Central Texas Marks 20 Years of Alternative Fuels

lone-star-20The Lone Star Clean Fuels Alliance in Austin, Texas this week celebrated 20 years of being green, starting before being green was cool.

The LSCFA recognized the achievements of many leaders who helped Austin cut 10 tons of greenhouse gas emissions in one year alone, and attendees had the opportunity to drive renewable energy vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf and a stand-up electric police mobility vehicle.

The LSCFA, formerly known as Central Texas Clean Cities, is a non-profit coalition dedicated to reducing petroleum consumption through alternative fuels. Over the past 20 years the association has helped to clean up City of Austin fleet vehicles as well as other fleet and personal vehicles in five Central Texas counties counties. In 2012 alone, its stakeholders reduced petroleum consumption by 1.6 million gallons. Clean Cities helps to advance the alternative or renewable fuels of propane, biofuels: ethanol/E85 and biodiesel, natural gas, electric and hydrogen. It was the sixth Clean Cities coalition started in the U.S. where there are now about 90.

EIA Identifies States with the Windiest Energy

single wind turbine Photo Joanna SchroederTwelve states produced 80% of the total wind energy generated last year, according to preliminary data released from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) in the March Electric Power Monthly report.

Number one on the list is Texas, which generated nearly 36 million megawatthours (MWh) of electricity in 2013. Iowa was second, with more than 15 million MWh, followed by California, Oklahoma, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Oregon, Colorado, Washington, North Dakota, and Wyoming. Iowa ranked first in proportion of wind to total electricity generated with 27.4% of net electricity production coming from wind turbines.

These 12 states produced a combined 134 million MWh of electricity from wind. Nationwide, 167 million MWh of power came from wind in 2013, a 19% increase from 2012. Wind power increased its share of U.S. total electricity generation in 2013 from 3.5% to 4.1%. All but 13 states reported to EIA some generation from wind, and 23 states increased their wind generation more than 10% above 2012 production levels. California’s wind generation exceeded geothermal generation for the first time in 2013.

Farm Group Agrees with Climate Change Report

NFUlogoThe National Farmers Union (NFU) agrees with the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that renewable energy must play a significant role in climate change mitigation.

“The working group’s report complements NFU’s long-held, member-led policy positions by recognizing the need for a comprehensive renewable energy strategy,” said NFU vPresident Roger Johnson. “Tripling or even quadrupling the share of zero- and low-carbon energy supply from renewables, as the report recommends, will require significant investments in energy technologies that utilize rural America’s renewable and human resources. These investments would pay off not only by helping to mitigate the effects of climate change but by driving significant rural economic development.”

WGIII_AR5_Cover_webThe IPCC third working group report released this week finds that climate change is occurring at a rapid rate, but mitigation strategies such as scaling up renewable energy production could substantially reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

According to the report, total anthropogenic GHG emissions have continued to increase over 1970 to 2010 in spite of a growing number of climate change mitigation policies. Total anthropogenic GHG emissions were the highest in human history from 2000 to 2010. Without additional efforts to reduce GHG emissions beyond those in place today, emissions growth is expected to persist, driven by growth in global population and economic activities.

New Zealand to Get 5 MMgy Biodiesel Plant

z energyKiwis (the people, not the fruit) will be a little greener, as New Zealand is set to get a 5 MMgy biodiesel plant. This article from Biodiesel Magazine says Z Energy plans to build the $21 million refinery that will use tallow as its feedstock.

“Cities, countries and [corporations] all have a role to play in ensuring the world addresses very real climate change concerns,” [the mayor of New Zealand’s capital city of Wellington, Celia Wade-Brown] said. “It’s great to see local company Z Energy leading new energy sources and developing a green economy for New Zealand. In light of the recent IPCC report, on the severity and costs of adaptation to climate change, we need to support innovation from Z and others in the business community toward a low-carbon future for New Zealand. In addition to having more efficient vehicles on the road, fuel switching to biofuels, hybrids and electric vehicles will be essential to help us achieve the emissions cuts recommended by the IPCC. As production expands, we will take opportunities to work with Z on Wellington’s future fuel picture, including the civic fleet and Wellington’s bus network.”

When fully up and running, the Z Energy biodiesel plant is expected to use about 10 percent of the country’s inedible tallow production.

Boy Scouts of America Go Solar

gI_120165_BoyScouts 2 CustomThe Boy Scouts of America’s Capitol Area Council, located in Austin, Texas, has gone solar. The 74.15 kW solar arrays sits atop a 31,400 foot Frank Fickett South Training and Service Center. The solar system is made up of 299 solar modules and can be partially seen from Interstate 35. The project was over seen by Meridan Solar and is expected to save approximately $360,000 in energy savings over 25 years.

For the Boy Scouts, choosing to procure solar energy was an easy choice. Raymond Gray, board president of the Capitol Area Council said, “It didn’t just make financial sense to incorporate solar power; it matched the values we have taught generations of Americans for more than 100 years and continue to believe today. It’s one thing to say we should be ‘green’, invest in new technology and be a good example; it’s another to actually do those things.”

This project was of particular significance to Meridian Solar’s President and Founder, Andrew McCalla. “This organization and its mission are close to my heart, as I am a third generation central Texas Scout. When Meridian decided to partner with the Capitol Area Council to help them capture the benefits of solar energy, I knew that this installation would have benefits well beyond that of lowering the operating costs of the Frank Fickett Center. In addition to freeing up funds to further scouting’s core mission, the installation will serve as an educational platform in the benefits or renewable resources for thousands of present and future Scouts.”

12 U.S. States Dominate Wind Power

According to Today in Energy, 12 states dominated the U.S. wind energy market in 2013. These states accounted for 80 percent of wind-generated electricity according to preliminary data released in the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) March Electric Power Monthly.

Once again, Texas took the honors of top wind power state with nearly 36 million megawatthours (MWh) of electricity produced annually. Iowa was second, with more than 15 million MWh, followed by California, Oklahoma, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Oregon, Colorado, Washington, North Dakota, and Wyoming.

Today in Energy 12 Top wind statesCombined, these 12 states produced 134 million MWh of electricity from wind. Nationwide, 167 million MWh of power came from wind in 2013, a 19 percent increase from 2012. Wind power increased its share of U.S. total electricity generation in 2013 from 3.5 percent to 4.1 percent. All but 13 states reported to EIA some generation from wind, and 23 states increased their wind generation more than 10 percent above 2012 production levels. California’s wind generation exceeded geothermal generation for the first time in 2013.

The proportion of wind to total electricity generated varied widely by state. Leading the nation in wind generation share was Iowa with 27.4 percent of net electricity production coming from wind turbines. Second was South Dakota, at 26 percent. Other states with more than twice the national share of 4.1 percent wind power were Kansas, Idaho, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Colorado, Oregon, Wyoming, and Texas.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFJim Adams, president of U.S. Operations for Natural Power, has been selected to chair one of the sessions during the upcoming American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) annual conference. The event will take place May 5-8, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. On May 8th, Adams will chair the morning session in the Wind Resource and Planning track, titled ‘Advancements in Resource Assessment Technology’. This session is expected to discuss new approaches in the estimation of wind energy for assessment purposes, while also maintaining a focus on current methodologies. The panel includes Justin Sharp from Lockheed Martin; Jon Meis, Managing Director at EWC Weather Consult GmbH; and Daran Rife, Global Head of Mesoscale Modeling at DNV GL – Energy.
  • Hanwha SolarOne Co., Ltd. has announced its Chairman and CEO Ki-Joon HONG has retired from the Company. A replacement is expected to be announced by the end of April.
  • According to a recent report from Navigant Research, worldwide sales of hybrid and electric trucks for the commercial market will reach nearly 105,000 by 2020. Despite government support, such as funding under the United States’ economic stimulus efforts, the market for hybrid and electric trucks has struggled to expand beyond a narrow niche. Nevertheless, a significant number of players continue to develop hybrid electric vehicle (HEV), plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), and battery electric vehicle (BEV) trucks for a variety of applications, and the market is expected to pick up steam in the coming years.
  • Energy Storage North America (ESNA), has announced the first round of confirmed keynotes for this year’s ESNA 2014 taking place at the San Jose Convention Center from September 30 – October 2, 2014. Early bird registration is open.

Brazilian Ethanol Sales Break Record

Domestic ethanol sales in Brazil have reached an all-time high according to data compiled through the end of March for the 2013/2014 harvest. The total sales volume reached 23.07 billion liters, as compared to 18.68 liters in the same 2012/2013 harvest period.

sugarcane field photo-dowIn Brazil, the majority of the ethanol is hydrous ethanol, which saw a 16.27 percent growth to 13.70 billion liters. Sales of hydrous ethanol also saw records with an increase of 35.84 percent as compared to last season’s harvest.

“Raising the level of mixture of anhydrous ethanol in gasoline to 25 percent in May 2013 was the right decision, and the industry responded to increased demand without any kind of problem,” explained Antonio de Padua Rodrigues, technical director of UNICA, the association that represents the Brazilian sugarcane industry. “The production capacity of the dry mills indicates the possibility of new expansion in the supply of the product if the government opts for the approval of the increase of the mixture to 27.5 percent.
 
Information collected by the National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels (ANP) show that the current production capacity of ethanol for the 2014/2015 harvest is exceeding production recorded in 2013/2014 harvest. In the case of anhydrous ethanol, the capacity indicated by the ANP is 101 million liters, compared to around 70 million per day actually produced this season.

Rodrigues noted that the majority of alcohol (ethanol) production takes place at the beginning of the harvest and this year the trend will continue a few months longer due to lower demand for sugar on the global market and the need for liquidity and cash flow my mills with financial problems.

U.S. Clean Energy Struggling from Policy Uncertainty

According to research from The Pew Charitable Trusts, the U.S. clean energy sector continues to be buffeted by policy uncertainty with 2013 investment down 9 percent from 2012 to $36.7 billion. The annual report, “Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race? 2013,” found that steep declines in the installation of wind overshadowed a record annual deployment of 4.4 gigawatts of solar.

THE PEW CHARITABLE TRUSTS“Lower technology prices have made the small-distributed solar market very competitive, and the United States has been a leader in developing innovative financing models that are spurring steadily increasing deployment,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew’s clean energy program. “We also remain a world leader in venture capital, biofuels, and energy-smart technologies, like smart meters and LED lighting. Wind, however, has been subject to the vagaries of U.S. energy policy. As Congress debates tax extenders, it should aim to level the playing field, accelerate clean energy deployment, and provide long-term certainty to investors.”

The report found in the U.S. marketplace, solar technology prices have declined 60 percent since 2011, and new financing models have spurred more than $17 billion in investment, a 7 percent increase from 2012. The U.S. continued to garner world-leading financing in the biofuels and energy efficient/low-carbon technology subsectors. It also remained the dominant recipient of public market and venture capital/private equity investment, attracting $6.8 billion and $2.2 billion, respectively.

Although wind investment was relatively stable at $14 billion, U.S. wind installations in 2013 were down more than 90 percent—from more than 13 GW in 2012 to less than 1 GW last year found the report. When the production tax credit was renewed in early 2013, slight changes in the law precipitated deferrals in deployment of new wind capacity into 2014, when a strong rebound in capacity additions was forecast. By comparison, China deployed 12.1 GW of solar and 14.1 GW of wind capacity.

The regional and global market remains dominated by China, attracting $54.2 billion, with the U.S. in second place. Japan was third with $28.6 billion. Globally, clean energy investment fell 11 percent, to $254 billion, and renewable power generating capacity additions declined by 1 percent in 2013. Overall, installed clean energy capacity reached 735 GW.

USDA Rural Development Supports Biofuel Investment

USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Lillian Salerno went on a three-state Midwest tour last week to highlight USDA investments that are helping expand business opportunities in the bio-economy, including biofuels.

usda-salerno“Creating jobs and expanding economic opportunity for rural small businesses are top priorities for the Obama Administration,” said Salerno, who visited companies in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. “The new Farm Bill expands the potential for economic growth in rural America by maintaining momentum for the emerging bio-based industry and the more than 3,000 bio-based companies across the country.”

Salerno’s tour started with a visit to Quad County Corn Processors near Galva, Iowa where they are working on a process to turn corn kernel fibers into cellulosic ethanol and as a result boost the plant’s ethanol production. “It’s a co-op, so all the farmers around there have a vested interest in making this processing unit work,” she said. The company has received nearly $22 million in USDA Rural Development loan guarantees since it opened 13 years ago.

Salerno noted that the United States has the capacity to provide one billion tons of biomass per year by 2030. “This has a possibility of hundreds of thousands of jobs – actually 1.7 million estimated,” she said.

Biodiesel Maker Holding Small-Scale Webinar

springboardbiodieselJust a week from today is Earth Day, and a biodiesel maker is celebrating the occasion with a free webinar on how to make the green fuel yourself. Biodiesel Magazine reports California-based Springboard Biodiesel is offering the webinar titled, “The Many Benefits of Small-Scale Biodiesel Production,” on April 22.

“Increasingly, biodiesel is being incorporated into the U.S. (and global) transportation fleet, and individuals and organizations are realizing both the environmental and economic benefits of biodiesel,” stated Springboard Biodiesel. “Still, information on the topic is limited and misinformation continues to get passed on. This webinar will strive to clearly present factual information on relevant topics.” The webinar will include information on what biodiesel is and how it’s made; identifying myths and popular misinformation; cost analysis for biodiesel production and usage; case studies; emissions comparisons; equipment options; and strategies for production.

More information and registration is available here.

Tall Ship to Sail the Seas on Biodiesel

perry1She might look like something out of a history book, but a new tall ship is about to set sail using modern biodiesel. This article for Sail-World.com says the new, 200-foot, three masted, square-rigged Tall Ship the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry will serve as Rhode Island’s official Sailing Education Vessel, teaching mariners the ancient ways of the sea while also employing some modern, green technology.

By the nature of sailing itself, the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry will be energy efficient, powered by the wind whenever possible. To reduce its energy footprint further, the ship’s diesel engines and generators will run on biodiesel (supplied by Newport BioDiesel), and ultra-high capability Ensolve separators will cleanse oily waste water down to 2-15 ppm using naturally occurring microbes. On board, the focus will be on sustainable living: conserving water, minimizing trash and reducing food waste. Trash will be separated and all plastics taken ashore for recycling, while black water will be treated in an onboard waste water treatment plant.

‘It is expected that with all these ecologically responsible practices in place, along with first-hand experiences of the fragility of ocean life, a sense of pride, stewardship and passion for the marine environment will be instilled in our shipmates,’ said Richard Bailey, the Captain of the ship.

The Perry is the largest of its kind to have been built in this country in the last 100 years.

Stanford Scientists Convert CO2 to Ethanol

Stanford University scientists have discovered a new way to produce liquid ethanol from carbon monoxide gas. The researchers believe the discovery could provide an “green” alternative to conventional ethanol production from corn and other crops. The results were published in the April issue of Nature.

“We have discovered the first metal catalyst that can produce appreciable amounts of ethanol from carbon monoxide at room temperature and pressure – a notoriously difficult electrochemical reaction,” said Matthew Kanan, an assistant professor of chemistry at Stanford and coauthor of the Nature study.

Stanford's Matthew Kanan, an assistant professor of chemistry, co-authored a study on producing liquid ethanol from carbon monoxide.

Stanford’s Matthew Kanan, an assistant professor of chemistry, co-authored a study on producing liquid ethanol from carbon monoxide.

According to Kanan, most ethanol today is produced at high-temperature fermentation facilities that chemically convert corn, sugarcane and other plants into liquid fuel. But growing crops for biofuel requires thousands of acres of land and vast quantities of fertilizer and water. He cites a study that found it takes more than 800 gallons of water to grow a bushel of corn, which in turn yields around 3 gallons of ethanol.

The new technique developed by Kanan and Stanford graduate student Christina Li requires no fermentation and, if scaled up, they team says could help address many of the land- and water-use issues surrounding ethanol production today.

“Our study demonstrates the feasibility of making ethanol by electrocatalysis,” Kanan said. “But we have a lot more work to do to make a device that is practical.”

Two years ago, Kanan and Li created a novel electrode made of a material they called oxide-derived copper. They used the term “oxide-derived” because the metallic electrode was produced from copper oxide.

“Conventional copper electrodes consist of individual nanoparticles that just sit on top of each other,” Kanan explained. “Oxide-derived copper, on the other hand, is made of copper nanocrystals that are all linked together in a continuous network with well-defined grain boundaries. The process of transforming copper oxide into metallic copper creates the network of nanocrystals.” Continue reading

ILUC Modeling Still Unverifiable

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released their 2014 Climate Change Mitigation Report. According to the Global Renewable Fuels Association (GRFA), the report confirms that biofuels production is economically beneficial and that Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) modelling is unverifiable. The report, says GRFA spokesperson Bliss Baker, is further proof that biofuels contribute to local economies and that ILUC modelling is nothing more than a flawed theory.

The report found that “Bioenergy projects can be economically beneficial by raising and diversifying farm incomes and increasing rural employment through the production of biofuels for domestic or export markets. The IPCC report went on further to say that “Brazilian sugar cane ethanol production provides six times more jobs than the Brazilian petroleum sector and spreads income benefits across numerous municipalities…Worker income is higher than in nearly all other agricultural sectors and several sustainability standards have been adopted.”

Baker says the IPCC report’s finding are consistent with one of their 2012 reports that found that global ethanol production in 2010 supported nearly 1.4 million jobs in all sectors worldwide and contributed over $273 million to the global economy. In the European Union WGIII_AR5_Cover_webalone the ethanol industry created 70,000 direct and indirect jobs. The IPCC report’s findings also align with a recent study conducted by ABF Economics, which found that the U.S ethanol industry in 2013 created 86,503 jobs, sustained an additional 300,277 indirect and induced jobs while contributing $44 billion to the United States’ Gross Domestic Product and added $30.7 billion to household incomes.

“Not only do biofuels, particularly ethanol, have the lowest CO2 abatements compared to any other renewable energy but the latest IPCC climate change mitigation report confirmed that they make significant contributions to economies around the world and in some cases like Brazil, biofuels employment is eclipsing crude oil,” added Baker.

Baker says the IPCC report contained another significant finding regarding ILUC: an attempt to predict future land use patterns globally. The report stated, “These estimates of global LUC (Land Use Change) are highly uncertain, unobservable, unverifiable, and dependent on assumed policy, economic contexts, and inputs used in the modelling.”

According to Baker, these significant findings mean that the IPCC has joined the overwhelming number of scientists and academics that have found the ILUC theory to be faulty because modeling relies on hundreds of assumptions, not facts, to predict future land use patterns around the world.

“The GRFA applauds the UN for recognizing that the ILUC theory has no ability to accurately predict future land use patterns and hopefully it can now focus on the real challenges to food security like rising crude oil prices and food waste,” Baker concluded.

Iowa Gov. Branstad Expands “Fueling Our Future”

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s “Fueling Our Future” program has recognized two retailers for their innovative plans to increase accessibility to higher ethanol and biodiesel blends. Farmers Cooperative based in Mount Ayr, Iowa and Oak Street station based in Inwood, Iowa both received $125,000 to offset the cost of adding renewable fuel infrastructure for biodiesel and ethanol. In addition, he has committed to expanding the program.

I’ve long been an advocate for increasing consumer access to locally-produced, environmentally-friendly renewable fuels,” said Iowa Governor Terry Branstad during a press conference. “The two retailers receiving funding as part of the ‘Fueling Our Future’ program will provide Iowans with additional access to higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel, supporting Iowa products and jobs, while also improving air quality.”

The Farmer’s Cooperative station in Mount Ayr will offer E10, E15, and E30, E50 and E85 as well as B5, B10 and B20. “Based on the consumer response to higher levels of renewable fuels at our Creston location, Farmers Cooperative wants to add more blender pumps where they are needed,” said Farmers Cooperative Creston Location Manager Darin Schlapia. “Mount Ayr is the hub of Ringgold County and we want to capture that customer base by offering more American-made fuel options. We’re pooling the Coop members’ resources to drive profitability and offer more competitively priced fueling options not otherwise available.”

Oak Street Station received a grant for its new fueling site set to be built in the Northwest Iowa town of Inwood. The station will offer E10, E15, E30, and E85, as well as B5 year-round and B99.9 during the summer months for independent jobbers and special use customers such as tractor pullers.

Oak Street Station Accountant Lisa VanRegenmorter said, “At Oak Street Station, we have a passion for renewable fuels and want to help grow the industry. Putting in blender pumps and biodiesel will continue our support for biofuels, provide fuel choices for our customers, and supply customer data to support the state’s Fueling the Future initiative.”

The “Fueling Our Future” program is administered by the Iowa Department of Transportation and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The purpose of the program is to gain better consumer information regarding fueling preferences, expand the use and availability of higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel, and provide a pathway to reduce particulate matter in Iowa.

Lucy Norton, Managing Director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association applauds the program. “We commend Gov. Branstad for his unwavering support in making Iowa a model state for fuel choice and consumer access to clean-burning renewable fuels. With the help of Gov. Branstad, IDALS, and the Iowa DOT, Iowa is raising the bar to show the nation that higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel are the preferred fuels.”