Institute for Energy Innovation Breaks Ground

The future Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation is one step closer to reality today at Carnegie Mellon University with the official groundbreaking ceremony. The center will be focused on research and education to improve energy efficiency and develop clean energy sources. The institute was made possible by a lead gift from CMU alumni Sherman Scott (E’66), president and founder of Delmar Systems, and his wife, Joyce Bowie Scott (A’65), a trustee of the university. The institute is named for Sherman’s father, Wilton E. Scott.

A report recently issued by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development highlighted the need for energy-related workers before the end of this decade. One goal of institute will be to develop new innovative energy technologies and create an improved understanding of how to promote wide adoption through better regulation and public policy.

“The Scott Institute is a university-wide effort that brings together more than 100 CMU professors and researchers to solve some of our toughest energy challenges,” said CMU President Jared L. Cohon. “I thank Sherman and Joyce Bowie Scott not only for their generous gift, but also for their vision in helping to create this institute. They realize the fundamental importance of developing sustainable energy solutions for America and the world.”

The institute will support teams of CMU engineers, scientists, economists, architects, policy specialists and others who will collboratively tackle a range of issues, including developing more efficient energy solutions that reduce carbon emissions; smart grid technology to enable the use of large amounts of variable wind and solar power; and new advanced materials and processes to produce and store energy, increase efficiency and reduce waste.

Sherman Scott, who built Delmar Systems into a leader in mooring systems for the offshore oil and gas industry, added, “By bringing together experts from a range of disciplines, Carnegie Mellon is the perfect place to help meet the energy challenges of the future. Energy is a precious resource, and Carnegie Mellon’s systems approach can create solutions that ensure we produce and use energy more efficiently.”

California Releases 2012 Bioenergy Action Plan

California has released its 2012 Bioenergy Action Plan with the goal of improving the timeline to market of energy development, job creation and protection of public health and safety. The state defines bioenergy as energy produced from organic waste such as forest, urban and agricultural that would otherwise go into a landfill or be burned. The state is looking at Bioenergy to help create new jobs, protect the public from issues such as wildfires, landfill pollution, dairies, wastewater treatment facilities and other waste.

“Swift action on bioenergy will create jobs, increase local clean energy supplies, and help businesses grow in California,” said California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird. “Increasing bioenergy opportunities will also help California meet its climate change goals and protect public health and safety.”

The 2012 Bioenergy Action Plan was developed by a combination of state agencies and outside experts as directed by California Governor Brown. The plan contains more than 50 recommended actions to increase the use of organic waste, expand research and development, reduce permitting and regulatory challenges and address economic barriers to bioenergy development.

“Bioenergy is an exciting new frontier for agriculture,” said Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, one of the agencies that collaborated on the report. “It creates jobs, reduces energy costs and reduces pollution. Early adopters are already realizing these benefits and are blazing the path towards self-sufficiency for agriculture.”

Expanding bioenergy development benefits California agriculture by providing an onsite or local source of clean energy, either electricity or liquid fuels for farm and other vehicles. The state currently produces about 600 megawatts of electricity and 50 to 100 million gallon equivalents from organic waste each year. The state hopes to double these numbers through the execution of the plan recommendations.

Group Says No to Clean Energy Victory Bonds

Advanced Biofuels USA is saying no to Clean Energy Victory Bonds. Green America supporters have been working to gain support of the bonds as a way to raise money to be invested in clean energy technologies. Yet according to Advanced Biofuels USA’s Bob Kozak, there are several major flaws in the proposed legislation.

Here are several problems as outlined by Kozak:

1. Because the bonds will require immediate income from the projects to pay the interest income promised to the investor, bonding is not the appropriate method for funding renewable energy research and project prototypes. These bonds could only be used for projects that have already been proven to be commercially viable and would not provide funding where it is needed most in biofuel and other renewable energy development – at the research and commercialization stages.

2. Clean Energy Victory Bonds would duplicate other available funding mechanisms via the requirement to have a return on investment that is higher than current US bond issues, the only projects that would be eligible for funding are those that are relatively low risk that would be funded by existing commercial instruments.

3. Clean energy is not defined. Besides advanced transportation biofuels not being included in the legislation, it also seems that the “dirty” elements of projects would not be factored into a life cycle analysis of the environmental impact.

Kozak counters that there is legislation that could be developed that would be effective. He suggests a $200 billion, 10 year, science-heavy “Manhattan Project” for new renewable transportation, heating and electrical production of energy sources. He also recommends a makeover of accounting and taxation laws that would properly charge for Climate Change and other environmental costs. To learn more, click here.

INEOS Bio Receives EPA Registration

The first cellulosic plant using non-food waste materials in the country has received Parts 79 and 80 registration from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): INEOS New Planet BioEnergy (INPB).  The news came as the facility of the Indian River BioEnergy Center (Center) nears production. The biorefinery will use vegetative, yard waste and agricultural waste to produce cellulosic ethanol and is scheduled to be commissioned in the next few weeks.

When the Center is in full production, it will produce 8 million gallons of advanced bioethanol and 6 megawatts of renewable power.  INEOS Bio, the parent company of the project, has plans to run municipal solid waste at the Center after initial start-up is complete.

“We have completed this new facility on schedule and on budget and look forward to further advancing this bioenergy technology and making it commercially available around the world,” said Peter Williams, CEO of INEOS Bio and Chairman of INPB. “Building more facilities and licensing this technology globally provides a new platform for waste disposal while providing energy security, local jobs and local bioenergy. “New technologies like this will also move us further away from, avoid, and eventually change the food-vs-fuel debate.”

Once the biorefinery is in production, it will be one of the first to produce cellulosic ethanol under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The facility will feature INEOS Bio’s feedstock flexible BioEnergy technology that uses a combination of gasification and fermentation technology to turn various types of waste materials into fuel and electricity.

‘Clean Energy Victory Bonds’ Would Spur Alt Energy

U.S. Representative Bob Filner has introduced the “Clean Energy Victory Bonds Act of 2012 (PTC)” that would allow Americans to invest billions of dollars to help develop clean energy technologies. The bill has good support: 10 co-sponsors, Green America and more than 40 other institutions have come out in support of the legislation.

The majority of the production tax credits for alternative energy and energy efficiency projects have either expired or are set to expire this year. The tax extender package has some two-year extensions for wind, biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol, but not for other energy sources. While it has passed through the Senate Finance Committee, it must still pass the Senate and pass through the House.

This bill would extend all renewable energy and energy efficiency projects up to a decade and also give Americans the ability to help “choose” the projects they would like to support.  Similar to the Victory Bonds from WWII, Clean Energy Victory Bonds could leverage billions of dollars of public and private finance for development.

“The importance of a clean energy future for America cannot be overstated,” said Alisa Gravitz, president of Green America. “Just like Victory Bonds helped to ensure the nation’s victories in World War II, so, too, can Clean Energy Victory Bonds allow Americans to invest in a future that benefits our country economically, politically, and environmentally.”

Should the bill pass, with as little as $25, Americans could buy Clean Energy Victory Bonds from the U.S. Treasury. Over time, the bonds would pay the owner a competitive rate of return.

New Energy Farms Announces Development of CEEDS

New Energy Farms (NEF) has developed a revolutionary new method of propagating energy grasses that will reduce farmer establishment costs by 50 percent or more.

Cost effective scaling of perennial energy grasses such as Miscanthus, Arundo donax and energy cane has previously inhibited expansion. NEF has developed a new planting product for vegetative energy crops called CEEDS. These are small capsules that are established using automatic min till or no-till planters, like seed. The process applies to a number of energy grasses and is currently being evaluated by companies in the U.S. and Canada. The existing range of NEF energy crops will be available in the CEEDS format commencing from 2013 to 2014 depending on the cultivar and region.

“The focus was to make establishing vegetative energy crops as easy as other arable crops, to do this we started to look how to reverse engineer a seed, and the result was CEEDS,” says Dean Tiessen, president of New Energy Farms.

“CEEDS represents a step forward in energy crop establishment; that has been many years in the development, but solves all the issues that have previously made scaling energy crops difficult,” adds Dr. Paul Carver, CEO New Energy Farms.

The CEEDS planting system works alongside the NEF energy crop plantation management system, Biomass Direct to provide a farm to end user service for our customers.

The main advantages of CEEDS are
• New cultivars can be bulked up to market volumes 3 times faster.
• Establishment cost for crops like Miscanthus can be reduced by over 50 percent.
• Min / No till, fully automatic precision planting (no planting staff required).
• Substantially lower cost of planting, less ground cultivation.
• Reduction by up to 80% in transport logistics for planting material.
• Greater vigor after planting, more shoots produced.
• This system delivers the maximum yield from a cultivar.
• Makes planting energy grasses as simple as drilling conventional arable crops.

Report Raises Concerns Over Biomass Production

A new report from Carbon Trade Watch, “Nothing Neutral Here: Large-scale biomass subsidies in the UK and the role of the EU ETS,” is sounding alarms over the UK’s move to increase biomass consumption as part of its green economy plans. Earlier this month, Brazilian Suzano Papel e Celulose received approval for what is believed to be the most advanced genetically modified (GM) tree plantation trial ever.

The report ties together demand for biomass in the UK to the role of the EU’s Emissions Trading System and what Carbon Trade Watch says is the destructive expansion of industrial monoculture tree plantations around the world. The report came on the heals of an April 26, 2012 announcement from the UK government regarding its bioenergy strategy that included increased energy production from biomass. Carbon Trade Watch believes the “British biomass boom” will benefit polluters and cause “widespread environmental destruction through land grabs and deforestation.”

“The British government seems determined to lock the country into a dirty energy pathway that fuels climate chaos, arguably the greatest modern day threat to human survival,” said report author Joseph Zacune. “Campaigners are warning that the government’s new bioenergy strategy will require around 80 million tonnes of wood for biomass energy that would unleash land grabs and cause major emissions from deforestation. Why should we continue to subsidise polluters in favour of appropriate energy solutions like wind, solar and tidal energy?”

According to Carbon Trade Watch, local communities across the UK are campaigning to stop biomass-fueled power plants while companies are “greenwashing their polluting activities.

Tamra Gilbertson co-director of Carbon Trade Watch added, “Climate justice struggles bring together grassroots networks, groups and individuals that are demanding tough action against the root causes of climate change and for a truly sustainable, affordable and democratic energy system. To continue the same over-production and over-consumption of energy is a dead-end but governments continue to ensure that profit-seeking corporations control the energy systems and pollute our skies.”

Researchers Look at Using Food Waste for Hydrogen

What might be a good use of food waste? Hydrogen. Researchers from the University of Birmingham in the UK are creating bioenergy in the form of hydrogen for use an an alternative to gasoline. Researchers note that in a country like Brazil that is converting sugarcane to ethanol it may not be sustainable in the long-term. The reason is because the process generates carbon dioxide and agricultural waste. The advantage of creating hydrogen is that it can use the waste generated by the production of other products and it is sustainable and emission free.

Professor Lynne Macaskie, Professor of Applied Microbiology at the University of Birmingham, gave a presentation on the hydrogen research during a collaborative workshop in São Paulo on May 14, 2012. “Fuel cells need clean energy to run them. If you provide bacteria with a supply of sugary waste from, for example, chocolate production, the bacteria can produce hydrogen. At the moment manufacturers pay to dispose of waste but with our technique they could convert it to clean electricity instead.”

According to Macaskie, the research shows a huge potential for biohydrogen as a fuel for the future. “Biohydrogen could even be made from the wastes from bioethanol production – two biofuels for the price of one,” he said. “More work from focused teams, however, is needed, as agricultural wastes are tougher for bacteria to digest.”

The event was organized by O Conselho de Reitores das Universidades Estaduais de São Paulo (CRUESP) and the FAPESP bioenergy programme (FAPESP-BIOEN). Participants came from the University of Birmingham, the University of Nottingham, the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP), the University of São Paulo, and São Paulo State University (UNESP).

New Tool for Energy Efficiency Education

For those looking to learn more about energy efficiency, a new educational site has launched: Hosted by the Association of Energy Services Professionals (AESP) Foundation. The site was created to become a library of training programs, degrees and certifications that focus on energy efficiency, sustainability, green and alternative energy. In addition, visitors will also be able to research information about engineering, green building design and other disciplines.

While the site was created for students, returning military personnel and displaced workers, anyone interested in beginning or continuing his or her education in the space will find this site useful. Not only does it contain lists of education programs, but also compares tuition costs, room and board costs, student to faculty ratio, and scholarship and internship opportunities among other information.

Why this site?

In 2011, ASEP published a survey of its members and nearly 60 percent cited a lack of talented workers in the field and more than half were in the process of recruiting for open positions. The U.S. Department of Energy funded the costs of developing the site through a grant in an effort to promote the need and types of jobs in the energy sector.

“Companies and utilities involved in creating energy efficiency programs are facing a lack of talented and adequately traine candidates for jobs,” said Meg Matt, President & CEO of AESP. “ serves as an educational pathway for students, returning military and those seeking a career change to better understand the numerous opportunities that currently exist in energy. The website encourages users to enter the industry and quickly identify the best options to pursue.”

EnergyTrends 2012 Renewable Energy Grades

Did you know that California, Colorado and Massachusetts are the top three states in the U.S. for renewable energy? You can learn all this and more from a new data analysis by, a project of Lexington Institute. The organization has assigned grades to each U.S. state based on its use and development of renewable energy.

The grading system considers both the amount of energy generated from renewable sources as well as the growth rate over a three-year period. It also takes into account savings achieved in electricity use, renewable energy state incentive programs and other factors. States were given extra bonus points for grid-connected renewable installations, dynamic pricing for power utility consumers and integrated of electric vehicles.

“Renewable energy is really still in its infancy here in the United States,” said Lexington Executive Vice President Don Soifer. “So we felt it essential to grade based on a growth model, with plenty of room to reflect future improvements in the integration of renewable. We worked to create a new resource that will be useful for everyone from schools to elected officials to keep track of their state’s critical patterns for energy consumption and generation.”

The scoring is based on data from 2003-2010, the most recent year for which confirmed information is available. Resources included the Department of Energy as well as other state-specific energy information. Data used also included per-capita consumption of energy from various fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and gasoline, as well as renewable sources. All states are ranked in each category, along with indicators for important trends and summaries of important recent developments.

So what grade does my current state, Iowa, receive? A “C”.  It looks like Iowa has some work to do….

Driving The Bioeconomy Highway

The National Bioeconomy Blueprint was recently released by the Obama Administration.  The report outlines the steps that agencies need to take to drive the bioeconomy highway.  The Administration recognized the growing sector has a priority due to its potential for growth and job creation.  The bioeconomy will also help drive new sources of bioenergy, improve the agricultural industry, change the face of manufacturing and address key environmental issues, among other benefits.

America’s economy is slowing transforming to a biobased economy.  “Home-grown” bioproducts already developed include food, feed and fiber as well as chemical substitutes for petroleum-based products; yet the industry has barely emerged. Research is critical to the future of the industry, but it is also important, according to the report, to equip the workforce with the education, training and skills they need to have thriving careers in the sector.

Another step that needs to be taken is to reduce the troublesome regulatory barriers in order to accelerate the advancement of bioinventions and bring them to market.  There are concerns, both health and ethical, that are a result of work being done with biological systems.

The Bioeconomy Blueprint outlines “five strategic imperatives” for a bioeconomy with the potential to generate new markets and economic growth:

  • Support R&D investments that will provide the foundation for the future bioeconomy.
  • Facilitate the transition of bioinventions from research lab to market, including an increased focus on translational and regulatory sciences.
  • Develop and reform regulations to reduce barriers, increase the speed and predictability of regulatory processes, and reduce costs while protecting human and environmental health.
  • Update training programs and align academic institution incentives with student training for national workforce needs.
  • Identify and support opportunities for the development of public-private partnerships and precompetitive collaborations—where competitors pool resources, knowledge, and expertise to learn from successes and failures.

In conclusion, the Blueprint calls upon Federal agencies to accelerate their support of the bioeconomy sector for the benefit of the country.

Bioheat Part of Atlantic Region Energy Expo

Bioheat® is now be part of the largest energy events in the Northeast as they will join the Atlantic Region Energy Expo, reflecting a unique partnership with the National Biodiesel Board. The Atlantic Region Energy Expo and Bioheat is hosting the AREE 2012 event in Atlantic City, New Jersey, May 1 – 3. The conference, billed as the best energy, petroleum and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) industry tradeshow in the Northeast, will explore the evolving world of home and building comfort, efficiency and environmental responsibility.

The event features an educational track of five Bioheat sessions, which do not require a registration fee, thanks to funding from the South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council.

“We’re proud that AREE is the first industry trade show and convention officially combining traditional fuels with the renewable biodiesel found in Bioheat,” said Eric DeGesero, executive vice president, Fuel Merchants Association of New Jersey. The association was the catalyst for the founding of AREE 19 years ago. “But this represents more than a conference name change. It’s a sign of changing times for oilheat dealers, who recognize that Bioheat is their best option to adapt their businesses in the 21st century.”

The need for change is a powerful theme at this year’s conference as the oilheat industry works to remain competitive. That’s why the Bioheat team, led by Paul Nazzaro, the National Biodiesel Board’s liaison to the petroleum industry, is bringing in a keynote speaker to talk about change at the event. Michael Rogers, a renowned technology author and futurist, most recently served as futurist-in-residence for The New York Times. He focuses on how companies can think about the future in useful ways.

“As their market share contracts, doing nothing is not an option for oilheat dealers,” Nazzaro said. “Bioheat is the first real opportunity for them to make a progressive shift in decades. Bioheat is a more desirable product to their customers, offering enhanced energy security, benefits to health and the environment, and American jobs.”

Virdia Opens New Pilot Facility

A new cellulosic demonstration facility has opened in Danville, Virginia. Virdia, a company focused on developing cellulosic sugars,  located the facility on the campus for the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR). The facility will prove out Virdia’s CASE process in pilot scale and the resulting  cellulosic sugars and lignin will be designed for use in commercial applications.

Philippe Lavielle, Virdia CEO said, “Siting our technology center and our demonstration facility in Virginia is the next key step towards commercial production for us. Virdia’s products are cost-competitive, and are setting new standards for industrial uses of cellulosic sugars and lignin.”

Lavielle also said that the company looks forward to demonstrating the technology on a larger scale, and when they are ready, plan on locating the larger facility near sustainable sources of biomass.  The CASE process converts biomass to fermentable sugars and lignin. The resulting sugars can be used to produce renewable chemicals, materials, nutritional additives for the feed industry and renewable fuels. The company is currently working with Virent who is using the sugars to produce drop-in jet fuels.

The company held a ribbon cutting ceremony on April 25th.  “Virdia is making huge strides in the emerging bioeconomy, and I am pleased the company has decided to site its new technology center in Virginia,” said Bob McDonnell, the Governor of Virginia. “The development of sustainable and clean sources of energy is a necessary component of our all the above energy strategy, and Virginia is proud to welcome Virdia to the state in pursuance of cleaner energy, scientific innovation and economic stimulus.”

USDA Explores Alternative Energy at Airports

There have been a few companies that are exploring growing bioenergy crops on land owned by airports. Now the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is in the game. The division of Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is looking at the potential for alternative energy production at airports in a published article, “Airports Offer Unrealized Potential for Alternative Energy Production.” The article, published in Environmental Management, states that airports may want to consider converting land to alternative fuels where it is economically and environmentally beneficial.

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, an avid supporter of alternative energy said of the findings, “Some available grasslands at airports have the potential to spur the type of innovation we need to build American-made, homegrown biofuels and biobased products that will help break our dependence on foreign oil and move our nation toward a clean energy economy.”

Vilsack also said converting grasslands at airports to alternative energy, whether it be biofuel, wind or solar production, not only provides more environmentally sound energy sources for the county, but “may also increase revenue for airports and reduce the local abundance of potentially hazardous wildlife to aircraft.”

Many of us remember the plane that went down in the Hudson due to birds hitting the plane (i.e. getting into the engines), sparking a conversation about environmental responsibility versus air safety. Researchers at the National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) note that many airport properties are already managed to reduce wildlife abundance and habitat quality as part of efforts to avoid wildlife collisions with aircraft.

Yet not all energy crops will prove to be equal on managing wildlife. NWA says that once biofuel crops are identified for airport use demonstrating low wildlife-strike risks compared to existing airport landcovers, converting grasslands could become a revenue generator.

Federally obligated airports have restrictions on how land may be used but the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has said it will work with airports interested in pursuing alternative energy.

Novozymes CEO Named BIO 2012 George Washington Carver Award Winner

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) has named Novozymes President and CEO Steen Riisgaard as the recipient of its 2012 George Washington Carver Award for innovation in industrial biotechnology.

A panel selected Riisgaard as this year’s winner “to recognize his significant contributions to the industrial biotechnology field.”

Under Riisgaard’s leadership, Novozymes is creating tomorrow’s industrial biotechnology solutions and improving the use of our planet’s resources, while reducing reliance on fossil fuels. Riisgaard will receive the award and also deliver a short address during a May 1, 2012 plenary lunch session at the BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology & Bioprocessing. The conference is being held at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Orlando April 29-May 2.
Washington Carver Award Recipient

“I am honored to receive the 2012 George Washington Carver Award,” Riisgaard said. “At Novozymes, we see biotechnology as a way to reshape the world’s economy and create balance between better business, a cleaner environment and better lives. This award is a mandate to continue innovating with our customers, moving towards a world where everyday products are made with organic materials instead of oil.”

The award honors the original vision of George Washington Carver, an originator of the “chemurgy” movement who, more than a century ago, achieved world renown by combining agriculture and science to produce everyday biobased products, changing the nature of farm economics and sustainability. Industrial biotechnology is the modern-day equivalent, combining biotech innovations with renewable biomass to create solutions that can revitalize manufacturing and energy.