (IDDP) project that began in 2009, a borehole drilled at Krafla in northeast Iceland unexpectedly hit magma at 2100 meters with a temperature of 900-1000 Celsius. This borehole was the first of several wells being drilled in search of high-temperature geothermal resources.

IDDP-1 in IcelandFast forward four years later and the efforts of the IDDP project were reported in the January 2014 issue of the International journal of Geothermics. One paper focusing on this project was co-authored by Wilfred Elders, a professor emeritus of geology at the University of California, Riverside, along with several of his Icelandic colleagues.

“Drilling into magma is a very rare occurrence anywhere in the world and this is only the second known instance, the first one, in 2007, being in Hawaii,” Elders explained. “The IDDP, in cooperation with Iceland’s National Power Company, the operator of the Krafla geothermal power plant, decided to investigate the hole further and bear part of the substantial costs involved.”

Once the magma was hit, the team inserted a steel casing in the bottom section closest to the magma and cemented it into the well. The hole was then allowed to heat slowly and eventually allowed to flow superheated steam for the next two years, until July 2012, when it was shut down in order to replace some of the surface equipment.

“In the future, the success of this drilling and research project could lead to a revolution in the energy efficiency of high-temperature geothermal areas worldwide,” Elders said. Continue reading

Study Finds U.S. Solar Jobs Grew 20% in 2013

The Solar Foundation (TSF) has released its fourth annual National Solar Jobs Census, which found that the U.S. solar industry employed 142,698 Americans in 2013. This figure includes the addition of 23,682 solar jobs over the previous year, representing a 19.9 percent growth in employment since September 2012. Solar employment grew 10 times faster than the national average employment growth rate of 1.9 percent in the same period.

TSF National Solar Jobs Census Graphic“The solar industry’s job-creating power is clear,” said Andrea Luecke, Executive Director and President of TSF. “The industry has grown an astounding 53 percent in the last four years alone, adding nearly 50,000 jobs. Our Census findings show that for the fourth year running, solar jobs remain well-paid and attract highly-skilled workers. That growth is putting people back to work and helping local economies.”

The good news was mentioned by President Obama in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, January 28, 2014 and he has been vocal in his support of clean energy in including solar.

Solar employers are also optimistic about 2014, expecting to add another 22,000 jobs over the coming year. By comparison, over the same time period, the fossil fuel electric generation sector shrank by more than 8,500 jobs (a decline of 8.7 percent) and jobs in coal mining grew by just 0.25 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Employment Survey.

“This is an exciting time for the solar industry in the United States, made even more clear by the latest industry job figures,” commented U.S. Energy Secretary Ernst Moniz.  “According to the Solar Foundation, today there are more than 140,000 Americans employed up and down the U.S. solar supply chain and across every state. Since 2010, the solar industry has created nearly 50,000 new American jobs and employment has grown nearly 20 percent in the last year alone.”

“President Obama has set an ambitious goal to double electricity generation from renewable sources once again by 2020, and a vibrant U.S. workforce is vital to achieving this, Moniz added. The DOE has a solar program known as the SunShot Initiative to help support the future of the solar industry. “To support a growing workforce and a new generation of clean energy leaders, the Energy Department is providing training and education opportunities for engineers, utility workers and students, as well as supporting projects across the country to ensure America’s continued leadership in clean energy innovation.”

MIT Researchers Enhancing Solar Power

MIT researchers have developed a new approach to harvesting solar energy. The technique uses sunlight to heat high-temperature materials whose infrared radiation would be collected by a conventional photovoltaic cell. Researchers say this both improves efficiency as well as could make it easier to store the energy for later use. By adding the extra step, it makes it possible to take advantage of wavelengths of light that typically go to waste.

The process is described in a paper published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology written by graduate student Andrej Lenert, associate professor of mechanical engineering Evelyn Wang, physics professor Marin Soljačić, principal research scientist Ivan Celanović, and three others.MIT nanophotonic solar thermophotovoltaic device

A conventional silicon-based solar cell “doesn’t take advantage of all the photons,” Wang explains. That’s because converting the energy of a photon into electricity requires that the photon’s energy level match that of a characteristic of the photovoltaic (PV) material called a bandgap. Silicon’s bandgap responds to many wavelengths of light, but misses many others.

To address that limitation, the team inserted a two-layer absorber-emitter device — made of novel materials including carbon nanotubes and photonic crystals — between the sunlight and the PV cell. This intermediate material collects energy from a broad spectrum of sunlight, heating up in the process. When it heats up, as with a piece of iron that glows red hot, it emits light of a particular wavelength, which in this case is tuned to match the bandgap of the PV cell mounted nearby.

This basic concept has been explored for several years but Wang says that with TPV systems, “the efficiency would be significantly higher — it could ideally be over 80 percent.”

Lenert, Wang, and their team have already produced an initial test device with a measured efficiency of 3.2 percent, and they say with further work they expect to be able to reach 20 percent efficiency — enough, they say, for a commercially viable product.

In their experiments, the researchers used simulated sunlight, and found that its peak efficiency came when its intensity was equivalent to a focusing system that concentrates sunlight by a factor of 750. This light heated the absorber-emitter to a temperature of 962 degrees Celsius. The MIT researchers say that after further optimization, it should be possible to get the same kind of enhancement at even lower sunlight concentrations, making the systems easier to operate.

Such a system, the team says, combines the advantages of solar photovoltaic systems, which turn sunlight directly into electricity, and solar thermal systems, which can have an advantage for delayed use because heat can be more easily stored than electricity. The new solar thermophotovoltaic systems, they say, could provide efficiency because of their broadband absorption of sunlight; scalability and compactness, because they are based on existing chip-manufacturing technology; and ease of energy storage, because of their reliance on heat.

Cape Wind Wins Again

Cape Wind has again defeated the efforts of its opponents to block the country’s first offshore wind farm. In a historic decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the FAA’s approval of the Cape Wind project, rejecting every argument that had been advanced by the project’s opponents.

home_page_image_Eco_Tour(1)“The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, the Town of Barnstable and their financial backer-coal billionaire Bill Koch– have failed yet again in their continuing campaign to use the courts to delay the financing of Cape Wind,” said Cape Wind Communications Director Mark Rodgers. “The court’s definitive decision is an important legal victory that brings America that much closer to launching its offshore wind industry, a keystone in America’s renewable energy future.”

This decision takes on even greater importance because this was the same court that had previously provided project opponents their sole and temporary relief, opponents have lost all 12 legal decisions in other courts.

On October 28, 2011 this Court had remanded the FAA’s third Determination of No Hazard back to the FAA to better explain the rationale for its decision. On February 9, 2012, the FAA issued a Public Notice of its reinstated project review, indicating its conclusion that “None of the turbines would have an adverse effect on the use of air navigation facilities or navigable airspace.”

On August 15, 2012 the FAA issued its 4th DNH which project opponents challenged, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound pronounced confidence their challenge would be successful. However, this is the case decided again in favor of the FAA and Cape Wind.

Sugar, Bringing in the New Age of Batteries?

Cutting back on your sugar intake? Than consider using it to create a battery. Not really but doesn’t it sound cool? A Virgina Tech research team did just this and has developed a battery that runs on sugar. The research team believes it has an energy density unmatched by any on the market and could lead to the replacement of conventional batteries with ones that are cheaper, refillable and biodegradable.

The findings from Y.H. Percival Zhang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering, were published yesterday in the journal Nature Communications.

sugar batteryWhile other sugar batteries have been developed, Zhang said his has an energy density an order of magnitude higher than others, allowing it to run longer before needing to be refueled. In as soon as three years, his new battery could be running a myriad of electronic gadgets.

“Sugar is a perfect energy storage compound in nature,” Zhang said. “So it’s only logical that we try to harness this natural power in an environmentally friendly way to produce a battery.”

This is one of Zhang’s recent successes that utilize a series of enzymes mixed together in combinations not found in nature. He has published articles on creating edible starch from non-food plants and developed a new way to extract hydrogen in an economical and environmentally friendly way that can be used to power vehicles.

In this newest development, Zhang and his colleagues constructed a non-natural synthetic enzymatic pathway that strip all charge potentials from the sugar to generate electricity in an enzymatic fuel cell. Then, low-cost biocatalyst enzymes are used as catalyst instead of costly platinum, which is typically used in conventional batteries.

Like all fuel cells, the sugar battery combines fuel — in this case, maltodextrin, a polysaccharide made from partial hydrolysis of starch — with air to generate electricity and water as the main byproducts.

Zang explained, “We are releasing all electron charges stored in the sugar solution slowly step-by-step by using an enzyme cascade.”

Different from hydrogen fuel cells and direct methanol fuel cells, the fuel sugar solution is neither explosive nor flammable and has a higher energy storage density. The enzymes and fuels used to build the device are also biodegradable.

Largest Solar-Thermal Plant in Chile Announced

Abengoa has been selected by the Ministry of Energy of the Chilean Government and Corfo (Corporacion de Fomento de la Produccion) to develop a 110 MW solar plant using tower technology with 17.5 hours of thermal energy storage using molten salts. The project will be located in the Atacama Desert, the region, believed to have the highest solar radiation concentrations in the world. It will be the first solar-thermal plant for direct electricity production in South America.

Abengoa solar thermal plantAbengoa’s project won the international tender launched by the Chilean Ministry of Energy and Corfo to construct the first Concentrated Solar Power plant in Latin America. As part of this tender, the project will receive direct subsidies from the Chilean Government and the European Union, as well as financing from the Inter-American Development Bank, KFW Kreditanstalt fur Wiederaufbau, the Clean Technology Fund and Canadian Fund.

Solar-thermal tower technology uses a series of mirrors (heliostats) that track the sun on two axes, concentrating the solar radiation on a receiver on the upper part of the tower where the heat is transferred to the molten salts. The salts then transfer their heat in a heat exchanger to a water current to generate superheated and reheated steam, which feeds a turbine capable of generating around 110 MW of power.

The solar plant will also have a pioneering thermal storage system with 17.5 hours of storage that has been designed and developed by Abengoa. The company explains this approach makes the technology highly manageable, enabling it to supply electricity in a stable way, 24 hours a day, responding to all periods of electricity demand.

Abengoa’s new project will be located in the commune of Maria Elena in the Antofagasta region, northern Chile. The project forms part of Chile’s national renewable energy program, intended to provide Chile with a cleaner energy future, while also promoting its economic development and reducing its dependency on coal and natural gas. Chile has set a target to produce 20% of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2025.

Construction of the project is due to start in the second half of 2014.

EIA Seeks Renewable Energy Comments

eiaThe U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) is seeking input on proposed changes to electric power and renewable energy data surveys. EIA is soliciting comments on the proposed changes in a Federal Register Notice.

The proposed changes involve the following surveys:
• Form EIA-63B, Annual Photovoltaic Cell/Module Shipments Report
• Form EIA-411, Coordinated Bulk Power Supply Program Report
• Form EIA-826, Monthly Electric Utility Sales and Revenue Report with State

Distributions
• Form EIA-860, Annual Electric Generator Report
• Form EIA-860M, Monthly Update to the Annual Electric Generator Report
• Form EIA-861, Annual Electric Power Industry Report
• Form EIA-861S, Annual Electric Power Industry Report (Short Form)
• Form EIA-923, Power Plant Operations Report
• Form EIA-930, Hourly and Daily Balancing Authority Operations Report

The proposals were announced to the public via a Federal Register Notice (FRN) published March 6, 2013. Interested parties were given 60 days to submit their comments. EIA received comments from 44 organizations or individuals. EIA reviewed all comments and made certain changes to the original proposals in response to the comments. EIA’s responses to comments can be found in the Supporting Statement posted at EIA’s 2014 Forms Changes webpage.

As part of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) clearance process, a second Federal Register Notice was published on Tuesday, December 24, 2013. The publication of this notice opens a second and final comment period that is open for 30 days. Written comments are due by Thursday, January 23, 2014.

Ethical Electric Receives Electrifying Investment

Ethical Electric, a renewable energy provider that connects consumers to 100% renewable energy, has announced $11 million in Series A funding. A group of investors was led by entrepreneur and impact investor Matthew Palevsky, who will be joining Ethical Electric’s board of directors.

Ethical Electric“Our business model offers the potential to shift a significant number of households to renewable energy sources and help transform the energy industry in the United States,” said Tom Matzzie, founder and CEO of Ethical Electric. “We are proud to be backed by investors who see the potential to give consumers a clean, renewable choice for their energy.”

Matzzie has experience building cause-based communities and was formerly a leader with MoveOn.org. In his past and current role, he has aggregated millions of Americans together for causes for more than a decade.

“The Ethical Electric team is applying their experience building large-scale progressive movements to disrupt incumbents in the energy sector,” said Palevsky. “The company has a compelling, scalable business plan and the right team to make it work.”

Brian Arbogast, a clean tech investor and current director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation who led Ethical Electric’s earlier investment round and serves on its board of directors, added, “Tom has developed a very smart business plan and its success has the potential to drive adoption of renewable (solar and wind) energy faster than any other investment opportunity I have seen.”

EU to Miss Its Climate Objectives

According to the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), the European Commission’s “EU Energy, Transport and GHG Emissions Trends to 2050,” published during the holiday shows that on the basis of current policies the European Union (EU) will fail to meet is 2050 commitment of 80 percent to 90 percent greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) reductions.

The European Commission’s latest reference scenario, based on current trends and adopted policies, shows that EU GHG emissions would fall by 24 percent in 2020, but by EU Trends to 2050just 44 percent in 2050 (compared to 1990 levels), with energy import dependency increasing during the period to almost 57 percent.

“With the EU’s power sector expected to be still pumping out almost 400 million tonnes of CO2 annually by 2050, and the EU in an even worse energy security situation, an ambitious 2030 climate and energy framework, with targets for renewable energy and GHG reductions, is more critical than ever. Without such targets energy security and a zero-carbon power sector will be impossible,” said Justin Wilkes, EWEA’s Deputy CEO.

The scenario shows that even under current trends and policies, more wind power capacity will be installed over the next 20 years than any other generating technology – accounting for 37 percent of new installations – with the result that wind energy will be the leading generating technology in Europe by 2040.

“The European Commission’s scenario highlights a positive medium- and long-term outlook for the wind industry. However, a sharp decline in new installations of wind power from 2021 onwards of 27% highlights the vital importance of a long-term stable regulatory framework for the sector, underpinned by a 2030 renewable energy target,” continued Wilkes.

In the European Commission’s scenario, wind and other renewables together account for 59 percent of all new electricity generating installations over the 20 year period to 2035.