Propane Expands Use on the Farm

propane-logo1Farmers across the country are turning more and more to propane for their operations. A new study sponsored by the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) shows that farmers looking to cut fuel costs, increase efficiencies, and meet strict emissions standards are turning to the clean-burning fuel.


Propane is currently used by more than 40 percent of farms in the U.S. According to a survey conducted by PERC and Artemis Strategy Group, the most common uses for propane among farmers are building heating (47 percent) and grain drying (35 percent).

The survey also showed that the role of propane on farms is changing, as more farmers are choosing propane to fuel vehicles and irrigation systems over other alternative fuels such as natural gas. According to the survey, 14 percent are using propane to fuel a vehicle on the farm (compared with natural gas at one percent) and five percent are using propane for irrigation (compared with natural gas at two percent).

“The results show that farmers trust propane as a reliable, convenient, American-made fuel,” Cinch Munson, PERC director of agriculture business development, said. “Every year, new, fuel-efficient propane-powered irrigation engines, grain dryers, work trucks, and forklifts are hitting the market. As more options become available, more farmers will turn to propane for greater efficiency and fuel savings.”

The survey also shows that farmers like using propane, as favorability ratings hit about 84 percent for propane, compared with 61 percent for natural gas and 33 percent for heating oil. PERC also touted its partnerships with equipment manufacturers with research and development investments to commercialize new propane-powered products or advance the energy efficiency of existing applications.

Bacon-Biodiesel Bike Makes Cross-Country Trip

baconbike1Bikes, biodiesel and bacon… what more could a guy (or gal) want? In what could be the tastiest source ever for biodiesel, a motorcycle fueled by bacon grease biodiesel has driven to the West Coast. This article from the Austin (MN) Daily Herald says hometown Hormel Foods Corp. is sponsoring a motorcycle that runs on biodiesel made of bacon grease for the Aug. 29 International Bacon Film Festival in San Diego, Calif. and is being filmed along the way for a movie called “Driven By Bacon” to be shown at the film festival.

Hormel representatives say the marketing push is an exciting opportunity to spread the word about Hormel’s Black Label Bacon brand and will likely be used as a promotional tool in the future.

“It was a really exciting idea,” said Nick Schweitzer, brand manager for meat production at Hormel.

Several people, including Charlie Smithson of CSE Engineering and Taylor Bamber, Smithson’s work partner, will also be on the trip to troubleshoot problems with the motorcycle.

Smithson and Bamber custom designed the motorcycle based on a 2011 Track T-800CDI model.

Officials say the motorcycle could end up in Hormel’s Spam Museum.

Project Liberty to Celebrate with Grand Opening

POET-DSM’s Project LIBERTY is celebrating the ethanol plant’s production of cellulosic ethanol produced from corn stover and corn cobs during a grand opening celebration on Wednesday, September 3, 2014. The event will be held in Emmetsburg, Iowa and will showcase what POET-DMS calls a “first-of-its-kind technology that is poised to dramatically expand the world’s resources for transportation fuel”.

POET-DSM Project Liberty July 2014The Grand Opening will feature plant tours, a formal ceremony, a flyover by the ethanol-powered Vanguard Squadron, booths, music and more. The public is invited to attend and lunch will be provided.

Project LIBERTY will process 770 tons of corn cobs, leaves, husk and some stalk daily to produce 20 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year, later ramping up to 25 million gallons per year. Plant personnel are currently running biomass through the pretreatment process and preparing for the first gallons of ethanol. Project LIBERTY will be the flagship plant in POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels’ plan to license this technology to companies across the U.S. and around the world.

Public tours will be available from 9:00 am to 11:00 am and 1:45 pm to 4:00 pm. A grand opening ceremony will take place from 11:00 am to 12:20 pm. Lunch will be provided and visitors can also view booths and equipment from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Location is 777 Main Street in Emmestburg, Iowa, 50536. There will be no public parking at the site. Free parking and regular shuttles will run from the Wild Rose Casino parking lot.

Virent Receives EPA Approval for BioForm

virentThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded Virent fuel registration for its BioForm Gasoline in blends of up to 45 percent. As a registered fuel, Virent’s biogasoline can now be used in on-highway motor vehicles. According to Virent, BioForm Gasoline is a high octane, direct replacement fuel made from plants that offers the benefits of high performance and blend rates, complete compatibility with existing refining and distribution infrastructure networks and reduced carbon footprint.

“Securing EPA registration of our BioForm Gasoline is further confirmation of Virent’s high quality drop-in fuel and is another step towards commercializing our technology to produce renewable fuels and chemicals from biobased feedstocks,” said Lee Edwards, CEO and President of Virent. “We would also like to recognize our longtime collaborator Royal Dutch Shell for supporting the registration and testing process.”

The BioForm Gasoline blended with conventional gasoline underwent testing at Southwest Research Institute (SWRI) with the results demonstrating that the emissions from the blended fuel were well below the maximum permitted by current regulations, according to Virent. The BioForm Gasoline was manufactured by Virent at its demonstration plant in Madison, Wisconsin, which is capable of producing up to 10,000 gallons of biofuels and biochemicals per year. The EPA testing work was funded by Virent partner Royal Dutch Shell.

Matthew Tipper, Shell Vice President Alternative Energies, added, “Shell is pleased to see continued progress of biofuels as a road transport fuel in the United States as evidenced by this most recent EPA registration of a plant-based alternative fuel. This success demonstrates the progress being made by the biofuels industry. Also, it supports a continuation of a framework for expanding commercialization and use of biofuels, including advanced biofuels produced from non-food based plant alternatives, in the United States.”

Solar & Storage Microgrid Project Planned for Vermont

A new solar + storage microgrid project has been announced for Rutland, Vermont. The Stafford Hills project is being developed by Green Mountain Power in collaboration with Dynapower and GroSolar. The U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Electricity along with the Energy Storage Technology Advancement Partnership (ESTAP) funded the energy storage component project along with funds from the State of Vermont. In addition, the project is being managed by Clean Energy States Alliance and Sandia National Laboratories.

Solar + Storage System in Vermont“This project is a national model for the future of clean energy – combining solar with energy storage,” said Lewis Milford, president of Clean Energy Group, which manages the Clean Energy States Alliance. “Solar power and battery storage will provide clean reliable power to a school that serves as an emergency shelter, helping a community cope with loss of power in a future disaster. This new form of resilient power is what all communities need to protect themselves from power outages in severe weather events.”

According to Clean Energy Group, this project is unique in several ways:

  • It is one of the first exclusively solar-powered microgrids in the US, and the first to provide full back-up to an emergency shelter on the distribution network;
  • It is the first solar+storage microgrid to be developed on a brownfield site, contributing to brownfield redevelopment efforts in Rutland, VT;
  • It incorporates 7,722 solar panels, capable of generating 2.5 MW of electricity, helping GMP to reach its goal of making Rutland, VT the Solar Capital of New England, and helping Vermont to reach its renewable energy goals;
  • It incorporates 4 MW of battery storage, both lithium ion and lead acid, to integrate the solar generation into the local grid, and to provide resilient power in case of a grid outage;
  • It incorporates innovative multi-port inverters designed specifically for this project by Dynapower, a local Vermont firm;
  • It will provide resilient power to a Rutland school that serves as a public emergency shelter (additional critical facilities may be similarly supported by this microgrid in the future); and
  • It will provide clean, distributed generation and resilient power to an economically challenged, urban community that is targeted for revitalization, and that suffers frequent power outages due to storms.

Dr. Imre Gyuk, Energy Storage Program Manager in the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, U.S. Department of Energy, added, “This project provides resilient power during emergencies while benefitting the grid at other times. The technical innovations will reduce cost and make the project commercially viable. This is the perfect project! It has social value, technical innovation, and furthers renewable integration for the grid.”

Sierra Magazine Releases 2014 Coolest Schools

The “Coolest Schools” in America rankings are out and the top school is University of California, Irvine. Compiled annually by Sierra Club, the rankings focus on America’s greenest colleges. The ranking universities displayed a deep and Dickinson College Studentsthorough commitment to protecting the environment, addressing climate issues, and encouraging environmental responsibility. More than 150 schools filled out an extensive survey created in a collaboration between Sierra and the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Using a customized scoring system, Sierra ranked the universities based on their commitment to upholding high environmental standards.

“For eight years Sierra magazine has encouraged America’s colleges and universities to fully embrace their unique and multifaceted role in tackling the climate crisis and protecting America’s air, water, public health, and beautiful places,” said Bob Sipchen, Sierra magazine’s editor in chief. “From innovative research and development to powering campuses with wind and solar, to educating students in the most advanced thinking on sustainability, colleges and universities are leaders and models for the rest of society. Sierra magazine congratulates those that made our annual ‘Coolest Schools’ list.”

Sierra magazine’s top 10 schools of 2014 are:

1. University of California, Irvine (Irvine, CA)
2. American University (Washington, DC)
3. Dickinson College (Carlisle, PA)
4. Loyola University Chicago (Chicago, IL)
5. Lewis and Clark College (Portland, OR)
6. Stanford University (Stanford, CA)
7. University of South Florida (Tampa, FL)
8. Green Mountain College (Poultney, VT)
9. University of Connecticut (Storrs, CT)
10. Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA)

This is UC Irvine’s fifth consecutive year as a top 10 finalist, but its first time as the winner, thanks in part to its three on-campus solar projects, a 19-megawatt turbine cogeneration plant, and energy-efficiency goals that are consistently exceeded. Other factors that helped those at the top of our list: American University has D.C.’s largest solar array; Dickinson runs an organic farm; Stanford is divesting from coal; and USF supplies a solar charging station for electric vehicles.

“The Cool Schools ranking is yet another indication of how deeply young people understand the benefits of clean energy and of how adept they are at turning awareness into action,” said Karissa Gerhke, director of the Sierra Student Coalition. “To capitalize on this power, the Sierra Student Coalition will join with students across the country this fall to launch the Campuses for Clean Energy campaign, a transformative movement that will demand 100 percent clean energy for campuses.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFWide bandgap (WBG) materials such as silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) are best positioned to address emerging power electronics performance needs in electric vehicles (EVs), with SiC displacing silicon as early as 2020, according to Lux Research report, “Silicon vs. WBG: Demystifying Prospects of GaN and SiC in the Electrified Vehicle Market“. As silicon struggles to meet higher performance standards, WBG materials are benefiting critically from evolving battery economics.
  • Hanergy Holding Group Limited, a multinational clean-energy power generator and a leading thin-film solar company, today announced that it has completed the acquisition of Alta Devices, whose thin film solar technology has a conversion efficiency of 30.8 percent, the highest among the solar energy technologies currently available in the world.
  • Whether it’s established markets concerned about securing long-term energy supply or emerging nations seeking to efficiently improve their generating capacity, biomass for power generation is taking a strong hold on the global market. According to the July analysis of the Waste Business Finder database, published in Waste Industry Sales Monitor, there were 43 such projects, with an identifiable value of US $1.3 billion. The popularity of biomass is being driven by the array of biomass types – from animal/agricultural waste, through domestic food waste to forestry residues – allowing countries to specialize in the types most available to them. In this way, developing countries such as Burma, Honduras or Nigeria, which all reported developments in the month, can more easily meet their growing electricity generation needs.
  • The U.S. carport market has emerged as a substantial component of the U.S. solar industry. According to the latest report from GTM Research, “U.S. Solar Carport Market 2014-2018: Landscape, Outlook and Leading Companies,” the U.S. is forecasted to add over 180 megawatts of solar carports in 2014, making it the fourth consecutive year with more than 100 megawatts installed.

Are Right to Farm Laws Necessary?

New Holland ZimmPollOur latest ZimmPoll asked the question, “What’s your favorite way to eat peanut butter?”

It’s official…you can put peanut butter on anything. We had votes all over the board with this poll. But it is clear people like peanut butter. Some of the top ‘others’ we got included apples and toast.

Here are the poll results:

  • PB & J – 19%
  • Crackers – 8%
  • On a spoon – 11%
  • With celery – 8%
  • Cookies – 14%
  • Candy – 3%
  • Pie – 3%
  • Ice Cream – 6%
  • Pancakes/waffles – 6%
  • Other – 22%

Our new ZimmPoll is now live and asks the question, What do you think of Right to Farm laws?

Missouri just narrowly passed a constitutional amendment on the right to farm and North Dakota has had one for two years. Is this necessary or is agriculture over-reacting?

Fire Dept. Saves Money & Lives Brewing Up Own Biodiesel

rioricofdA southern Arizona fire district is saving lives and money by brewing up its own biodiesel to run in its trucks. This article from the Nogales (AZ) International says the Rio Rico Fire District has been making its own biodiesel from waste cooking oil since 2008 and figures what was made kept thousands of dollars in places better spent, such as saving lives.

Since 2008, [firefighter Mark] Gerbert and others at RRFD’s Station No. 1 have been cooking up thousands of gallons of biodiesel in a surprisingly sophisticated lab funded by a $90,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. The primary purpose of that grant was to reduce food oil waste and cut down on emissions, but the financial benefits of the project have also been significant. According to administrative manager Marcela Ceballos, the fire district has saved nearly $40,000 in fuel costs in the last three fiscal years alone.

“Like milk, diesel keeps going up,” [firefighter Frank] Granados said.

Gerbert said that most of the district’s engines can run on the B50 blend they make, which is a half-biodiesel, half-petroleum diesel blend.

When Herbert started with the project, he was short on know-how.

“I didn’t know a frickin’ thing about this when I got started,” he said.

Now, six years later, he expertly cooks waste oil into clean biodiesel with ease and explains each step of the process with the skill of a high school chemistry teacher.

The firefighters do warn people not to try this at home.

Area restaurants and homeowners wanting to help out are encouraged to contact the Rio Rico Fire District to arrange to donate their waste grease.

Biodiesel By-Product Glycerol to Hit $2.52 Bil Global Worth

A new study says the global worth of the biodiesel by-product glycerol will hit $2.52 billion by the year 2020. The report, “Glycerol Market By Source (Biodiesel, Fatty Acids, Fatty Alcohols), By Application (Personal Care, Alkyd Resins, Polyether Polyols), Downstream Opportunities (Propylene Glycol, Epichlorohydrin, 1,3 Propanediol) And Segment Forecasts To 2020,” from Grand View Research also says biodiesel is the leading source of the ingredient now found in personal care products, alkyd resins, and polyether polyols applications.

Biodiesel emerged as the leading source of glycerol, accounting for over 1,400 kilo tons of glycerol production in 2013. Growing application market coupled with increased production of oleochemicals in Asia Pacific is expected to augment glycerol demand over the forecast period.

Personal care and pharmaceuticals were the largest application segment, with glycerol consumption exceeding 870 kilo tons in 2013. However, food & beverage is expected to be the fastest growing application segment at an estimated CAGR of 8.4% from 2014 to 2020, owing to improving lifestyle in emerging economies leading to increased consumption of processed and packed foods.

The report went on to say that the Asia-Pacific region was the leading market and accounted for more than one-third of market volume in 2013 and will be the fastest growing market over the next six years. In addition, the global glycerol market is highly concentrated with the top four companies including IOI Group, KL Kepong, Emery Oleochemicals and Wilmar International accounting for more than 65 percent of market revenue last year.

You can read the full report here.

USDA Predicts Record Corn Crop

U.S. farmers are expected to produce more corn than last year, according to the latest USDA report out today.

The August Crop Production report finds that good growing conditions are expected to help growers bring in a record-high crop at 14.0 billion bushels of corn, up 1 percent from 2013 which was also a record at the time. Yields are expected to average 167.4 bushels per acre, which would be the highest yield ever for the United States. Objective yield data indicate the greatest number of ears on record for the ten largest corn producing states.

NCGA-LogoDue to the increased production, the average farm price was lowered a dime from its July estimate, to a range of $3.55 to $4.25 per bushel, which National Corn Growers Association President Martin Barbre says makes it important to keep demand moving forward. “Now is not the time for our federal policymakers to be cutting into the ethanol standard, imposing undue regulations or going slow on trade agreements,” said NCGA President Martin Barbre. “Our farmers are doing their part, working hard and smart on their farms to bring in a good crop. It’s time Washington removed obstacles and cleared a path so we can sell America’s biggest and most versatile crop at a good and fair price.”

growth-energy-logoThe new World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate projects ending corn stocks to be 1.808 billion bushels, up 7 million bushels from July and the highest level of carryover stocks since 2005. “It is clear from this report that the food versus fuel debate over the U.S. renewable fuel policy can be put to bed,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. “It is time to stop attacking a homegrown American industry that is creating jobs, improving our environment and mitigating climate change, all while decreasing out dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels. It is time that the facts, not rhetoric drive the debate and today’s WASDE report should finally end these ridiculous claims. This report makes clear that the American farmer can fuel America and feed the world.”

RFA Making Inroads in Motorcycle Education

rfa-biker-bobbyConcluding the sixth year of sponsorship at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and the Buffalo Chip Campground, Robert White with the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) believes they are making some real headway in getting the true story about ethanol to motorcycle riders.

“The education to the riders is actually taking on a new life,” said White. “We’re seeing riders talking to riders.”

ethanol-report-adIn this edition of the Ethanol Report, White talks about a rider who pulled up for the Free Fuel Happy Hours who said he defended ethanol to his friends at the rally who told him it was a bad for his motorcycle. “He said ‘I kinda came unglued on them’,” he related. The biker told him that he had been talked in to using it at the rally the year before, and he’s “been using it this entire last year without any issue.”

In another case, White said a guy with a brand new Harley said he had been told by the dealer not to use ethanol and he wanted to get a response to that. “And I said why would you believe me?” White said. “I didn’t engineer your motorcycle, I didn’t put the parts together, I’m not providing a warranty for that motorcycle.” The man agreed, noting that neither did the dealership, but his owners manual from Harley in fact said he could use 10% ethanol. “Harley’s been doing this a long time, as have (other motorcycle manufacturers) they know what fuel is going to be most prominent, least expensive, highest octane option for these motorcycles, and it’s going to be ethanol.”

White says they are looking forward to next year, which will be the 75th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, where RFA will having an even bigger presence with an even bigger crowd.

Find our more about RFA making inroads in motorcycle education here:
Ethanol Report on Motorcycle Education

Subscribe to “The Ethanol Report” with this link.

2014 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Photo Album

Listen below to White’s interview with automotive expert Bobby Likis from Sturgis:

Some Retiring Utility Plants Need No Replacement

According to Black & Veatch’s 8th annual Strategic Directions: U.S. Electric Industry report, many retiring nuclear and coal power plants may not need to be replaced on a megawatt-to-megawatt basis. With new technologies and distributed generation along with soft energy demand growth, utilities will be able to replace those retiring with ones that produce less energy.

“This year’s Strategic Directions: U.S. Electric Industry report finds many utilities at a crossroads,” said Dean Oskvig, president of Black & Veatch’s energy business. “The influx of new technologies, new energy sources and new generation approaches, create immense challenges and opportunities for utilities. What has not and will not change, however, is the mandate to deliver the ‘always on’ reliable electric service the
industry has provided for more than 100 years.”

modal-primary-driver-for-rate-increasesThe report found that the rise of distributed generation in particular creates unique challenges for utilities. The technology requires rapid changes to the power grid in order to integrate new assets and resources. Utilities must also be able to ramp up capacity to account for varying renewable energy output (aka wind doesn’t always blow, the sun doesn’t always shine). Where distributed generation reduces demand, utilities will have to revisit their current revenue structure in order to ensure continued reliable service.

John Chevrette, president of Black & Veatch’s management consulting business, noted, “Every kilowatt that is now being produced by a third party or a consumer is a kilowatt not being sold by the utility. At the same time, utilities still carry the burden of building, maintaining and operating the bulk of the power delivery system. Given the high cost of maintaining these assets, we expect to see more utilities making the case with regulators to adjust their business models.”

Based on data collected by industry professionals across the U.S., the report tracks utility leaders’ views on a range of major issues. Some key findings include:

  • Half of the respondents stated their company is planning to replace retiring coal and nuclear power plants with gas generation. Natural gas will also be used as backup power for renewable generation.
  • Nearly 60 percent of utilities are updating emergency response plans in order to improve resiliency to weather and unanticipated events.
  • Utilities are working to provide consumers with resources to better manage energy consumption. Almost one-third of utility respondents stated their organization is offering Home Area Network solutions, such as smart thermostats, to support demand response programs.
  • More than 60 percent of utility leaders believe DG will grow beyond its current 5 percent market share of U.S. power generation by 2020.

OPA Announces FIT 3 Contracts

The Ontario Power Authority has announced the offer of 403 Commercial Rooftop Solar PV Feed-in Tariff (FIT) contracts as part of its FIT Version 3 Renewable Energy Contract announcement. Reliant First Nation Limited Partnership (RFNLP), led by Solar Income Fund Inc. and Adelaide Solar Energy Inc., received FIT 3 contract offers on 176 commercial rooftop projects totaling 38.7 MW of power. Offers on 89 percent of the applications submitted by RFNLP were awarded contracts.

Solar Income Fund logo“We are very pleased with the results detailed in the OPA’s announcement,” said Solar Income Fund Inc. President and COO Jennifer Jackson. “The success achieved here is reflective of the hard work and perseverance of the Partners involved in this project. This is a great example of the successful partnerships that Solar Income Fund continues to develop both here in Ontario and globally.”

Of the 123.5 MW of contracts the OPA was authorized to offer proponents with renewable energy applications, RFNLP represented over 31% of the total successful applications and over 45% of successful Solar Rooftop applications.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFKazakhstan adopted a new feed-in tariff in July 2014. The EBRD has worked with the Ministry of Industry and New Technologies and the Ministry of Environmental Protection to help develop various aspects of the new legislation. The tariff is set at 34,61 tenge/kWh (approx. 14 eurocents), and will be fully indexed/adjusted for inflation annually. The term of the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) is 15 years. With the new tarriff in place, PrimeSolar is developing a 100 MW project at Jambyl Province. Construction is scheduled to begin in April of 2015.
  • CHS Inc has announced that Mark Palmquist, executive vice president and chief operating officer, Ag Business, will leave the organization effective Aug. 31, 2014, to assume the top leadership role with an Australian grain company. Current CHS strategic leadership team member Shirley Cunningham will assume a new role as executive vice president and chief operating officer, Ag Business and Enterprise Strategy. Palmquist will become managing director and chief executive officer of GrainCorp, Sydney, Australia, on Oct. 1, 2014.
  • While plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) are now available in all U.S. states, most Canadian provinces and territories, and in every Western European country, they are not readily accessible in the Asia Pacific region. That will change over the next several years as Asia Pacific becomes the largest market for PEV sales. According to a recent report, “Electric Vehicle Geographic Forecasts,” from Navigant Research, sales of PEVs in North America, Western Europe, and Asia Pacific will grow from 352,000 annually in 2014 to 1.8 million in 2023.
  • STR Holdings, Inc. has announced its entry into a strategic relationship with Zhenfa Energy Group Co., Ltd., a leading developer of solar PV power stations based in Chongqing, China. The contemplated transactions with Zhenfa, which are subject to approval by STR stockholders and satisfaction of other customary closing conditions, include the sale of shares of common stock representing a 51% interest in STR (based on current shares outstanding) for an aggregate purchase price of approximately $21.7 million, the payment by the Company of a special dividend in the aggregate amount of approximately $22.6 million to STR stockholders of record after the closing date (excluding Zhenfa), and the execution of a Sales Service Agreement pursuant to which Zhenfa will, among other things, help drive sales of STR encapsulant to China-based solar module manufacturers.