Platts Awards “Oscars” of Energy

The “Oscars” of energy were distributed this week during the 16th annual Platts Global Energy Awards. The honors were given to companies in the renewable and sustainable energy sector and included 17 performance categories along with “Energy Company of the Year,” going to Peabody Energy. The Awards were aligned to strategic vision, industry leadership, stewardship, premier projects and leading technology initiatives. Winners were chosen by an independent panel of judges.

2014 Platts Global Energy Awards“We congratulate each of the 2014 Platts Global Energy Awards winners and finalists alike for their individual accomplishments and their contributions to the betterment of the industry as a whole,” said Larry Neal, president of Platts, a leading global energy and commodities information provider and host of the Awards.

Winners of the Industry Leadership category:

  • “Industry Leadership – Biofuels,” Florida-based biotechnology company Algenol Biofuels won for its algae-based fuel-production method. The patented process, which converts more than 85% of carbon dioxide (CO2) feedstock into ethanol, gasoline, jet fuel and diesel, was hailed by judges as a “forward-thinking way to use CO2 directly from manufacturing, before it hits the atmosphere.”
  • “Industry Leadership – Grid Optimization” went to Germany’s 50Hertz Transmission GmbH, which, according to judges, “set a new model of performance” following a government-mandated ban on nuclear power plants. The company planned an expanded grid serving approximately 18 million people in northern and eastern Germany and has been a notable contributor to the country’s renewables initiative.
  • “Industry Leadership – Electricity Generation” was awarded to Sempra U.S. Gas & Power, LLC for its commitment to renewable energy production. The California-based, clean-energy company and its partners generate power for more than one million homes and businesses using sun, wind, and low-emission natural gas.
  • “Industry Leadership – Exploration & Production” went to Netherlands-based Royal Dutch Shell plc for its Mars B project to expand oil exploration in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico’s Mars Field. Judges noted that Shell employed the latest technology to develop significant new infrastructure ahead of schedule, despite economic, supply and regulatory challenges.
  • “Industry Leadership – Midstream” was taken by Switzerland-based Nord Stream AG, which successfully linked Russia’s pipeline grid directly to Western Europe. The judges said the company surmounted significant technical, environmental and political hurdles in the name of supply security.

PERC Debuts New Videos at World LPG Forum

perc-wlpgf-willisThe Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) released a series of online videos with leading U.S. equipment manufacturers highlighting their investment in developing and commercializing new propane technologies. The videos debuted to an international crowd at the 2014 World LP Gas Forum in Miami, where they ran continuously on screens in the PERC showcase at the event.

Companies featured in the series include Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp., Generac, Kohler Engines and Power Systems, Marathon, Origin Engines, Power Solutions International, and Roush CleanTech. “These world-class companies continue to build and commercialize new equipment that runs on propane for good reason: Propane is a smart investment. It’s clean, economical, and it performs,” said Roy Willis, PERC president and CEO. “On top of that, these companies stand behind propane because it’s an American-made fuel that supports American jobs and our domestic energy independence.”

At the LPG forum, Willis spoke to members of various industry publications that focus on different sectors where propane is used – from agriculture and on-road, to commercial landscaping, building and residential. PERC is an industry checkoff program which has been in existence since 1998, and Willis explained how they have transitioned in recent years from a focus on marketing and advertising to developing new technologies. “The industry recognized that to grow our industry we needed to expand beyond our existing customer base and to do so we needed propane technology that customer base could use,” said Willis.

Listen to Willis’ comments here: Roy Willis, PERC president and CEO

2014 World LP Gas Forum Photo Album

ONR Expands Green Reach in Asia-Pacific

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) is expanding its work in Asia-Pacific’s renewable energy sector. The announcement was made during National Energy Action Month where the Navy is promoting energy efficiency and conservation by participating in and hosting events around the world. The announcement comes after ONR’s work with the Chiang Mai World Green City that was established two years ago at Chiang Mai Rajabhat University with support from ONR. It uses solar cells, batteries for energy storage and a direct-current (DC) microgrid to power more than 20 buildings over 200 acres, including residences, offices, businesses and a vegetable farm.

Navy National Energy Month poster“Each new partnership we establish moves the United States and our allies closer to energy independence,” said Dr. Richard Carlin, head of ONR’s Sea Warfare and Weapons Department. “This system is unique in that it uses direct current to power an entire community. While this concept is perfect for isolated and remote communities, it also could be used in the future on naval installations and even ships at sea to bring power to our Sailors and Marines wherever they are.”

Scientists in Thailand plan to establish another smart grid-powered village at the University of Phayao and introduce sustainable technologies to military barracks and other communities throughout the country.

ONR now has turned its attention to Vietnam, where there is an abundance of solar, biomass, wind, geothermal, hydro and other rich renewable energy sources. The U.S.-Vietnam collaboration also will take advantage of investments made in Hawaii, where ONR is sponsoring a study of electrical grids for three naval bases. As part of that initiative, the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) and the Applied Research Laboratory at the University of Hawaii are working with the Naval Facilities Engineering Command to develop an action plan for the Navy’s energy needs in Hawaii.

“We are expanding our research collaboration to Vietnam to build off the success in Thailand and to support the United States in our pivot to the Asia-Pacific region,” said Dr. Cung Vu, ONR Global associate director for power and energy. “Vietnam’s remote rural, mountainous and island areas will benefit from ONR’s microgrid research, and the Navy will be able to increase its understanding of energy-efficient technologies through another key partnership.”

Energy Fuels Big Year for GROWMARK

Growmark_logoEnergy was a big reason that regional cooperative GROWMARK had such a big year this year. This company news release says Fiscal Year 2014 was in the top five income years in company history, and a lot of the credit goes to record volumes in the company’s propane and biofuels business.

bohbrinkMarshall Bohbrink, vice president and chief financial officer, reported record sales of $10.4 billion; consolidated pretax income of $194 million; and total patronage in the amount of $112 million will be returned to GROWMARK member-owners.

“GROWMARK is in extremely strong financial condition and we are well positioned in the event the Ag economy is more challenging in the next few years,” said Bohbrink.

Key highlights of FY2014 operational results include:

GROWMARK Energy reported record fuel volume with an increase in gasoline and distillate sales of 11% and an increase of 29 percent in propane gallons.

Positive Energy Trends Bode Well for US

According to a new report, “Positive Energy Trends Bode Well for U.S. Security and the Economy,” smarter use of energy is the biggest contributor to three positive trends: reducing of oil dependence, slowing the growth of electricity needs and making energy services more affordable to Americans.

“Despite what you may be hearing from a final onslaught of negative campaign ads, the security and affordability of America’s energy services has never been better, and energy efficiency is the most important reason why,” said Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of the Natural NRDC 2014 Energy ReportResources Defense Council (NRDC) energy program, who commissioned the study. “The latest data confirms that our consumption of energy, including oil and coal, remains well below its peak levels from a decade ago. However, we can and should do more.”

NRDC’s Second Annual Energy Report is an analysis of new government data on 2013 U.S. energy use that shows optimizing energy use through efficiency continues to contribute more to meeting U.S. energy needs than any other resource, from oil and coal to natural gas and nuclear power.

“Efficiency helps America get more work out of less oil, natural gas, and electricity while pushing our economy forward and cutting residential, business, and industrial customers’ bills,” added Cavanagh. “Far less costly than adding other energy resources like fossil fuels that also create climate-changing pollution, efficiency saves the nation hundreds of billions of dollars annually, prevents millions of tons of carbon emissions, helps U.S. workers and companies compete worldwide, and increases our energy security.”

The report notes the nation is already two-thirds of the way toward meeting President Obama’s goal of cutting 3 billion tons of carbon pollution by 2030 through his administration’s efficiency standards for appliances and federal buildings, which also will lower customer energy bills by more than $4 billion. Meanwhile, the government’s proposed emissions standards for existing power plants would keep over 5.3 billion additional tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. But based on the nation’s positive energy trends, the report says even larger reductions are feasible and cost-effective.

Alphabet Energy Introduces Thermoelectric Generator

Alphabet Energy has introduced what they are calling the world’s most powerful thermoelectric generator that captures exhaust heat and converts it into electricity, called the E1. The generator attaches to an exhaust stack and uses Alphabet’s patented thermoelectric materials to convert waste heat into electricity. Thermoelectrics use a temperature differential to generate electricity in the solid state. According to Alphabet Energy, the E1 generates up to 25 kWe per 1,000 kWe engine, saving 52,500 liters of diesel fuel per year, per engine. This product introduction is the first for the company, which was founded in 2009 at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

“Today we’re making history and marking a milestone in industrial energy efficiency with the introduction of the E1,” said Alphabet Energy CEO and Founder Matthew L. Scullin. “People have been trying to make an industrial-scale thermoelectric generator for a long time. Customers want waste-heat recovery solutions that are simple pieces of industrial equipment rather than complex power plants.”

“With the E1, waste heat is now valuable,” Scullin added. “Saving fuel has the potential to be one of the biggest levers a company has in reducing operating expenses. That potential is finally realized with the E1, the world’s first waste-heat recovery product that meets the mining’s and oil & gas industry’s criteria for simple, strong, and reliable solutions.”

While NASA has used thermoelectrics since the 1950s, high materials costs made them prohibitive for wider use. However, Alphabet’s proprietary advancements in silicon and tetrahedrite have enabled the company to create the first highly efficient thermoelectric materials that use abundant resources. Thermoelectrics are unique because they are solid-state; which means the E1 operates with technology that has no moving parts, no working fluids and requires minimal maintenance.

Compared to other waste heat recovery systems, the Alphabet Energy said its E1 requires only minor up front engineering scope and no operation by the customer. This makes it ideally suited for remote and industrial applications where ongoing system support capacity is limited. The E1 requires no engine modifications and is installed with a simple process that involves only exhaust coupling and electrical hookup.

MN Wind Industry Shines in Profile Report

A new report demonstrates the successes and competitive advantage its clean energy industry has brought to Minnesota. The findings were released by MN Governor Mark Dayton and led by the Minnesota State Departments of Commerce and Employment and Economic Development with input from those in the clean energy industry including Wind on the Wires.

“Minnesota’s early action to embrace wind energy has created thousands of great professional jobs in our economy,” said Wind on the Wires Executive Director Beth Soholt. “We applaud Minnesota’s leadership in the clean energy sector. We are enormously proud of the nearly 2,000 wind power jobs and particularly the 553% increase in wind power businesses in Minnesota since 2000.”

According toMinnesota Clean Energy Economy Profile the Minnesota Clean Energy Economy Profile report, Minnesota has seen a 288 percent increase in wind power jobs since 2000, compared to an 11 percent state employment growth during the same time period. Wages in the wind power sector are more than $10,000 higher than the average annual wage in Minnesota. The report find that for wind, the greatest number of jobs can be found in installation and maintenance, project development and financing, and supplying manufactured component parts.

“Wind on the Wires has worked side-by-side with many groups, organizations, and our members to establish the key policies that have helped drive this incredible growth and economic development for our state,” added Soholt. “We urge Governor Dayton and the legislature to ensure that Minnesota achieves at least half of its electricity from clean energy by 2030 because it’s the right thing to do to create jobs, boost economic development, and reduce carbon emissions that endanger our health and pollute Minnesota’s vast water resources.”

Clean Tech Will Provide Jobs in Emerging Countries

According to a new report from World Bank Group, there are significant clean tech opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in developing countries. The new report, “Building Competitive Green Industries: the Climate and Clean Technology Opportunity for Developing Countries,” frames responding to climate change as an extraordinary economic opportunity, particularly in developing countries. The report, published by infoDev, recommends actions by the public and private sectors to foster the growing market for SMEs in the clean technology sector.

World Food Bank Clean Tech report“Fostering home-grown clean-tech industries in developing countries can create a sustainable and wealth-producing sector of the economy,” said Anabel Gonzalez, senior director for the World Bank’s Global Practice on Trade and Competitiveness, “While simultaneously addressing such urgent development priorities as access to clean and affordable energy, clean water and climate-resilient agriculture.”

In just the last decade, clean technology has emerged as a major global market. Over the next 10 years, an estimated $6.4 trillion will be invested in developing countries. Of the total market in developing countries, some $1.6 trillion will be accessible to SMEs, according to the report. China, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa are the top three markets in the developing world for SMEs in clean technology, with expected markets of $415 billion, $349 billion and $235 billion, respectively for sectors such as wastewater treatment, onshore wind, solar panels, electric vehicles, bioenergy, and small hydro.

More can be done to support green entrepreneurship. As sited in the report, clean technology SMEs face daunting challenges, particularly in accessing early and growth stage financing. Countries can help by creating targeted policy incentives to encourage their own clean technology sectors. The report provides policymakers with a range of practical instruments that help support SMEs in clean technology sectors such as innovative finance, entrepreneurship and business acceleration, market development, technology development, and the legal and regulatory framework.

UK Supports Ocean Energy Development

Leaders in Europe (UK) are supporting ocean renewable energy and announced their commitment to accelerate the development during the Ocean Energy Europe 2014 that took place in Paris, France this week. Ministers from France, the UK, Ireland, Portugal and Greece all highlighted European collaboration as the key to commercialization. Industrial heavyweights such as DCNS, GDF SUEZ, Alstom and Siemens also fielded senior representatives to outline their plans for ocean energy deployments.

Speaking at the event, Dr Sian George, CEO of Ocean Energy Europe, said: “Ocean energy will play a big role in decarbonising and securing Europe’s energy supply. Today showed that European political and industrial leaders will do whatever it takes to turn ocean energy into a fully-fledged commercial sector. The industry will work with the EU and its Member States to get as much kit in the water as possible before 2020, with full commercial roll-out following after.”

Ocean waves crash along an icy winter shoreline Photo @RedkingScottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing added of the effort: “Scotland is blessed with a wealth of natural resources and is at the forefront of developing marine energy technology thanks to an abundance of ocean resource and world-leading test facilities at the European Marine Energy Centre. However, to make wave and tidal stream technologies viable and cost effective is going to take the best engineers and the best brains from across Europe. We see a collaborative model as the way forward and the time has come for this industry to unite. The Scottish Government is committed to working with its partners from across the European Union to support the development and commercialisation of the ocean energy industry and allow Europe’s ocean energy sector to stay ahead in the race.”

Next year’s event will be held in Dublin, Ireland as announced by the Irish Energy Minister Alex White. “I very much welcome the opportunity that this Ocean Energy Annual Conference has given for so many key stakeholders to come together. International collaboration is key to understanding and overcoming the challenges the ocean energy sector faces to realising its commercial potential. To that end I am delighted to announce that Ireland will be hosting the 2015 Annual Ocean Energy Europe Conference in Dublin.”

White Papers Look At Energy in Mexico

A new series of white papers look at various issues relating to energy in Mexico. Recent reform in the country has created anticipation and speculation as to how the energy market will shape up over the next few years. Peter Nance with ICF International has released three white papers to help increase understanding of the country’s emerging energy issues.

Peter Nance ICF InternationalThe first paper, “Renewable Energy and Cross-Border Prospects,” looks at current opportunities and risks in cross-border renewables trade, especially for the California market. The current power trade between the United States and Mexico is relatively small, and the renewable sector in Mexico remains underdeveloped. Yet, encouraging market dynamics gives ample reason to pay attention to this area. Key topics include: ambitious reform creates opportunities and lingering questions; state of electricity trade and renewables development; exporting opportunities for central station renewables; and risk and uncertainties.

Power Generation and Cross-Border Prospects,” is the second paper in the series and examines current opportunities and risks in cross-border power markets in the context of the Mexican regulatory reform, especially along the Arizona-Sonora and Texas-Tamaulipas/Coahulia/Chihuahua areas of the border. Key topics include: current state and near-term prospects; future opportunities; and risks and uncertainties.

The third report is, “Midstream Opportunities,” and focuses on proposed sublaws from Mexico’s energy sector. ICF International anticipates a comprehensive analysis and development of their implications for investors after a successful conclusion of current negotiations in the Mexican Congress. They are also closely tracking the emerging trends and needs in the midstream and engaging with partners in Mexico to develop a comprehensive, in-depth picture of the market and its potential opportunities and risks. Key topics include: current state and near-term prospects; recent project profiles; important players in the Mexican midstream subsector and future possibilities.

Senate Committee Considers Energy Tax Reform

The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing today on Reforming America’s Outdated Energy Tax Code, led by chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR).

“It’s past time to replace today’s crazy quilt of more than 40 energy tax incentives with a
modern, technology-neutral approach,” said Wyden at the start of the hearing, adding that the disparity in how the tax code treats energy sources needs to end. “Traditional sources benefit from tax incentives that are permanently baked into law. But clean energy sources are stuck with stop-and-go incentives that have to be renewed every few years.”

The main goal of the hearing is to focus on extending the dozen or so tax incentives for alternative energy sources such as advanced biofuels, wind, and solar.

aeclogo“The title of the hearing is right,” said Advanced Ethanol Council Executive Director Brooke Coleman. “Investors are highly sensitive to protections offered by tax law, and today’s energy tax regime drives investment away from viable petroleum alternatives like cellulosic biofuels because oil tax breaks are richer and permanent. The short term fix is extending recently expired and existing tax incentives for clean energy this year, to buttress against those offered to fossil fuels permanently. But any broader discussion about America emerging as the leading energy innovator in the world starts and ends with the federal tax code. It simply won’t happen without serious energy tax reform.”

Among those testifying at the hearing today was former Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK), now a lobbyist who has represented several energy companies, who spoke against continuing wind energy tax incentives.

EWEA to New Commissioner: Rein in Energy Future

Alenka Bratusek has been named Vice President- and Commissioner-designate for Energy Union and Miguel Arias Canete has been named as European Commissioner-designate for Energy and Climate Action. In response to the news, the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) is calling on the new commissioner to take the reigns of the Europe’s energy future.

ewea-logo“We look forward to working with Vice President Bratusek and Commissioner Canete on building a new treaty-busting energy union in Europe, which is underpinned by renewables,” said EWEA Chief Executive Officer Thomas Becker. “For a true single energy market to flourish in Europe, energy policy must become the domain of EU lawmakers and should not be shackled to 28 diverging ministries, regulators and agencies at national level.”

Becker said added, “The announcement of Vice President-designate Bratusek, with responsibility for energy union, shows a commitment by the Juncker presidency to make strides toward a single electricity market that places renewable energies, such as wind power, at the heart of European energy security.”

Parliamentary hearings for the new College of Commissioners are expected to commence on the week beginning Monday September 29, 2014.

Polar Bears to Warm Up Elephants at Oregon Zoo

H_slinky-infographic-3What in the world do polar bears and elephants have to do with renewable energy? Lots with a creative use of geothermal energy at the Oregon Zoo where an underground heating-cooling system will improve energy efficiency. Polar bears like it cool and elephants like it hot and with the help of “Slinky” or a geothermal loop, the two endangered species will keep each other comfy. The innovative high-tech system will be buried 12 feet underground.

“Essentially, this system works the same way as your household refrigerator,” explained Jim Mitchell, zoo construction manager. “The condenser that cools the coils in your refrigerator produces heat, which is expelled away from the coils with a fan. Our system has just added another step: capturing that heat for use elsewhere rather than blowing it all away.”

According to Mitchell, heat is created as a byproduct of cooling the polar bear swimming pools at the zoo. And rather than just expel that heat, the geothermal system will direct it through rows of Slinky-like coiled pipes buried deep in the northern section of Elephant Lands.

The ground maintains a constant temperature, insulating the pipes. Then, when it’s time to crank the thermostat, pumps connected to the system will deliver heat to Forest Hall, the 32,000-square-foot indoor portion of Elephant Lands.

The geothermal loop and other energy-efficient design systems are expected to cut Elephant Lands’ energy requirements in half, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent and serve as the primary heat source for what will be one of the country’s largest indoor elephant facilities.

Eventually, other renewable sources of heat will be fed into the geothermal system. While it won’t be readily apparent to visitors, the roof at Forest Hall will feature a huge array of solar panels.

“Gradually, we may eliminate the need for fossil fuels at the majority of buildings and exhibits at the zoo,” Mitchell said.

Curator Bob Lee, who oversees the zoo’s elephant program said of the project, “The beauty of this system is in how it gives elephants choice. Most of the time, the elephant family will be able to move freely indoors and out, and we’ll be able to sustainably maintain a comfortable temperature for them.”

Plug-In Electric Vehicles Talk in the Cloud

Plug-In electric vehicles (EV) will soon be “talking in the cloud” as Ford Motor Company collaborates with seven of the world’s largest automakers and 15 utility companies to develop technologies for EVs to talk to the utilities via the cloud. According to Ford, this would help manage energy use and improve the efficiency of the power grid.

The pilot program will create a standards-based communications platform for use by plug-in EVs and the electric grids. This platform will enable the utilities to contact vehicle customers who have opted-in to the program, sending a request for those cars to stop charging temporarily to help manage a grid that is DCF 1.0becoming overloaded. This approach uses existing communications technology and standards, such as Ford’s MyFord® Mobile App, and pushes to advance those systems by enabling two-way communication between the electric grid and electric vehicles.

“This innovative platform provides a critical enabler for the next step in vehicle electrification,” said Mike Tinskey, associate global director, Electrification Infrastructure for Ford. “It’s a way for plug-in electric vehicle drivers to be financially rewarded for their willingness to help manage the electric grid.”

Participating utility companies are prepared to offer financial incentives to owners who make their cars available to the grid, similar to utilities offering customers discounts for allowing their home air conditioning to run intermittently during times of high demand. Customers who opt-in to the program can charge their cars at a location of their choice and have the ability to ignore the utility’s request to stop charging.

The formal collaboration between the automakers, utilities and Electric Power Research Institute began in fall 2012. However, the concept and application of electric vehicle/grid integration has been studied extensively by numerous research groups for more than 10 years.

Mosaic Launches New National Solar Tech Platform

Mosiac is going national. The first solar company to ever use crowdsourcing investments to finance solar projects has just launched another first of its kind technology platform: Mosaic Places. The technology will enable the nation to go solar one location at a time.

So how does it work? The public can nominate community centers, schools, libraries and places of worship as well as local businesses to go solar. The site already contains nearly 300,000 places across the U.S.

I went to Mosaic Places and checked to see if my friend’s Join Mosaic Put Solar On Western Hills Magnet Centerschool was listed. It wasn’t yet so I nominated Western Hills Magnet Center, an Omaha, Nebraska elementary school for solar energy. The building was built in 1952 and has had no upgrades since. In fact, some rooms have no air conditioning (no, a 100 degree room is not a good learning environment for children). With solar, the school can save money on energy and invest the funds back into the kids. And, it gives these students the opportunity to learn about solar first-hand. This is a perfect example of engaging kids in science, technology, engineering in math (STEM) that our schools need so much more of.

Now that I have my school in the system, it asks for as little as a petition – people just click support (which I already have) to participate. However, serious money can be raised to put solar on a place as Mosaic matches supporters with dollars.

Mosaic Places was born out of a successful New Years pledge launched by Mosaic and actor Mark Ruffalo asking people to #PutSolarOnIt in 2014. While a solar installation was installed, on average, every four minutes in the U.S. in 2013, the nation has put solar on less than 1 percent of the homes and commercial buildings that would financially benefit from solar on their roofs. With thousands of incoming pledges for the #PutSolarOnIt campaign, Mosaic built a platform that would help people achieve their commitments. The product launch comes days before the first national #PutSolarOnIt Day of Action this June 21st, the Summer Solstice and longest day of the year.

Put Solar On It“We have been dreaming about this product for years,” said Mosaic President, Billy Parish. “It’s based on our belief that every building can go solar if the community is behind it. Mosaic has built a product that enables everyone to participate in transitioning the country to 100% clean energy.”

The funds raised are designed to bridge the gap for community buildings whose solar installations may need a few thousand dollars to be financeable by conventional means. For every 50 people that click “support” on a Place’s page, Mosaic will donate $100 to put solar on it. In addition, homeowners who go solar through a Mosaic Place’s page will be eligible to receive a $500 gift, which they can donate to put solar on that place.

Any individual can use Mosaic Places by going to www.putsolaronit.com, finding or adding a Place and sharing their chosen Place with their friends to get supporters and raise funds to put solar on it. Schools, places of worship and other community groups can fundraise to put solar on their buildings by asking their community members to support their Place’s page and put solar on their homes through their Place’s page.

So I want to #PutSolarOnIt on Western Hills Magnet Center. Where do you want to put solar on it?