Solar Goes White

4af8a17c-1725-4cb0-8b74-93b41ce2a3afWhen people think of solar energy they think of red. Now people will start to think white. Neuchatel, Switzerland -based CSEM has produced what they believe to be the first white solar modules. According to company materials, the technology is attractive to the building industry where solar elements can blend into the building’s design and become a “hidden” renewable energy source.

CSEM’s white solar module technology has no visible cells and connections. It combines a solar cell technology able to convert infrared solar light into electricity and a selective scattering filter, which scatters the whole visible spectrum while transmitting infrared light. Any solar technology based on crystalline silicon can now be used to manufacture white, and colored, modules.

The technology can be applied on top of an existing module or integrated into a new module during assembly, on flat or curved surfaces.Besides its main application in building, CSEM expects other fields such as consumer electronics (laptops), and the car industry to show significant interest.

GRFA: Biofuels Help Support Rural Africa

The first African Sustainable Transport Forum is taking place this week in Nairobi, Kenya and the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) called on forum attendees to adopt biofuel friendly policies and regulations that would kick-start the increased use of sustainable biofuels in Africa’s transport sector.

“This Forum is an opportunity that should be grasped by Africa to take a vital step towards more sustainable transportation options. The potential of sustainable biofuels should be at the centre of these talks because they are the best sustainable transport option, both in environmental and economic terms,” said Bliss Baker, spokesperson for the GRFA.

GRFA1Earlier this year the GRFA forecasted that 2014 global ethanol production would reach 90.38 billion litres and its use worldwide would reduce GHG emissions by over 106 million tonnes globally. “106 million tonnes or 21 million cars in GHG reductions is massive, it’s the same as removing all the cars registered in Malaysia off the road, but much more can be achieved if African leaders choose a path towards a more sustainable future for African transport,” said Baker.

While biofuel production in Africa has remained relatively low when compared to other regions, it has grown year on year with ethanol production alone now forecasted to reach 260 million litres in 2014. The domestic use of this ethanol fuel could reduce Africa’s GHG emissions by 325,000 tonnes.

“In addition to the important opportunity to reduce GHG emissions in transport, biofuels also offer African countries a fantastic opportunity to spark much-needed investment in agriculture, and, by creating jobs and boosting household incomes, poverty can be alleviated and food security improved. Sustainable biofuels are an important tool to help enable the revival of Africa’s rural communities, Africa’s political leaders need to promote them,” added Baker.

Baker said that African Sustainable Transport Forum attendees should note that the country’s biofuels opportunity was identified in 2010 by the World Bank when it released “Biofuels in Africa: Opportunities, Prospects and Challenges.” The report found that “a new economic opportunity for sub-Saharan Africa is looming large: biofuel production…Africa is uniquely positioned to produce these new cash crops for both domestic use and export. The region has abundant land resources and preferential access to protected markets with higher-than-world-market prices. The rapid growth in the demand for transport fuels in Africa and high fuel prices create domestic markets for biofuels.

A Global View of LP Gas

perc-wlpgf14-welcomeWelcome to Miami and the 27th annual World LP Gas Forum!

The World LP Gas Association has members in 130 countries and a good percentage of those are represented here at this event. Because it’s in the United States this year, the Propane Education and Research Council (PERC) has a special presence to showcase new innovations for propane use in a variety of markets, including on-road.

perc-wlpgf14-alisonAlison Abbot, marketing and communications director for the World LP Gas Association, says the event moves around the globe each year. “It’s the first time since 2008 we’ve been in the United States, the last time was in Chicago,” said Abbot. Last year it was in London and next year it will be in Singapore.

Abbot says PERC is a very active member of the WLPGA and the work the organization is doing in promotion and research of new markets and innovations for propane. “We work very closely with PERC,” she said. “What we do as the world association is we take what fellow associations like PERC in the United States do and act as a central hub to disseminate it out.”

Listen to my interview with Alison here: Interview with Alison Abbot, World LP Gas Association

2014 World LP Gas Forum Photo Album

EU Leaders Lack Climate & Energy Leadership

According to several organizations, although European Union Heads of State agreed upon a climate and energy framework, it fails to provide industrial leadership for Europe. Both Ocean Energy Europe (OEE) and the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) criticized the plan. OEE said the new greenhouse gas emission targets, renewable energy and energy efficiency will do little to capitalize on the security, employment and export potential of new energy sectors including ocean, wind and offshore wind energy. The groups argue the framework put Europe’s future energy security and the country’s position as a global renewable energy and climate leader at risk.

The European Council agreed to a 40 percent binding greenhouse gas emission reduction target, a 27 percent binding, EU-wide renewable energy target, and a 27 percent non-binding, EU-wide energy efficiency target.

Ocean Energy Photo ENE“If the EU is serious about tackling big issues such as energy security, unemployment and climate change, it needs to provide industrial leadership on climate and energy by setting hard and fast targets and reduce its exposure to highly volatile fossil fuel imports,” said Dr Sian George, CEO of Ocean Energy Europe. “Economies across the world will have to transition to low-carbon. By staying ahead of this curve, Europe can tap into massive export and job creation potential. This is as true for the first generation of renewable energy as it will be for the next generations, such as ocean energy technologies.”

In 2009, Europe agreed to climate and energy targets for 2020 helping to bring first-gen renewable energy industries to market in part due to market certainty. The new targets need to be higher, said George, for renewables to move into second generation renewable energy technologies.

Thomas Becker, chief executive officer of the European Wind Energy Association, said the lower unenforceable targets create market uncertainty and for the wind industry this “clarity” is critical to investors who rely on long-term policies to provide stability.

“The interconnectivity target is bewildering given the current political challenges Europe is facing. We’re in the midst of an energy crisis with Russia holding Member States to ransom over gas supplies,” said Becker. “Yet Heads of State see fit to trot out a meaningless target that will do nothing to improve connection in the Iberian Peninsula or the security of supply in the Baltic States, let alone allow an internal energy market to develop. On GHG reduction, this weakens the position of the EU for the climate talks in Paris next year,” added Becker. “I can’t understand how Member States are going to reach this target and who is guaranteeing that this is not just an empty shell. I can assure you that the other climate negotiators are very good at finding the holes in the cheese.”

Biodiesel By-Product Makes Viable Marine Fuel

A by-product of biodiesel refining could make for a viable alternative fuel for ships. This article from Seatrade Global says the Glycerine Fuel for Engines and Marine Sustainability (GLEAMS) project has concluded that glycerine is fine to use in marine vessels.

The group, comprising Lloyd’s Register EMEA, Marine South East, Aquafuel Research, Gardline Marine Sciences, and Redwing Environmental, proved that the fuel will be a viable option for ship engines. If adopted, the fuel, sometimes called glycerol, could offer a cheaper alternative to LNG and distillates, while also offering a higher efficiency than diesel, with no sulphur emissions, very low NOx emissions and virtually no particulates.

On top of this, retrofit is said to require nothing more than a modification to the engine’s external engine aspiration system; is water-soluble, with little to no damage caused to sea life in the event of a spill; and is “nearly impossible to ignite accidentally”.

A press statement by the group indicated “The GLEAMS project has been particularly successful in dispelling the widely held view that glycerine is unsuitable for use as a fuel due to its physical and chemical properties. The project very publicly demonstrated that glycerine could be used as a fuel in compression ignition engines by displaying the glycerine powered GLEAMS emissions test engine for three days at Seawork International 2014.”

GLEAMS project officials say there are several early adopters they hope to get on board with this technology, including some offshore vessels as well as research vessels.

RFA Promoting Distillers Feed at Export Exchange

rfa-exex-2014The 2014 Export Exchange is continuing today in Seattle, Washington with representatives from more than 50 different countries in attendance to learn more about DDGS, the distillers feed product produced by U.S. ethanol plants.

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is co-sponsor of the event with the U.S. Grains Council and RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen says it’s because we produce a lot of distillers feed. “Our plants, if they were a single country, would be the fourth largest producer of corn equivalent feed, behind only the U.S., China and Brazil,” said Dinneen, who spoke at the event yesterday on agricultural policies and politics. Interview with RFA CEO Bob Dinneen at 2014 Export Exchange

rfa-cooper-exexRFA Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper spoke at the event on the supply and demand outlook for DDGS.

“We have ample supplies of distillers grains coming from the U.S. ethanol industry but the demand picture is somewhat murky,” said Cooper. “That murkiness has to do with trade barriers and interruptions in the global trade of distillers grains that we’re seeing.”

Cooper says the U.S. is expected to produce 36-37 million metric tons of DDGS in the current marketing year, but one of the biggest trade disruptions in the market is being created by China’s demand that shipments of distillers grains must be certified to be free of the MIR162 biotech corn trait. “That kind of certification is not possible,” said Cooper. “So, we expect exports to China to be significantly curtailed or even halted until this situation is resolved.”

Last year, half of the U.S. distillers grains exports went to China, but Cooper says there are other countries increasing imports. “We are seeing continued growth of distillers grains exports to other parts of Asia outside of China,” he said, adding that Mexico is increasing imports and countries such as Egypt and Turkey are also growing markets. Interview with RFA Senior VP Geoff Cooper at 2014 Export Exchange

Mainstream Renewable to Build Offshore Wind Farm

The Scottish Ministers have given Mainstream Renewable Power the go ahead to build a 450 megawatt Neart na Gaoithe (“NnG”) offshore wind farm in the Outer Forth Estuary in the North Sea. This project will be the first large-scale offshore wind farm in Scottish waters to be directly connected to the grid when complete in 2018. The wind farm will provide 3.7 percent of Scotland’s total electricity demand. The wind farm will consist of up to 75 wind turbines and will occupy an area of approximately 80 square kilometres. At its closest point to land it lies over 15 kilometres off the Fife coast in water depths of 45-55 metres.

The subsea cable transmitting the wind farm’s power will come ashore at Thorntonloch Beach in East Lothian from where its Mainstream Renewable Powerunderground cable will travel along a 12.5 kilometre route to a substation located within the Crystal Rig onshore wind farm in the Lammermuir Hills. Grid connection will occur in December 2016 and planning permission for the route of the underground cable was received from East Lothian Council in 2013.

Mainstream Renewable Power’s founder and Chief Executive, Eddie O’Connor said, “Today’s announcement is of particular importance for Scotland because it is the first time a wind farm will be built in Scottish waters with the purpose of supplying Scottish homes and businesses with renewable energy. In fact, it will generate enough green power to supply more than all the homes in Edinburgh.”

NnG represents a capital expenditure investment of around £1.5 billion and is on track to be the first offshore wind farm in the UK to attract true non-recourse project finance at the construction stage. The project has pre-qualified for the Infrastructure UK Treasury Guarantee and European Investment Bank funding.

“This is of major significance to the global offshore wind industry because it is on track to be the first time an offshore wind farm of this scale will be built using project finance alone by a private company,” said Andy Kinsella, COO for Mainstream Renewable Power. “It is testament to the world-leading expertise of Mainstream’s offshore development team who have been working on this project since the company was founded in 2008 and further underpins Mainstream’s position as the world’s leading independent offshore wind developer.”

Onshore Wind Cheaper Than Coal, Gas, Nuclear

According to an Ecofys study commissioned by the European Commission, generating electricity from onshore wind is cheaper than gas, coal and nuclear when externalities are stacked with the levelised cost of energy and subsides. The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) analyzed the report data and determined that onshore wind has an approximate cost of EUR 105 per megawatt hour (MWh). This is less expensive than gas (up to EUR 164), nuclear (EUR 133) and coal (between EUR 162-233). Offshore wind comes in at EUR 186 and solar photovoltaic (PV) has a cost of around EUR 217 per MWh.

ewea-logoThe total cost of energy production, which factors in externalities such as air quality, climate change and human toxicity among others, shows that coal is more expensive than the highest retail electricity price in the EU. The report puts the figure of external costs of the EU’s energy mix in 2012 at between EUR 150 and EUR 310 billion.

Justin Wilkes, deputy chief executive officer of the European Wind Energy Association, said of the findings, “This report highlights the true cost of Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels. Renewables are regularly denigrated for being too expensive and a drain on the taxpayer. Not only does the Commission’s report show the alarming cost of coal but it also presents onshore wind as both cheaper and more environmentally-friendly.”

EWEA said onshore and offshore wind technologies also have room for significant cost reduction. Coal on the other hand is a fully mature technology and is unlikely to reduce costs any further.

“We are heavily subsidising the dirtiest form of electricity generation while proponents use coal’s supposed affordability as a justification for its continued use,” added Wilkes. “The irony is that coal is the most expensive form of energy in the European Union. This report shows that we should use the 2030 climate and energy package as a foundation for increasing the use of wind energy in Europe to improve our competitiveness, security and environment.”

Argentina Biodiesel Exports on the Rise Again

argentinaflagAfter falling off the last couple of years, biodiesel exports from Argentina are on the rise again. This article from the Business Recorder credits the country’s cut in sales taxes last May that look to allow biodiesel exports to double this year compared to last.

Under pressure to jumpstart activity in the sector, the government cut biodiesel export taxes to 11 percent from 21 percent in May. Now the South American grains powerhouse is on track to double exports of the fuel this year to 1.4 million tonnes versus 700,000 tonnes in 2013, said Luis Zubizarreta, president of Carbio, the chamber of biodiesel producers and exporters.

“In the first four months of this year exports remained very low. Then the tax cut allowed us to become internationally competitive again and we’ve been able ship a good amount of our product,” Zubizarreta said in an interview earlier this week. Carbio expects Argentina to produce 2.35 million tonnes of biodiesel this year, well above the 1.8 million tonnes projected by the chamber at the start of the year. “We are still not at 100 percent capacity,” Zubizarreta said, “but the industry has started functioning well again.”

The article says the Argentine exports have been hurt by Europe’s increased tariffs on biodiesel from the South American country. Argentina used to be the world’s biggest biodiesel exporter before those tariffs stopped much of that business. Argentina is fighting the tariffs at the World Trade Organisation.

Neste Oil Moves Away from Microbes for Renewable Diesel

nesteoil_logoRenewable diesel maker Neste Oil says it will move away from turning microbes into the green fuel and concentrate on other feedstocks, such as forestry and agricultural waste. This company news release says the Finland-based Neste Oil wants to increase the number of renewable inputs used for the renewable diesel.

“Our microbial oil pilot plant at Porvoo has demonstrated that we have the technical capability for producing microbial oil,” says Neste Oil’s Senior Vice President, Technology, Lars Peter Lindfors. “Seen in terms of sustainability, using waste and sidestreams generated by agriculture and forestry as well as industry has a very important role to play in the future, and we have successfully used straw, for example, to produce microbial oil. Two years of in-depth microbial oil research at the pilot plant has generated a lot of valuable know-how and extended our patent portfolio, and we will be able to use the results of this work in other research projects.

“The time is not yet ripe for a commercial-scale microbial oil plant, however. Lignocellulose material is not a financially competitive industrial feedstock for producing renewable diesel using the microbial oil process at the moment. We will continue researching agricultural and forestry waste and residues, and believe that lignocellulose inputs will play an important role in future renewable applications,” says Lindfors.

The release does not say how this could affect a recent deal with U.S. algae producer Renewable Algae Energy (RAE) to supply algae oil as an alternative feedstock for Neste Oil’s NEXBTL renewable diesel for the future.

Biodiesel Board Calls for End of European Tariffs

nbb-logoThe National Biodiesel Board has called for the end of duties on the green fuel being sent to Europe. NBB says it’s time to let expire what the group calls unfair European Commission biodiesel tariffs in place for the past five years.

“We have presented a strong case for ending these protectionist barriers that are unfairly hurting U.S. biodiesel producers even as European producers are taking advantage of the U.S. market,” said Anne Steckel, NBB’s vice president of federal affairs. “As we speak, European biodiesel producers are sending biodiesel to the U.S., with significant policy support, while at the same time the European market has been cut off from U.S. producers.”

“Eliminating these duties will level the playing field and allow U.S. producers to fairly compete in accordance with international law – just as we are allowing European producers to do in the U.S. market,” [Steckel said].

Among the points highlighted in NBB’s filing Tuesday:

– U.S. imports of biodiesel from the EU have grown in recent years while EU imports of U.S. biodiesel have been virtually eliminated.
– The U.S. biodiesel tax incentive, which was the primary basis for the EU’s initial trade duties, is currently not in effect and hasn’t been in effect for three of the past five years.
– Because it is structured as a blender’s incentive, the U.S. biodiesel tax incentive is available to European producers, when it is in effect, in the same way it is available to U.S. producers. Additionally, European imports to the U.S. can qualify for the RFS, the policy that requires specific volumes of renewable fuels to be blended into the U.S. fuel supply.
– The U.S. biodiesel market has evolved significantly since 2009 and, with required volumes under the RFS creating a strong and growing domestic market, it is unlikely that eliminating the trade barriers would lead to a flood of U.S. biodiesel exports to Europe.

While the original biodiesel trade duties were set to expire this year, the European Commission, at the request of the European biodiesel industry, has been delaying the expiration by conducting an “expiry review” expected to last 12 to 15 months.

DNV GL Releases Offshore Wind Manifesto

DNV GL has released its finding of a report, “Offshore wind: a manifesto for cost reduction,” at WindEnergy Hamburg 2014. The offshore wind industry is looking to reduce costs to ensure growth. In response to this need, DNV GL is offering the industry its manifesto for offshore wind cost reduction identifies and quantifies cost reduction opportunities. It also set out a challenge and the company has committed to take action on the issue.

DNV GL Pledges to Help Reduce Offshore Wind Costs by 25%The cost reduction strategies outlined in the manifesto are categorized into three basic types: “Doing it right,” by mitigating risk and increasing certainty; “Doing it better,” by improving the efficiency of existing processes; and “Doing it differently,” by innovating for the future. Working with industry partners, the actions DNV GL commits to in the manifesto have the potential to achieve reductions in the cost of energy of up to 25 percent. According to DNV GL, these savings, combined with trends in other areas such as improved supply chain efficiency, has the potential of delivering a total reduction of 40 percent which is recognized by many stakeholders as the level required to secure the future of the industry.

CEO for DNV GL – Energy, David Walker, said, “This is about securing the future of offshore wind. Achieving cost reduction is about more than just new technology and innovation. It also requires us to get the basics right which means getting people together, assessing the issues in detail and defining best practice. This may be seen as incremental or even unglamorous, but it is exactly what a maturing industry looks like and it is exactly what is required to drive down costs.

“The good news is that we are seeing signs of progress, but we need to do much more as an industry,” added Walker. In this manifesto document, we in DNV GL recognise the role we can play in the cost reduction story – we are committed to helping offshore wind do it right, do it better and do it differently.”

The manifesto document contains 14 specific pledges across a wide range of topics from reducing subsea cable installation risks through to accelerating the commercialization of floating offshore wind technology:

European Refiner Eyes Biodiesel Upgrade for Facility

total_logoEurope’s largest refiner of oil is considering putting in a biodiesel operation as part of an upgrade to a refinery in France. This article from Reuters says Total could convert some of its La Mede refinery near Marseille to producing biodiesel with a decision expected in the spring of 2015.

[Total's head of refining Patrick] Pouyanne said a plan to merge the La Mede refinery near Marseille with the neighbouring Lavera plant belonging to Petrochina and Ineos had failed, two union sources said, due in part to the large investments needed to upgrade the site.

The group nonetheless announced it was working on plans to convert the site, including the construction of a biodiesel making unit and a scrubber, which filters some pollutants, to make the site compatible with environmental legislation by 2018.

“I’m ready to invest the equivalent of three years of losses to make the site sustainable,” Pouyanne told unions, according to the two separate accounts made to Reuters.

La Mede was losing about 100 million euros ($127 million) a year, which would mean upgrades of about 300 million euros, the union sources said.

According to the article, Total has seen its European refining margins drop to near four-year lows this year, losing share to more efficient Middle Eastern plants, as well as too much capacity in Europe and a drop off in gasoline and diesel consumption on the continent.

IRENA: Biomass Could be 60% of World’s Renewable Energy

irenareportBiomass could make up 60 percent of the world’s renewable energy sources – one-fifth of the globe’s total energy supply – by the year 2030. That’s according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), which forecasts a major role for modern, sustainable biomass technologies in the report titled, “Global Bioenergy Supply and Demand Projections for the Year 2030.”

“Sustainable bioenergy has the potential to be a game-changer in the global energy mix,” said IRENA Director of Innovation and Technology Dolf Gielen. “Sustainably sourced biomass, such as residues, and the use of more efficient technology and processes can shift biomass energy production from traditional to modern and sustainable forms, simultaneously reducing air pollution and saving lives.”

The new IRENA report shows that approximately 40% of the total global biomass supply potential would originate from agricultural residues and waste, with another 30% originating from sustainable forestry products.

The report also points out that these biomass resources do not compete with food production requirements, such as land and water, and could make significant cuts to global greenhouse gases.

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.