Indo-U.S. Advanced Bioenergy Consortium launches

A new Indo-U.S. Advanced Bioenergy Consortium for Second Generation Biofuels (IUABC) has been launched. Partners include the government of India’s Department of Biotechnology, Indian corporate leaders and Washington University in St. Louis, who have invested $2.5 million in the consortium. The IUABC is a joint bi-national center led by Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay (IITB), and Washington University.

dreamstime_xs_44872276The Indian transportation fuel infrastructure is undergoing massive transformation due to increased consumer demand and a growing population, which is estimated to reach 1.6 billion by 2050.

“Biofuels are an essential solution to this demand challenge, not only to bridge the supply between traditional fossil fuels and consumer demand, but to deliver better environmental performance,” said Himadri Pakrasi, PhD, director of I-CARES, Washington University’s center for research on energy, the environment and sustainability, and the university’s McDonnell International Scholars Academy ambassador to JNU. “Over the next three years, the IUABC will invest significantly in the knowledge base in India and the U.S. to meet this challenge.”

The goal of the center is to increase biomass yield in plants and algae, enabling downstream commercial development for cost-effective, efficient and environmentally sustainable production of advanced biofuels.

The lead organizations are all members of the McDonnell International Scholars Academy and the new consortium strengthens this relationship.

East Kansas’ Jeff Oestmann Featured on Car Clinic

Bobby Likis Car ClinicThe ethanol industry was well represented on the nationally syndicated car-talk program “Bobby Likis Car Clinic” when Bobby Likis spoke with East Kansas Agri-Energy’s President and CEO Jeff Oestmann. The show aired Saturday, October 11, 2014 and the two ethanol advocates chatted about local, regional and national issues surrounding ethanol production.

Oestmann, whose career spans 20 years in the bioenergy and grain processing industries, currently serves on the Board of Directors of both the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) & Kansas Association of Ethanol Producers. During the program, Oestmann discussed the consumer benefits of ethanol production and its impact on local communities and the U.S. economy. Oestmann is a non-commissioned officer who served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 11 years, including service in the USMC’s elite Embassy Guard.

Jeff Oestmann East Kansas Agri-Energy“I have a question slate lined up for Jeff that addresses ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the U.S economy, engine performance and national security. Consumers – and American citizens – need to hear the message,” said Likis.

Oestmann shared many facts during the program. “We use cutting edge technology at East Kansas Agri-Energy to produce high-quality ethanol that helps consumers save an average of $1.00 per gallon at the gas station and also benefits our environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We put a high priority on innovation, and the biofuels we produce – including next generation renewable diesel – help reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, which in turn bolsters America’s national security.”

Click here to listen to Oestmann’s interview.

The Veteran Asset Training Vets in Solar

The Veteran Asset (TVA) is training veterans across the U.S. for careers in solar energy. The non-profit has announced the availability of TVA scholarships to help cover cost of education.

Scott Duncan, Lieutenant Colonel U.S. Marine Corp (Retired) Scoot Duncan is co-founder and CEO of The Veteran Asset whose mission is recruiting, training and placing veterans into the renewable energy sector, at no cost to the veterans. He said they are establishing the highest quality benchmgI_93484_Jose on Roofark in the industry.

“We are hand-selecting veterans and transitioning military candidates, screening and qualifying them for TVA scholarships,” said Duncan. “This very solar-specific recruiting and training process makes TVA graduates extremely valuable to the solar community. Effort on the front end assures high-quality graduates. By vetting out the right candidates, we insure that the end result is a skilled, solar-trained workforce, which is already proving to make a tremendous difference to the solar companies that hire them and to the industry in general.”

The hand-selected veteran recruits are provided a 32-hour course, entitled Entry Level Solar PV Design and Installation, offered in the Ambassador Energy College training facility in Murrieta, California. On the final day of the course, the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Entry Level Exam is proctored. The TVA formula appears to be working, as the majority of those who have graduated the program since May 2014 have found gainful employment within the solar industry.

Dates for upcoming courses include October 20 – 24 and November 17 – 21, 2014. Interested candidates should visit The Veteran Asset’s website, where they may obtain course details and apply for an interview by TVA staff.

Ecotech Institute Offers Free Energy e-Books

Ecotech Institute has released a series of free energy ebooks detailing how to begin a career in wind or solar energy. The guides cover issues from a day in the life of a Ditch the Desk Ecotech Instituterenewable energy technician to potential salaries to required skills and advice form current professionals working in the solar and wind industries.

The wind and solar energy renewable energy industries continue to do well, but according to Ecotech Institute that doesn’t mean getting a green job is easy. The jobs take specialized training, cleantech industry knowledge and passion is a plus.

  • Future solar and wind technicians have one place to access vital information, including:
  • Key industry facts about the renewable energy sector;
  • Tips for job seekers in the energy efficiency field;
  • Expectations and requirements for wind and solar energy green jobs;
  • Cleantech employment trends;
  • And advice from working industry experts and technicians.
  • Learn everything there is to know about “ditching the desk” and landing a green job in the wind or solar industry by downloading the free Wind and Solar Energy eBooks here.

Ecotech Institute is the first and only school in the U.S. that is solely dedicated to sustainable energy. The school currently offers eight associate’s degree programs, including hands-on training for wind and solar energy technology:

Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association Working for You

The Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association is working on behalf of the biofuels industry and consumers throughout Minnesota. With several successes under their belt, the Association has identified several more goals they would like to achieve on behalf of the biofuels industry over the next few years.

“We are hopeful the next two years will lead us into opportunities to develop higher usage of ethanol blends, in particular we will work hard on promoting usage of E15 in 2001 and newer vehicles,” said Brian Kletscher, CEO of Highwater Ethanol and President of the Highwater Ethanol Aerial PhotosBoard of the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association. “To help accomplish this we have hired a Biofuels Marketing Manager, this will allow us to directly communicate with the many gas station owners in the State of Minnesota and give them guidance on how to bring in E15 to their gas station while providing and economic benefit to them as owners while also passing on a savings to their customers in lower cost for E15.”

Tim Rudnicki, executive director of the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association echoes Kletscher’s goal. In addition, Rudnicki said they are continuing to increase the use of E85. “Sales of E85 in Minnesota have been on the rise but there is still plenty of room to grow. There are many flex-fuel vehicle owners who don’t know the benefits of using E85 or even the fact that it’s 80 cents cheaper per gallon on average in Minnesota.”

When asked if the biofuels industry would have seen as many successes without the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association, Kletscher said while the industry was growing prior to the formation of the Association, by working with Minnesota Corn Growers Association, Soybean Growers Association and other ethanol related organization, the formation of the Association has allowed the ethanol industry and biofuels industry the opportunity to branch out and grow in supporting and promoting the usage of their products.

“While doing this we have maintained a strong relationship with the associations and related organizations that walked with and grew the biofuels industry to the point that it is today,” said Kletscher.

However, as Rudnicki identifies, the political landscape will have an effect on their work but for the most part, the view of biofuels is positive. “We are fortunate that many of our federal and state-level senators and representatives are supportive of biofuels and support measures to increase its usage,” he said. “We work closely with many of them and they understand how important biofuels are to the economy in Minnesota and its role in reducing prices at the pump, greenhouse gases and our dependence on foreign oil. Biofuels are the only viable solution to removing our dependence on harmful fossil fuels and many of them understand that.” Continue reading

Get to Know the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association

In April 2011 the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association was founded to represent and promote the renewable fuels industry in Minnesota. According to Tim RudnickiTim Rudnicki Executive Director MN Bio-Fuels Association, executive director, as a state and a union, the country faces many challenges on the energy and environmental front and the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association is providing solutions to these challenges.

When asked about the Association, Rudnicki explained, “We are a non-profit organization and our members include ethanol producers in Minnesota as well as industry vendors. Our aim is to work with our stakeholders in a collaborative manner to achieve our collective goal of a greener future, a stronger economy in Minnesota, consumer savings at the pump and a more energy independent America.”

The Association has three key areas of focus:

  1. Advocacy: Their active engagement takes place at the state capitol in St Paul with a variety of state agencies and departments as well as through the governor’s office. They work with policymakers and agency officials to give voice to the biofuels industry in matters that impact day-to-day production operations and to further grow the industry.
  2. Fuel Supply Chain Development: They work closely with fuel retailers in the state to increase the availability of fuels such as E15 and E85. They are also able to connect them with wholesale suppliers of E15 and E85 and infrastructure and equipment providers and also educate them on the business case to sell E15 and E85.
  3. Communications: As the representative of the biofuels industry in Minnesota, they organization is constantly communicating and educating consumers on the various benefits of ethanol in transportation fuel as well as changing negative perceptions. Their communication channels include a website with extensive resources on biofuels, social media, advertising and email marketing and they also liaise with the media throughout the state.

One of the founding members of the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association is Highwater Ethanol, a 59.5 million gallon per year denatured ethanol facility located in Lamberton. They also produce nearly 150,000 tons of dried distillers grains (DDGs) and in April of this year began producing corn oil.

In May of 2006, Brian Kletscher began working with Hightower Ethanol as the president of the Board of Directors and then in November of 2008 was hired as the CEO. He has served as the president of Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association since 2011.

When asked why Highwater Ethanol became involved with the Association, Kletscher noted that being a part of Minnesota biofuel producers, they needed another strong voice to deal directly with potential challenges for the industry and the Association is set up to address many biofuel opportunities. For example, the Association has been participating in bringing additional biofuel usage to Minnesota, by supporting usage of higher blends of ethanol and other biofuels. Continue reading

BIB Receives $9.9M Biobased Education Grant

The Building Illinois’ Bioeconomy (BIB) consortium has received a $9.9 million grant to create an Illinois network of biobased training and employment pathways that can be completed in two years or less. BIB is comprised of Southeastern Illinois College (SIC), Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, Carl Sandburg College, Lincoln Land College, and Lewis & Clark College.

Illinois’ bioeconomy is a driving force for economic development and innovation across the state. This biobased industry employs more than 54,000 direct, indirect, and induced jobs generating more than $5 billion in total economic output. The grant funding is part of a presidential directive calling upon industry and institutions of higher learning to partner and create robust, fast-track pathways from training to jobs.

US Dept of LaborDr. Jonah Rice, SIC president, said of the grant, “SIC is a very proud partner in this grant that will provide valuable workforce skills. SIC’s biofuels program will continue to benefit and grow as a national leading certificate program because of this grant.”

All course materials developed through this grant will be available as open educational resources so that others can access and build on successful training models. In this final phase of the TAACCTA, SIC will continue to build upon their innovative Biofuels Program to provide a pathway for displaced workers, veterans, and the underemployed to receive relevant training and stackable credentials that lead to employment in today’s rural workplace.

Renee Loesche, SIC’s biofuels instructor, added, “The true innovation of this grant is that training will be created with industry and trade association involvement to allow fast-track certificates that build upon a person’s current skills and education to train them for jobs that exist in the bio-process industries of today.”

These courses will be online and/or hybrid courses that allows those seeking employment to build upon high school diplomas and/or limited skill sets to improve those skills and become eligible for the jobs of the 21st century.

“PUMP” Coming to a Theater Near You

There is a new documentary coming to a theater near you: PUMP. The film tells the story of America’s addiction to oil. Stories told range from Standard Oil’s illegal tactics to the dominance of oil companies. The goal of the film is to explain why and how consumers can end Big Oil’s monopoly and “win choice at the pump”.

According to the movie’s website, gasoline is our only option of transportation fuel today. With global demand rising and the continued dependence on gas our wallets are thinning. In addition, air pollution is getting worse and Americans are fighting wars in oil-rich countries.

PUMP shows consumers how making a variety of replacement fuels widely available will reduce fuel prices across the board. Diversifying the market with replacement fuels that are cheaper, cleaner and American made will also create jobs, strengthening the economy at home and promoting stability abroad.

The movie features experts including John Hofmeister, former President of Shell Oil Co.; Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, Inc.; Peter Goldmark, former president of the Rockefeller Foundation; our colleague Jim Lane and other noteworthy figures.

To see where the movie is headed and to buy tickets, visit the PUMP website.

Urban Air Initiative Launches Public Campaign

Urban Air Initiative has launched a public awareness campaign with the first phase the launch of a new website. The consumer-focused site draws attention to the problem of toxic compounds in gas with a call to action for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate some of the most harmful components in fuel.

fixourfuelAccording to Urban Air Initiative President David VanderGriend, “There’s a problem with the air we’re all breathing and it stems from what’s in our gasoline. It’s something that’s too small to see, but too big to ignore.”

The new website is fixourfuel.com and explains why the country needs to clean up gasoline and protect public health through lowered emissions from vehicles said VanderGriend.

“The website takes a story-like approach to make a complicated subject easier to understand. “Right now, toxic compounds called aromatics are added to gasoline to provide octane boost,” added VanderGriend. However that boost is hurting your health. Aromatics, such as benzene, come out of the tailpipe as invisible, odorless ultrafine particles (UFP’s). These UFP’s have been linked to ailments from lung cancer and stroke, to birth defects and developmental disorders in children.”

Under the Clean Air Act, EPA is required to remove these harmful aromatics from gasoline, but not enough is being done. According to Urban Air Initiative officials, there are cleaner and cheaper options available, such as mid-level blends of ethanol. Increased use of these mid-level blends will reduce toxic aromatics and UFP’s.

Michigan Next Stop for Ethanol Safety Seminars

Michigan is the next stop for the Ethanol Safety Seminars. Led by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and in conjunction with the Michigan Department of Agriculture, there will be five training stops with the first on September 17 in Albion. Additional seminars will take place on September 18 in Lansing, September 19 in Grand Rapids, September 22 in Saginaw and September 24 in Warren. Each seminar is funded by a Promotion and Alternative Fuels Education grant from the Michigan Department of Agriculture.

Ethanol Safety SeminarAll seminars are free and feature a morning session from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and an evening session from 5:30 to 10:00 p.m. Certificates will be awarded to attendees at the completion of the course. While primarily targeting first responders, hazmat teams, safety managers, and local emergency planning committees, seminars are also open to the general public.

Ethanol Safety Seminars focus on numerous areas including an introduction to ethanol and ethanol-blended fuels, chemical and physical characteristics of ethanol and hydrocarbon fuels, transportation and transfer of ethanol-blended fuels, storage and dispensing locations, firefighting foam principles and ethanol-blended fuel, health and safety considerations for ethanol-blended fuel emergencies and tank farm and bulk storage fire incidents.

“With nearly 14 billion gallons of ethanol flowing across our country via railroads, highway cargo tank trucks, and barges, it’s vital that our first responders know how to safely and effectively handle the situation should a spill occur,” said Craig VanBuren, consumer protection section director at the Michigan Department of Agriculture. “This grant allows the Renewable Fuels Association the opportunity to provide boots-on-the-ground training for our emergency responders if an ethanol spill were to happen.”

In addition to the seminars, RFA will also host five free retailer workshops throughout the state on how to market ethanol-blended fuels, including E15, E85, and all mid-level blends in between. The workshops will discuss economics, the process of capturing RINs, equipment options, buying fuel locally, and available incentives to offset investment. Workshops will take place on Sept. 16 in Warren and Flint, Sept. 17 in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, and Sept. 18 in Ann Arbor.

Yelo- A Solar Powered Desk in a Bag

Students in need of electricity in rural schools have a new way to learn: YELO. Designed by Prayas Innovation the bag converts into a school desk. It comes equipped with a LED light that is powered by solar energy kit. The rechargeable battery in the solar kit can be charged through solar energy as well as supports AC charging. YELO is made up of corrugated sheet is durable and has strength to carry belongings worth more than 5 kg and is the outcome of several months of research and user trails.

With millions of stEmpowering Rural Education - 'YELO' an Innovative Solar Powered School Bag that Converts into a Deskudents out of school world-wide, India ranks highest amongst countries with students not attending school. Students in rural areas lack access to basic educational infrastructure. Sitting on the floor in incorrect posture for long working hours results in back pain, bad eyesight and inability to concentrate and study.

YELO addresses these needs by helping children carry their books and belongings irrespective of weather conditions. The same bag with a single fold technique smartly transforms into a school desk. The desk offers an angle of 30-35 degrees for students to write and read, thus ensuring they maintain an ergonomic posture while studying at school or at home.

“We look forward to collaborate with corporates, NGO’s and other social organizations who share similar vision for working towards this cause,” said Manish Mathur, managing director of Prayas Innovation.

SunShare Helps Students Learn with Free Solar

David Amster-Olszewski, founder of SunShare, Sally Sorte, principal of Academy 360 public charter school and Denver, Colorado Mayo Michael B. Hancock recently announced a new program to provide free solar energy to all families of children to attend the school.

Academy 360“We are grateful to SunShare for helping us bring green, sustainable solar energy to our families. Not only are we contributing to a healthy environment, but every dollar that is saved on electricity is a dollar that families can spend on healthier foods, after school programs, books for their home, and other essential family needs,” said Sorte.

Under the program announced today SunShare will provide free Community Solar energy from its Denver County Solar Garden. Groundbreaking on the Solar Garden is set for late this fall and families should begin seeing reductions in their bills by the early spring. In the coming months, SunShare employees will work with families to get them signed up so they can start receiving free solar energy as soon as the Solar Garden is online.

“I want to commend SunShare for being a good community member and creating this program for the families of Academy 360,” said Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock. “Here in Denver, our goal is to create livable communities, and that means helping to provide the opportunities residents need to inject sustainable practices into their daily lives. With Community Solar, not only can more people enjoy the benefits of clean, renewable solar energy, they’ll see a reduction in their electricity bills as well.”

Amster-Olszewski added, “Through this donation, SunShare is honoring the spirit and intent of Colorado’s landmark Community Solar law, and we could not find a better partner than Academy 360. This school and the innovative learning program is changing education for all students, just as Community Solar is changing the future of energy.”

The school is also launching a fundraising program so that eventually all families could have their entire energy bill offset by free solar energy.

Participate in the Annual Nat’l Electric Drive Week

If you haven’t had the experience of driving an electric vehicle, now is your chance. The 4th Annual National Drive Electric Week is September 15-21, 2014 and will take place in 115 cities in 35 states and oversees. The event allows consumers the opportunity to see the benefits first hand of driving an electric vehicle including clean-air and cost-savings, by participating in ride-and-drives.

National Drive Electric Week (formerly National Plug In Day) has quadrupled in size since its launch in 2011. This year organizers said it is expected to draw at least 35,000 attendees. Drive Electric logoMany cities are participating for the first time while other cities have participated since the event was founded. Just as U.S. plug-in vehicle sales are expected to reach their first quarter-million mark, cities will offer one-day activities or observe the celebration’s entire week, organized nationally by Plug In America, the Sierra Club and the Electric Auto Association.

“As we celebrate the first quarter-million plug-ins sold, these vehicles continue their inevitable march toward mainstream adoption,” said Plug in America President Richard Kelly. “Plug-ins offer the industry’s most efficient technology, freedom from gas stations, costly car repairs and reliance on foreign oil, and the option to drive on renewable energy, delivering tremendous public health and environmental benefits. National Drive Electric Week offers everyone the chance to learn this first hand.”

National Drive Electric Week events target people who have never driven EVs and offer ride-and-drives of every plug-in on the market. All the events are free.

“Don’t let Drive Electric Week zoom past without visiting an event near you. Electric cars take fuel efficiency and state-of-the-art technology to an exciting new level,” added Said Sierra Club’s Director of Future Fleet & Electric Vehicles Initiative, Gina Coplon-Newfield.

Here are some examples of what cities across the U.S. are planning:

  • Connecticut’s Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection and the state’s Automotive Retailers Assn. will award the state dealership with highest plug-in sales.
  • The mayor of Huntington Beach is expected to appear at Surf City’s seaside event.
  • Stella, the world’s first solar-powered family car and winner of last year’s World Solar Challenge, birthplace of the storied EV1, will visit Cupertino, where organizers are attempting to break the Guinness world record for most EVs assembled.
  • Poolesville, Maryland’s event could draw 10,000, staged next to an annual fest replete with a town parade and marching band.
  • Houston will celebrate EVs at a solar-powered IKEA store, which will trumpet the event on its electronic billboard, visible from a major freeway intersection. Attendant mini-events will take place at EV charging stations around the sprawling city.
  • Scottsdale, Arizona’s event will bring EV efficiency to the site of one of nation’s longest running gasoline-car shows.
  • UCLA and Santa Monica High School will share the EV message with youth through lectures and other activities of the new National Drive Electric Week Ambassador School initiative.
  • 50 EVs in New Hampshire will scale Mount Washington, the northeast’s highest peak.

For more information about National Electric Drive Week and to find a city near you, visit www.driveelectricweek.org.

New Holland Loans Tractors to BioCentury Farm

fps-cnh-jj-54-editedThis morning during the Farm Progress Show, New Holland hosted a tour of the Iowa State BioCentury Research Farm. New Holland got involved with the project when they saw a need for the use of some of their equipment and loaned them two tractors, which provided new options for their biomass research projects.

The BioCentury Research Farm combines biomass feedstock production, harvesting, storing, transporting and biorefinery processing into a complete system to develop the next generation of biofuels and biobased products. A New Holland large square baler also was provided for a corn stover research project conducted by Matt Darr, an associate professor in agricultural and biosystems engineering.

“Providing the use of this equipment to the Iowa State BioCentury Research Farm helps us strengthen the relationship between New Holland and Iowa State,” says Ron Shaffer, New Holland’s North American Director of Growth Initiatives, Institutional & Specialty Sales. “The participation furthers New Holland’s commitment to the biomass industry and our position as the Clean Energy Leader.”

fps-cnh-jj-24-editedThe New Holland Agriculture loan arose from a tour Andy Suby, manager of the research farm, gave to company officials last year.
“We appreciate the equipment and research funding provided by New Holland Agriculture,” Johnson said. “The BioCentury Research Farm was intended to be a partnership with private companies.”

New Holland Agriculture provides the use of a model T8.330 and a T5.115 tractor with a loader to be used in research and education projects conducted at the facility. The tractors will be replaced with similar models when they reach 200 hours of operation.

The company provided the baler and funding to evaluate its use in baling corn stover for supplying to cellulosic ethanol plants. This “Leading the Bioeconomy Initiative” project was supported by an appropriation from the Iowa legislature. Suby said the possibility for funding more projects with gifts or loans of other equipment has been discussed.

2014 Farm Progress photo album.

Ecotech’s Clean Jobs Index Shows Clean Job Growth

Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 8.40.16 AMThere are more than two million job postings in the clean and sustainable energy sector for the first two quarters of 2014, according to Ecotech Institute’s Clean Job Index that looks at job postings in the green energy sector. This is nearly a 88 percent increase from this time last year. Ecotech Institute created the Clean Jobs Index to provide objective job information about the renewable energy industry.

Highlights from the Clean Jobs Index Q1 and Q2 2014:

  • Number of U.S. Clean Jobs Postings in Q1 and Q2 2014: 2,637,133 (an 87.5 percent increase from Q1 and Q2 2013)
  • Number of New Clean Jobs since January 1, 2014: 1.2 million

Ecotech Institute prepares students for jobs in clean energy. Below is a list of some of the fastest growing job sectors of clean energy:

  • Power Utility Technology: 132 percent increase in jobs from 2013
  • Solar Energy Technology: 116 percent increase in jobs from 2013
  • Electrical Engineering Technology: 74 percent increase in jobs from 2013
  • Wind Energy Technology: 65 percent increase in jobs from 2013
  • Facility Management: 64 percent increase in jobs from 2013
  • Renewable Energy Technology: 63 percent increase in jobs from 2013
  • Energy Efficiency: 53 percent increase in jobs from 2013

“This Clean Jobs Index really demonstrates the rapid growth of the sustainable energy industry,” said Chris Gorrie, academic dean at Ecotech Institute. “Almost double the clean jobs were posted in the first half of 2014 compared to the first half of 2013. Ecotech Institute is the only educational institution out there that’s entirely focused on this space, and makes sure students are prepared for these available green energy jobs.”