Renewable Energy Takes Hit in Farm Bill Funding

USCapitolFunding for some rural renewable energy programs is taking a hit. Ethanol Producer Magazine reports the House Appropriations Committee cut the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) down to just $15 million, down from last year’s levels of $25 million, and Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) for fiscal year 2015 is proposed to be funded at just $30 million, down for 2014’s $50 million in mandatory funding and $20 million in discretionary funding for FY 2015. Meanwhile, the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance program is cut to $22 million, a major drop from previous levels of $50 million in mandatory FY 2015 funding, with an additional $75 million in discretionary funding for FY 2015.

The Agriculture Energy Coalition (AgEC) has released a statement in response to the draft bill, vowing to fight the changes to the Farm Bill’s popular energy programs. “The renewable energy and energy efficiency programs in the Farm Bill help rural America create new biobased manufacturing opportunities and stable, well-paying jobs,” said Lloyd Ritter, codirect of the AgEC .”The Energy Title programs were reauthorized in the five-year Farm Bill adopted by Congress just months ago, in February 2014, and received mandatory funding to allow for program stability and business certainty. The modest investments made through that bill would pay major dividends for energy security, economic growth, and environmental gains across the United States.”

“Just today, however, the House Appropriations Committee sought to roll back the Farm Bill, by targeting the successful energy title programs for changes in mandatory spending and blocking the USDA’s ability to administer them,” Ritter continued. “The Agriculture Energy Coalition, which comprises a broad group of renewable energy, energy efficiency and agricultural groups, will continue to fight to ensure that these programs are implemented properly.”

You can read the full draft of the legislation here.

REPREVE Launches Biomass Crop System

A North Carolina-based biomass company has launched a brand new system for the production of high-yielding energy crops that can be used for biofuels and other bio-based products.

repreveREPREVE® RENEWABLES LLC is collaborating with farmers and landowners across the country to use the innovative biomass crop system grow giant miscanthus grass on marginal and underutilized land.

REPREVE developed a comprehensive solution to the challenge of planting rhizome-propagated crops like miscanthus on a commercial scale, according to Jeff Wheeler, chief executive officer. “We’re really excited to be launching this year our new ACCU YIELD™ system,” said Wheeler, explaining that they had to develop specialized equipment to extract and process the rhizomes for planting, and then develop a precision planter to accurately and efficiently plant the crop for the highest yields.

ACCUDROP planter in fieldThe system is comprised of three elements: the ACCU LIFTER™ machine lifts rhizomes from a field in such a manner that reduces damage to the rhizomes thus increasing viability; the ACCU PROCESSOR™ unit sizes and cleans rhizomes for improved germination and quality and the ACCU DROP® planter provides optimal row spacing at varying planting densities to ensure a uniform, consistent and rapid stand establishment.

Farmers and landowners in Iowa, Georgia, North Carolina and Wisconsin are among the first to adopt this inventive approach to diversified land management. “These early adopters of commercial-scale biomass are trailblazers,” Wheeler says. “We provide turnkey solutions to farmers and landowners whereby we plant and harvest the crop. Plus we provide the market for the harvested crop each year.”

The crop is marketed to end users for a variety of renewable products, from biofuel to animal bedding. “Biofuels is one of the markets that we are working to develop,” said Wheeler, who says they have projects ongoing with companies in the advanced cellulosic biofuels arena. “There’s been such great progress made in those technologies and they hold such great promise for energy independence … but the biggest thing the industry needs is consistent and stable policy from Washington.”

Learn more in this interview with Wheeler: Interview with Jeff Wheeler, REPREVE Renewables

Microalgae Project Underway in Portugal

A one-hectare pilot project for the production of microalgae is under construction in Portugal. The facility will demonstrate, what a consortium of biotechnology experts say, is an innovative approach to produce microalgae biomass with biodiesel validation in a sustainable manner.

The demonstration pilot facility is one of the milestones expected from the Integrated Sustainable Algae (InteSusAl) project. The project aims at optimizing the production of algae by both heterotrophic and phototrophic routes. It will also demonstrate integration of these production technologies to achieve the microalgae cultivation targets of 90-120 dry tonnes per hectare per year.

algae“InteSusAl’s demonstration unit comes in a time of extreme importance to ensure Europe’s energy supply security, said Dr Neil Hindle, coordinator of the InteSusAl project. “We are glad that the European Commission is making it possible to demonstrate this new approach to produce microalgae biomass. We hope that our results will attract attention from investors interested in financing a 10-hectare site to produce microalgae in a sustainable manner on an industrial scale.”

The project integrates heterotrophic and phototrophic production technologies, using biodiesel glycerol as a carbon source to the heterotrophic unit and validating the biomass output for biodiesel conversion. The demonstration unit will be located in the municipality of Olhão, in the Algarve region of Southern Portugal. The pilot site will be composed of a set of fermentation units, tubular photobioreactors and raceways.

The sustainability of this demonstration, in terms of both economic and environmental (closed carbon loop) implications will be considered across the whole process, assessed via a robust life cycle analysis.

EPA and USDA Dispute Corn Stover Study

Two federal agencies joined the biofuels industry last week in seriously questioning the results of a University of Nebraska study that claims negative greenhouse gas emissions impacts in using corn stover for ethanol production.

corn_stover03 Photo: USDOE-NRELA statement by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Liz Purchia about the report noted problems with “hypothetical assumption that 100 percent of corn stover in a field is harvested” which she calls “an extremely unlikely scenario that is inconsistent with recommended agricultural practices. As such, it does not provide useful information relevant to the lifecycle GHG emissions from corn stover ethanol. EPA’s lifecycle analysis assumes up to 50 percent corn stover harvest. EPA selected this assumption based on data in the literature and in consultation with agronomy experts at USDA to reflect current agricultural practices.”

During a forum on climate change right after the study hit the headlines last week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also pointed out that it is based on a false premise. “The study started with an assumption about the way corn stover would be removed from the land. The problem with the assumption is no farmer in the country would actually take that much crop residue,” Vilsack said. “It’s not what’s happening on the ground. If you make the wrong assumption, you’re going to come up with the wrong conclusions.”

Work done by Dr. Douglas Karlen with the USDA Agricultural Research Service was cited several times in the UNL study. In response to questions from POET-DSM, which is using corn stover as feedstock at a plant in Iowa, Karlen said the study “makes unrealistic assumptions and uses citations out of context to reinforce the authors’ viewpoint.”

According to Dr. Karlen, the research fails to differentiate between responsible biomass removal and “excessive” biomass removal, projecting a removal rate of approximately 75% across the entire Corn Belt.

“Harvesting 75% of all corn stover produced in the 10 Corn Belt states is unrealistic, far greater than any projections made by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in their projections for developing a sustainable bioenergy industry, and would certainly result in the depletion of soil organic matter.”

U.S. Forest Services Seeks Wood to Energy Proposals

The U.S. Forest Service is seeking proposals that expand wood energy use and support responsible forest management. The Forest Service also released a Wood Energy Financial App for use by community and business leaders seeking to replace fossil fuel with wood energy.

“USDA through the Forest Service is supporting development of wood energy projects that promote sound forest management, expand regional economies, and create new jobs,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “These efforts, part of the Obama Administration’s ‘all of the above’ energy strategy, create opportunities for wood energy products to enter the marketplace.”

Wood Enery AppThe U.S. Forest Service published in the Federal Register the announcement of requests for proposals under the Hazardous Fuels Wood-to-Energy Grant program. The program will provide about $2.8 million to help successful applicants complete the engineering design work needed to apply for public or private loans for construction and long-term financing of wood energy facilities. In addition, the agency announced $1.7 million in funding availability under the Statewide Wood Energy Team cooperative agreement program inviting public-private teams to seek funding to advance wood energy. Activities may include workshops that provide technical, financial and environmental information, preliminary engineering assessments, and community outreach needed to support development of wood energy projects.

“Building stronger markets for innovative wood products supports sustainable forestry, reduces wildfire risk, and creates energy savings for rural America,” added Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.

The Forest Service has also released an eBook which contains a Wood Energy Financial App that allows users to do a simple and quick analysis to see if wood energy is a viable alternative for their community or small business. The App, which can be accessed from the Web or an eBook. The App and eBook were developed through a partnership with Dr. Dennis Becker, associate professor and Dr. Steve Taft, extension economist at the University of Minnesota; Eini Lowell, wood technology specialist at the Pacific Northwest Research Station; Dan Bihn, engineer at Bihn Systems and Roy Anderson, senior consultant at The Beck Group.

Renewable Electricity Could Reach 16% In Five Years

According to an early release review of the Annual Energy Outlook 2014 (the final report is slated for release on April 30th) published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), renewable energy could hit 16 percent of the net U.S. electrical generation by the year 2040. This includes biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind. But the SUN DAY Campaign challenges these predictions by asserting this could happen in the next five years.

When reviewing EIA’s own published data for the 11-year period January 1, 2003 through December 31, 2013 revealed that the percentage of the nation’s net electrical generation Biomass pelletsrepresented by renewable energy has expanded from less than 9 percent in 2004 to nearly 13 percent in 2013. Given the relatively consistent growth trends of the past decade or longer for most renewable energy sources and their rapidly declining costs, it seems improbable that it will require another 27 years to grow from 13 percent to 16 percent according to SUN DAY Campaign. Thus, EIA’s forecast is not just unduly conservative; almost certainly, it is simply wrong.

If the trends reflected in EIA data from the past decade continue, cite the SUN DAY campaign, renewable energy sources could increase to as much as 13.5 percent of net U.S. electrical generation in 2014, to 14.4 percent in 2015, to 15.3 percent in 2016, and reach or exceed 16.0 percent no later than 2018 — i.e., within five years and not the 27 years forecast by EIA. At worst, they would reach 16 percent by 2020.

“Inasmuch as policy makers in both the public and private sectors – as well as the media and others – rely heavily upon EIA data when making legislative, regulatory, investment, and other decisions, underestimation can have multiple adverse impacts on the renewable energy industry and, more broadly, on the nation’s environmental and energy future,” noted Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Consequently, EIA is doing a serious disservice to the public by publishing analyses that are inherently inconsistent with its own historical data and near-term projections.”

The SUN DAY Campaign has published its own full 32-page report that includes the assumptions and projections made, on a technology-by-technology basis, using EIA data. In addition, following the projections provided for each technology is a listing of recent studies and news reports that offer alternative or complementary scenarios – many of which are more aggressive than those provided by the SUN DAY Campaign. These additional studies suggest that even SUN DAY’s analysis may prove to be unduly conservative.

CSR Looks to Convert Used Railroad Ties to Biofuels

The Coalition for Sustainable Rail (CSR) has announced a new initiative to review the feasibility of “upcycling” used railroad ties into advanced biofuels. The research project is funded by a grant from the Indiana Rail Road (INRD). Working with the Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) of the University of Minnesota – Duluth, CSR aims to determine the viability of converting some of the 15 million ties replaced by U.S. railroads each year into a clean-burning coal alternative.

railroad ties“CSR is thrilled to have the support of the Indiana Rail Road on this important, potentially historic opportunity,” said CSR President, Davidson Ward. “INRD is dedicated to innovation and technology, and its investment in our primary research is an inspiration to the entire team.”

Using a biomass processing technique known as torrefaction, the researchers at NRRI and CSR will convert the structure of used railroad ties, primarily made from hardwood species, into a clean, renewable, homogeneous, and densifiable biofuel. The final result is anticipated to be a pelletized biofuel that can be used in power plants. However, the biofuel will first powe CSR’s test bed steam locomotive, the Santa Fe Railway’s 1937-built No. 3463.

“As the son of a Santa Fe dispatcher and a lifelong student of that railway, I’m intrigued in CSR’s desire to rebuild and modernize such an innovative piece of technology as the 3463, and especially NRRI and CSR’s pursuit of energy, fuel and transportation development,” said INRD President and Chief Executive Officer, Thomas G. Hoback. “This important research impacts not only the future of energy in the U.S., but it honors the tradition of American innovation, from the reconstruction and modernization of an iconic steam locomotive to the biofuel development associated with our donation.”

This initial investigation aims to identify any hurdles involved with the conversion of railroad ties to fuel, including the handling of wood preservatives found in railroad ties. CSR will make results of the research known through its “White Paper Program“.

Hoback concluded, “This is something that I believe could lead to a key development in the future of the railroad industry. It is important to take pride in the history of where we’ve been, and the unique melding of research with preserving history, as championed by CSR, is a great way to honor the legacy of the Santa Fe.”

USDA Rural Development Supports Biofuel Investment

USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Lillian Salerno went on a three-state Midwest tour last week to highlight USDA investments that are helping expand business opportunities in the bio-economy, including biofuels.

usda-salerno“Creating jobs and expanding economic opportunity for rural small businesses are top priorities for the Obama Administration,” said Salerno, who visited companies in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. “The new Farm Bill expands the potential for economic growth in rural America by maintaining momentum for the emerging bio-based industry and the more than 3,000 bio-based companies across the country.”

Salerno’s tour started with a visit to Quad County Corn Processors near Galva, Iowa where they are working on a process to turn corn kernel fibers into cellulosic ethanol and as a result boost the plant’s ethanol production. “It’s a co-op, so all the farmers around there have a vested interest in making this processing unit work,” she said. The company has received nearly $22 million in USDA Rural Development loan guarantees since it opened 13 years ago.

Salerno noted that the United States has the capacity to provide one billion tons of biomass per year by 2030. “This has a possibility of hundreds of thousands of jobs – actually 1.7 million estimated,” she said.

Army Awards Renewable Energy Contracts

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, working with the Army Energy Initiatives Task Force (EITF), has awarded another 20 base contracts to companies in energy-related technologies. The awards are part of the $7 billion capacity, large-scale renewable and alternative energy power production Multiple Award Task Order Contract (MATOC).

MIL_Solar_Farm_Nellis_AFB_lgThe 20 contracts are for the following technologies: solar (15), wind (3) and biomass (2). USACE has previously awarded 58 contracts for solar (22), wind (17), biomass (13), and geothermal (6).

“We are adding these additional companies to those already in the technology pools to ensure we have enough pre-qualified companies ready to submit proposals on task orders as they come up,” explained Col. Robert Ruch, commander, Huntsville Center. “Huntsville Center is doing everything we can to ensure task orders for future projects will be awarded as quickly as possible.”

This second round of MATOC awards is in keeping with the original August 2012 Request For Proposal (RFP) which allowed for immediate awards to firms within the competitive range and additional awards to firms that qualified after further evaluation by the government. The qualified MATOC companies will be eligible to bid on future renewable energy task orders. As renewable energy opportunities at Army installations are assessed and validated, Huntsville Center will issue a competitive task order Request for Proposal to the pre-qualified MATOC companies for the specific technologies.

The MATOC involves third-party financed renewable energy acquisitions and involves no Army or Department of Defense (DOD) capital, or Military Construction appropriation. The Army or DOD will purchase the power from contractors who own, operate and maintain the generating assets. The MATOC’s total estimated value of $7 billion capacity refers to the total dollar value of energy available for purchase under all Power Purchase Agreement task orders for their entire term (up to 30 years).

These contracts will support the Army’s achievement of its congressionally mandated energy goal of 25 percent production of energy (1GW) from renewable sources by 2025, and improving installation energy security and sustainability.

Sustainable Poplar Plantation Provides Biofuels Biomass

The GreenWood Tree Farm Fund, LP (GTFF), managed by GreenWood Resources, has become the first short rotation forest plantation worldwide to earn certification under the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB). The RSB certification covers GTFF’s cultivation, management and harvesting of coppiced poplar trees, used as biomass feedstock for the cellulosic ethanol industry or pelletized for direct combustion in biomass electric plants. The certification was conducted by SCS Global Services (SCS), a world leader in third-party sustainability certification.

“Biomass from trees is an ideal solution for generating renewable fuels and chemicals while reducing reliance on fossil fuels,” said Jeff Nuss, President & CEO of GreenWood Resources (GWR). “GWR’s high-yield, short-rotation tree farms need less fertilizer and less energy to produce than traditional row crops, and they produce greater energy output per unit of production. We take our sustainability mission very seriously and are proud to have received the RSB designation.”

Poplar_GreenWoodResources_AutumnWebSCS audited the Boardman, Oregon tree farm to RSB standards jointly with GWR’s annual Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification renewal. Combined, these two certifications recognize GreenWood’s efforts to maintain biodiversity, protect water resources, account for greenhouse gas emissions, treat workers fairly, and benefit the community.

“While biofuels for both transportation and energy production offer promise as an alternative to fossil fuels, production of its raw material can have a major impact on land, air, and water resources,” said Neil Mendenhall, Manager of Supply Chain Services at SCS. “GreenWood Resources is demonstrating a sustainable approach to the production of biomaterials that has a greatly reduced environmental impact.”

Rolf Hogan, Executive Director of RSB added, “RSB is pleased that GWR has demonstrated the sustainability of its biomass feedstock production sufficient to earn certification. GreenWood is a great example of a short-rotation tree farm that can reach the highest level of sustainability.”

Rethinking Biofuel Yields

According to new research from Michigan State University (MSU), focusing solely on biomass yield comes at a high price. Looking at the big picture allows other biofuel crops, such as perennial grasses to score higher than corn, as viable alternatives for biofuel production. The research was published in the recent issue of Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences.

GLBRC / KBS LTER cellulosic biofuels research experiment; Photo“We believe our findings have major implications for bioenergy research and policy,” said Doug Landis, MSU entomologist and one of the paper’s lead authors. “Biomass yield is obviously a key goal, but it appears to come at the expense of many other environmental benefits that society may desire from rural landscapes.”

Landis and a team of researchers from the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center compared three potential biofuel crops: corn, switchgrass, and mixes of native prairie grasses and flowering plants. They measured the diversity of plants, pest and beneficial insects, birds and microbes that consume methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Methane consumption, pest suppression, pollination and bird populations were higher in perennial grasslands.

In addition, the team found that the grass crops’ ability to harbor such increased biodiversity is strongly linked to the fields’ location relative to other habitats. For example, pest suppression, which is already higher in perennial grass crops, increased by an additional 30 percent when fields were located near other perennial grass habitats.

This suggests, says Landis, that in order to enhance pest suppression and other critical ecosystem services, coordinated land use should play a key role in agricultural policy and planning. “With supportive policies, we envision the ability to design agricultural landscapes to maximize multiple benefits.”

Landis points out that rising corn and other commodity prices tempt farmers to till and plant as much of their available land as possible. This includes farming marginal lands that produce lower yields as well as converting acreage set aside for the Conservation Reserve Program, grasslands and wetlands.

“Yes, corn prices are currently attractive to farmers, but with the exception of biomass yield, all other services were greater in the perennial grass crops,” Landis said. “If high commodity prices continue to drive conversion of these marginal lands to annual crop production, it will reduce the flexibility we have in the future to promote other critical services like pollination, pest suppression and reduction of greenhouse gasses.”

Genera Showcasing Biomass Harvesting Solutions

generaequip1The biomass experts at Genera Energy Inc. are showing off some of their latest harvesting techniques to get the most out of the company’s biomass energy crops. During a demonstration at Genera’s Vonore, Tenn. campus, officials showed how these techniques will help producers of the green energy feedstocks.

“Genera is laser-focused on researching, developing, field testing and bringing to market the most efficient bioenergy crops, management techniques, harvesting processes and equipment,” said Kelly Tiller, Ph.D., President and CEO of Genera Energy. “This year, we’re expanding our use of state-of-the-art self-propelled field harvesters and innovative ways to handle, move, and store feedstock that can revolutionize large-scale biomass production.”

Genera’s experts combine their deep understanding of agricultural production and systems with their industrial scale management and logistics experience to provide robust, economical supply chains that balance cost, risk, reliability and quality. That’s important for all of Genera’s downstream biomass customers, regardless of whether they’re using that biomass to produce clean, renewable bio-based fuels, chemicals, power, or products.

“One of the innovations developed by Genera’s biomass experts is a commercially-viable method to bulk harvest biomass crops using existing and new technologies, integrated into our proprietary system,” said Sam Jackson, Genera’s vice president of business development. “For many biomass supply chains, this new system delivers product that offers tremendous savings in cost, time, production, storage and delivery compared to traditional methods.”

As biomass producers and refiners of renewable fuel from the feedstock move toward commercial-scale production in the coming year, Genera officials see their technologies as one way to ensure biomass remains an affordable, sustainable feedstock for advanced biofuels.

“Fortunately, Genera’s ahead of the curve and our deep understanding of the industry, real-world experience and successful field testing enable rapid deployment and scale-up of our integrated biomass supply systems,” [Tiller] said.

Fast-Eating Enzymes Lunch on Cellulose

A microorganism first found in the Valley of Geysers on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia in 1990 may be a key to more efficient cellulosic biofuel production. The microoorganism can digest cellulose almost twice as fast as the current leading component cellulase enzyme on the market according to researchers at the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

The researches have discovered if the enzyme continues to perform well in larger tests, it could help drive down the price of making lignocellulosic fuels, from ethanol to other biofuels that can be dropped into existing infrastructure. A paper reporting this finding, “Revealing Nature’s Cellulase Diversity: The Digestion Mechanism of Caldicellulosiruptor bescii CelA” appears in the journal Science.

The bacterium first found in heated freshwater pools, Caldicellulosiruptor bescii, secretes the cellulase, CelA, which has the complex arrangement of two catalytic domains Caldicellulosiruptor besciiseparated by linker peptides and cellulose binding modules.

NREL researchers put CelA to the test and found that it produced more sugars than the most abundant cellulase in the leading commercial mixtures, Cel7A, when acting on Avicel, which is an industry standard to test cellulose degradation. They found that CelA not only can digest cellulose in the more common surface removal, but that it also creates cavities in the material, which leads to greater synergy with more conventional cellulases, resulting in higher sugar release.

The bacteria that secrete the promising CelA thrive in temperatures of 75 to 90 degrees Celsius (167-194 degrees Farenheit). NREL Scientist Yannick Bomble, one of the paper’s authors, noted “Microorganisms and cellulases operating at such high temperatures have several biotechnological advantages.”

“CelA is the most efficient single cellulase we’ve ever studied – by a large margin,” Bomble continued. “It is an amazingly complex enzyme, combining two catalytic domains with three binding modules. The fact that it has two complementary catalytic domains working in concert most likely makes it such a good cellulose degrader.” Continue reading

Ohioans Support Clean Energy

Ohio is voting “yes” for clean energy according to a new poll conducted by Yes for Ohio’s Energy Future. The survey found that Ohioans support the Ohio Jobs Initiative, the Ohio Clean Energy Initiative by a margin of 35 percent (64 percent likely to vote in favor versus 29 percent unlikely). The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP), who found during the survey that 55 percent of respondents were not aware of the Jobs Initiative. The proposed policy needs 385,247 signatures by July 4, 2014 to be on the November 2014 ballot to enable Ohioans to vote on the bill.

According to Yes for Ohio’s Energy Future, who backs the initiative, the Jobs Initiative enacts an amendment that would provide $1.3 billion a year for 10 years from state general obligation bond funding in a comprehensive array of areas, including clean energy YES FOR OHIO'S ENERGY FUTURE CLEAN ENERGYindustries and energy-related public infrastructure projects in the areas of solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, biomass, smart grid, along with other technologies. Funding includes research and development, academic and educational development as well as vocational training support.

Beginning in January 2014, the Ohio Energy Initiative Commission (OEIC) will begin accepting a limited number of early project proposals as part of the Fast Start Program; however, funding is limited to one quarter of the annual budget. Early project proposals may be placed on a prioritized list for funding, which is contingent on passage of the Initiative. Eligible categories of applicants include individuals, companies, non-profits, municipalities, and state agencies.

Project proposals for funding will be reviewed by independent reviewers at the OEIC through a simple open, transparent, and publicly-published process that evaluates the technical, economic, financial and environmental merits of each proposal.

Yes for Ohio’s Clean Energy future says the Ohio Clean Energy Initiative mirrors the enormously successful bi-partisan jobs initiative, Ohio Third Frontier, which began in 2002 under Republican Governor Bob Taft and continued under Democratic Governor Ted Strickland. The program is credited with producing 55,000 jobs at an average salary of $65,000 per year and at an overall Return on Investment of 9:1.

Cogeneration Explained

WASILENKOFF headshot-1The country is beginning to hear a lot about cogeneration, or cogen, but what it is exactly? How is it different, then say, a traditional electricity plant? To get the low-down on cogen I spoke with Chad Wasilenkoff, CEO of Fortress Paper whose company has been working with cogeneration and recently put its first cogen project online.

Q: Can you explain how cogeneration is different than a traditional electricity plant? For example, “wind” can provide power to the grid but is not considered cogen.

A: Wind will run a turbine and produce electricity similar to cogeneration. The difference is cogen also produces energy mechanically with steam to turn the turbine but also uses the thermal energy produced in the industrial process for additional energy needs. In conventional systems the heat is an unused byproduct of energy production. Cogen can also uses waste material as the energy source and in our case residual biomass from the paper making process.

Q: Obviously, cogeneration is not a new idea. Why do you think there is such a small rate of adoption/use of cogeneration in North America?

Cogen OutsideA: Cogeneration plants are capital intensive and the costs involved have to be balanced with the costs of other energy sources in the area. For industrial installations cogen works well for operations that use a lot of power, steam and heat. Cogen also tends to be more suitable in areas where the heat can be utilized. An example is Denmark where some cities get 95 percent of heat from cogeneration sites. There are also some small scale cogeneration units on the market for the individual homeowner.

Q: The potential for cogeneration is quite large. For cogen to reach its full potential, what would need to happen? Would there need to be legislation, tax credits, etc?

A: Yes assistance with financing, preferential pricing tax credits etc. would all help cogen to reach its full potential. Cogeneneration is already part of many plans for expanding renewable energy, According to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Q: Fortress Paper has made a significant investment in cogen at your Fortress Speciality Cellulose Mill in Thurso, Québec where you have constructed a cogen facility. Can you give the readers of DF more information about this project?

A: The Fortress Specialty Cellulose mill capex for the Cogen Plant was over Canadian $120 million and included a new turbine and generator with cooling tower and condenser, new biomass boiler, and new water treatment system among other items. Continue reading