USDA Launches Clean Energy Website

The U.S. Department of Agriculture this week launched a new energy website to provide quick access to the agency’s energy efficiency and renewable energy data.

The website,, provides access to all USDA energy resources, including: agricultural, forestry, economic, and social data. This is done in part through a set of new complementary web-based tools: the USDA Renewable Energy Investment Map, the Renewable Energy Tool and Energy Matrix. These tools focus on USDA’s energy, energy efficiency and renewable energy investments and projects; provide information and data to a broad spectrum of stakeholders; and empower the user with the ability to easily navigate USDA’s energy web resources. In addition, the site provides a link to all USDA state and local offices and energy resource coordinators.

The new website was welcomed by the Ag Energy Coalition (AEC). “USDA’s Energy portal demonstrates the positive impact the Farm Bill energy title and related programs are having on job creation, national security, and the environment,” said Coalition co-director Lloyd Ritter. “The Ag Energy Coalition believes Rural America will be a continuing force for change in the advancement of sustainable energy and renewable chemicals production in the years ahead. With the right policies in place, and requisite funding, the promise of a rural renaissance focused on clean energy solutions will become a reality.”

The Ag Energy Coalition includes a membership of organizations and companies representing a variety of clean, renewable energy and bioproducts stakeholders.

BBI International and NEAtech Form Joint Venture

BBI International and NEAtech have formed a joint venture, called BBI Consulting Services, to offer bioenergy consulting to thousands of companies and organizations worldwide, as well as state and federal departments in the United States.

BBI International originally started as a bioenergy consulting firm in 1995 and has since grown into a media and events company focused on growing the bioenergy industry. Founded in 2009, NEAtech is a technology-based engineering and consulting firm specializing in advanced biofuels, biomass energy, and biotechnology projects. Having already helped hundreds of companies plan and execute successful projects, this new joint venture with NEAtech will reintroduce BBI International’s consulting service to thousands of new businesses worldwide.

Dr. Rafael Nieves and Mark Yancey of NEAtech, two experienced bioenergy consultants, are leading this group. Nieves has worked in the bioenergy sector for more than 28 years. He has extensive experience nationally and internationally managing bioenergy projects in the U.S., Mexico, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Australia, Philippines, Ghana, Armenia, Indonesia and the Ukraine.

Yancey has 35 years of experience in the fields of bioenergy and environmental engineering including extensive experience in project development and economic analysis for first and second generation biofuels facilities. His expertise is in the development of bioenergy projects including development of business strategies and financial, market and technical analyses of projects and renewable energy opportunities.

“We are excited about offering a consulting service to our customers,” said Joe Bryan, president and chief executive officer of BBI International. “This venture is the first step in helping companies associated with BBI International gain valuable insight on their current and future projects.”

“This venture will allow us to combine our expertise with BBI’s knowledge and resources,” said Nieves, CEO of NEAtech.

Pilot Biorefinery Dedicated in Perry, Florida

Florida State Representative Debbie Mayfield dumped a load of sugarcane waste to dedicate a new pilot biorefinery this week in honor of her late husband, Stan Mayfield.

uf ethanol plantThe dedication ceremony involved Mayfield pulling the lever on a front-end loader to dump a pile of pulverized sugarcane stalks, officially delivering the first shipment of feedstock to the facility, which will now be known as the Stan Mayfield Biorefinery Pilot Plant. The plant is located in Perry, Florida and is a cooperative venture between the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and Buckeye Technologies Inc. The facility will be operated as a UF/IFAS satellite laboratory researching the use of inedible plant material to produce fuel ethanol, such as sugarcane waste.

When fully operational, the biorefinery will produce up to 400 gallons of fuel ethanol and 5,000 pounds of organic acids for bioplastics each day. Some of the researchers’ goals include testing a wide variety of feedstocks, such as crop residues and yard waste, and finding ways to save money on production costs.

Stan Mayfield was a member of the state House of Representatives from 2000 until his death in 2008 and was instrumental in securing a $20 million appropriation from the Florida Legislature to fund the biorefinery. A UF graduate, Mayfield was a strong advocate of renewable fuels, environmental protection and economic growth.

HyperSolar to Use Solar to Make Natural Gas

HyperSolar has filed a patent application for its technology to produce natural gas using solar power. According to the company, the natural gas is a carbon neutral methane gas that can be used as a replacement for fossil-fuel based natural gas.

“The sun is our greatest source of energy and a method to use this energy to make clean, renewable fuel is a very significant discovery,” said Tim Young, CEO of HyperSolar. “We intend to focus all our energies and resources on commercializing this breakthrough technology.”

The technology was inspired, according to HyperSolar, by the photosynthetic processes that plants use to create energy. The company is developing a solar-powered nanoparticle system that mimics photosynthesis to separate hydrogen from water. The hydrogen is then reacted with carbon dioxide to produce the methane, which is the primary component of natural gas.

“With global consumption projected to surpass coal in 2035, natural gas will be the next great fuel, continued Young. “From sunrise to sunset, our proprietary nanoparticles will work in a water based solution to produce clean and environmentally friendly renewable natural gas that can be collected for later use in power plants, industrial plants and vehicles – anywhere and anytime.”

Young also noted that there has already been hundreds of billions of dollars invested in natural gas infrastructure. He believes a renewable natural gas fuel is a reality.

New DOE Report Asseses Energy Technology

The U.S. Department of Energy has released a brand new report that recognizes the importance of renewable energy for the nation’s future.

The inaugural Quadrennial Technology Review report (DOE-QTR) is billed as “an assessment of the Department’s energy technology research and development portfolios” establishing a framework for energy technology activities and priorities.

“Innovation in energy technology is going to be central to solving our energy challenges,” said John P. Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “New energy technologies can reduce the cost of energy services to firms and families, improve the productivity of manufacturing, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, increase the reliability and resilience of our energy infrastructure, and reduce the risks from climate change, even as they strengthen and sustain U.S. competitiveness in global markets.”

The DOE-QTR defines six key strategies: increase vehicle efficiency; electrification of the light duty fleet; deploy alternative fuels; increase building and industrial efficiency; modernize the electrical grid; and deploy clean electricity. According to the report, “Reliance on oil is the greatest immediate threat to U.S. economic and national security, and also contributes to the long-term threat of climate change.” The DOE-QTR promotes “out of the box” ideas for improving all types of energy alternatives, including battery and fuel cells, biofuels, solar, and wind, with a strong emphasis on modernization and efficiency.

Read the report here.

USDA Approves Payments for Advanced Biofuels

USDAUSDA will make payments to more than 160 energy producers in 41 states “to support and ensure the production and expansion of advanced biofuels.”

“Renewable energy production will create tens of thousands of direct, American jobs; thousands more indirect jobs, and clean electricity to power millions of homes. The payments I am announcing today represent the continuing commitment of the Obama administration to work with producers to provide the biofuel necessary to reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign energy sources,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

The payments are authorized under the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels (Section 9005 of the 2008 Farm Bill) and are made to eligible producers to support and ensure an expanding production of advanced biofuels. Payments are based on the amount of biofuels a recipient produces from renewable biomass, other than corn kernel starch. Eligible examples include biofuels derived from cellulose, crop residue, animal, food and yard waste material, biogas (landfill and sewage waste treatment gas), vegetable oil and animal fat.

The payments total nearly $80 million and range from a low of just over $1000 for Kaapa Ethanol in Nebraska to a high of nearly $10 million for Hero Bx in Pennsylvania for “biodiesel mechanical.” Some of the bigger payments being awarded include $6.2 million to Renewable Energy Group for biodiesel trans esterification, $4.8 million to Smarter Fuel of Pennsylvania for biodiesel from waste products, $4 million to White Energy in Texas for ethanol, $3.2 million for Louis Dreyfus Agricultural Industries for biodiesel from waste, and $2.6 million to ADM for biodiesel trans esterification.

For a list of all recipients, click here.

TESSA – A Car That Heats Your Home

I came across this story today and thought it was kinda cool. TESSA is a car that uses stored heat from the engine to produce heat energy that can be used in homes for hot water and central heating. This “new age” car will be showcased for the first time at Nextgen, a free environmental trade show taking place October 5-6 in Warwickshire, UK. Nextgen is co-located with two other events that focus on renewable energy technologies such as solar, wind, bioenergy, and hydro power generation.

TESSA stands for Thermal Energy Storage and Saving Automobile and the prototype is a Land Rover Freelander. Atmos Heating Systems fitted the SUV with a thermal energy storage and transfer system.

“We are delighted to be able to demonstrate the energy and carbon saving benefits TESSA offers at Nextgen. We have developed and patented a means of storing waste heat on board the vehicle, and a practical means of transferring the stored heat into a building for use as hot water and/or space heating,” said John Thomason, General Manager of Atmos Heating Systems.

Today an internal combustion enegine only manages a mechanical power efficiency averaging around 30 percent. The remaining 70 percent is dissipated as heat, through the radiator coolant system and the exhaust. Although some of the coolant system energy is used to heat the interior of the vehicle, the rest is simply lost.

“In other industries such horrendous waste would not be tolerated, and with the transport sector responsible for 40% of carbon emissions, this must not be left to continue. Whilst our technology does not reduce CO2 emissions from the vehicle, it utilizes heat that is otherwise wasted, resulting in lower fossil fuel consumption in the home and thereby an overall net benefit to the environment,” said Thomason.

The thermal heat technology can be integrated with other renewable technologies in the home such as solar thermal and heat pumps. In addition, it can be retrofitted with vehicles using biofuels instead of gas and diesel fuels to ensure additional environmental benefits.

ICM Enters Into Partnership With EISENMANN

ICM has announced that it has entered into a technological partnership to couple its gasification system with EISENMANN Corporation’s dual-field wet electrostatic precipitation (WESP) technology. This technology was proven successful at ICM’s commercial-scale demonstration gasifier located adjacent to the Harvey County municipal solid waste transfer and recycling facility in Newton, Kansas.

The gasifier underwent several performance tests with multiple feedstocks including but not limited to refused-derived fuel (RDF), tire derived fuel mixed with RDF, wood chips, wheat straw, switchgrass, and corn stover. Combined with ICM’s thermal oxidizer and heat sink, the WESP 2-F system cleans removes all particulate matter as well as acid gases from a variety of fuel sources and meets all levels of emission control requirements.

“We’re thrilled with the recent commercial deployment of our biomass gasifier technology, as it allows us to offer our waste-to-energy system on a global level,” said ICM CEO Dave Vander Griend.”Recognizing the strength of collaborative partnerships, ICM is pleased to work with EISENMANN and their WESP technology to enhance our biomass gasifier applications.”

POET Forms Biomass Alliance with Earth Partners

POET announced a new alliance this week with The Earth Partners to develop “a sustainable supply of biomass that helps restore degraded land.” The project, called Conservation Biomass, will initially be used for heat and power generation and eventually liquid fuel production.

As part of their ongoing ecological restoration work, The Earth Partners will work with farmers and conservation property landowners to grow and sustainably harvest biomass from land with invasive vegetation or land where restorative plant species are grown. POET will then evaluate the best use of the biomass to generate heat, power or for liquid fuel production.

The initial project will deliver Conservation Biomass to POET Biorefining – Chancellor, a 100 million-gallon-per-year grain ethanol plant in Chancellor, S.D. that burns wood waste and landfill gas in a solid fuel boiler to generate all of its process steam. Burning biomass at the plant to generate power will allow the partnership to test the commercial viability of the Conservation Biomass business model at scale. POET and The Earth Partners will continue to research the potential for utilizing Conservation Biomass sources like prairie grasses for cellulosic ethanol production.

Read the story from POET here.

New Biofuels Projects Funded

Ten new government-funded research projects were announced today to help accelerate bioenergy feedstock production.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited a waste-to-energy bioprocessing facility under construction in Florida today to announce that the Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Energy (DOE) have awarded 10 grants totaling $12.2 million to spur research into improving the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of growing biofuel and bioenergy crops. The grants are part of a broader effort by the Obama administration to develop domestic renewable energy and advanced biofuels, providing a more secure future for America’s energy needs and creating new opportunities for the American farming industry.

“USDA is helping our nation develop the next generation of biofuels to grow jobs and generate energy from new, homegrown sources,” said Vilsack. “Combining DOE’s leadership in genome-scale technologies with USDA’s experience in crop improvement will accelerate the efficient production of biofuels.”

The 10 projects are located in California, Colorado, Illinois, Florida, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Virginia.

Vilsack made the announcement at the INEOS New Planet BioEnergy facility in Vero Beach, Fla., which was granted a conditional USDA loan guarantee earlier this year to help build and operate a biorefinery capable of producing 8 million gallons per year of cellulosic ethanol and 6 megawatts of electricity.

Today’s USDA and DOE joint announcement will also benefit Florida by providing grant funding to the University of Florida in Gainesville to improve energy production from cane biomass. The project will produce a range of foundational genetic resources and genetic makers for energy cane breeders to efficiently develop energy cane cultivars with increased biomass production and reduced input requirement.

Florida Farm to Fuel Event Reorganizing

New dates have been scheduled for a conference on the future of energy in Florida.

FL Farm to FuelThe 6th annual Farm to Fuel Summit had been scheduled for August 3-5 in Orlando but was postponed in May after the Florida legislature approved the transfer of the State Energy Office from the Executive Office of the Governor to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services effective July 1.

“With the new responsibilities, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is taking a more comprehensive approach to energy policy,” said Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam “On October 26 through 28, the Department will host an event where elected officials, academics and key stakeholders in the energy industry will come together to discuss the future of energy in Florida.”

Putnam promises more details to come soon.

Synterra Energy Takes Commericalization Step Forward

Synterra Energy has taken a step forward in bringing advanced biofuels to commercial scale with the merger of Pacific Renewable Fuels and Chemicals and Red Lion Bio-Energy. Synterra will now own key intellectual property and assets designed for waste biomass conversion. This announcement signals the company’s move to commercial scale production of renewable fuels, chemicals and power from waste biomass from in integrated biorefinery.

“The Red Lion thermochemical conversion system and the Pacific Renewable Fuels and Chemicals catalytic synthesis process are industry leading technologies in their own right,” said Robert Schuetzle, CEO of Synterra Energy, Inc. “The integration of our two technologies creates a seamless proprietary biomass conversion system under a single commercial provider. The resultant innovative process integration is a design that provides process efficiencies, lowers unit capital cost, reduces the risk of securing adequate feedstock supplies, and mitigates technology risk of mixing and matching multiple platforms from separate process vendors.”

Synterra was awarded a $25 million DOE grant back in 2009 to demonstrate the commercial readiness of its integrated biorefinery technologies (IBR). Shortly thereafter, the 30-barrel per day demonstration project was initiated as the third scale up of its technologies. The company says it is able to produce biofuels, bioenergy and biochemicals with less impact on the environment and higher energy efficiencies as compared to other technologies. For example, the company says its synthetic diesel is a high-quality, zero-sulfur drop-in renewable fuel that has 89 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum derived diesel fuel.

“Synterra Energy and its legacy organizations, Pacific Renewable Fuels and Chemicals and Red Lion Bio-Energy, have recruited top technical and business veterans from the alternative energy, petrochemical, multi modal transportation and logistics, catalyst, and environmental industries with extensive experience in research, development, demonstration and commercialization of new technologies,” added Alex Johnson, the company’s Chairman. “With this talented team of professionals, Synterra’s integrated approach to process design and experience in modularization of distributed plants, we have a compelling formula for further commercial success.”

SDSU Studies Production of Biochar, Bio-Oil from Biomass

South Dakota State University (SDSU) is researching the future, one is which rural landscapes would no longer be dotted with grain elevators but rather with pyrolysis plants that would convert energy crops to fuel or “bio-oil”. This bio-oil would be passed along to other refiniries to produce products such as drop-in fuels or biochemicals while the plants would recycle the syngas produced during the process into an emerging product – biochar. Biochar can be integrated into the soil to help rebuild soil nutrition and sequester carbon.

The USDA has given SDSU a $1 million grant, $200,000 for the next five years, to help scientists design a feedstock production system for optimum energy production of bio-oil while also exploring the possible benefits of biochar.

“We’re looking at this from a whole system approach, and we’re looking at various components in this whole system,” said SDSU professor Tom Schumacher, the project director “Historically, the distributive nature of crop production gave rise to a network of grain elevators to separate and coordinate the flow of grain to the processing industry. A network of rail lines added new infrastructure to improve efficiency. For lignocellulosic feedstocks, a corollary to the grain elevator would be a collection point that would be within 10 to 30 miles of production fields.”

The purpose of the collection points is to receive, sort, pre-process or process feedstocks using pyrolysis. Pyrolysis uses high temperatures in the absence of oxygen to break down organic materials. This technology produces both a bio-oil as well as syngas that can be used to fuel the plant, and biochar. The biochar would be tested in fields around the plant to see how it performs in repairing soil health and as a carbon capture technology.

More specifically, the SDSU study will use a technique called microwave pyrolysis that heats the feedstock by exciting the individual molecules, making it very accurate and easy to control. They will then study how the biochar performs when varying the pyrolysis processing parameters. The feedstocks that will be tested include corn stover, switchgrass and wood biomass.

“There’s a lot that’s unknown about specific types of biochar,” said Schumacher. “There is no single characteristic that can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of biochars. Biochar’s pH and other characteristics can vary widely depending on what feedstock and process was used to produce it. That could make biochar beneficial to the environment, neutral, or possibly even harmful, depending on its characteristics.”

Clean Energy Policies Could Boost Midwest Economies

According to a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), clean energy policies would boost Midwestern economies. Last week, the Brookings Institution released a study that found the private-sector “green” economy in the Midwest already employs nearly 40,000 people. However, “A Bright Future for the Heartland: Powering the Midwest Economy with Clean Energy,” estimates that this number is already higher and will continue to grow.

In particular, the report found that the Midwest has great potential to produce electricity from renewable resources including wind, biomass and solar. Iowa is already the leading state for wind and biofuels and other Midwestern states like Minnesota are following close behind. The UCS report says that renewable energy has the ability to cut home and business energy bills, drive billions of dollars in new business investment and create thousands of jobs. All of this can happen, says the report, while reducing the use of energy created by coal.

“Adopting stronger clean energy standards can help transform the region’s economy,” said Steven Frenkel, director of UCS’s Midwest office. “Generating more renewable energy will put people back to work manufacturing the components needed to power the clean energy economy, such as wind turbines and solar panels. At the same time, reducing energy use can help keep Midwest businesses competitive by cutting their energy costs.”

The study analyzes the possible impact of a clean energy strategy that would help the economy. The duo approach includes policy combined with the adoption of energy efficient technologies. More specifically, the “proposed” policy would require 30 percent of each state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030 coupled with the goal of a 2 percent reduction in annual power consumption by 2015 with an additional 2 percent reduction each following year. The study also found that while individual state policies can have an impact, the greatest achievement would happen if all states acted together.

Claudio Martinez, UCS energy analyst and report author added, “Few places in the world have the combination of a great renewable energy potential, a strong manufacturing base and the skilled workforce needed to realize that potential. And the Midwest is one of those places.”

Farmers Participate in Rural Champions of Change

Last week leaders from rural communities met with President Obama along with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, as well as the president’s Domestic Policy Adviser Melody Barnes as part of the White House Rural Champions of Change roundtable. One of the attendees was Eric Rund a farmer from Pesotum, Illinois. He is also the CEO of Green Flame Energy. He was one of 18 people from 16 different states who were invited to share their ideas on how the country can improve the quality of life in rural communities and promote economic growth.

“I was honored to be selected for the Council and have the opportunity to share with national policy makers what biomass production can do for farmers, rural communities, job creation and energy independence,” said Rund. “I invited the President to visit my farm to see first-hand what we’re doing to create change.”

Rund has been an early adopter when it comes to biomass research. He is actively developing biomass markets and has been working with local home owners, community school districts and businesses to educate them on how they can utilize biomass energy produced by local farmers.

The meeting Rund attended was just one in a series of meetings being held in DC this summer as part of the White House Rural Council and the White House Business Council to improve economic conditions and create jobs in rural communities. Champions of Change recognizes Americans who are accomplishing great achievements in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.