Cleveland Regional Transit Adopts Propane Buses

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) has adopted propane autogas. The organization has purchased paratransit shuttle buses to transport persons with disabilities. The first of its kind in Ohio, according to RTA, the new shuttles are projected to save $21,000 per vehicle in fuel costs and maintenance over a six-year period. The agency will recoup its investment in just over one year.

RTA Paratransit“We learned of other transit agencies that were successful using propane autogas technology to save money and lower their environmental impact,” said Joe Calabrese, CEO and general manager of the Greater Cleveland RTA. “When you can save money while saving the planet, it’s a no-brainer.”

Built on a Ford E-450 chassis, each paratransit shuttle bus is equipped with a ROUSH CleanTech liquid propane autogas fuel system installed by Green Alternative Systems. ElDorado National-Kansas designed the body of its Aerotech bus model on a fiberglass composite reinforced structure. The floor plan configuration features a wheelchair lift to accommodate passengers with disabilities. With more than 700,000 trips annually, the paratransit shuttles operate on-demand to qualified customers.

“We’ve combined a proven, durable, lightweight bus design with leading-edge alternative fuel technology to produce a cost-effective vehicle for paratransit shuttle service,” said Jeff Montgomery, president of ElDorado National-Kansas. “We are proud to join our dealer Meyers Equipment and ROUSH CleanTech to meet the special transportation needs of the Greater Cleveland RTA.”

The RTA is one of the largest transit systems in the nation. Currently, the agency is building an onsite propane autogas fueling station.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFThe Abengoa Bioenergy plant in Hugoton, Kansas, which converts plant cellulose into ethanol, will celebrate its grand opening October 17, 2014 with a visit from U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. The plant was built to produce 25 million gallons of ethanol from nearly 350,000 tons of biomass annually. The event will be 11 a.m. at the Abengoa Bioenergy plant, 1043 Road P, Hugoton.
  • The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) has released a graphic highlighting the complexity of regulating the generation of electricity under the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan. View the graphic here.
  • The new Global Wind Energy Outlook 2014 presents three visions of the future of the global wind energy industry out to 2020, 2030 and up to 2050 showing how the global wind industry will deliver in terms of covering global electricity demand, new jobs, CO² emission savings, cost reductions & investment rates, offshore development, and more.
  • Vista Solar has announced that it will participate in TechWomen 2014. As part of the U.S. Department of State’s TechWomen exchange program, leading companies in the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley will host 78 women from the Middle East and Africa during October. Through mentorship and exchange, the program provides participants access and opportunities to advance their careers in the STEM fields, and inspire women and girls in their communities.

RFA Updates Fueling A Nation, Feeding the World

An updated version of the paper “Fueling a Nation, Feeding the World,” has been released by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). The publication outlines ethanol’s contribution to the global food and feed supply and also contains information that RFA said disproves the “fabricated food vs. fuel” debate.

Fueling a nation“The U.S. ethanol industry has quietly evolved into one of the largest feed processing sectors in the world, generating nearly 40 million metric tons of high-protein, high-energy animal feed in the 2013/14 marketing year,” said Bob Dinneen, RFA president and CEO. “The RFA publication is a resource intended to educate policymakers and consumers about the industry’s role in producing feed, to counter the nonsensical food vs. fuel notion, and explain the benefits of ethanol production and co-products for both food and feed markets.”

The booklet outlines the co-products of ethanol production, such as distillers grain, corn distillers oil and corn gluten feed. For example, a 56-pound bushel of corn will yield 2.8 gallons of ethanol and 17 pounds of distillers grain, which is commonly fed to beef cattle, dairy cows, swine, poultry, and even fish. The handbook explains that “the feed produced by ethanol plants in 2013/14 would be enough to produce nearly 50 billion quarter-pound hamburger patties — or seven patties for every person on the planet.”

The publication concludes by stating, “Not only are U.S. ethanol producers helping to meet future demands for energy, but they are also helping to meet the increasing food and feed needs of a growing world.”

RFA will be sharing the booklet with international buyers and U.S. producers of ethanol-related co-products, such as distillers grain, at the Export Exchange taking place in Seattle, Washington October 20-22 2014.

Small Biodiesel Maker Closing Indicative of RFS Problem

yokayo1While the closing of one small biodiesel maker in California might not seem like big news, it’s certainly indicative of the problems facing the industry, big and small producers alike. This story from the Ukiah (CA) Daily Journal says that Yokayo Biofuels, which turned waste cooking oil into biodiesel, has closed.

[Kumar Plocher, Yokayo Biofuels' CEO] says the biggest reason for their closure was due to a lack of government support both at the state and federal levels. He explains that the carbon credit programs, those where petroleum companies are required to buy a certain amount of renewable fuels, allowed his company to bank carbon credits, normally valued high based on demand. This year state and federal value levels were very low: the state’s due to tampering by global companies that flooded the market and at the federal’s due to the Obama administration and the EPA. “Every year the federal government is supposed to raise the requirement of renewable fuel that should be purchased. At the beginning of 2014, they did not do that; they kept it static. They waited until September to announce a tiny increase, and by that time the damage was done and carbon credits were worthless all year. Every mid-term election year, the dollar per gallon subsidy that goes to biofuels has been absent; they wait until after the election.”

Plocher’s complaint is a common one among advanced biofuel makers and their advocates this year. In fact, at the recent National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo, Michael McAdams, founder and president of the Advanced Biofuels Association, said the partnership between the federal government and industry has to have clarity and certainty, but that’s not been the case lately.

“What we haven’t had in the last two years is certainty for the people I represent in the advanced and cellulosic sector,” McAdams said.

Similarly, Bob Dinneen, CEO and president of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), pointed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s estimates that corn prices will hit an eight-year low because of the government’s failure to follow through on the promises made in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

“Indeed, today’s USDA report should be the closing argument in the debate over the 2014 RFS final rule,” Dinneen continued. “When farmers made their planting decisions for the 2014 season, they anticipated that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the White House would continue to enforce the statutory RFS volumes. But in one fell swoop, the EPA’s proposed rule wiped away demand for 500 million bushels of corn and grain sorghum. Now, farmers are faced with corn prices below the cost of production and the risk of returning to an era of increased reliance on federal farm program payments.”

There is a little good news in all of this. Plocher was able to sell Yokayo Biofuels’ biodiesel assets to like-minded Simple Fuels.

Biodiesel Research Leads to Biochar Grant

isubiochar1Researchers at Iowa State University looking into ways to make biodiesel more profitable have found a way for farmers to cash in on biochar, a charcoal-like substance used as a carbon sequestering resource. This article from the school says ISU students Bernardo Del Campo, Juan Proano and Matthew Kieffer are expanding their horizons and have picked up a U.S. Department of Energy for $150,000 to help make the idea a reality.

“In the beginning, it was biodiesel and consulting. It was playing around as a club figuring out ‘How do we do biodiesel? How do we help the farmer?’ Proano said. “In that phase, we figured out that Biochar could be a good addition in order to improve the health of the soils on a farm.”

As the group began looking at the idea of making a profit with the research they had done, it became apparent that a change needed to be made.

“People have been doing this pretreatment for some time, but we did it [for] pennies. It was a really reduced budget.” Proano said.

From there, the company began working with around 20 individuals from many different backgrounds and ethnicities to make different products from another bio-renewable resource, Biochar.

The article goes on to explain that biochar starts as sawdust, and through biomass pyrolysis, the sawdust is turned into the biochar, which acts like a sponge to help clean up farm chemicals from streams and rivers while also enriching the soil.

Advanced Biofuels Conf. – Expo Ribbon Cutting

The 2014 National Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo got off to a great start yesterday in Minneapolis. It concludes today and we’ve got more stories and interviews to share.

In the meantime you might enjoy seeing the ribbon cutting from last night in the Expo hall. Tim Portz, BBI International, welcomes everyone before introducing Scott Wangsgard, New Holland, to say a few words and cut the ribbon.

2014 National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo Photo Album

Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by
Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by New Holland

How to Power Up Clean Power Plan

According to an analysis conduced by the Union of Concern Scientists (UCS), states can cost-effectively produce nearly twice as much renewable electricity as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calculated in the Clean Power Plan. Increased renewable electricity growth could allow states to collectively cut heat-trapping carbon emissions from power plants by as much as 40 percent below 2005 levels rather than the 30 percent reduction the EPA included in its draft rule.

EPA-targets-are-modestOverall the EPA calculated that renewables could comprise 12 percent of U.S. electricity sales in 2030, marginally more than business-as-usual projections from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). If fully implemented, UCS’s proposed modified approach for setting state targets would result in renewables supplying at least 23 percent of national power sales by 2030.

“There is an urgent need to reduce heat trapping gases, and power plants are about forty percent of the problem,” said Ken Kimmell, UCS’s president and former head of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. “Fortunately, renewable electricity has been growing by leaps and bounds for the past five years and costs keep dropping. That’s great news and the agency should take full advantage of what’s been happening on the ground.”

UCS’s analysis found that seven states are already producing more renewable electricity than EPA computed they could in 2030 under its draft rule. Additionally, 17 states have existing laws that require more renewable electricity than EPA’s targets. Continue reading

East Kansas’ Jeff Oestmann Featured on Car Clinic

Bobby Likis Car ClinicThe ethanol industry was well represented on the nationally syndicated car-talk program “Bobby Likis Car Clinic” when Bobby Likis spoke with East Kansas Agri-Energy’s President and CEO Jeff Oestmann. The show aired Saturday, October 11, 2014 and the two ethanol advocates chatted about local, regional and national issues surrounding ethanol production.

Oestmann, whose career spans 20 years in the bioenergy and grain processing industries, currently serves on the Board of Directors of both the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) & Kansas Association of Ethanol Producers. During the program, Oestmann discussed the consumer benefits of ethanol production and its impact on local communities and the U.S. economy. Oestmann is a non-commissioned officer who served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 11 years, including service in the USMC’s elite Embassy Guard.

Jeff Oestmann East Kansas Agri-Energy“I have a question slate lined up for Jeff that addresses ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the U.S economy, engine performance and national security. Consumers – and American citizens – need to hear the message,” said Likis.

Oestmann shared many facts during the program. “We use cutting edge technology at East Kansas Agri-Energy to produce high-quality ethanol that helps consumers save an average of $1.00 per gallon at the gas station and also benefits our environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We put a high priority on innovation, and the biofuels we produce – including next generation renewable diesel – help reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, which in turn bolsters America’s national security.”

Click here to listen to Oestmann’s interview.

The Veteran Asset Training Vets in Solar

The Veteran Asset (TVA) is training veterans across the U.S. for careers in solar energy. The non-profit has announced the availability of TVA scholarships to help cover cost of education.

Scott Duncan, Lieutenant Colonel U.S. Marine Corp (Retired) Scoot Duncan is co-founder and CEO of The Veteran Asset whose mission is recruiting, training and placing veterans into the renewable energy sector, at no cost to the veterans. He said they are establishing the highest quality benchmgI_93484_Jose on Roofark in the industry.

“We are hand-selecting veterans and transitioning military candidates, screening and qualifying them for TVA scholarships,” said Duncan. “This very solar-specific recruiting and training process makes TVA graduates extremely valuable to the solar community. Effort on the front end assures high-quality graduates. By vetting out the right candidates, we insure that the end result is a skilled, solar-trained workforce, which is already proving to make a tremendous difference to the solar companies that hire them and to the industry in general.”

The hand-selected veteran recruits are provided a 32-hour course, entitled Entry Level Solar PV Design and Installation, offered in the Ambassador Energy College training facility in Murrieta, California. On the final day of the course, the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Entry Level Exam is proctored. The TVA formula appears to be working, as the majority of those who have graduated the program since May 2014 have found gainful employment within the solar industry.

Dates for upcoming courses include October 20 – 24 and November 17 – 21, 2014. Interested candidates should visit The Veteran Asset’s website, where they may obtain course details and apply for an interview by TVA staff.

Mainstream Renewable to Build Offshore Wind Farm

The Scottish Ministers have given Mainstream Renewable Power the go ahead to build a 450 megawatt Neart na Gaoithe (“NnG”) offshore wind farm in the Outer Forth Estuary in the North Sea. This project will be the first large-scale offshore wind farm in Scottish waters to be directly connected to the grid when complete in 2018. The wind farm will provide 3.7 percent of Scotland’s total electricity demand. The wind farm will consist of up to 75 wind turbines and will occupy an area of approximately 80 square kilometres. At its closest point to land it lies over 15 kilometres off the Fife coast in water depths of 45-55 metres.

The subsea cable transmitting the wind farm’s power will come ashore at Thorntonloch Beach in East Lothian from where its Mainstream Renewable Powerunderground cable will travel along a 12.5 kilometre route to a substation located within the Crystal Rig onshore wind farm in the Lammermuir Hills. Grid connection will occur in December 2016 and planning permission for the route of the underground cable was received from East Lothian Council in 2013.

Mainstream Renewable Power’s founder and Chief Executive, Eddie O’Connor said, “Today’s announcement is of particular importance for Scotland because it is the first time a wind farm will be built in Scottish waters with the purpose of supplying Scottish homes and businesses with renewable energy. In fact, it will generate enough green power to supply more than all the homes in Edinburgh.”

NnG represents a capital expenditure investment of around £1.5 billion and is on track to be the first offshore wind farm in the UK to attract true non-recourse project finance at the construction stage. The project has pre-qualified for the Infrastructure UK Treasury Guarantee and European Investment Bank funding.

“This is of major significance to the global offshore wind industry because it is on track to be the first time an offshore wind farm of this scale will be built using project finance alone by a private company,” said Andy Kinsella, COO for Mainstream Renewable Power. “It is testament to the world-leading expertise of Mainstream’s offshore development team who have been working on this project since the company was founded in 2008 and further underpins Mainstream’s position as the world’s leading independent offshore wind developer.”

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFTrina Solar Limited announced that its high-efficiency Honey solar module has set a new world record for peak power output for P-type monocrystalline silicon PV modules, as independently certified by TUV Rheinland. The module was developed in the company’s State Key Lab of PV Science and Technology and is composed of 60 156mm x 156mm high-efficiency Honey monocrystalline silicon cells. It generates a peak power output of 335.2W, breaking the previous world record of 326.3W, set by Trina’s Solar’s original Honey module in April 2014.
  • VIASPACE Inc. reported that Giant King Grass was shipped to and planted by its partner, Sagay Central, Inc., in Negros Occidental, Philippines. Sagay Central is a sugar milling and sugar growing company in the center of the Philippines sugar industry. Using the Giant King Grass, their power plant will begin operating 12 months per year and provide the excess electricity to the national grid and will also sell Giant King Grass to other sugar mills to do the same.
  • SunEdison, Inc. announced new zero white space (ZWS) solar module technology. The technology can increase solar module power output by up to 15%, effectively decreasing the total system cost by up to 8%.
  • Rwanda has made the Fund for Environment and Climate Change (FONERWA) a permanent fund to counter climate change. The biggest of its kind in Africa, government and financiers say the fund should guide Rwanda to a green economy for the next 50 years. The project has mobilized Rwf 59 billion (US$85m). Eighteen proposals have been accepted and five others are already operational. FONERWA finances at least 70% of the costs needed to run a project – for both local and foreign players.

Study Looks at Biodiesel Particulates

keenebiodiesel_research1While it’s a pretty well established fact that biodiesel produces fewer particulates than its petroleum counterpart, researchers on a new study want to see if those fewer particulates are also less harmful. This story from Keene State College in New Hampshire says they are using real-world testing to see if those biodiesel particulates are less toxic.

“We began this project using exposure as our measurement of health,” [Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Nora Traviss] explained. “We examined whether or not the pollution created by biodiesel combustion resulted in higher exposure for workers than the pollution created by petroleum diesel. It was very much an exposure assessment.”

With the cooperation of the Keene Recycling Center, Dr. Traviss and her research team mounted particle impactors in the operator’s cabs in machinery at the Center, collecting samples of both petroleum diesel and biodiesel exhaust. The impactors can separate out different sizes of extremely tiny particles, which lets the researchers see exactly what the drivers are breathing. This approach makes Dr. Traviss’ study different from all the others, which collect samples from diesel engines set up in a lab. Dr. Traviss’ samples are real-world. “The exhaust we’re collecting is diluted in the air, it’s going through chemical reactions from the sunlight, and it’s combining with other molecules in the air,” Dr. Traviss explained. “We’re studying the quantity of the particulate matter the driver is breathing and its unique chemical composition, which we hypothesize will be different from particles collected directly from the tailpipe.”

So far, Traviss’ team has confirmed that the amount of particulates in biodiesel exhaust is indeed lower than those from petroleum diesel, although they also found that they are chemically different. They’ll now be using a $400,000 grant from the National Institute of Health to test the toxicity of those particulates.

Report Sheds Light on Biodiesel RINs Behavior

irwinWhat the federal government ends up doing about the proposed amount of biodiesel and ethanol to be blended into the nation’s fuel supply will have an effect on the valuable renewable identification numbers (RINs) used by blenders and fuel producers. This report from the University of Illinois is the latest in the series of articles from the school’s Ag and Consumer Economics expert Scott Irwin, which tries to predict what RINs will do in the short and long term. In the article, Irwin explains that when the amount of ethanol required to be blended under Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) hits and exceeds the so-called E10 blend wall (10 percent of the entire country’s transportation gasoline usage), then biodiesel becomes a de facto substitute for the ethanol RINs.

Since the level of D4 biodiesel RINs prices drives the level of D6 ethanol RINs prices when the renewable mandate exceeds the E10 blend wall, it is important to understand the drivers of the level of D4 prices. In this regard it is helpful to think of the price of a D4 biodiesel RINs as consisting of two components–intrinsic and time value. The intrinsic value is given by the current biodiesel blending margin, while the time value reflects the chance that blending margins will be even larger (bigger losses) in the future. The typical split between intrinsic and time value of D4 RINS in recent years has been about 60/40. The empirical analysis highlights the key role of three factors in driving D4 prices: i) soybean oil prices; ii) diesel prices; and ii) the $1 per gallon blenders tax credit. Soybean oil prices are the primary driver of biodiesel prices, which together with diesel prices determine the blending margin. The (negative) blending margin for biodiesel has been unusually low in 2014 due to declining soybean oil and biodiesel prices, as well as relatively stable diesel prices. The on- and off-again nature of the blenders tax credit introduces considerable uncertainty into the pricing of D4 biodiesel RINs. It appears that RINs traders currently believe there is a low probability of the tax credit being reinstated retroactively for 2014, otherwise D4 prices and time values would be much lower. There is the potential for a precipitous decline in D4 RINs prices if the market is surprised and the tax credit is eventually reinstated.

The analysis also states that what is making the issue even more complicated is the uncertainty of what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will actually do after proposing a year ago to drastically cut the RFS numbers for both ethanol and biodiesel. While a final answer was promised for last summer, speculation is that EPA might now wait until after the November elections.

State of the Advanced Biofuels Industry

nabce-14The National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo opened with a conversation about the current state of important federal biofuels policies, including the status of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Among those on the opening panel was Michael McAdams, founder and president of the Advanced Biofuels Association, who talked first about the state of his industry. “There’s an old expression ‘you’re either the bug or the windshield,'” he said. “Unfortunately, in my own association, about 15% (of my members) have become bugs.”

nabce-14-mcadamsThe reason for that, says McAdams, is the uncertainty surrounding federal biofuels policy. “The partnership between the federal government and industry has to have clarity and certainty,” he said. “What we haven’t had in the last two years is certainty for the people I represent in the advanced and cellulosic sector.”

In an interview after the panel, McAdams described the state of the advanced biofuels industry right now as being in “suspended animation” waiting for clarification on policy including volume obligations under the RFS and pathways for new technologies.

Regarding the RVO, McAdams notes that at this point, with no final numbers for this year yet, the administration needs to be focused on rulemaking for 2015. “I’m assuming the week after the election or maybe Friday before the election we’ll see the numbers (for ’14),” said McAdams. The problem with that is that the 2015 numbers are due November 30 “so one could make a rational case that the numbers they actually publish are the numbers for ’15, not for ’14.” He adds that the administration has already said they expect it will be February before they proposed the 2015 volume obligations.

McAdams urges the advanced biofuels industry to keep working “to deliver the innovative fuels of the future.”
Interview with Mike McAdams, Advanced Biofuels Association
Remarks from Mike McAdams, Advanced Biofuels Association

2014 National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo Photo Album

Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by
Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by New Holland

Offshore Wind Cheaper Than Coal, Gas, Nuclear

According to an Ecofys study commissioned by the European Commission, generating electricity from onshore wind is cheaper than gas, coal and nuclear when externalities are stacked with the levelised cost of energy and subsides. The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) analyzed the report data and determined that onshore wind has an approximate cost of EUR 105 per megawatt hour (MWh). This is less expensive than gas (up to EUR 164), nuclear (EUR 133) and coal (between EUR 162-233). Offshore wind comes in at EUR 186 and solar photovoltaic (PV) has a cost of around EUR 217 per MWh.

ewea-logoThe total cost of energy production, which factors in externalities such as air quality, climate change and human toxicity among others, shows that coal is more expensive than the highest retail electricity price in the EU. The report puts the figure of external costs of the EU’s energy mix in 2012 at between EUR 150 and EUR 310 billion.

Justin Wilkes, deputy chief executive officer of the European Wind Energy Association, said of the findings, “This report highlights the true cost of Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels. Renewables are regularly denigrated for being too expensive and a drain on the taxpayer. Not only does the Commission’s report show the alarming cost of coal but it also presents onshore wind as both cheaper and more environmentally-friendly.”

EWEA said onshore and offshore wind technologies also have room for significant cost reduction. Coal on the other hand is a fully mature technology and is unlikely to reduce costs any further.

“We are heavily subsidising the dirtiest form of electricity generation while proponents use coal’s supposed affordability as a justification for its continued use,” added Wilkes. “The irony is that coal is the most expensive form of energy in the European Union. This report shows that we should use the 2030 climate and energy package as a foundation for increasing the use of wind energy in Europe to improve our competitiveness, security and environment.”