emPower Arizona Debuts During Arizona Solar Summit

Solar energy was the focus of the Arizona Solar Summit IV and during the event, the first public unveiling of the state’s new master energy plan, “emPOWER Arizona: Executive Energy Assessment and Pathways,” took place. On February 18, 2014 Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed the executive order for the legislation- the state’s first comprehensive energy plan in more than 20 years.

The Arizona Solar Summit, hosted by Arizona State University LightWorks, ASU SkySong and the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and sponsored by NRG, provided the first opportunity for the public to learn about the master energy plan. The plan seeks to make gI_142186_az-solar-summit-logo_OKED-AdArizona a “collaboratory” of policy leaders, energy experts and universities.

Leisa Brug, Brewer’s energy policy advisor and director of the Governor’s Office of Energy Policy, led a panel discussion on the plan and its goals. Brug said that Arizona is already ahead of other states in terms of energy policy, and the new master plan will help the state continue to be a national leader in the field. “We’ll be a national model,” Brug said. “We see this as a tremendous way to buoy up our solar industry.”

Other issues covered during the event included the future of the utility sector; carbon dioxide mitigation; energy efficiency in the built environment; and more. In addition, keynote speaker William Harris, president and CEO of Science Foundation Arizona, called on the attendees to become active in the fight against climate change.

“People use this word ‘sustainability’ so often I don’t even know what it means,” Harris said. “I like how Charlie Bayless described it: ‘Treat the planet like you intend to stay.’ Get involved, stay involved and work with this issue.”

Innovation Challenge Leads to Cool Innovation

Innovation Challenge 2The 2014 Northrop Grumman Corporation High School Innovation Challenge (HSIC) has led to some, well, cool innovations in renewable energy and engineering. On February 21, 2014, six student teams from Los Angeles, California high schools took an engineering problem, limited budget and little time and created renewable energy-powered model vehicles. The event was part of National Engineers Week.

The challenge is modeled after a Northrop Grumman program or engineering capability, and designed to stimulate student interest in pursuing careers in scientific or engineering fields. The goal of this year’s competition was to design and build a renewable-energy-powered model vehicle that could carry a payload as efficiently as possible over a set distance.

“The Northrop Grumman High School Innovation Challenge exposes students to the major steps required to develop, document and demonstrate an engineering concept,” said Krystal Puga, a systems engineer on Northrop Grumman’s James Webb Space Telescope project and the company’s HSIC deputy coordinator. “It teaches them how to develop, document and present their ideas; manage a schedule and budget; and prove that their concept meets the customer’s requirements.”

The teams participating in this year’s HSIC included the California Academy of Math and Science in Carson; Da Vinci Science High School in Hawthorne; El Segundo High School; Lennox Math, Science and Technology Academy in Inglewood; Hawthorne Math and Science in Hawthorne; and Palos Verdes Peninsula High School in Rolling Hills Estates.

Over the course of the 12-week competition, the HSIC teams – each one mentored by a Northrop Grumman engineer – were graded on their ability to develop and document their vehicle’s design in a written report; present the concept orally to a panel of engineers; and prove the vehicle’s performance on the test track. Continue reading

GreenTECH Provides Youth with Green Education

greentech_smallMOUSE and Solar One have launched GreenTECH, a program that provides youth with an opportunity to positively impact the greening of their schools and communities. GreenTECH, funded by a three-year, $1.08 million grant from the National Science Foundation to Solar One, MOUSE, and the NYU Wallerstein Collaborative, is an initiative to boost youth interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) skills while introducing them to environmental sustainability and green technology.

MOUSE is about harnessing the spirit and talent of young people to affect change through technology, which for us starts with their learning environment,” said Marc Lesser, MOUSE Education Director. “Ultimately, we view GreenTECH as a way to empower youth to engage with and apply science and technology in ways that position them as activists to address real world problems.” MOUSE is a national nonprofit organization that empowers youth to learn, read and create with technology.

Using Solar One’s CleanTech science curriculum as a platform, MOUSE launched its own badge-based learning program, which includes three levels of hands-on activities for students and teams, and videos that profile engineers and designers involved in energy careers. MOUSE also developed the GreenTECH Lab, a web app that allows youth to visually-display carbon footprint data in their school and reduce its impact.

badge“MOUSE has done a really terrific job adapting our CleanTech program to help students better understand energy and renewables,” said Chris Collins, Executive Director, Solar One. “GreenTECH is so engaging and fun that I am confident it will inspire the next generation of green engineers, scientists and architects.”

To formally recognize the achievements and validate their experience in blending technology with environmental science and leading the greening projects in their school, participants in this program will earn a new MOUSE Squad GreenTECH Badge.

GreenTECH will help youth to learn how energy is created and the potential of renewable energy. It offers a range of projects, such as building an electric generator, performing an energy audit and creating solar-powered toys. These projects will create multiple opportunities for young people to gain expertise in technology, data collection and analysis, and sustainable solutions as they improve their STEM skills and prepare for higher education and careers in the growing green economy.

Young Scientist’s Share Passion for Biodiesel

nbb-14-three-studentsStudents from across the country took advantage of this year’s National Biodiesel Conference and presented their research to gain feed back and awareness of the biodiesel industry. This opportunity also allowed them to network with fellow researchers and learn more about the biodiesel community.

Chuck met up with three of the young people and they shared what sparked their interest in biodiesel and what their research has consisted of. All three were really excited to see how respective the professionals they presented to were to their new ideas and research.

They also committed about the opportunity to met and ask questions from other fellow students who attended the event. Peer review is an essential part of these in-depth research studies.

You can listen to Chuck’s complete interview with these young scientists here: Interview with Student Scientists

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

IRFA’s “Fuel the Future” Winners Announced

Jon Low 2014 IRFA Fuel the Future Grand Prize WinnerThe winners of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association’s (IRFA) 4th Annual “Fuel the Future” Video Contest were announced today during the 8th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit. The first place award and $1,000 went to John Low of Marion, Iowa. An 11th grader from Linn-Mar High School won for his highly entertaining, creative and informative video, “E15: The Fuel of the Future”. Low beat out 26 other entries.

Second place, and winner of a $600 prize, was awarded to Tyler Yates and Dalton Hart of Muscatine, Iowa for their video entitled, “Saving the Planet with Ethanol.” Tyler and Dalton are juniors at Muscatine High School.

IRFA 2014 Fuel the Future Video 3rd Place WinnersThird place, and winner of a $400 prize, was awarded to Megan Anderson, Trenton Bacus and Tyler Blaudow of Bussey, Iowa for their “Paul Harvey spoof” entitled, “The Farmer Made Biodiesel.” Anderson is a senior, while Bacus and Blaudow are juniors at Twin Cedars High School.

“Every year I’m amazed at how creative and informative these student-produced videos are,” said IRFA Communications Director T.J. Page. “The IRFA congratulates all of the ‘Fuel the Future’ winners, as well as each of the Iowa high school students who took on the challenge of entering this year’s contest.”

IRFA’s “Fuel the Future” video contest challenges Iowa high school students to create the best video highlighting the importance and benefits of renewable fuels—such as ethanol and biodiesel—to local communities, Iowa and the nation. This year’s contest was sponsored by the law firm of Faegre Baker Daniels LLP.

View the 2014 Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit photo album.

Algae Biodiesel Fuel From Utah State

nbb-14-rhesa-ledbetterRhesa Ledbetter from Utah State University was one of the students who attended the 2014 National Biodiesel Conference. Chuck caught up with her for an interview and she explains her research in algae biodiesel fuel.

Rhesa finished her master’s in micro-biology and then decided she wanted to do a project that was really applied. To her biodiesel products seemed to make a lot of sense and something that would work well with her background.

“Our group at Utah State is focusing on biodiesel produced from algae. We have characterized a lot of properties and we also have a diesel streamliner we have been able to run out on the salt flats. It’s been great for me to be able to learn so much about a topic that I wasn’t really familiar with. Being able to interface with all these experts has been invaluable. I think collaborations will develop from this event will end up enhancing our research.”

In the future Rhesa and her team look to continue seeking more efficient ways to produce the fuel and promoting all the great traits biodiesel has.

Earlier this year Joanna did a post on the Aggie A-Salt Streamliner Rhesa mentioned. You can find that post here.

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

American Made Message Delivered to Drivers on I-80

Patriot Renewable Fuels is delivering the message of the benefits of American made products with their new LED sign on Interstate 80 that was installed on December 20, 2013. The biorefinery is located just off I-80 and drivers can see the facility as they drive by, but Gene Griffith, president of Patriot notes that most drivers have no idea that the plant was producing the fuel -ethanol- they were using in their car.

So the Patriot team came up with a solution. To install and LED billboard along I-80 near their biorefinery that gives drivers simple messages about the benefits of ethanol. When the construction of Patriots biodiesel facility is complete, they will incorporate messages about the benefits of biodiesel as well.

Patriot Renewable Fuels American Made“Patriot is very visible to drivers on I-80 but the sign we had was not easily viewable, and we often received questions “what is that plant?”, is it a power company?,” explained Griffith. “In addition to the permanent sign at the top that identifies Patriot Renewable Fuels, LLC, the bottom sign is an LED message sign that we will use to highlight some of the important Patriot and Industry messages.”

The one shown is in this photo says “American Made”. Others will include “Producing Feed and Fuel,” with photos of the DDGS pile and rail cars of ethanol.

“Visibility is good 24 hours a day, but it is impossible to miss at night. We’ve had a great reception to its installation,” added Griffith.

Iowa Renewable Fuel Awards Go To…

DanielsenThis years Biodiesel and Ethanol Marketing Awards went to Russ and Barb Danielsen from Southern Iowa Oil and Jason Stauffer from STAR Energy. The 2014 winners were announced by Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey.

“Both winners have gone to great lengths to make biodiesel and ethanol more available to Iowa drivers and I appreciate the effort and investment they have made to promote these home-grown fuels,” Northey said. “Iowa is fortunate many retailers like STAR Energy and Southern Iowa Oil that make it a priority to make the fuels we produce in this state available to customers.”

The Secretary’s Ethanol and Biodiesel Marketing Awards were designed to recognize businesses that market the renewable fuels they have available through creative efforts including, but not limited to: hosting special events highlighting their renewable fuels, development of creative signage, initiation of new advertisements or marketing efforts, and dramatically increase renewable fuel availability.

StaufferThe winners were announced and recognized during the Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Stores of Iowa Annual Meeting in Des Moines, Iowa on January 14, 2014.  The Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Stores of Iowa (PMCI) is a non-profit state trade association serving the needs of independent petroleum marketers and convenience store owners throughout the state of Iowa.

Russ and Barb Danielsen own Southern Iowa Oil and are the winners of the 2014 Secretary’s Biodiesel Marketing Award winner.  Southern Iowa Oil is a family business serving the surrounding areas of Albia and Centerville and they have their own retail locations in Chariton, and Corydon.

The Danielsen’s are long-time supporters of the renewable fuels industry and have made it a priority to offer biodiesel options to all of their customers.  Their retail locations proudly sell biodiesel blends and work to promote this home-grown environmentally friendly fuel.

Jason Stauffer, Manager of Retail Fuels Marketing and Business Development for STAR Energy in Manson, is the 2014 Secretary’s Ethanol Marketing Award winner.  STAR Energy provides customers with a variety of renewable fuel options and is committed to the biofuels industry.

STAR Energy’s Fort Dodge location began offering E15 to customers in December and also offers E20, E30 and E85 fuel options to customers. Jason has been instrumental in the establishment and promotion of this site and making additional renewable fuels available to customers.

UCR Harnesses the Sun to Power Education

University of California Riverside (UCR), who just announced they are hosting a solar summit on February 6, 2014, has unveiled plans for a large-scale 10.92 acre solar farm to be located on the West Campus. UCR is partnering with SunPower Corporation for the project that when completed sometime in July of this year, will generate nearly three megawatts of electricity. Back in 2009, UCR and SunPower worked with UC Merced to install a one-megawatt solar array.

“Three megawatts is about 30% of our base load on a daily basis. Our peak load is 17 or 18 megawatts,” Ken Mueller, director of Physical Plant Operations said. “This is a good start and the campus will use 100% of the power that we generate.”

UCR campussolarfarm2-356x237UCR signed a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) and site license agreement (SLA) that will allow SunPower to construct, operate and maintain the facility, and the university will purchase the power that is generated by the dozens of 435-watt solar panels that will track the path of the sun through the sky. Mueller said that UCR will spend about $350,000 on site clearing and preparation, as well as interconnections costs with the existing substation.

The projected savings to the university are estimated to be in the range of $4.3 million over the length of the contract. UCR will also receive carbon and LEED credits that provide additional financial and environmental savings.

When completed, the solar project will be the largest on any University of California campus and when combined with other solar power projects in Riverside, solar energy will generate nearly 40 percent of the city’s electricity needs. The solar project is one of many that UC campuses are undertaking to meet the university’s policy on sustainable practices that includes generating up to 10MW of on-site renewable power by 2014.

Mueller said that the university hadn’t previously utilized solar power on campus because it did not make financial sense.

“We have had very favorable electrical rates with Riverside Public Utilities, but recently the price of solar has come down to where it is competitive with that electrical rate,” Mueller said. “We will be getting the most cost-effective solar array on the market.”

UC Riverside to Host Solar Energy Summit

The University of California, Riverside is hosting a summit focused on solar energy in Inland Southern California on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at its Bourns College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research and Technology. “Solar Energy in Inland Southern California: The Future is Now,” will take place from 7:30 am to 6 pm PST.

The event is designed for city leaders, planners, council members, businesses, utility companies and the public to learn about the latest technologies, public policy/regulations, UC Riverside Solar Careconomics and environmental/sustainability issues relating to solar energy.

Topics covered will include: regional, state and federal legislative perspectives on solar energy; financing options for solar systems; and bringing together solar technology, policy, economics and the environment.

Among the scheduled speakers are: David Hochschild, commissioner, California Energy Commission; Roland Winston, director, UC Advanced Solar Technologies Institute and a professor, UC Merced; John White, executive director, Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies; Ed Randolph, director, California Public Utilities Commission Energy Division; and Sarah Kurtz, photovoltaics reliability group manager, National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The conference is co-sponsored by three UC Riverside entities: the Center for Sustainable Suburban Development, which is part of the School of Public Policy; the Center for Environmental Research and Technology; and the Southern California Research Initiative for Solar Energy. The latter two are part of the university’s Bourns College of Engineering.

First Wind Supports Local Teachers

First Wind is supporting local teachers for the third year through its partnership with DonorsChoose.org. The program was developed to enhance the value of the company’s financial contributions in communities where they have wind projects. During 2013, the company will award $15,000 to teachers for educational efforts.

Through DonorsChoose, First Wind supports teachers and their innovative classroom projects in its communities that include Sheffield and Lyndonville, Vermont; Danforth, Maine; Beaver, Utah; Boston, Massachusetts; Kahuku, Hawaii; Tekoa, Washington; and other communities.

“As we continue to grow, First Wind is committed to being an active community member and we want to help support innovative and exciting educational projects in our host First Wind Kidscommunities,” said Carol Grant, Senior Vice President of External Affairs at First Wind. “This program starts with the good idea of a teacher in one of our communities. Our contribution is to support that idea and help bring it to life. We’re glad to have a small part in helping these inspiring teachers and their students.”

In its second full year, First Wind funded 43 projects at 31 schools, which reached and positively touched nearly 2,600 students. For example, First Wind donated funds toward a project to supply graphing calculators for a pre-calculus classroom in Mars Hill, Maine, which is near the Mars Hill project. First Wind also donated funds to a classroom in Cedar City, Utah, which is near the Milford Wind projects, to help the classroom purchase books to implement the S.T.E.A.M. program (Science & Technology interpreted through Engineering & the Arts, all based in Mathematical elements).

The recipients of the funds have been publicly grateful to First Wind. “Thank you so much for your donation. Our school has limited funding, especially for anything in addition to what is required,” said Mrs. Heidi Thomas of Milford Elementary School in Milford, Utah who wrote the response on the First Wind DonorsChoose webpage. “Your donation makes it possible for the students in my classroom to experience their learning hands-on. This allows students to deepen their knowledge and understanding of the curriculum. Once again, thank you so much for your support of our school and the vision to create a better future generation.”

Ecotech Institute Reveals Top Green Jobs for 2014

Green jobs are on the rise and 2014 is slated to be a great year for growth in the sustainable energy sector, according to Ecotech Institute. The Ecotech Institute Clean Jobs Index measures the reality of green jobs and other sustainability factors across the United States. The Index’s latest data reveals a bright outlook in 2014 for cleantech leaders, educators, political leaders, students and job seekers.

Ecotech Clean  Job IndexWithin about the last 30 days, more than 72,000 green job positions with hundreds of job titles were available across the country correlating with trends seen all year. For example, the solar industry had almost 500 job listings since November 5, 2013-December 6, 2013 ranging from Installation Technicians to Sales Representatives and everything in between.

Jobs classified under the broad renewable energy umbrella had approximately 21,000 job listings offered in the last 30 days. This data includes many renewable energy sources with positions in the following areas: Energy Efficiency: 6,600; Electrical Engineering: more than 23,000; Power Utility: 744; and Facility Management: more than 6,470.

So what are Ecotech’s Sustainable Energy Job Predictions for 2014? Based on the last 30 days:

  • Solar had just under 500 job listings: That trend will continue in 2014 as both commercial and residential solar development increases.
  • Wind had less than 100 job listings:  However, requests for wind resumes has been very high and we predict those numbers will increase in 2014.
  • Energy Efficiency had about 6600 job listings: These include everything from medical jobs, to energy auditing, and many, many jobs in between. Most companies include energy efficiency in their job descriptions.
  • Electrical Engineering jobs included over 23,000 listings: The largest demand is for fluid and control Field Service Technicians, a category that is exploding and will continue to be in high demand for 2014.
  • Power Utility job listing were 744: With an aging workforce, the power utility industry will continue to have high job growth.
  • Facility Management had over 6400 jobs listed: As companies look for energy savings, this area will have significant growth in 2014.

Vivent Solar Sends Kids to Science Camp

Vivint Solar is sending kids to science camp. The solar company announced that it has matched the maximum fundraising efforts of $15,000 of the Windsor, California community to enable every sixth grader the opportunity to attend a three-day science camp in February.

VIVINT SOLAR WINDSOR MIDDLE SCHOOL CHECKDue to budget cutbacks, the students were at risk of not being able to attend camp this next year. The Alliance Redwoods science camp, in Occidental, Calif., costs about $165 per student, and the community had only raised about half of the funds needed before Vivint Solar stepped in to pay the difference.

“We are proud to invest in the outdoor environmental education that science camp provides to young students,” said Greg Butterfield, CEO of Vivint Solar. “The long-term value of giving to the Windsor Middle School community during the holiday season is priceless to our team.”

The company found out about the shortfall from first-grade teacher Kelli Wong, a teacher at Healdsburg Elementary and Vivint Solar customer.

“I know that Vivint Solar is concerned about the environment, with their focus on the sun as a powerful and renewable resource,” said Wong, a parent of a sixth grader at Windsor Middle School. “I, and the entire community, was so excited when Vivint Solar responded so quickly to our need and invested in the science camp experience. The sixth-graders are beyond ecstatic about being able to go to camp together for a once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity that is in line with the school’s emphasis on environmental stewardship.”

In addition to funding, Vivint Solar representatives will visit the camp when the students arrive to hand out t-shirts, water bottles and other necessities to ensure the campers are ready to learn and have fun.

EPA RFS Proposal: A Slap in the Face of Vets

Darrell Rakestraw joined the military in 1982. A local boy who grew up on a centennial farm near Annawan, Illinois, he served his country in the army for nearly 20 years before retiring and moving back home with his family.

Darrell Rakestraw

Veteran Darrell Rakestraw signs the Support the RFS We the People petition that he created on behalf of Patriot Renewable Fuels. He encourages everyone who believes in energy security to help fight the good fight and sign the petition.

During the time he was stationed in Germany, he came home on leave and heard everyone talking about how America was fighting for oil.

“As a solder I found that hard to believe that we were fighting for oil,” said Rakestraw. “I thought we were fighting for a cause – for an injustice being done to Kuwait at that time.”

After retiring in 2002, he continued to support American troops until he retired and began his second career: working for the local ethanol plant Patriot Renewable Fuels. Rakestraw said heralding from a farm, agriculture and ethanol were very tied together.

Then on November 15, 2013 his view of why America is at war changed. This is the day the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its 2014 proposed renewable fuel volumes for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Rakestraw said this is the moment he realized that America is in fact fighting for oil. “This proposal is now telling me it is the truth. So is that what we’ve been fighting for all this time?”

“I look at it like a slap in the face for me as a veteran,” continued Rakestraw. “To every veteran out there. For all the men and women who are still serving. And I really think that Big Oil is dancing on the graves of all the soldiers who sacrificed their lives. It’s a wrong decision to make. We have to get less dependent on foreign oil. This really woke me up.”

He knows that other veterans feel the same way as he and is encouraging people to fight for the RFS. On behalf of Patriot Renewable Fuels, Rakestraw created a WhiteHouse.gov “We the People” petition in support of the RFS, and encourages everyone who believes in this fight to sign the petition.

“We’re doing this for our soldiers. We’re doing this for our farmers. We’re doing this for our rural economies. We’re doing this for ethanol supporters and ethanol producers,” said Rakestraw who stresses that if the proposed 2014 RFS rule passes, it will a huge, negative effect on both the biofuels industry as well as the ag industry.

When asked what it was that he really wants Americans to know right now Rakestraw answered, “They need to realize we will continue to commit our mothers and fathers and our sons and daughters to wars in foreign lands. They may claim its in the name of humanity, but a lot of time it’s in the name of Big OIl.”

“And we’ve got to stop that.”

Check out the Patriot Renewable Fuels Photo Album.

Ecotech’s Clean Jobs Index Shows 1M Plus Jobs

According to Ecotech Institute’s Clean Jobs Index, a tool to compare states’ use and development of clean energy, there are more than one million job postings in the clean energy sector from July 1, 2013 through September 30, 2013. This shows a 54 percent increase in needed clean energy employees, evidence that the sector is rapidly growing and in need of experts.

Ecotech Institute launched the Clean Jobs Index in January 2013 to provide objective job information about the clean tech industry. The Index also looks at various sustainability factors such as alternative fueling stations, LEED projects and total energy consumption in EcoTech Clean Job Indexall 50 states. The Clean Jobs Index defines a clean tech job as one where workers make their business more environmentally friendly, use fewer natural resources, or produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment.

To complement the increase in these clean energy job opportunities, 1,543 new alternative fueling stations opened across the United States since the second quarter 2013. Between the months of July and September, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Tennessee had the most alternative fueling stations per capita.

Highlights from the Clean Jobs Index, Q3 2013 include:

  • Number of U.S. Clean Jobs Postings: 1,099,734 (a 54 percent increase from Q2 2013);
  • New Alternative Fueling Stations (Since Q2 2013): 1,543;
  • States With the Most Alternative Fueling Stations (Per Capita): Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Tennessee;
  • In Q3, Ohio Moved From 24th in Energy Efficiency to 2nd in the Nation;
  • The Most Energy Efficient States (in no particular order): California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington; and
  • States With the Most Incentives for Sustainability and Renewables (in no particular order): California, Texas, Minnesota, Washington and Oregon *(Rhode Island added more incentives and rebates than any other state in Q3).

“This data shows a long-awaited boom in the clean tech industry, from the increases in alternative fueling options to a massive amount of clean job opportunities,” said Kyle Crider, Ecotech Institute’s Program Chair and Manager of Environmental Operations. “States now offer more sustainability and renewable incentives than we’ve ever seen before, which proves that they’re taking the power of the industry seriously. In the state of the current economy, over 1 million job opportunities is a truly incredible statistic. We’re proud that Ecotech is the only higher education institution out there devoted entirely to helping students become successful professionals in this rapidly expanding sector.”