Renewable Energy Provides 56% of Electrical Generation

According to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Projects, solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and hydropower provided 55.7% (1,965 MW of the 3,529 MW total installed) of new installed U.S. electrical generating capacity during the first half of 2014.

  • Solar provided 32.1% (1,131 MW)
  • Wind provided 19.8% (699 MW)
  • Biomass provided 2.5% (87 MW)
  • Geothermal provided 0.9% (32 MW)
  • Hydropower provided 0.5% (16 MW)
  • Most of the balance (1,555 MW – 44.1%) of the new generating capacity was provided by natural gas while no new coal or nuclear power capacity was reported

solar installationAccording to the SUN DAY Campaign, the dominant role being played by renewables in providing new electrical generating capacity in 2014 is continuing a trend now several years in the making. Over the past 30 months (i.e., since January 1, 2012), renewable energy sources have accounted for almost half (48.0%) or 22,774 MW of the 47,446 MW of new electrical generating capacity.

If calendar year 2011 is also factored in, then renewables have accounted for approximately 45% of all new electrical generating capacity over the past 3 1/2 years. In fact, since January 1, 2011 renewables have provided more new electrical generating capacity than natural gas (31,345 MW vs. 29,176 MW) and nearly four times that from coal (8,235 MW)

Renewable energy sources now account for 16.28% of total installed U.S. operating generating capacity: water – 8.57%, wind – 5.26%, biomass – 1.37%, solar – 0.75%, and geothermal steam – 0.33%. This is up from 14.76% two years earlier (i.e., June 30, 2012) and is now more than nuclear (9.24%) and oil (4.03%) combined.

“A new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) is projecting that renewable energy sources will account for only 24% of new capacity additions between now and 2040,” Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign, noted. “However, the latest FERC data coupled with that published during the past several years indicate that EIA’s numbers are once again low-balling the likely share – and probably dominant share – of renewables in the nation’s future energy mix.”

Bringing Solar Power to Rural India

The Sierra Club and the Center for American Progress (CAP) have launched a new video series, “Harnessing the Sun to Keep the Lights on in India”. The series documents the health, economic, and environmental benefits to local communities living in Uttar Pradesh, India, a rural, low-income, off-the-electric-grid region that is rapidly becoming a hotbed of solar activity. The film provides a first-hand look at the companies seeking to make good on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pledge to provide solar for all citizens by 2019.

“Hundreds of millions of low-income, rural Indians have been suffering from energy poverty for decades. With little access to reliable energy, they’re depending on dirty fossil fuels like kerosene to light their homes and that has serious health effects. Solar power is the key to ending energy poverty,” said Justin Guay, associate director of the Sierra Club’s International Climate Program.

This past spring, Guay traveled to Uttar Pradesh with Vrinda Manglik, Associate Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club, and Andrew Satter, Director of Video at the Center for American Progress. They spent a week visiting innovative companies like Simpa Networks and OMC Power that deliver everything from LED lightbulbs to mobile phone charging with the help of innovative pay-as-you-go solutions. They also visited villages and interviewed people living beyond the grid and benefiting from companies expanding clean energy access.

According to Sierra Club, around the world, 1.4 billion people lack modern, reliable electricity; they are living in energy poverty. In India alone, approximately 400 million Indians are living in energy poverty. Those who do have power suffer from chronic unreliability issues as well as pollution from coal-fired power plants that kill more than 100,000 people every year. But innovative companies and entrepreneurs are creating a booming market for distributed energy beyond the grid in India and providing a clean and affordable energy source that is improving the health and quality of life for many people.

“Energy poverty is a hurdle for economic mobility and improving the livelihoods of billions of people around the world. Energy is necessary for social, economic, and environmental progress. Electricity access allows for lighting into the evening hours, which can be used for studying or running a business. It is required to keep schools open and health centers running,” added Rebecca Lefton, Senior Policy Analyst for CAP.

Leading up to the world premiere of the video, the Sierra Club and CAP released a series of behind-the-scenes video clips of their week in India, filmed using Google Glass. The technology was used for translations from Hindi to English, flight information, navigation, and the filming of parts of the video series.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFMeredian Inc., the world’s largest producer of PHA has announced that John A. Dowdy, III has joined their team as the newly appointed Chief Financial Officer. This appointment comes in the wake of Meredian Inc. and its sister company DaniMer Scientific merging together under its wholly owned subsidiary Meredian Holdings Group Inc.
  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that United States Department of Agriculture is investing $263.3 million to help modernize and improve the reliability of rural electric systems in eight states: California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Indiana, North Carolina and Virgina.
  • Energy storage, driven largely by electronics and plug-in vehicles, will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 8% to $50 billion in 2020, with dramatic shifts coming from the transportation industry, according to Lux Research. Transportation applications will outpace electronics growth – attaining an 11% CAGR to become a $21 billion market by the end of the decade. Its faster growth will close the gap with electronics, which still will remain the single largest market valued at $27 billion. The market for stationary applications will be worth $2.8 billion, as it awaits cost breakthroughs.
  • Elevance Renewable Sciences, Inc., a high-growth specialty chemicals company that creates novel specialty chemicals from natural oils, has announced a new collaboration with Genting Plantations Berhad through Genting Integrated Biorefinery Sdn Bhd (GIB), to be located in the Palm Oil Industrial Cluster (POIC) in Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia. The 25:75 collaboration between Elevance and Genting Plantations Berhad will build a 240,000 MT metathesis biorefinery based on Elevance’s proprietary metathesis technology, and will produce renewable, high-performance olefins and specialty chemicals that can be used in multiple end-product applications, including lubricants, surfactants and detergents.

EPA Issues New Rule for RINs Quality Assurance Program

epa-logoIn an effort to assure all parties of better control over possible fraud, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has formally issued its new rule on a voluntary quality assurance program on Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) used to track compliance with their renewable fuel volume obligations. The EPA proposed the rule earlier this month and issued it late last week that will elements designed to make it possible to verify the validity of RINs from the beginning of 2013 and going forward.

Today’s final action includes a voluntary third-party quality assurance program option for RINs that regulated parties may exercise as a supplement to the “buyer beware” liability as prescribed under existing regulations. The program provides a means for ensuring that RINs are properly generated through audits of renewable fuel production conducted by independent third-parties using quality assurance plans (QAPs), provides an affirmative defense for the transfer or use of invalid RINs that had been verified under an approved QAP, defines the conditions when RINs must be replaced, and a process for determining who will replace the RINs…

- Minimum requirements for a QAP, including such things as verification of feedstocks, verification that volumes produced are consistent with amount of feedstocks processed, and verification that RINs generated are appropriately categorized and match the volumes produced
- Qualifications for independent third-party auditors
- Requirements for audits of renewable fuel production facilities, including minimum frequency, site visits, review of records, and reporting
- Conditions under which a regulated party could assert an affirmative defense to civil liability for transferring or using an invalid RIN
- Identification of the party or parties who are responsible for replacing invalid RINs with valid RINs and the timing of such replacement
- A two percent limited exemption for calendar years 2014, 2015, and 2016 that exempts a small fraction of a party’s Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) from the requirement of replacement of invalid RINs used for compliance if they were RINs verified through a QAP
- Changes to the EPA Moderated Transaction System (EMTS) that would accommodate the quality assurance program

There’s an interim period that covers back to February 21, 2013 through the end of this year which will finalize two proposed QAP programs, QAP A and QAP B.

Beginning January 1, 2015, there will be a single QAP, and the associated verified RINs will be referred to as Q-RINs.

USDA Promotes Rural Wood-to-Energy Projects

usda-logoRural energy projects from wood on the land where it’s grown are getting a boost. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded more than $2.5 million in grants to develop wood energy teams in 11 states and an additional $1.25 million for nine wood energy projects.

“Renewable wood energy is part of the Obama Administration’s ‘all of the above’ energy strategy,” [Agriculture Secretary Tom] Vilsack said. “Working with our partners, the Forest Service is supporting development of wood energy projects that promote sound forest management, expand regional economies and create new rural jobs.”

The federal funds will leverage more than $4.5 million in investments from USDA partners. Under the terms of the agreements announced today, private, state and federal organizations will work together to stimulate the development of additional wood energy projects in their states. Activities may include workshops that provide technical, financial and environmental information, preliminary engineering assessments and community outreach needed to support development of wood energy projects.

Grant recipients are from: Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, Montana, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

In addition, USDA announced money to use woody material from the National Forest System lands, such as beetle-killed trees, to improve forest health and aid in wildfire prevention. More information is available on the Statewide Wood Energy Teams (SWET) and Wood to Energy Grant Recipients website.

Company to Make Biodiesel Ingredient in Iowa

ia-flag1Following up on last week’s story of an un-named company planning on building a plant in Iowa to make a key biodiesel ingredient, that company has now been identified. This article in the Mason City (IA) Globe Gazette says New Heaven Chemicals Inc. will start construction at a plant to make sodium methylate at the Manly Terminal in northern Iowa immediately.

“This will be the company’s very first United States location and we are so proud to be a partner with them on this project,” [Teresa Nicholson, executive director of the Winnebago-Worth Counties Betterment Council] said.

Construction is anticipated to completed by the end of 2014. Manufacturing start-up is planned for January 2015.

New Heaven Chemicals is a newly incorporated Iowa company with locations in eight countries worldwide.

Total capital investment in the Manly site is approximately $8.85 million, with a planned expansion in the next three years, Nicholson said.

At start-up, the company will manufacture 12,000 tons of sodium methylate. The planned expansion will triple that capacity, Nicholson said.

This should be of particular interest to the large biodiesel manufacturing market in Iowa and Southern Minnesota as this will be the first sodium methylate plant in the area. The only other sodium methylate manufacturers are located in Indiana, Texas and Alabama.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority and the local county supervisors have approved a combination of tax credits and financial assistance to the company.

Nebraska Corn Farmers, Aventine In Sugar Fight

According to a Reuters article, the corn-based ethanol industry in Nebraska is fighting an ethanol sugar-based ethanol plant over its feedstock. The Aventine Renewable Energy Holdings plant re-opened its Aurora, Nebraska ethanol plant back in May 2014. However, the plant, located in corn country, is reportedly using sugar from sugar beets to produce ethanol.

The United States Agricultural Department (USDA) has as program where ethanol plants can purchase cheap beet sugar for use in producing biofuels or biochemicals and Aventine is producing ethanol from this sugar source. Aventine’ use of sugar is the first large-scale production of sugar alcohol in Nebraska since the Prohibition.

sugar beetHowever, local corn farmers have sued Aventine claiming their use of sugar violates an agreement to use their grain exclusively as a feedstock for ethanol production. Aventine denies any wrongdoing, saying it has abided by its contract.

George Hohwieler, president and chief executive of the Aurora Cooperative Elevator Co., was quoted in the article as saying, “Hamilton County, Nebraska, by any measure is one of the most productive corn-producing counties in the world,” he said. “The message being sent to the marketplace is that they’re making ethanol out of sugar.”

Aventine chief executive Mark Beemer was quoted as saying the farmers’ coop was being short sighted in suing the company. “We’ve been very blunt. This is just a very short-term pathway to get the plant open and then convert back to corn ethanol,” he said.

There has been a long-running dispute between Aventine and the Nebraska farmers’ coop. In February, when Aventine received delivery via rail of the sugar, the coop filed suit claiming they were not allowed to use the rail line to receive any feedstock other than corn. The coop also filed suit in 2012 when the plant did not produce its nameplate capacity of 110 million gallons of ethanol per year, costing them $1.7 million.

As the lawsuits and harsh words continue to fly, Aventine argues that using sugar allowed them to re-open the plant, that had been idled for nearly 5 years and bringing jobs back to the area. At this point, Aventine says they have begun bidding to buy corn as an ethanol feedstock but because of the lawsuits, they are not negotiating to buy corn from the Aurora Cooperating Elevator.

As the lawsuits continue, it can only be said in a fight between corn and sugar, no one wins.

Twin Cedars FFA Raises Money for Ethanol Infrastructure

Josh Lopez is a sophomore at Twin Cedars high school (Bussey, Iowa) and he is already an ethanol advocate. During the American Ethanol 200 presented by Enogen, Josh who is a member of FFA, along with several other FFA members from his high school, walked around Iowa Speedway talking to NASCAR fans about the benefits of ethanol. But they didn’t stop there.

Josh LopezJosh and his team also raised money for ethanol infrastructure and Syngenta matched the funds raised – dollar-for-dollar- and donated the money plus the $1 per acre funds to Growth Energy. The $1 per acre program is one that donates $1 dollar per acre of Engoen corn grown to the renewable fuels industry. In total, more than $108K was donated this year.

I asked Josh why he came out to the races to talk about ethanol. “I love racing and our school has a strong agricultural program,” so he said it was a good fit. I also asked him what he thought about ethanol and he said his dad works for Syngenta so he grew up knowing that ethanol is better for the environment, a lot cheaper and reduces America’s need for foreign oil.

Josh said the most common question he is asked is what is ethanol? He noted that after talking with most consumers, and mentioning the NASCAR drivers are racing on the same E15 fuel that consumers can use, most of them become excited about ethanol.

Listen to my interview with Josh Lopez here: Josh Lopez interview

Visit the 2014 American Ethanol 200 presented by Enogen photo album.


BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFFuel cost savings of $5,000 per day. Cheaper and simpler oil changes. Emissions reduced by millions of pounds. That’s the message of a new case study analyzing Student Transportation Inc.’s 435 school buses operating with propane autogas during a one-year period. These buses service Nebraska’s Millard and Omaha public school district. They also support Omaha’s “Green Schools Initiative,” which encourages environmental responsibility, consumption reduction and green living.
  • CRS is hosting a free webinar that explains the Green-e Energy certification program and how it works within the larger voluntary renewable energy market in North America. This webinar, taking place Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 10:00 am PT, will cover the basics of how renewable energy is generated, tracked, and sold; how Green-e Energy protects consumers by ensuring clear title to renewable energy purchases that are as advertised; and how consumers, businesses, and renewable energy sellers can become involved with Green-e Energy.
  • Renewable Energy Systems Americas Inc., a leader in the development and construction of wind, solar, transmission, and energy storage projects in the Americas, is pleased to announce it has reached financial close of a $222 million construction loan for the 150 MW Border Winds Project in Rolette County, North Dakota and a $286 million construction loan for the 200 MW Pleasant Valley Wind Project in Mower and Dodge Counties, Minnesota.
  • Soltage-Greenwood, a joint venture between the premier North American solar power provider Soltage, LLC, and Greenwood Energy, the North and Latin American clean energy division of the Libra Group, have announced an equity financing of $70 million led by John Hancock Life Insurance Company (U.S.) for the construction and operation of seven solar photovoltaic (PV) power stations in Massachusetts and North Carolina totaling 32 megawatts (MW) of generating capacity.

DOE Allocates $31M to Establish FORGE

The Department of Energy (DOE) has allocated up to $31 million to establish a new program: Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE). The field lab will be dedicated to cutting-edge research on enhanced geothermal systems (EGS).

EGS are engineered reservoirs, created beneath the surface of the Earth, where there is hot rock but limited pathways through which fluid can flow. During EGS development, underground fluid pathways are safely created DOE FORGE programand their size and connectivity increased. These enhanced pathways allow fluid to circulate throughout the hot rock and carry heat to the surface to generate electricity. In the long term, DOE believes EGS may enable domestic access to a geographically diverse baseload, and carbon-free energy resource on the order of 100 gigawatts, or enough to power about 100 million homes.

“The FORGE initiative is a first-of-its-kind effort to accelerate development of this innovative geothermal technology that could help power our low carbon future,” said Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Dave Danielson. “This field observatory will facilitate the development of rigorous and reproducible approaches that could drive down the cost of geothermal energy and further diversify our nation’s energy portfolio.”

According to DOE, the research and development (R&D) at FORGE will focus on techniques to effectively stimulate large fracture networks in various rock types, technologies for imaging and monitoring the evolution of fluid pathways, and long-term reservoir sustainability and management techniques. In addition, a robust open data policy will make FORGE a leading resource for the broader scientific and engineering community studying the Earth’s subsurface. These significant advances will reduce industry risk and ultimately facilitate deployment of EGS nationwide.

The FORGE initiative is comprised of three phases. The first two phases focus on selecting both a site and an operations team, as well as preparing and fully characterizing the site. In Phase 1, $2 million will be available over one year for selected teams to perform analysis on the suitability of their proposed site and to develop plans for Phase 2. Subject to the availability of appropriations, up to $29 million in funding is planned for Phase 2, during which teams will work to fully instrument, characterize, and permit candidate sites.

Subject to the availability of appropriations, Phase 3 will fund full implementation of FORGE at a single site, managed by a single operations team. This phase will be guided by a collaborative research strategy and executed via annual R&D solicitations designed to improve, optimize, and drive down the costs of deploying EGS. In this phase, partners from industry, academia, and the national laboratories will have ongoing opportunities to conduct new and innovative R&D at the site in critical research areas such as reservoir characterization, reservoir creation, and reservoir sustainability.

Corn Growers Keep Ethanol in Focus

Ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) were big topics this week as members of the National Corn Growers Association met in Washington DC.

ncga-ethanolMichigan farmer Jeff Sandborn, chair of the Ethanol Committee, said they spent the week talking with administration officials and members of Congress after being updated on the issues. “Right now, Congress faces rapidly evolving issues crucial to our members. The information and understanding coming out of these meetings will help each of our delegations make the strongest case possible for farmers.”

During the Ethanol Committee meeting, staff from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality provided an update on the regulatory issues facing the ethanol industry. On Thursday, the entire NCGA delegation heard from EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe about the status of the pending 2014 volume obligation rule under the RFS.

“We greatly appreciate the deputy administrator’s willingness to participate in an open, well-considered conversation,” said NCGA President Martin Barbre of Illinois. While Perciasepe mainly dealt with the proposed Waters of the United States rule, he also fielded questions from growers pertaining to both the reduction in volume, and the continued delays of final RFS rule.

Iowa Looks to Attract Company Making Biodiesel Ingredient

ia-flag1A county in northern Iowa is looking to attract a company that makes an important ingredient in biodiesel production. This article from KIMT TV says the Worth County Board of Supervisors is considering some incentives to attract a company that would produce sodium methylate and, if approved, would be the first place in the U.S. for the un-named company.

“Worth County is always pro-development. We’ve been aggressive toward development at that Manly Terminal area. Iowa Northern Railway and their partners have made a significant investment with Manly Terminal development, and we knew when that happened there would be future developments. This is just one of them,” said Teresa Nicholson, Executive Director of Winnebago and Worth County Betterment Council.

Right now, the Manly Terminal is a transport hub of ethanol products and the location of the terminal is what’s attracting the new company to North Iowa. They would produce Sodium Methylate, which is a chemical compound used in bio-diesel production

“The terminal located themselves there because of that 300 mile radius and being able to distribute products for the ethanol industry. This company is also locating because of the 300 mile radius of the bio-diesel industry,” said Nicholson.

The county board is considering a tax incentive. The Iowa Economic Development Authority Board today is also considering the project, which could get underway by the end of this month.

DNV GL Identify Solar Module Quality Leaders

DNV GL has released its new PV Module Reliability Scorecard 2014, that found that nearly 2/3 of the cumulative 130 gigawatts of installed solar photovoltaic modules in the world were produced in the last three years. This period marked record module price reductions as well as module manufacturers’ aggressive cost reductions. This cost reduction, finds the Scorecard, has led to questions around long-term PV performance and module quality while at the same time, projects are being built in more extreme and diverse environmental condition then ever before.

To address these concerns, the Scorecard identifies module manufacturers’ reliability performance from a standardized accelerated life testing program. The Scorecard supports PV project developers, EPCs, investors and asset managers in their evaluation of leading module manufacturers and is a critical tool for quality-backed procurement strategies.

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 8.20.58 AMGTM Research has compiled data from DNV GL’s highly accelerated life testing (HALT) on major global PV module manufacturers. Participating manufacturers were subject to rigorous tests designed to mimic real world environmental stresses and identify potential long-term quality issues and failure modes. The Scorecard goes beyond standard module qualification and certification tests and allows the industry to identify the spectrum of performance differences across the module vendor landscape.

In the Scorecard, GTM Research found that module vendors performed relatively well across all metrics, with a few exceptions on specific tests. However, “module reliability is not necessarily a consistent quality. Of all vendors analyzed, only one company consistently ranked within the Performance Leaders group for all test regimens,” wrote report author and solar analyst Jade Jones.

“While all modules met the regulatory UL requirements, long term real world performance is not simply pass/fail. More robust module designs were clearly identified,” said Jenya Meydbray, Head of Module & Inverter testing at DNV GL and former PVEL CEO.

Tests in the Scorecard program include extended thermal cycling, damp heat, humidity-freeze, dynamic mechanical load, and potential induced degradation for positively and negatively biased modules.

Cellulosic Ethanol Poll

New Holland ZimmPollOur latest ZimmPoll asked the question, “How would the EPA water rule impact you?”

This is one of the hottest topics in the ag sector these days with a lot of uncertainty about what the future holds, especially when you see states starting to fine people for “wasteful use of water.” On the federal level the EPA says that under the proposed rules defining Waters of the United States (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act (CWA) “all normal farming practices are exempt – period” but those in the agriculture community are questioning if that will hold true. Hopefully you’ve looked at how this will impact your farm or customers?

here are the poll results:

  • Just more govt. regulation – 38.9%
  • Permits for routine activities – 16.67%
  • Will regulate more of my property – 18.67%
  • Not sure but worried about it – 11.1%
  • Not worried about it – 11.1%
  • Don’t know or don’t care – 5.56%

Our new ZimmPoll is now live and asks the question, What are your thoughts on cellulosic ethanol? We just saw the first commercial production of cellulosic ethanol in Iowa from team work between Syngenta’s Enogen and the Quad County Corn Processors. Let us know what you think.

DOE & USDA Announce Bioenergy Projects

Ten projects will receive funding aimed at accelerating genetic breeding programs to improve plant feedstocks for biofuel production as well as biopower and bio-based power. The U.S Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded $12.6 million in research grants designed for harnessing nonfood plant biomass to replace US DOE Energy logofossil fuels and chemicals. The agencies note that feedstock crops tend to require less intensive production practices and can grow on poorer quality land than food crops, making this a critical element in a strategy of sustainable biofuels production that avoids competition with crops grown for food.

“Biofuels and bio-based products offer the potential of homegrown American resources that can reduce our dependence on imported oil and also cut carbon emissions,” said Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. “This advanced research is helping us to lay the groundwork for biomass as an important part of the low-carbon future.”

The winning projects are located in California, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Texas, and Virginia. DOE’s Office of Science will provide $10.6 million in funding for eight projects, while USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) will award $2 million to fund two projects. Initial funding will support research projects for up to three years.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack added, “Innovative research is a critical link to stimulating rural economies and creating jobs across America. These awards are part of the Obama Administration’s “all of the above” energy policy. These projects will not only support our efforts to provide a sustainable and domestic energy source for the nation, but also improve the lives of rural residents.”

New projects to be funded this year will build upon gains in genetic and genomic resources for bioenergy and biofuels. The projects will accelerate the breeding of optimized dedicated bioenergy feedstocks through a better understanding of complex interactions between bioenergy feedstock plants and their environment, allowing the development of new regionally-adapted bioenergy feedstock cultivars with maximal biomass or seed oil yield and traits leading to more sustainable production systems, such as minimal water usage and nutrient input requirements.