South Africa Lights Up With 2 New Solar Projects

SunPower Corp. and AE-AMD Renewable Energy, a joint venture between the Spanish and the AMDA energía South African Alt-E Technologies, as well as its partners have completed two South African ground-mounted solar projects. The solar power systems are now feeding 33 megawatts (MW) into the grid. Both projects, which were constructed by SunPower, are located near Douglas, South Africa in the Northern Cape Province.

“The successful completion of these projects, on time, demonstrates what can be achieved with committed and professional partners,” said Piero Granelli, AE-AMD CEO. “The projects not only help SunPower Corp Herbert power plantto alleviate pressure on the country’s power supply, but also provide much needed support to the local communities over the lifetime of the plants.”

Herbert, a 22-MW project, and the 11-MW project Greefspan, were both part of the South African government’s Independent Power Producer Procurement Program. Combined, the solar projects cover more than 160 hectares, or 395 acres, of land and feature 138,000 solar photovoltaic panels on single-axis trackers. The trackers are programmed to follow the sun throughout the day, ensuring the maximum amount of power is being generated.

“With the completion of the Herbert and Greefspan projects, SunPower continues its track record of building highly efficient and reliable solar power plants around the globe,” said Howard Wenger, SunPower president, regions. “We’re now looking forward to continuing our efforts in South Africa as we prepare to begin work on an even larger solar power project in Prieska.”

Both systems are owned by AE-AMD Renewable Energy and its partners, including the IDEAS Fund, an infrastructure fund managed by Old Mutual Investment Group of South Africa. Electricity generated from the solar power projects will be sold to Eskom.

Biodiesel Already a Big Winner for World Cup

brazilworldcupWhile the World Cup soccer tournament is about to get underway and bets are already being placed on favorites, such as Germany, Argentina, Spain, and of course, host nation Brazil, the big winner already might be biodiesel. This article from Farm Futures says Brazilian farmers are happy the buses in the host cities will run a 20 percent biodiesel blend, as they will serve as a chance to show higher blends will work.

As if the chance to show off its biodiesel prowess on an international stage weren’t enough, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff put the icing on the cake. She just issued a decree that will up the national mandatory biodiesel blend—with or without the World Cup Games—from the current 5% to 6%. Then, come November, the blend will go up to 7%. It’s “an important step” for the soybean industry, said Brazil’s oilseed crushers in a news release…

Farmers and crushers also argue that higher biodiesel blends would save government money—at exactly a time when some Brazilians are hitting the street in protest over World Cup spending, arguing it diverts from investment in social issues. With short refining capacity, it is said more than 20% of Brazil’s petroleum diesel comes from abroad. And, to keep official inflation numbers lower, the head of the crushers’ association there says that diesel is sold by the government’s national petroleum company at a loss. Greater biodiesel blends would cut some of those money-losing imports.

The article also says that while there has been a 5 percent blend in the country, biodiesel producers are able to produce twice as much as that blend currently uses. A higher blend would allow them to produce closer to capacity. About 80 percent of Brazil’s biodiesel comes from soybeans.

Brazil Upping Biodiesel Blend Requirement

brazilMore biodiesel will be blended into fuel used in Brazil. This story from Reuters says the South American country will up its biodiesel mandate to 6 percent in July and to 7 percent in November, a rise from the current 5 percent biodiesel blend with diesel.

“The increase in the biodiesel blend will allow Brazil to substitute the import of 1.2 billion liters (264 million U.S. gallons) of diesel a year,” [Mines and Energy Minister Edison] Lobao said at an event in Brasilia.

Brazil will also set up a band for the minimum biodiesel requirement to be added to diesel that will range between 5 and 7 percent and vary according to economic conditions, like a similar band for blending ethanol into gasoline, the biofuels coordinator at the Agricultural Development Ministry, André Machado, told Reuters.

Changing the blend requirement for biodiesel has been on the table for years but faced resistance from the Finance Ministry, which has struggled to keep inflation within the central bank’s target range ahead of the presidential election in October.

Opponents of the move tried to raise fears that it would raise commodity soy prices, but recent studies showed that impact would be negligible. The larger blend requirement could raise domestic consumption of biodiesel by about 300 million gallons annually.

Roads Could be Electrifying in Sweden

volvoelectricbus1While the Swedish are known for some electrifying engines under the hoods of their reliable cars, the country’s most famous carmaker might be looking to electrify the roads, too… literally! This news release from the Volvo Group says the company, in cooperation with the Swedish Transport Administration, is studying the the potential for building electric roads that charge city buses while driving down the road.

“Vehicles capable of being charged directly from the road during operation could become the next pioneering step in the development towards reduced environmental impact, and this is fully in line with our vision of becoming the world leader in sustainable transport solutions. Close cooperation between society and industry is needed for such a development to be possible and we look forward to investigating the possibilities together with the City of Gothenburg,” says Niklas Gustavsson, Executive Vice President, Corporate Sustainability & Public Affairs of the Volvo Group.

With the use of an electric road, vehicle batteries would continuously be charged wirelessly during operation by transferring energy from the electricity grid to a vehicle, instead of charging the bus while it is standing still at charging stations. The technology being studied is called inductive charging, whereby the energy is transferred wirelessly to the underside of the vehicle by equipment built into the road.

A 300- to 500-meter electric road might be built for test operations in central Gothenburg in 2015.

Volvo has already been offering hybrid buses with traditional diesel engines, supplemented by an electrical engine to reduce CO2 emissions.

Researchers Find Better Way to Store Hydrogen

hydrogenstorage1One of the challenges to using hydrogen as a clean fuel is how to store the gas. But an article in the American Chemical Society journal Chemistry of Materials says researchers have found a new solid, stable material that can pack in a large amount of hydrogen that can be used as a fuel.

Umit B. Demirci and colleagues explain that storing hydrogen in solids is a recent development and a promising step toward building a hydrogen economy. That’s the idea originated in the 1970s and promoted by former President George W. Bush that we replace fossil fuels with hydrogen, which can serve as a clean fuel. Although a promising alternative to conventional energy sources, hydrogen has posed a number of technological challenges that scientists are still overcoming. One of those issues has to do with storage. Previously, researchers were focused on developing hydrogen-containing liquids or compressing it in gas form. Now, solid storage is showing potential for holding hydrogen in a safe, stable and efficient way. In the latest development on this front, Demirci’s team looked to a new kind of material.

They figured out a way to make a novel crystal phase of a material containing lithium, boron and the key ingredient, hydrogen. To check how they could get the hydrogen back out of the material, the scientists heated it and found that it released hydrogen easily, quickly and only traces of unwanted by-products.

The researchers received funding from groups in France and Belgium.

Forecast for Greater GHG Reduction from Ethanol

A new report forecasts global ethanol consumption will reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions this year by over 106 million tons.

global-rfaThe Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA), in cooperation with (S&T)2 Consultants Inc., released their Global Green House Gas (GHG) Emissions Reduction Forecast for 2014 as the International Transport Forum Summit begins today in Germany.

The annual report shows the reduction in global GHG emissions from global ethanol production is increasing. This year’s figure reveals that 90.38 billion litres of global ethanol production and use in 2014 will reduce global GHG emissions by over 291,000 tonnes per day. Compared to 2013, this is an increase of over 7000 tonnes per day in GHG emission savings.

According to GRFA, the 106.4 million ton GHG emissions reduction is equal to over 21 million cars being removed from the world’s roads in 2014, about 58,000 per day.

“We believe International Transport Forum Summit participants should call for an increase in ethanol production and use given the significant contribution ethanol is making to reducing global GHG emissions today,” said GRFA spokesman Bliss Baker. This year’s theme for the International Transport Forum Summit is “Transport for a Changing World”.

Ethanol Groups Participate in China Trade Mission

RFANewlogoU.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse led a mission to promote U.S. agricultural exports in northeast China May 5-13. The mission is part of President Obama’s “Made in Rural America” export and investment initiative, designed to help rural businesses and leaders take advantage of new investment opportunities and access new customers and markets abroad.

growth-energy-logoTaking part in the mission to promote U.S. biofuels and co-product exports was Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Director of Regulatory Affairs Kelly Davis and Jim Miller with Growth Energy.

During a press conference Tuesday to talk about the trade mission, Davis said it was her first trip to China and she was astounded by the number of cars on the roads and sees a great need for both biofuels and distillers grains for livestock feed in that country. Miller added that China provides an excellent market opportunity for the U.S. ethanol industry.

Also taking part in the trip and the press conference was Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmer’s Union. Ethanol Press Conference Opening Remarks

Asia Key for Ethanol Producer Aemetis’ Profits

aemetislogo1A California-based ethanol producer is reporting a big turnaround in profits, thanks to its business in Asia. Aemetis, Inc., the largest U.S.-owned biofuels producer in Asia, reports a $7.7 million net profit for the first quarter of this year… quite an improvement from a nearly $10 Million net loss from the same quarter a year ago.

“We’re very pleased with our record financial and operational performance in the first quarter,” said Eric McAfee, Chairman and CEO of Aemetis, Inc. “These results build upon the very strong results we posted in Q4 of 2013, and with available capacity and attractive international markets for our India products, the company is well positioned for additional growth in the remainder of 2014,” added McAfee.

Financial Results for the Three Months Ended March 31, 2014
Revenues were a record $60.7 million for the first quarter of 2014, compared to $19.4 million for the first quarter of 2013. Gross profit was a record $15.6 million for the first quarter of 2014, compared to a gross profit of $0.2 million in the first quarter of 2013. The increases in revenues and gross profit were primarily attributable to a full quarter of operations during the period from January 1, 2014 through March 31, 2014 as compared to the period from January 15, 2013 through March 31, 2013 when the Keyes plant was idle.

Aemetis also set a record with its adjusted EBITDA for the first quarter of 2014 at $14.2 million.

SolarEdge Solar Array Completed at Challenger Site

Bouygues Construction has completed the installation of 2.5 MWs of PV modules at the Challenger site near Versailles, France. Several key technological components of the solar project, including inverters and power optimizers, was from SolarEdge, selected, said Bouygues Construction, for their 20 percent increase in energy yield.

“Bouygues Construction was looking, on the one hand, for technology that would make PV installation safe by allowing the immediate shutdown of energy production on demand, and Challenger 2on the other hand, technology that would simplify maintenance by allowing a faulty PV module to be easily pinpointed,” said Phillippe Metgès, Director of the Center for General Affairs at Bouygues S.A. “This is the reason we chose SolarEdge power optimizers. In addition, SolarEdge technology increases our installation’s yield.”

Bouygues Construction installed six SolarEdge firefighter gateways, which are designed to enable firefighters to immediately stop energy production including decreasing the system voltage to safe DC levels, either manually through an emergency stop button or automatically through a Fire Alarm Control Panel System.

On a total surface of 25,000 m2, the Challenger’s PV installation consists of ground-mounted and roof-mounted sections. With 12,180 SolarEdge power optimizers and 202 SolarEdge inverters optimizing part of the installation, the system is expected to produce a simulated 2,500 MWh annually. The fixed-string voltage in SolarEdge technology allows an increase in the number of modules per string of at least 43 percent compared to a traditional inverter, according to SolarEdge.

“SolarEdge technology is becoming a standard feature in commercial systems because it improves the bottom line of large projects,” stated Lior Handelsman, VP Marketing & Product Strategy SolarEdge. “Being selected by Bouygues Construction, a leader in its field, demonstrates the growing trend to use module-level optimization in large PV systems in order to protect these significant investments.”

Argentina’s Beef with EU over Biodiesel Before WTO

areu-flagArgentina has formally presented its case in the dispute with the European Union over EU antidumping duties imposed on Argentine biodiesel. This story from Biodiesel Magazine says the Europeans claim the South Americans’ green fuel, as well as biodiesel coming from Indonesia is unfairly priced, a point disputed by the Argentinians.

In its complaint, Buenos Aires contends that Brussels incorrectly calculated the final duties by failing to take into account records kept by the exporters or producers under investigation; did not determine production costs in the country of origin; and also included costs not associated with the production of the goods in question.

In addition, according to Argentina, the EU failed to conduct an objective examination of the elements such as volume and price effect of the purportedly dumped imports in its determination of injury to the EU domestic industry. Argentina is also questioning the objectivity of the EU’s examination of the causal relationship between the alleged dumping and injury.

The dispute has had its second hearing before the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body.

Trends & Growth in Global Geothermal Market

A new report reveals the international power market is booming with a sustained growth rate of 4 percent to 5 percent. The “2014 Annual U.S. & Global Geothermal Power Production Report,” finds, released by the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) finds that nearly 700 projects are currently under development in 76 countries. Among the key factors for growth, finds the report, are threats posed by climate change and the need for renewable energy sources that can satisfy grid needs.

The report also found that international geothermal market growth was up, while stateside growth held steady; 85 MW of the total global 530 MW of new geothermal capacity in 2013 was in the U.S. However, U.S. growth was flat because of policy barriers, gridlock at the federal level, low natural gas prices and inadequate transmission infrastructure.

Global Geothermal Growth 2014 - GEA“While there was a modest downturn in capacity additions, the Industry Update also underscores the tremendous untapped potential for geothermal energy,” said GEA Executive Director Karl Gawell. According to the report, the geothermal industry was working on 977MW of new capacity (Planned Capacity Additions or PCA’s) at sites that hold over 3,092MW of power potential in eight western states.

U.S. additions in Utah, Nevada, California, and New Mexico kept the industry on the map domestically in 2013, and future growth looks promising. “The geothermal resource base is still largely untapped,” noted Ben Matek, GEA’s Industry Analyst. “With new initiatives in Nevada, California and Oregon moving to recognize the values of geothermal power, we are optimistic that state policies could spark another period of growth in geothermal power over the next decade.”

In 2013, 25 pieces of legislation in 13 U.S. states were enacted specifically to address geothermal power and heating systems, creating a foundation for the environment needed to foster geothermal growth in these states. Past evidence shows successful policy initiatives have translated into growth; in Nevada, for example, which leads the way as one of the most business-friendly environments, the number of developing projects (45) more than doubles that of California (25).

On a global scale, the report found that there could be a time in the near future when the U.S. is no longer the world geothermal energy producer.

Microalgae Project Underway in Portugal

A one-hectare pilot project for the production of microalgae is under construction in Portugal. The facility will demonstrate, what a consortium of biotechnology experts say, is an innovative approach to produce microalgae biomass with biodiesel validation in a sustainable manner.

The demonstration pilot facility is one of the milestones expected from the Integrated Sustainable Algae (InteSusAl) project. The project aims at optimizing the production of algae by both heterotrophic and phototrophic routes. It will also demonstrate integration of these production technologies to achieve the microalgae cultivation targets of 90-120 dry tonnes per hectare per year.

algae“InteSusAl’s demonstration unit comes in a time of extreme importance to ensure Europe’s energy supply security, said Dr Neil Hindle, coordinator of the InteSusAl project. “We are glad that the European Commission is making it possible to demonstrate this new approach to produce microalgae biomass. We hope that our results will attract attention from investors interested in financing a 10-hectare site to produce microalgae in a sustainable manner on an industrial scale.”

The project integrates heterotrophic and phototrophic production technologies, using biodiesel glycerol as a carbon source to the heterotrophic unit and validating the biomass output for biodiesel conversion. The demonstration unit will be located in the municipality of Olhão, in the Algarve region of Southern Portugal. The pilot site will be composed of a set of fermentation units, tubular photobioreactors and raceways.

The sustainability of this demonstration, in terms of both economic and environmental (closed carbon loop) implications will be considered across the whole process, assessed via a robust life cycle analysis.

DuPont & Zhenfa to Partner On Solar Power

DuPont China Holding Co., Ltd. (DuPont) and Zhenfa New Energy Technology Co., Ltd. (Zhenfa New Energy), have signed a strategic cooperation agreement to collaborate on improving the performance, reliability and return on investment of solar power installations. Under the agreement, both companies will cooperate in optimizing the selection of durable solar materials and technologies used in solar panels.

DuPont Zhenfa solar partnership“Solar energy is a clean and sustainable form of energy that we expect will become a greater part of the future energy mix,” said Zhenfa Zha, general manager, Zhenfa New Energy. “We are excited to collaborate with DuPont to employ quality solar materials and technology support to help maintain long-term power generation, operations management and cost optimization at our solar installations. This will ultimately benefit our customers with cheaper, cleaner electricity.”

All of the solar panels installed by Zhenfa will be manufactured with DuPont Tedlar polyvinyl fluoride (PVF) film-based backsheets, the only material, according to DuPont, proven to reliably protect solar panels for over 30 years, even under extreme environmental conditions. Both companies will work together to optimize solar energy power production and performance as well as conduct field research on panel reliability and failure modes in order to better understand materials’ critical impact on solar energy systems.

Chuck Xu, global business director, DuPont Photovoltaic Solutions said of the partnership, “We are delighted to expand our relationship with Zhenfa New Energy into a more strategic relationship that leverages advanced materials critical to the reliable, long-term performance of solar panels for their solar installations. DuPont continues to advance material science to improve the performance, reliability and return on investment in solar to help make it more competitive with other forms of electricity.”

UK Announces 8 Major Renewable Energy Projects

The UK government has announced support for eight major renewable electricity projects giving a big boost to green energy and green jobs. By 2020, the projects will provide up to £12 billion of private sector investment, supporting 8,500 jobs, and they could add a further 4.5GW of low-carbon electricity to Britain’s energy mix (or around 4% of capacity), generating enough clean electricity to power over three million homes.

Once completed and in operation, the projects will contribute around 15TWh or 14 percent of the renewable electricity estimated to be produced by 2020, helping to put the UK well on the way to meeting its renewable energy target. The clean energy projects will also reduce emissions by 10 MtCO2 per year compared to fossil fuel power generation.

The projects have been offered under Contracts for Difference (CfD), which form part of Government’s Electricity Market Reform programme. They include offshore wind farms, coal to biomass conversions and a dedicated biomass plant with combined heat and power.

offshore-wind-power-Photo Christopher ThomondEnergy and Climate Change Secretary Edward Davey said of the announcement, “These contracts for major renewable electricity projects mark a new stage in Britain’s green energy investment boom. By themselves they will bring green jobs and growth across the UK, but they are a significant part of our efforts to give Britain cleaner and more secure energy.”

“These are the first investments from our reforms to build the world’s first low carbon electricity market – reforms which will see competition and markets attract tens of billions of pounds of vital energy investment whilst reducing the costs of clean energy to consumers,” Davey continued. “Record levels of energy investment are at the forefront of the Government’s infrastructure programme and are filling the massive gap we inherited. It’s practical reforms like these that will keep the lights on and tackle climate change, by giving investors more certainty.”

The eight projects have been awarded contracts under the Final Investment Decision (FID) Enabling for Renewables process, allocating the first CfDs that are being introduced through the Electricity Market Reform programme. Under CfDs, generators and developers receive a fixed strike price for the electricity they produce for 15 years. As a result, these contracts are vital to give investors the confidence they need to pay the up-front costs of major new infrastructure projects. The contracts are supported by the new legislative framework introduced through the Energy Act 2013. Further CfDs will be made available in the fall.

Argentina to Cut Biodiesel Taxes

argentinaflagAs its biodiesel industry is battling the European Union over anti-dumping measures, Argentina is looking to cut taxes on biodiesel for domestic use. This article from Bloomberg says the government is proposing an exemption of a 22 percent tax on biodiesel used in thermoelectric plants and a 19 percent tax on biodiesel for gasoline blends until the dispute with the EU is resolved.

The EU slapped Argentina with duties on biodiesel imports last year, saying producers have access to raw material at prices that are kept artificially low. Argentina has requested the formation of a panel at the World Trade Organization in order to resolve the dispute and said the nation is being punished for being competitive in a free market, Fernandez said.

“We’re in the middle of a true trade war,” [President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner] said during the speech. “We have to protect those who need our help.”

Argentina has about 33 biodiesel plants employing 1,600 people.