Mexico Soon to be Home of Major Solar Project

Weymouth, Massachusetts based Vertex Companies is partnering in the development of a 30 megawatt solar electric power plant located in Zacatecas, Mexico. When complete, this project will be one of the largest of its kind in Latin America.

The announcement was made during the Massachusetts – Mexico Innovation Partnership Mission. The joint announcement was made by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Zacatecas Governor Miguel Alonso Reyes.

Vertex ZacsL solar projectVERTEX has operated for over a decade in the Mexican market as Vertex Ingenieros Consultores, S. de R.L. de C.V., completing dozens of energy and environmental projects in a variety of industries. In Zacatecas, VERTEX is collaborating with local Mexican partners to develop the first utility-scale solar PV project in the state and one of the largest in Latin America overall. The 30 MW ZacSol 1 project is the first phase of up to 90 MW that will be installed near the municipality of Guadalupe over the next several years. With an estimated $92 million investment in Zacatecas that will create approximately 400 construction and operational jobs, this first phase represents a significant step forward for Mexico in realizing their solar potential.

Mexico has progressive renewable energy policies, high fossil-based electricity prices, and the third highest solar insolation in the world. According to the Inter-American Development Bank, Mexico has a potential for 45 GW of solar energy. SENER, Mexico’s Energy Department, recently reported that solar PV projects are profitable without government subsidies with Northern and Central Mexican projects typically breaking even after only two years.

EU Commission Proposes Eliminating Clean Energy Aid

The European Commission has proposed a plan to phase out support for renewable technologies after 2020. According to state aid guidelines, the Commission recommends removing support mechanisms for renewable technologies that are expected to become “grid competitive” between 2020 ad 2030. The guidelines did not specify was “grid competitive” means and in their current form, only apply to the period from 2014 to 2020.

ewea-logoIn response, the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) says the move pushes its narrow vision for EU energy policy and clouds the future of wind energy. The association also says the proposals push for market integration above stability, with premiums allocated through tenders to replace feed-in tariffs and “technology neutrality,” which does not distinguish between the maturity of technologies like onshore and offshore wind energy.

However, EWEA explains that a number of exemptions have been included, allowing Member States to opt out of tendering, to tailor support for technologies at different levels of maturity and to determine the pace at which national support is adjusted to comply with the guidelines. In addition, the association says the complex nature of the state aid guidelines risks exacerbating investor uncertainty around the renewables industry and Member States must be flexible in implementing the proposals.

Justin Wilkes, deputy chief executive officer of the European Wind Energy Association, said, “The Commission would have liked to put the cart before the horse, by focusing on forcing wind energy to compete in a market which still does not exist, while ignoring the obvious market distortions that need to be tackled first, such as the majority of subsidies that go to fossil fuels and nuclear.  While we welcome the drive for long-term market integration of wind energy, state aid guidelines are not the ideal tool for the Commission to legislate on energy policy. Member States should be flexible in implementing the guidelines, in order to enable the most cost-efficient development of wind energy in Europe, and avoid increased uncertainty for the sector.”

Wilkes concluded, “In the main, the opt-outs will become the most important tools used by Member States because the Commission has failed to propose good design requirements for its favoured method of tendering.”

New Biodiesel Mandate Pleases Canadian Farmers

gfoThe new biodiesel requirement north of the border is pleasing farmers in that area. The trade group Grain Farmers of Ontario welcomed its province’s new 2 percent biodiesel mandate, expected to be a boon for soybean farmers.

“The creation of an Ontario Greener Diesel mandate will reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated by the
transportation sector and will help build a market for made-in-Ontario soy biodiesel,” says Henry Van Ankum, Chair of Grain Farmers of Ontario. “Local fuel made from soybeans reduces greenhouse gas emission in vehicles up to 85 percent and the mandate will provide a potential market for 680,000 tonnes of soybeans.”

Creating new markets takes a commitment and collaboration between government and industry. “We were pleased we could work with our partners at the Ontario government and the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association to initiate this Greener Diesel mandate and grow this market for our Ontario farmers,” added Van Ankum.

The mandate started at 2 percent this week and moves up to 4 percent in 2017. It’s expected to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions equal to taking 280,000 cars per year off the road.

SheerWind Commissions Pilot Project in Dubai

SheerWind Inc., had commissioned a pilot project at Dubai Aluminium PJSC (DUBAL). The 250kW INVELOX wind power generation pilot project will help sustainably offset the company’s carbon emissions.

SheerWind-INVELOX-Demo3“We are very pleased to be the pioneer in this innovative pilot project in the GCC, especially as the project will contribute measurably to environmental conservation,” said DUBAL’s Tayeb Al Awadhi. “As a responsible corporate citizen, we are committed to sustainable principles. Moreover, the project is closely aligned with our corporate emphasis on continuous improvement through innovation.”

According to Sheerwind, its INVELOX technology offers high-performance, cost-efficient wind energy. When compared to average wind turbine technology:

  • Produces 600% more electrical energy (kWh)
  • Operates at wind speeds as low as 1 mile per hour
  • Reduces installation capital cost to less that $750 per KW
  • 90% less land use than traditional wind power generation utilities
  • Increases energy production capacity to record high of 72%
  • No harm to humans, animals, or flying creatures

Steve Hill, COO of SheerWind, added, “This installation is very exciting for SheerWind. We see this as the beginning of a great partnership with a company that is committed to reducing its carbon footprint and finding ways to make a difference globally. This partnership will assist in SheerWind’s mission to provide affordable, clean, electrical energy to anyone—anywhere.”

ASA Concerned over Argentine Biodiesel for RFS

argentinaflagWhile Argentine biodiesel is having a hard time getting into Europe, its prospects to make it into the U.S. could be boosted. And that is worrying soybean growers in this country. This story from Agri-View says the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering whether it should allow Argentine biodiesel to be eligible under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The potential for CARBIO, the trade association representing Argentine biodiesel producers, with its 1.3 billion gallons of biodiesel production capacity and export subsidies, prompted the American Soybean Association (ASA) to send a letter to EPA to register its concerns.

ASA believes that the far reaching impacts of this issue require an exhaustive review by EPA that includes a public comment period and input from the various stakeholders as well as other government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

EPA must be made aware of the fact that Argentine biodiesel is being heavily subsidized into world markets, and the European Union already has imposed anti-dumping duties on Argentine biodiesel imports due to the significant subsidies that Argentine biodiesel receives as the result of Argentina’s differential export tax system (DET).

ASA also says the CARBIO application needs to be done far in advance so EPA can figure in the amount of Argentine biodiesel when calculating the Required Volume Obligation (RVO) for Biomass-based diesel for that year.

Florida Biodiesel Delivers Refinery to Africa

Florida-Biodiesel1Biodiesel processor maker Florida Biodiesel, Inc. has delivered one of its refiners to Africa. This company news release says a B-500 biodiesel plant was sold to the Lorymat Corporation in the Ivory Coast.

The Lorymat Corporation has chosen the B-500 Biodiesel processor for their prime transesterification facility. The B-500 Biodiesel plant is economical to operate and will allow the Lorymat Corporation to safely produce 9000 gallons of Biodiesel each 24 hours. The B-500 will also be used as a hands-on educational tool to show students and government agencies how to make renewable energy. “We will process used cooking oil collected locally and from sustainably grown Palm oil into Biodiesel fuel,” says Guy Kouadio, of the Lorymat Corporation. “The B-500 is very user friendly, has a low carbon footprint, and will economically produce Biodiesel for us.”

Florida Biodiesel claims several innovations in biodiesel production equipment, including the safety external heat exchanger, cyclonic mixer, methanol recovery module, and the AUTOBIO Biodiesel plant automation system.

Argentina asks WTO to Look into EU Biodiesel Block

areu-flagArgentina has formally asked the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) to look at the European Union’s block of Argentine biodiesel. This article in MercoPress says the South Americans believe the EU’s antidumping measures imposed last November violate the international law.

The release recalls that since 2009 Argentina became the main provider of biodiesel to the EU, with sales of 1.847bn dollars in 2011, which represented 13% of all Argentine exports to the EU.

“The biodiesel sector in Argentina outstands for its sustainability and high level of development, scale and integration along the whole production chain, and is currently one of the most efficient producers globally”, adds the release.

On the other hand, the EU industry is “highly over dimensioned and since 2012 the EU has been involved in different protectionist measures with the purpose of excluding from the European market the Argentine bio-diesel”.

The Argentinians are also making the case that these protectionist barriers harm developing countries.

Global Ethanol Output to Exceed 90 Billion Litres

The latest forecast calls for global ethanol production to exceed 90 billion litres, or about 24 billion gallons, in 2014.

GRFA1The Global Annual Ethanol Production Forecast from the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA), in cooperation with F.O. Licht, estimates the world’s ethanol output will peak at 90.38 billion litres this year.

That amounts to an increase of almost 2.7% growth in production, up from 88 billion litres in 2013, according to GRFA spokesman Bliss Baker. “While forecasts of global economic growth remain sluggish, the global ethanol industry continues to increase its production and contribution to the global economy,” said Baker.

The latest data from F.O. Licht shows significant growth in most major ethanol producing regions in 2014. The world’s two largest producers, Brazil and the United States, are forecasted to maintain and increase their production by almost 2.5% respectively. Another major producing region, the European Union, is forecasted to see ethanol production jump over 8% this year. Africa, an emerging region with huge biofuel production potential is forecasted to see a growth of more than 136% in ethanol production in 2014.

“Although total volumes of ethanol produced in emerging regions like Africa are lower in comparison to more established producers, a production increase of over 130% is incredible because we know that these production increases will drive new investment in agricultural and job creation while reducing Africa’s reliance on imported oil,” stated Baker.

Ecoppia Unveils E4 Robot Cleaned Solar Park

Ecoppia has announced that the Ketura Sun solar park in Israel’s Negev desert is now the world’s first autonomously-cleaned solar energy production facility. The 8-hectare facility, producing 9 million kilowatt hours per year, is cleaned nightly by a fleet of almost 100 water-free, energy-independent Ecoppia E4 robots. The solar park is jointly owned by Siemens AG and Arava Power.

An impediment to solar energy production is soiling, or the dust and dirt that accumulates on solar panel surfaces. Soiling that reduce panel energy output by up to 35 percent. ECOPPIAKentura Sun is situated between the Gulf of Aqaba and the southern tip of the Dead Sea and suffers from sand storms and little rain. With cost and lack of water as barriers, the panels were only cleaned several times a year and could take up to five days.

“We conducted a thorough worldwide search for a cleaning solution that could deal with the challenging weather conditions in our solar parks,” said Jon Cohen, CEO at Arava Power. “Only Ecoppia’s solution showed actual significant uplift in production, while offering an extremely appealing business model. We are proud to be their partners.”

Following a successful pilot where Ecoppia’s solution effectively removed 99 percent of panel dust daily, E4 robots were deployed over the entire Ketura Sun field in less than three months. Today, nearly 100 centrally-controlled E4 robots clean the entire field every night, ensuring maximum production efficiency during sunlight hours.

Ecopiian says the E4 robots are cost effective efficient and energy-independent. They use a soft microfiber and air flow cleaning system to remove 99 percent of dust each day, applying zero load on the panel surface, keeping panels continually performing at optimal production. Utilizing a robust control unit and sensors that drive the robotic system along each solar panel row, E4 is fully remotely managed, monitored and controlled.

“We’re pleased to facilitate this important first step towards effectively growing solar park energy output,” said Eran Meller, CEO of Ecoppia. “With E4, Ketura Sun maximizes its energy generation, without the expense and negative ecological impact of water-based cleaning solutions.”

Yanir Aloush, VP operations at Arava Power, added, “Ecoppia has changed the way we run the Ketura Sun field. Less guesswork about when to clean, less downtime since there’s no need for on-site cleaning crews, less external personnel on the ground – we are very excited by the potential upgrade Ecoppia’s solution offers us.”

SolarEdge Selected for EV Fast-Charging Stations

Fastned has selected the SolarEdge solution, solar power technology developed by SolarEdge, for a nationwide network of 200 electric car fast-charging stations. The electric vehicle (EV) network will be strategically located throughout the Netherlands’ highways and will be partially 2013-11-30-145powered by 3 MW of distributed solar power. Fastned said they selected SolarEdge due to its lower installation, operation and maintenance costs when compared to other systems along with its increased energy yield.

SolarEdge said its module-level monitoring system provides Fastned with real-time performance data on each individual module and gives immediate alerts on any irregularities that may occur, pinpointed on a virtual site map. This offers increased system uptime by allowing Fastned to monitor all of its 200 fast-charging electric stations from one centralized location.

“Fastned is founded on a big vision with a simple solution and so is SolarEdge, which is what makes SolarEdge our ideal partner. SolarEdge took a new look at traditional PV systems and its simple solution of module-level optimization is revolutionizing the industry, just as Fastned plans to transform transportation,” stated Joost Hoffman, Fastned’s Operations Manager.

Installed by Solar Today, the projects consist of 10 kWp and 20 kWp PV stations that include 20 and 40 power optimizers respectively and one SolarEdge inverter. Solar Today installed P600 power optimizers, SolarEdge’s one power optimizer per two panel solution, that is specifically designed to decrease the costs of large projects. SolarEdge technology allowed Fastned to double the string length compared to a traditional inverter, therefore decreasing the amount of strings by 50 percent.

“A standard feature in all PV system categories, SolarEdge technology continues to prove that module-level electronics are a simple solution for improving the bottom line of projects,” said Lior Handelsman, VP Marketing & Product Strategy SolarEdge. “Being selected by Fastned, a company that understands how disruptive technologies can turn a vision into a reality, demonstrates the innovative power of SolarEdge’s technology. This project continues the positive trend of SolarEdge penetration into the strategic Dutch PV market.”

German Biodiesel Exports Set Record

GermanflagGerman biodiesel sales might be down, but the country’s exports of the green fuel set a record last year. About a week ago, I reported how Germany’s biodiesel sales were down last year, about 300,000 tonnes below the five-year average. But this article in Biodiesel Magazine says Germany exported 480.3 million gallons (just under 1.6 million metric tons) in 2013, a jump of 20 percent from 2012.

The Union zur Förderung von Oel- und Proteinpflanzen (UFOP) notes that, in the same period, biodiesel imports fell from 228.1 million gallons to 168.1 million gallons.

The UFOP states several reasons are responsible for this. The tariffs put on Argentine and Indonesian biodiesel are now showing their effect. Less than only 2.25 million gallons of biodiesel was imported from Indonesia. UFOP also says the export balance “confirmed the competitiveness of the German biodiesel industry and consequently its international marketing expertise.”

The UFOP states that the U.S., with 54 million gallons, is its most important partner outside the EU.

Siemens Invests in Offshore Wind Manufacturing in UK

Siemens to Build Major Offshore Wind Manufacturing Site in the UKSiemens will be investing £160 million (EUR190m) in wind turbine production and installation facilities in Yorkshire (UK). The facility will be spread across two sites including the Green Port Hull project construction, assembly and service facility and a new rotor blade manufacturing facility in nearby Paull, in East Riding. Siemens’ port partner Associated British Ports (ABP) is investing a further £150 million in the Green Port Hull development. The investment will provide a huge boost to the UK’s offshore wind industry and the Humber region.

“This is a massive vote of confidence in our long-term economic plan,” said Prime Minister David Cameron. This investment is going to create lots of new jobs and opportunities, meaning more financial security and peace of mind for families and a more resilient economy for our country.”

The Green Port Hull project has been in development for nearly four years and is the product of an effort between many national and local political, business and community parties and many people within Siemens in the UK, Denmark and Germany, and ABP. The investment is a landmark moment for the UK offshore wind industry. It is the first manufacturing plant of its kind for Siemens next generation blade technology (IntegralBlade) designed for Siemens SWT-6.0-154 6 megawatt (MW) wind turbine. Each rotor blade is 75 meters long and when rotating covers an area the size of two and a half football pitches.

“Our decision to construct a production facility for offshore wind turbines in England is part Siemens to Build Major Offshore Wind Manufacturing Site in the UKof our global strategy: we invest in markets with reliable conditions that can ensure that factories can work to capacity,” said Michael Suess, member of the managing board of Siemens AG and CEO of the Energy Sector. “The British energy policy creates a favourable framework for the expansion of offshore wind energy. In particular, it recognizes the potential of offshore wind energy within the overall portfolio of energy production.”

Suess continued, “The offshore wind market in Great Britain has high growth rates, with an even greater potential for the future. Wind power capacity has doubled here within two years, to roughly 10 gigawatts. By 2020, a capacity of 14 gigawatts is to be installed at sea alone to combine the country’s environmental objectives with secure power supply. Projects for just over 40 gigawatts are currently in the long-term planning.”

Green Port Hull is planned to be operational to meet Round 3 requirements in early 2016. The start of production at the blade factory is scheduled to be in the middle of 2016 with full production levels reached from mid 2017 onwards.

When Cows Fly: Tallow-to-Biodiesel to Fuel Aviation

leogroupA company operating in the U.K. has just completed its biggest shipment of tallow-to-biodiesel, and the green fuel is set to power aviation. This article from Bdaily Business News says Leo Group has shipped 10,700 tonnes of tallow recycled into about 3 million gallons of biodiesel in four ocean tankers.

The overseas shipments come as the company marks another environmental milestone; the tallow and poultry oils produced at both of these rendering plants are now certified under the International Sustainability & Carbon Certification (ISCC) scheme.

The ISCC seal is used by industry to distinguish between truly sustainable and unsustainable biomass fuels.

Leo Group managing director Danny Sawrij said: “We are delighted that customers around the world are drawing upon our expertise to drive down the world’s carbon footprint.

“Waste is not in the Leo Group’s vocabulary or culture – everything these days has a use and 100% of all by-product materials on our sites are now recycled.”

Biofuels use in Europe is expected to increase over the next few years, especially those fuels produced from non-food sources.

Confidence Boost for Europe’s Renewable Energy

In a last minute addition to the European Council’s conclusions on 2030 energy targets, leaders stated the need for a “supportive EU framework for advancing renewable energies.” While an agreement has yet to be reached, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said in a press conference that the Council would have a deal on the climate and energy framework by “no later than” October 2014.

European Council logo“This extra time could be a golden opportunity – for pro-renewables countries like Germany, Denmark and Portugal to rally round and start fighting for greater ambition for renewables and the energy security they bring,” said Thomas Becker, chief executive officer of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). “The conclusions show that Heads of State are wising up to the energy challenges that Europe is facing. I think the situation in the Ukraine is proving a sobering experience for policymakers over the frailty of Europe’s energy security.“ He added, “We must act and we must do it now.”

Over 160 companies and organizations have singed a statement calling for a stronger commitment from policymakers to Europe’s 2030 Climate and energy objectives. One ask: a legally binding target for renewable energy of 30 percent. If this target were met, it would reduce gas imports by nearly three times more than the 27 percent target put forward by the European Commission in January 2014, create 568,000 more jobs, save EUR260 billion extra in fossil fuel imports.

It remains unlikely that a 2030 deal will be in place before a United Nations meeting convenes in September 204, when global leaders are expected to set out plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The European Council is set to meet again for talks on June 26-27, 2014.

Research Looks Into Water-Free Biodiesel Brewing

waste-vegetable-oil-for-biodieselEfforts to make biodiesel production even more sustainable might get a boost from research into a water-free method of making the green fuel. This story from Biofuels Journal says researchers at the University of Porto in Portugal are looking at a way to eliminate the water normally used water to remove impurities to meet stringent quality standards.

Instead of water, researchers used catalysts to pre-treat and target impurities such as calcium ‘soaps’ in the biodiesel.

The impurities were then removed by absorption into resins or passing through ceramic membranes.

The researchers were able to produce good quality biodiesel from both virgin vegetable oil and, importantly, waste oils used for frying.

The new process could provide significant economic and environmental benefits compared to other more energy intensive water-based production methods.

The researchers believe that finding more water-free or less-water-consuming methods of making biofuels becomes more and more important as more of the world turns to the alternative fuels.