Global Wind Power Capacity to Double by 2020

Despite a slowing down of global wind energy power installations in 2013, a new report has found that global cumulative wind power capacity will more than double from 319.6 gigawatts (GW) at the end of 2013 to 678.5 GW bu 2020. The report, “Wind Power, Update 2014 – Global Market Size, Average Price, Competitive Landscape, and Key Country Analysis to 2020,” was released by GlobalData.

Offshore wind farm in chinaThe report finds that China, the largest single wind power market responsible for 45 percent of total global annual capacity additions in 2013, is expected to have a cumulative wind capacity of 239.7 GW by 2020. China overtook the U.S. as the leading market for installations in 2010, when it added a massive 18.9 GW of wind capacity.

Harshavardhan Reddy Nagatham, GlobalData’s Analyst covering Alternative Energy, said: “China doubled its cumulative wind capacity every year from 2006 to 2009 and has continued to grow significantly since then. Supportive government policies, such as an attractive concessional program and the availability of low-cost financing from banks, have been fundamental to China’s success. While China will continue to be the largest global wind power market through to 2020, growth for the forecast period will be slow due to a large installation base.”

The report also finds that the U.S. will remain the second largest global wind power market in terms of cumulative installed capacity, increasing from 68.9 GW in 2014 to 104.1 GW in 2020. This will largely be driven by renewable energy targets in several states, such as Alaska’s aim to reach 50% renewable power generation and Texas’ mandate to achieve 10 GW of renewable capacity, both by 2025. An additional driver would include the reinstatement of the Production Tax Credit that expired on December 31, 2013.

Nagatham concluded, “The slump in 2013 was largely a product of a decrease in installations in the US and Spain. While there are likely to be further slight falls in annual capacity additions in 2015 and 2016, overall industry growth will not be affected as global annual capacity additions are expected to exceed 60 GW by 2020.”

Increases In Ethanol Efficiences Will Decrease Land Use

A study done by researchers at the University of Illinois’ College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences, has found that several factors will lower the need for land used to produced corn-based ethanol to as little as 11 percent of the corn acres by 2026 when adhering to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 15 billion gallon ceiling on domestic ethanol production.

The researchers note that a too common error made in reporting land used for domestic Disposition among major uses of no 2 yellow cornproduction is to measure the amount of grain shipped to ethanol manufacturers, compute the number of acres required to produce the grain and then end the analysis. However, the researchers say this is a gross oversimplification that leads to incorrectly concluding that 40 percent or more of U.S. corn acres are used for ethanol production. The real number, according to the research team is less than 25%. The reason is that most studies don’t account for the grain being used as high-value animal feed (distillers grains or DDGs).

The new study, conducted by Professors Rita H. Mumm, Peter D. Goldsmith, Kent D. Rausch and Hans H. Stein, explores the impact of technological improvements on corn grain production, ethanol production, and their interrelated effect on land use through a variety of scenarios over a 15 year period beginning in 2011, the year used to establish the base case. The researchers found that land area attributed to corn ethanol will consistently drop because plant breeding improvements and new technologies will result in significantly higher yields.

In addition, over the next decade, corn yields will improve significantly which will greatly reduce land use attributed to ethanol manufacturing. On the higher end of the spectrum, the study finds yields will increase by almost 100 bushels per acre, which represents 66 percent growth. The majority of this contribution will come from conventional breeding, with advanced breeding technology, biotechnology and agronomic improvements together contributing almost half.

“It’s no surprise to the agriculture industry that yield improvements will drive down land used for ethanol,” said Dr. Rita Mumm, coauthor of the study. “However, the mechanisms within the production complex, especially their effects on one another, were not fully understood. This work provides a clear picture on current land use and provides an approach for evaluating future land use.” Continue reading

Maryland Energy Admin Releases Wind Energy Survey

The Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) has released a report detailing a high-resolution geophysical and oceanographic survey of the entire Maryland Wind Energy Area. The survey, focused on opportunities for offshore wind development, is believed by MEA to be the first by any state to map the seafloor geology of a complete Wind Energy Area. This information is critical to optimizing the siting, design and layout of an offshore wind project.

MEA Offshore Wind Energy AreaMEA contracted with Coastal Planning & Engineering to pilot the Scarlett Isabella along lines set 150 feet apart, over 1,500 nautical miles. The team gathered data characterizing the depth, seafloor conditions and seabed geology, as well as looking for submerged cultural resources such as shipwrecks.

MEA Director Abigail Ross Hopper said of the report launch, “MEA is excited to issue this groundbreaking report on our geophysical survey campaign. The data we are making available will reduce the risks and costs of offshore wind energy development, protect the marine environment, and contribute to our scientific understanding of the oceans off our coast.”

This report outlines the physical environment of the Wind Energy Area, including the composition of geological layers, the location and nature of hazards, and distribution of cultural resources. The project trained students at University of Maryland Eastern Shore to serve as federally certified Protected Species Observers on the mission, ensuring that marine mammals and other protected species were not impacted, while providing students with skills in high demand. Teams of scientists from University of Maryland Baltimore County deployed LIDAR, weather balloons and other tools to gather valuable data for refining power production and climate models of the Wind Energy Area.

Navy, Arizona State Work Together on Algae Biofuels

mcginn at asu1The U.S. Navy is working with Arizona State University to develop biofuels from algae. This article from the school says Dennis McGinn, U.S. Navy Assistant Secretary for Energy, Installations and Environment, visited the school’s Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI) to discuss how the Navy and civilian industry have some key overlapping issues, such as cost, sustainability, efficiency and energy security, and how the Navy wants to work with research institutions and industry to solve these problems for everyone.

“We are thinking about energy in three different ways: first in technology terms; biofuels, wind and solar energy storage, power grid systems and more,” McGinn said during a visit to Arizona State University. “But it takes two other critical elements to achieve our energy goals: partnerships and culture. This is why we’re interested in forging and strengthening relationships with outstanding organizations like ASU.”

While the Department of the Navy broadly funds energy research, another key aspect is its considerable influence in setting purchasing standards for their operations. The Navy is using its authority under the Defense Production Act, which allows the Navy, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to invest in industries that are determined critical to national security; in this case, biofuels. McGinn said that the Navy has already invested millions in projects with the DOE and USDA in order to bring down the cost of producing biofuel.

“The Navy wants to buy anywhere between 10 and 50 percent biofuel blends for our ships,” he said. “We want it to be a cost-competitive program. We are working specifically with the USDA to bring down biofuel costs to $3.50 a gallon or less at the commercial scale of 170 million gallons a year by 2016.”

McGinn went on to say that algae biofuels show great potential as an alternative transportation fuel for the nation’s fleets because of their sustainability and scalability.

FL Researchers Look to Sweet Sorghum for Ethanol

sweet_sorghumA partnership between a university and a private company is researching using sweet sorghum for ethanol. This story from Ethanol Producer Magazine says U.S. EnviroFuels LLC and the University of Florida could use the technology in the company’s 30 MMgy advanced ethanol plant under construction in Florida.

A research team from the University of Florida was awarded a four-year, $5.4 million USDA grant to study the crop’s potential as an energy source earlier in May. Multiple varieties will be developed and assessed, looking at water consumption needs, growth in Florida soil, heat tolerance and the tolerance to disease and pests. Cellulosic ethanol will also be produced using a genetically engineered bacteria developed at the University of Florida.

The research project is good news for the proposed ethanol plant, which is behind schedule for construction and startup, said Bradley Krohn, president and chief technical officer of U.S. EnviroFuels, founder and project manager of Highlands EnviroFuels LLC. “Any R&D program that develops commercial sweet sorghum hybrids and improves the performance of sweet sorghum from a tonnage and sugar production standpoint will help the ethanol plant project going forward,” he said.

Sugarcane is the usual feedstock for the plant, but the company wants to use the sweet sorghum during sugarcane’s off season.

U of Washington’s Biodiesel/Electric Hybrid Car

washecocar1Talk about the best of both worlds – University of Washington students have designed and re-engineered a car to run on electricity AND biodiesel. This article from the Seattle Times says the team recently showed off the vehicle to a group of local elementary school students, who had lots of questions and seemed thoroughly impressed.

How much could you sell it for? How long did it take to make it? What’s that red button? What if it doesn’t work?

How did you get that big sticker on the car? Why is there a fire extinguisher inside?

What are those wires for?

Could it charge your phone?

“It’s fantastic,” said sixth-grader Asli Edey. “I think it’s going to be my dream car.”

The Malibu hybrid conversion is part of a collegiate competition, EcoCAR 2, sponsored by General Motors and the U.S. Department of Energy. The UW is one of just 15 universities in the U.S. and Canada selected to participate.

The Malibu has two separate engines: the biodiesel engine in the front of the car, which drives the front wheels; and the 250-horsepower electric motor in the rear of the car, powered by an 800-pound battery pack.

The electric motor runs for about 40 to 50 miles, and the biodiesel-powered motor can carry it for longer or pump up the power when needed as it goes 0 mph to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds — about a second faster than a Malibu with a standard gasoline engine.

The car is being shipped to Michigan to be tested even more, and eventually GM will pick a winner in its EcoCAR 2 competition.

Using Ethanol from Glycerol for Biodiesel

allison-speers1A new process that eliminates fossil fuels completely from the biodiesel equation could make the green fuel even more sustainable. Michigan State University reports Gemma Reguera, MSU microbiologist, has found a way that uses microbes to glean ethanol from glycerol and then use that green fuel to replace methanol to help brew the biodiesel.

“With a saturated glycerol market, traditional approaches see producers pay hefty fees to have toxic wastewater hauled off to treatment plants,” she said. “By cleaning the water with microbes on-site, we’ve come up with a way to allow producers to generate bioethanol, which replaces petrochemical methanol. At the same time, they are taking care of their hazardous waste problem.”

The results, which appear in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, show that the key to Reguera’s platform is her patented adaptive-engineered bacteria – Geobacter sulfurreducens.

Geobacter are naturally occurring microbes that have proved promising in cleaning up nuclear waste as well in improving other biofuel processes. Much of Reguera’s research with these bacteria focuses on engineering their conductive pili or nanowires. These hair-like appendages are the managers of electrical activity during a cleanup and biofuel production.

This promising process is already catching the attention of economic developers, who are working with a Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization grant to scale up the effort.

Researchers Look to Find Motivations Behind Solar

KiranResearchers are trying to figure what motivates which consumers to buy solar equipment. This article from Sandia National Laboratories in California says they’re trying to better understand what persuades people to buy photovoltaic (PV) systems for their homes in hopes of increasing the amount of solar energy in the electricity market from its current share of less than .05 percent to at least 14 percent by 2030.

“If we can develop effective and accurate predictive models, we can help identify policy variables that could increase purchases of residential PV systems and ultimately help advance the mission of the SunShot Initiative,” said Kiran Lakkaraju, Sandia’s project lead. Specifically, he said, an effective model of solar purchase dynamics can be used to predict and even influence consumer purchasing decisions.

The modeling project, part of the Solar Energy Evolution and Diffusion Studies (SEEDS) program, is one of many activities in the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative, which seeks to make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of electricity. SEEDS projects are designed to investigate methods for transforming the operations of solar researchers, manufacturers, developers, installers and policymakers.

Meanwhile, another group of researchers at Sandia are using computer models to predict homeowners’ likelihood to buy and invest in PV systems. A group of 1,000 respondents who have bought PV systems and another 1,000 who have not are being surveyed about their choices with those results being examined by quantitative modeling experts and fed into modeling tools. Other research is looking at how messaging about solar can influence consumer demand.

Crystalline Module Manufacturers Outsource Trend

According to a new report from GlobalData, significant growth in market demand and attempts to reduce a number of costs are fueling a module production outsourcing trend among the world’s leading crystalline module manufacturers. Ankit Mathur, GlobalData’s Project Manager for Alternative Energy, said that out of the top crystalline module manufacturers – Yingli Green Energy, Trina Solar, Sharp Corporation, Canadian Solar and Jinko Solar – only the latter company and Trina Solar are able to utilize their own module production fabrication lines without the need for outsourcing.

silicon modulesMeanwhile, Mathur continued, the other companies, including Yingli Solar, have a less-than-68 percent factory utilization rate. However, these firms are still able to boast substantial module manufacturing under their own brand names by outsourcing their production to Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) partners.

“Sharp Corporation’s recent announcement that it will outsource its entire module production from 2014 signifies that most of the leading companies are taking the outsourcing route,” said Mathur. “This is due to a massive increase in global market demand, which is difficult for manufacturers to meet using their existing production capacity. Attempts to reduce other costs, such as logistics costs related to transporting modules from the factory to the customer, are also contributing factors.”

Until last year, key manufacturers could leverage upon plummeting silicon prices to reduce module production costs. However, the expected price recovery of polysilicon in 2014 will make it difficult to implement such reductions further. As a result, said Mathur, companies will either outsource their entire production capacity to OEMs, or produce a certain proportion of modules from their production lines and source the rest from OEM partners.

Nanoparticles Key in Green Diesel Production

Think small. No, really, really small. Okay, now think even smaller yet. If you’re not down to particles so small they have their own name, nanoparticles (because they are just a few BILLIONTHS of a yard in diameter), you might be missing the latest breakthrough that could be key in future green diesel production. This story from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory says researchers there have created a faster, cleaner refining technology that not only combines processes, it uses widely available materials to reduce costs.

Ames Laboratory scientists have developed a nanoparticle that is able to perform two processing functions at once for the production of green diesel, an alternative fuel created from the hydrogenation of oils from renewable feedstocks like algae.

The method is a departure from the established process of producing biodiesel, which is accomplished by reacting fats and oils with alcohols.

IgorSlowing1“Conventionally, when you are producing biodiesel from a feedstock that is rich in free fatty acids like microalgae oil, you must first separate the fatty acids that can ruin the effectiveness of the catalyst, and then you can perform the catalytic reactions that produce the fuel,” said Ames Lab scientist Igor Slowing. “By designing multifunctional nanoparticles and focusing on green diesel rather than biodiesel, we can combine multiple processes into one that is faster and cleaner.” Contrary to biodiesel, green diesel is produced by hydrogenation of fats and oils, and its chemical composition is very similar to that of petroleum-based diesel. Green diesel has many advantages over biodiesel, like being more stable and having a higher energy density.

More details about the process are available in the ACS Catalysis article, “Bifunctional Adsorbent-Catalytic Nanoparticles for the Refining of Renewable Feedstocks,” and the Journal of Catalysis article, “Supported Iron Nanoparticles for the Hydrodeoxygenationof Microalgal Oil to Green Diesel.”

Grants Support Research on Biodiesel Feedstock

irajcanA Canadian researcher has received $2 million in grants to improve a main feedstock for biodiesel. This story from LabCanada.com says University of Guelph scientist Prof. Istvan Rajcan picked up more than $500,000 in the form of a Collaborative Research and Development Grant by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and another $1.4 million Collaborative Research and Development Grant by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and the Canadian Field Crop Research Alliance (CFCRA).

“These substantial grants reflect Istvan’s success as a researcher and the impact of his work on the agri-food industry,” said John Livernois, interim vice-president (research).

Dr. Rajcan uses state-of-the-art technology to pinpoint genetic markers for producing improved soybean varieties.

“We are intent on helping farmers in Canada get access to high-performing soybean varieties, and taking a scientific approach to doing that,” he said.

“We aim to use the latest technology to help develop innovative soybean varieties that meet the needs of various producers and industries, both domestically and internationally,” said Dr. Rajcan.

His team of researchers is also looking at advanced genomic technologies to study how breeding has changed the soybean genome.

Six ‘Grand Challenges’ Face the United States

There are six “grand challenges” facing the United States over the next decade according to a report from the national Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). The challenges include sustainability, water, climate change, agriculture, energy and education. The APLU project was co-chaired by W. Daniel Edge, head of the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University.

APLU Natural Resources RoadmapEdge said “Science, Education, and Outreach Roadmap for Natural Resources” is the first comprehensive, nationwide report on research, education and outreach needs for natural resources the country’s university community has ever attempted.

“The report identifies critical natural resources issues that interdisciplinary research programs need to focus on over the next 5-10 years in order to address emerging challenges,” Edge noted. “We hope that policy-makers and federal agencies will adopt recommendations in the roadmap when developing near-term research priorities and strategies.”

The six grand challenges addressed in the report are:

  • Sustainability: The need to conserve and manage natural landscapes and maintain environmental quality while optimizing renewable resource productivity to meet increasing human demands for natural resources, particularly with respect to increasing water, food, and energy demands.
  • Water: The need to restore, protect and conserve watersheds for biodiversity, water resources, pollution reduction and water security.
  • Climate Change: The need to understand the impacts of climate change on our environment, including such aspects as disease transmission, air quality, water supply, ecosystems, fire, species survival, and pest risk. Further, a comprehensive strategy is needed for managing natural resources to adapt to climate change.
  • Agriculture: The need to develop a sustainable, profitable, and environmentally responsible agriculture industry.
  • Energy: The need to identify new and alternative renewable energy sources and improve the efficiency of existing renewable resource-based energy to meet increasing energy demands while reducing the ecological footprint of energy production and consumption.
  • Education: The need to maintain and strengthen natural resources education at our schools at all levels in order to have the informed citizenry, civic leaders, and practicing professionals needed to sustain the natural resources of the United States.

“The natural resources issues with traditional sources of energy already are well-understood,” George Boehlert, report co-author, said, “with the possible exception of fracking. As the country moves more into renewable energy areas, there are many more uncertainties with respect to natural resources that need to be understood and addressed. There are no energy sources that do not have some environmental issues.”

The project was sponsored by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to Oregon State University, which partnered with APLU and authors from numerous institutions.

Companies Need to Step Up Sustainability Efforts

According to a recent report, while there are pockets of sustainability leadership in the U.S. business community, much more needs to be done. The Ceres and Sustainalytics study found that most companies are merely taking small, incremental steps to address sustainability issues that could impact not only their bottom line, but also the economy and planet.

Ceres Sustainability Report 2014Given the acceleration of environmental and social challenges globally – floods, droughts, and workplace tragedies – most U.S. corporations are not keeping pace with the level of change,” said Mindy Lubber, president of the sustainability advocacy group, Ceres. “Those that step up to the challenge will be best positioned to thrive in the rapidly changing, resource-constrained 21st century economy.”

The report assesses the sustainability performance of 613 of the largest publicly traded companies in the U.S. and covers nearly 80 percent of the total market capitalization of all public companies in the country. It tracks corporate performance against 20 key metrics essential for any sustainable corporation to follow, including governance, disclosure, greenhouse gas emissions reductions and labor standards. It identifies sustainability trends across eight key sectors, highlighting industry best practices and which companies are leading among their peers. It also provides aggregate data and online scorecards for companies on each performance area. Key findings include:

  • While many companies are taking action to reduce GHG emissions, few have set time-bound targets. More than two-thirds of the companies evaluated (438) have activities in place aimed at reducing GHG emissions, but only 35 percent (212) have established time-bound targets for reducing GHG emissions. In terms of renewable energy, 37 percent of companies have implemented a program, while only six percent have quantitative targets to increase renewable energy sourcing.
  • More companies are setting clear sustainability standards for suppliers. Fifty-eight percent of companies (353) have supplier codes of conduct that address human rights in supply chains, compared to 43 percent in 2012. However, only a third (205 companies) have some activities in place to engage suppliers on sustainability performance issues, up from 27 percent in 2012.
  • A growing number of companies are incorporating sustainability performance into executive compensation packages. Twenty-four percent of companies (147) link executive compensation to sustainability performance – up from 15 percent in 2012.

The metrics used in this report were first spelled out in the Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability, which has been used by dozens of leading companies since 2010 to incorporate sustainability into their business planning and corporate accountability infrastructure.

“The findings of this report should inspire companies to examine their own progress and identify where they stand on the path to sustainability,” said Michael Jantzi, CEO and Founder of Sustainalytics. “This is about more than how companies stack up against their peers – it’s about how innovation is driving performance from the corporate boardroom throughout the entire supply chain.”

Liverpool Researchers Study Agave for Biofuels

A PhD student at the University of Liverpool is studying a plant that may be a viable feedstock to produce advanced biofuels. Agave sisalana is a proposed biofuel plant that can be grown in semi-arid conditions unsuited to food crops. The plant is already grown for fibre in countries like Brazil, Tanzania, Kenya and Madagascar. Sisal fibre has traditionally been used for marine ropes, bailer twine, and rugs, but today it is also finding new uses such as reinforced plastic composites for car door panels.

According to Bupphada, agave has a number of favorable characteristics for use as a fuel, as it contains large amounts of sugar and cellulose, and grows well in seasonally dry areas. As second generation biofuels technologies for converting cellulose to liquid transportation fuels are maturing fast, agave may prove to be a good feedstock.

agave sisal-plantsSupervised by plant biologist, Dr James Hartwell, Bupphada is investigating the genomic basis for agave’s ability to grow productively in dry regions.

“Unlike most plants, agave opens the pores in its leaves and captures carbon dioxide during the cool, humid night,” said Hartwell. “It uses an adaptation of photosynthesis called Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM), which means that it loses a lot less water during photosynthesis in comparison to major food crops like wheat or rice”.

In collaboration with Liverpool’s world-leading Centre for Genomic Research, Bupphada has sequenced RNA from agave leaves in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the genes used for CAM photosynthesis. Long-term, the hope is that knowledge of which genes are important in agave will help accelerate its improvement as a biomass feedstock crop.

Bupphada came to Liverpool as a result of a partnership that the ARDA has with the University. After completing his PhD, he plants to return to Thailand to work at the Agricultural Ministry, applying his new findings on research projects there.

“Biofuels are a credible way of reducing our reliance on oil, but the areas in which they are grown requires careful planning,” said Bupphada. “Understanding how plants like agave grow in marginal areas means we can maintain food supply, while also creating alternative sources of income for communities.”

DOE Finds Hydropower Has Great Potential

Oak Ridge National Laboratory has released a renewable energy resource assessment that finds that hydropower has great potential to produce renewable electricity. The report estimates over 65 gigawatts (GW) of potential new hydropower development across more than three million U.S. rivers and streams. This is nearly the amount currently produced by the industry.

DOE 2014 Hydropower Report“The United States has tremendous untapped clean energy resources and responsible development will help pave the way to a cleaner, more sustainable and diverse energy portfolio,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “As the Energy Department works with industry, universities and state and local governments to advance innovative hydropower technologies, the resource assessment released today provides unparalleled insight into new hydropower opportunities throughout the country.”

Hydropower makes up seven percent of total U.S. electricity generation and continues to be the United States’ largest source of renewable electricity, avoiding over 200 million metric tons of carbon emissions each year, finds the report. Hydropower also provides reliable baseload power day and night – providing greater flexibility and diversity to the electric grid and allowing utilities to integrate other renewable sources such as wind and solar power.

The New Stream-reach Development Assessment released capitalizes on recent advancements in geospatial datasets and represents the most detailed evaluation of U.S. hydropower potential at undeveloped streams and rivers to date. The greatest hydropower potential was found in western U.S. states, including Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. Kansas, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Wyoming led the rest of the country in new stream-reach hydropower potential.

The hydropower resource assessment also analyzed technical, socioeconomic and environmental characteristics that will help energy developers, policymakers and local communities identify the most promising locations for sustainable hydropower facilities. The assessment includes stream- and river-specific information on local wildlife habitats, protected lands, water use and quality and fishing access areas. The report builds on a 2012 DOE report and ultimately finds there are many untapped hydropower opportunities.