BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFBOEM has offered a right-of-way (ROW) grant to Deepwater Wind Block Island Transmission System, LLC (Deepwater Wind) for the Block Island Transmission System. Deepwater Wind’s proposed project would entail the installation of a bi-directional submerged transmission cable between Block Island and the Rhode Island mainland. The transmission system would serve two purposes: 1) connect Deepwater Wind’s proposed 30 MW Block Island Wind Farm (offshore), to the Rhode Island mainland; and 2) transmit power from the existing onshore transmission grid on the mainland to Block Island.
  • Yahoo has announced a 15-year partnership with wind energy developer OwnEnergy. Under a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), Yahoo will purchase approximately 50 percent of the wind power from the 48 MW Alexander wind farm in western Kansas to offset much of Yahoo’s energy usage in the Great Plains region. The wind farm is expected to generate over 100,000 MWh annually. The PPA is part of Yahoo’s effort to engage in community-centric partnerships to buy wind power directly from local wind farms.
  • Andalay Solar, Inc. has announced that it has begun production of its solar modules this week in San Jose, CA, U.S.A and will begin shipping to customers next week. The modules are black-framed, 60-cell, multicrystalline, 250 watt modules.
  • Burlington Electric Department (BED) has purchased a 7.4-MW hydroelectric project located Burlington, Vermont’s largest city. The utility now now has contracts to source 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. BED currently sells the renewable energy certificates (RECs) from the facilities and uses the funds to lower customer electricity rates. Burlington’s effort contributes to Vermont’s target to produce 90 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2050.

Fly, Fight & Win Includes Electric, Biodiesel & Ethanol

U.S. Air Force tests first all-electric vehicle fleet in CaliforniaMy Air Force brethren are known for being able to fly, fight and win, and now, they’ll be doing it using electric vehicles, biodiesel and ethanol. This news release from the U.S Air Force says the Department of Defense’s first non-tactical vehicle fleet composed entirely of plug-in electric vehicles was unveiled at Los Angeles Air Force Base, California.

The rollout of the 42-vehicle fleet marks a milestone in the DOD’s demonstration of emerging technology and the vehicles will serve as a resource to the electrical grid when they’re not being driven.

“Everything we do to fly, fight and win requires energy, whether it’s aviation fuel for our aircraft or power to run the bases that support them,” said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. “This vehicle-to-grid pilot is a great example of how Airmen are driving the Air Force forward and finding new and innovative ways to make every dollar count.”

The PEV fleet includes both electric and hybrid vehicles ranging from sedans to trucks and a 12-passenger van. The vehicles have the capability to direct power both to and from the electrical grid when they’re not being driven, known as vehicle-to-grid technology. Unique charging stations have been installed on Los Angeles AFB to support the vehicles’ V2G capability…

In addition to the PEV fleet in L.A., the Air Force is also investigating the benefits of other alternative fuel vehicles. More than 9,000 ethanol flex fuel vehicles are in the service’s inventory worldwide, along with 50 biodiesel fuel stations on its installations.

The Air Force plans to expand this demonstration project to Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.

USDA Looks to Get Ethanol from Kudzu

kudzu1It might be the scourge of the south, but kudzu could become the next feedstock for biofuels.

“When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade,” says Lewis Ziska with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS). “One of the possible potential benefits of kudzu is the roots are high in starch, and it may be a potential biofuel.”

Ziska says the USDA is working with the University of Toronto and Auburn University to look at the potential of kudzu roots. Since the USDA certainly doesn’t want to promote the growing of the weed that has overrun so many places in the south, he believes harvesting kudzu from abandoned farmland and other areas where it’s growing unchecked and easily harvested could end up producing as much, or even more, ethanol from an acre of the weed they want to eliminate as would be produced from an acre of corn.

“What we think we could do is to take the existing kudzu and convert into a biofuel for a win-win,” Ziska says.

You can listen to Ziska’s remarks here: Lewis Ziska, USDA ARS

Biodiesel Industry Waiting on RFS and Tax Credit

nafb14-nbb-kalebThe biodiesel industry is doing fairly well right now, but producers are anxiously awaiting some policy decisions that could improve the situation.

The two outstanding issues right now are the final 2014 volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and the once again expired biodiesel tax credits, according to Kaleb Little with the National Biodiesel Board. “The delay in the volumes has really hurt production,” said Little. “Overall production, we’re still probably going to be around 1.28 billion gallons for the year, but certainly below 2013’s record production (of 1.8 billion).”

Little says that 2013 is an example of what stable policy could do for the industry, with both the biodiesel tax credit in place and the RFS volumes in line with production capability. “You get those things lined up right in the same year and – record production,” he said. “Producers were glad to see it after some rough years and some ups and downs.”

Policy issues will be at the forefront as always during the 2015 National Biodiesel Conference January 19-22 in Fort Worth, and Little says they will also have some good news about new support for biodiesel from manufacturers.

Listen to my interview with Kaleb here from the National Association of Farm Broadcasting convention: Interview with Kaleb Little, NBB

2014 NAFB Convention Photos

Coverage of the NAFB convention is sponsored by
NAFB Convention is sponsored by FMC

RFA Pleased with E85 Potential

nafb14-rfa-whiteThe Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is pleased with a new report that shows the potential for growth in sales of 85% ethanol blends.

“There’s no doubt that E85 sales will double or triple over the next decade, but they also predict that the flex fuel vehicle count will continue to grow,” says RFA vice president for industry relations Robert White. “The flex fuel vehicles on the road today could use all the ethanol we produce if they used E85 more often.”

And that would be possible if there were more places for drivers to buy E85, which would happen if the Renewable Fuel Standard were allowed to work as it was intended. “If given its chance, it will create the market and this report clearly shows that more E85 would be sold,” he said.

At the National Association of Farm Broadcasting convention last week, White also talked about RFA’s “Post Your Price” contest which has been getting lots of entries showing the price of E85 around the country. The contest will award free E85 for a year to a randomly drawn entry, but they are also awarding prizes for the largest and smallest price differentials between E85 and E10. “We’ve already got one sent in that E85 was higher than E10,” White said. The lowest price for E85 so far has been $1.64, compared to $2.84 for regular.

Listen to my interview with Robert at NAFB here: Interview with Robert White, RFA

2014 NAFB Convention Photos

Coverage of the NAFB convention is sponsored by
NAFB Convention is sponsored by FMC

Wetzel Blade Wins Clean Energy Award

Wetzel Blade was awarded a 2014 Clean Energy Venture Award during the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s NREL Industry Growth Forum. The company won the honor for its work on a pre-fabricated, field-assembled turbine blade that boosts production capacity and outlasts current generation composite blades. The start-up company will receive in-kind commercialization support designed to help increase its chances of becoming commercially successful.

According to Wetzel Blade, the new blade technology is based on a space frame design and features independently fabricated Wetzel Blade Awardpultruded FRP spars. The parts are sized for easy transport and field-assembly, in similar fashion to high reliability military equipment.

According to Kyle Wetzel, CTO/Founder of Wetzel Blade and a well-published expert in wind blade design, “This concept emerged from a project that our parent company, Wetzel Engineering, was involved with in China. We were engineering a 100-meter blade for a 10MW turbine and wanted to eliminate shell panel buckling as a design driver. The balsa requirements presented another challenge – almost 10,000 kg of this expensive core material absorbing ~6,000kg of epoxy.”

Wetzel noted that 3-5 percent of total installed cost of each turbine is logged to transportation. However, their technology reduces these costs. The company is currently in the structural testing phase with plans to demonstrate a sub-scale prototype in early 2015. The project has been partially funded through an SBIR/STTR award from the DOE.

“Because of our involvement with the entire turbine lifecycle, we understand that to make a real shift in the economics, a blade design must generate more electricity, cost less to build and maintain, and be more efficient to transport and install,” added Webzel. “The industry is hungry for a solution that delivers on all those points.”

Iberdrola Opens West of Duddon Sands Wind Farm

ScottishPower Renewables, Iberdrola USA’s sister company, has opened its first offshore wind farm, West of Duddon Sands, a 389 MW facility located in the Irish Sea. The $2.6 billion project, located approximately 12.5 miles off the seaport of Barrow-in-Furness in North West England, was completed in conjunction with Dong Energy of Denmark.

“West of Duddon Sands is the first offshore wind farm in the U.K. to use such advanced construction methods,” said Ignacio Galan, Iberdrola chairman during a grand opening ceremony. “The combination of two highly sophisticated installation vessels working in tandem, and the support of the excellent fabrication facilities at Belfast, Northern Ireland, made this one of the most efficient offshore projects ever delivered in the U.K.”

West of Duddon Sands offshore wind farmThe wind farm consists of 108 Siemens turbines that are connected through a 125-mile web of undersea cable in a 26 square mile area of the Irish Sea. The wind farm will produce enough energy to meet the annual electricity demands of nearly 200,000 homes.

“Building the West of Duddon Sands wind farm was a significant engineering challenge,” said Bob Kump, chief corporate officer of Iberdrola USA. “There is value in the achievement beyond the immediate benefits of this project. We will share the knowledge we gained among Iberdrola companies like ours and throughout the industry to help advance the technology and cost competitiveness of future offshore wind projects.”

According to Iberdrola, two big offshore wind energy innovations helped reduce the cost of the project:

  • A new $80 million, custom-designed offshore wind terminal built at Belfast Harbor. The terminal employs up to 300 workers and can operate around the clock for continual delivery of turbine and foundation components to the farm.
  • Two of the world’s largest and most advanced installation vessels: Pacific Orca and Sea Installer. Using the two vessels in tandem enabled construction crews to install all the foundations and turbine components during one of the most stormy winters in recent history.

Energy generated by the project connects to an offshore substation that boosts the voltage then routes it through two export cables to the onshore substation at Heysham where it enters the U.K. national grid.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFThe Dallas Academy, located in Dallas, Texas is now generating power from a new solar array, funded in part with $30,000 donation from the Green Mountain Energy Sun Club with $120,000 additional funds donated by the community. The 289 solar panels fill 5,100 square feet of the roof and is one of the largest array on any private school in the state. The school will now use the solar array as an educational tool on how solar works and the benefits of renewable energy.
  • SunEdison, Inc. has announced that it entered into a joint framework agreement with Aboitiz Renewables, Inc. The agreement formalizes their intention to jointly explore, develop, construct and operate up to 300 megawatts of utility-scale solar photovoltaic power generation projects in the Philippines over the next three years.
  • Enerkem Inc. has announced it has signed an agreement with AkzoNobel, a global paints and coatings company and a major producer of specialty chemicals, to develop a project partnership to explore the development of waste-to-chemicals facilities in Europe. In this new project partnership, Enerkem will license its exclusive breakthrough technology to convert municipal and other waste feedstocks into chemicals. The final business structure and sites are under discussions and will be announced at a later time.
  • Conservative pro-solar organization TUSK (Tell Utilities Solar Won’t be Killed) has launched organizing, fundraising and education campaigns in Colorado in response to government-regulated monopoly utility Xcel’s attacks on rooftop solar. Xcel wants to damage the state’s rooftop solar industry and deny Coloradans the right to generate their own electricity. TUSK’s Chairman is former US Congressman Barry Goldwater Jr.

USDA Working on Producing Butanol as Biofuel

qureshiU.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) researchers are working turning barley straw and corn stover into biobutanol. This article from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) says the agricultural by-products could be a cost-effective feedstock for the green fuel.

Gallon for gallon, butanol has 30 percent more energy than ethanol and only around 4 percent less energy than a gallon of petroleum-based gasoline. [ARS chemical engineer Nasib] Qureshi has confirmed that both barley straw and corn stover can be converted to butanol via separate hydrolysis, fermentation, and recovery (SHFR) or by simultaneous saccharification, fermentation, and recovery (SSFR). In SSFR, releasing the plant sugars, fermenting them to butanol, and recovering the butanol are combined into a single operation that is performed in a single reactor.

In a recent study, Qureshi’s team used a process called gas stripping to “harvest” butanol fermented during SSFR. They obtained a final butanol yield that was 182 percent of the yield obtained from a control study that used glucose.

Using the same protocols, the scientists were able to ferment over 99 percent of the sugars in pretreated corn stover. This resulted in butanol yields that were 212 percent greater than yields observed from the controls, and 117 percent greater than the butanol yields from the barley straw.

In the corn stover-to-butanol process, the researchers are using vacuum technology instead of gas stripping to simultaneously recover butanol during fermentation. This new process released more than 97 percent of the stover sugars, making them available for fermentation.

Biodiesel Helps Houston Schools be District of Distinction

schoolbusesHouston schools are being recognized as a District of Distinction, in part, because of their embrace of biodiesel. This article from School Transportation News says the Houston Independent School District received the honor from District Administration magazine for, among other things, its “green” bus fleet.

“We are pleased to honor Houston Independent School District as a District of Distinction,” said J.D. Solomon, Editorial director of the magazine. “Like all our honorees, the district serves as a model for school leaders across the country.”

[A] goal the district achieved was minimizing the amount of pollutants emitted by its buses. Since the end of 2012, all 1,000 buses have been converted from diesel to biodiesel, which is about 75 percent cleaner than diesel. To further clean up its fleet, the district secured nearly $3 million in grants to purchase propane-powered buses and a fueling station. Nearly 90 percent of the district’s buses are now biodiesel and 10 percent propane.

Houston’s district was among 49 districts that were honored in the inaugural round of the publication’s new national recognition program. Andres Montes,

SolarReserve Flips the Switch on South African Solar Project

Jasper Solar Power ProjectSolarReserve has flipped the switch on what they call the largest solar project in South Africa. The 96 MW Jasper solar power project completed construction two months early and is producing at full capacity. The solar farm is located in South Africa’s Northern Cape in a solar park that also includes the 75 MW Lesedi solar power project which came online in May, and the proposed 100 MW Redstone concentrated solar thermal power (CSP) plant featuring SolarReserve’s CSP technology with integrated energy storage.

As part of the South African Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Program (REIPPPP), the project will set aside a percentage of total project revenues for Enterprise Development and Socio-Economic Development for the benefit of the local communities.

“In addition to helping South Africa meet its critical electricity needs, the Jasper Project will bring long lasting economic benefits to the region,” said SolarReserve’s CEO Kevin Smith. “We look forward to continuing this positive momentum and bringing value to South Africa through collaboration on further projects, including our upcoming CSP projects that will provide South Africa with clean, reliable and non-intermittent electricity, day and night.”

With over 325,000 PV modules, the Jasper Project will deliver 180,000 megawatt-hours of renewable electricity annually for South Africa residents – enough to power up to 80,000 households through a 20-year power purchase agreement with Eskom, the South African power utility company. Selected by the South Africa Department of Energy (DOE) in the second round of bids under the REIPPPP, the project also marked Google’s first renewable energy investment in Africa.

Report: Brazil to Lead in Biomass Power

According to a new report from GlobalData, Brazil will overtake the U.S. in biopower energy. Brazil’s biopower installed capacity will rise from 11.5 GW in 2013 to nearly 17.10 GW by 2018 when it will overtake the U.S. as the world’s leading biopower market.

Global Biopower Market – Capacity, Generation, Market Size, Major Feedstock, Regulations, global data logoand Key Country Analysis to 2025,” finds that the U.S. had the world’s largest biopower installed capacity in 2013, with 15.43 GW, but this will only rise to 16.49 GW by 2018. The country will witness slow growth due to its large existing capacity, which has saturated the market.

Harshavardhan Reddy Nagatham, GlobalData’s analyst covering alternative energy, said of the findings, “A major share of the US’ biopower capacity was installed in the 1980s and 1990s, meaning the country already had 12.82 GW by 2006, while Brazil only had 3.59 GW by that time. The nascent Brazilian market is being driven by the government, which has made it necessary for local utility service providers to obtain at least 2 GW of installed biomass capacity through auctions annually, for ten years from 2007.”

Nagatham points out that while there is a possibility of feedstock supply interruptions due to increased deforestation in certain areas, the rise in sugarcane plantations is expected to compensate for this. “The abundance of sugarcane in Brazil makes the installation of biomass technology a very viable option for power generation. Biomass projects will also generate electricity from both sugarcane waste and non-food energy crops, such as eucalyptus and pine trees.”

Biopower will face competition from other sectors, such as hydropower, natural gas and wind. The report finds the biggest challenge to bioenergy will be Brazilian utility companies’ inclination towards wind power and the large drop in wind energy capital expenditure. However, it is predicted Brazil will see a positive outlook for biopower through 2025.

Gaelectric Opens Dunbeg Wind Farm

Gaelectric has begun producing power at its £58 million Dunbeg Wind Farm, which is located between Limavady and Coleraine in Northern Ireland. Dunbeg is one of the largest wind farms constructed on the island of Ireland. The 42 MW wind farm comprises 14 Enercon wind turbines (Model E82, each with the capacity to generate up to 3 MW) with a maximum tip height of 125 metres. It will generate sufficient renewable power to meet the electricity demand of nearly 24,000 homes on an annual basis.

Brendan McGrath, Gaelectric Group CEO, said, “Dunbeg marks a major milestone for our business and further strengthens Gaelectric’s platform within the Single Electricity Market (SEM) on the island of Ireland. Our total permitted portfolio now stands at 140 MWs in Northern Ireland and represGaelectric Opens £58 Million Dunbeg Wind Farm in Irelandents a total investment of approximately £170 million. This consolidates Gaelectric’s position as the largest indigenous renewable energy company in Northern Ireland.”

“Gaelectric has been progressing an ambitious wind energy development programme in Ireland, the United States centered on the State of Montana, and in energy storage utilising compressed air energy storage (CAES) technology in our CAES Project near Larne in Northern Ireland,” added McGrath. “The launch of Dunbeg is a fitting way to mark our 10 years in existence and a tribute to our internal team and our technology and funding partners who have made this happen.”

In the last three years, Gaelectric has secured planning approval for nine Northern Ireland Wind Farm developments, including Dunbeg. The company’s first operational Wind Farm in Northern Ireland, the £20 million Carn Hill Wind Farm located in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim was officially opened in May 2013. Gaelectric plans to commission its remaining seven NI Wind Farm projects by 2017.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFThe 5th Annual European Algae Biomass will be taking place April 22-23, 2015 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. During the afternoon of April 21, 2015 a limited number of conference attendees will receive a unique opportunity to visit Lgem facilities in Den Haag and AlgaePARC at Wageningen University. Topics will include: Roadmap to Commercialisation of Algal Bioproducts; Recent Production Platforms for Algal Biomass; Microalgae Harvesting & Processing; Different Applications & Products from Algae: Nutricients, Animal Feed, Cosmetics, Pharma & Biochemicals; Investment Activity in Microalgae Technology; and more.
  • Calling it an issue of tax fairness, as well as a matter of importance to the U.S. economy, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has offered its support to efforts by a broad coalition of fuel cell, microturbine and heat and power companies, as well as many leading business organizations, to include a “commence construction” provision in Section 48 of the U.S. tax code to provide much-needed market certainty. SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch noted the commence construction provision provided for in the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA) should apply to all Section 45 and Section 48 clean energy incentives – regardless of technology to allow more clean energy projects across America to move forward.
  • China Sunergy Co., Ltd. has announced they have signed a memorandum of understanding with Deniz Finansal Kiralama A.S. establishing strategic partnership to finance the solar projects through financial leasing in Turkey. DenizLeasing will facilitate and provide capital leasing for solar PV projects of up to 100 MW deploying China Sunergy’s solar modules and other components.
  • Abengoa has been selected by the electricity and gas company, Belgian Eco Energy to develop the largest commercial plant in the world of new construction in Ghent (Belgium), which will produce 215 MW of electricity, being one hundred percent of the raw material biomass (wood chips and agro-residues). The amount of the project will exceed 315 million euro. Abengoa will be responsible for the engineering, design and construction of the plant.

U.S. Renewable Energy Industry Ready to Step Up

A new goal was announced during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing this week to double renewable energy in the 21 member economies by 2030. The renewable energy industry collectively came out and said they are ready to do their part. This new goal was a follow-up to last year’s commitment to encourage technology transfer and efforts to lower costs and attract private investment to the renewable energy industry.

“We appreciate the leadership that President Obama and the rest of these world leaders are showing on the critical task of rapidly scaling up low-carbon energy sources,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. “Here in America, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Vision for the growth of our industry, we can quadruple wind power by 2030 and save consumers money doing it, if policymakers keep supporting state renewable standards and federal tax incentives to attract the necessary private investment.”

Linda Church Ciocci, executive director, National Hydropower Association said on behalf of the hydro electric industry, “Hydropower is poised for growth and ready to meet America’s renewable energy goals. From powering the 97 percent of the nation’s dams that remain unpowered to upgrading our existing facilities, opportunities exist to double hydropower’s contribution to the electricity grid, while strengthening our economy and providing more Americans access to clean, low-cost electricity.”

“GEA applauds the APEC goal of doubling renewable power,” added Karl Gawell, executive director, Geothermal Energy Association. “New geothermal power development underway in the U.S. and nearly all of the APEC countries will provide more than electricity, building thousands of megawatts of new geothermal power will spur economic growth, create new jobs and ensure environmental health for future generations.”

The highlight of the summit was a surprise negotiated emissions deal between the U.S. and China to curb climate change. The deal includes new targets for the U.S. and China to stop emission growth by 2030 and to create momentum around climate talks leading into the global climate conference taking place in Paris in 2015. Continue reading