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.

Wind Power Growth Surging Where Supported

According to Worldwatch Research Associate Mark Konold and Climate and Energy Intern Xiangyu Wu, double-digit growth continued in the global wind market in 2013. In the latest Vital Signs, the writers state that there are 318 GW of wind capacity online today with 35 GW added in 2013. However, the growth was a significant drop from the average growth rate over the last 10 years (21%). In addition, overall investment declined slightly from $80.9 billion in 2012 to $80.3 billion in 2013.

In 2013, offshore wind capacity continued to see growth as projects became larger and moved into deeper waters. Until recently, deep-water offshore wind has developed on foundations adapted from the oil and gas industry, but deeper waters and harsher weather have become formidable challenges requiring newly designed equipment. Shipbuilders are expanding to make larger vessels to transport bigger equipment and longer and larger subsea cables to more-distant offshore projects.

wind_power_figure_1_0It’s these trends, write the authors, that have kept prices high in recent years. As of early 2014, the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) for offshore wind power-which includes the cost of the plant’s full operational and financial life-was up to nearly $240 per megawatt-hour (MWh). By comparison, the LCOE of onshore wind installations in various regions of the world is under $150 per MWh, having fallen about 15 percent between 2009 and early 2014.

According to the authors, onshore, wind-generated power is becoming more cost-competitive against new coal- or gas-fired plants, even without incentives and support schemes. Over the past few years, capital costs of wind power have decreased because of large technological advances such as larger machines with increased power yield, higher hub height, longer blades, and greater nameplate capacity (which indicates the maximum output of a wind turbine).

Tighter competition among manufacturers continues to drive down capital costs, and the positioning of the world’s top manufacturers continues to shift. The top 10 turbine manufacturers captured nearly 70 percent of the global market in 2013, down from 77 percent the year before.

In addition, the writers found that in an effort to maintain profitability, manufacturers are trying new strategies, such as moving away from just manufacturing turbines. Some companies focus more on project operation and maintenance, which guarantees a steady business even during down seasons and can increase overall value in an increasingly competitive market. Some manufacturers are also turning to outsourcing and flexible manufacturing, which can lower overall costs and protect firms from exchange rate changes, customs duties, and logistical issues associated with shipping large turbines and parts.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFReaching a key milestone in the development process, Pattern Energy Group LP has announced it has received an Environmental Assessment Certificate for its Meikle Wind project, a 185 megawatt (MW) wind power project located in British Columbia.
  • ET Solar Energy Corp. has announced that it has supplied high quality PV modules to DOMILUX Leuchten Herstellung und Vertrieb GmbH (“DOMILUX”), a German solar developer and EPC company, for a 728 kW rooftop solar power plant in Turkey.
  • Solectria Renewables, LLC, a leading U.S. PV inverter manufacturer, and Yaskawa Electric Corporation announced today that the companies have reached a definitive agreement whereby Yaskawa Electric will acquire Solectria Renewables through its U.S. subsidiary, Yaskawa America Inc. Solectria Renewables will continue to operate as a wholly owned subsidiary.
  • A new geothermal energy project has been approved in Costa Rica. The country’s Legislative Assembly approved the project late last week and this approval has opened the way for new funding to reach the project and be put to use. The Japanese International Cooperation Agency and the European Investment Bank are two potential investment sources for the project. The Japanese agency is expected to invest some $540 million into the project with the European Investment Bank providing $70 million.

Utilities Promote EV Use, Charging

According to a new benchmark study by Northeast Group, electric utilities are beginning to do their part to enable EV growth by offering new tariff and rate structures tailored specifically for EV owners. For the past three year, EV sales have nearly doubled every year in the U.S. There are currently 25 utilities across 14 states offering EV tariffs, including eight of the largest 15 utilities. Regulators are also taking action and Minnesota recently became the first state to mandate that electric utilities offer EV tariffs.

“In the currently shifting landscape, utilities are finding it increasingly important to better engage with their customers. A key part of this is new customer offerings such as electric vehicle tariffs,” said Ben Gardner, president of Northeast Group. “EVScreen Shot 2014-07-17 at 9.35.38 AM owners tend to be more engaged customers and it is critical that utilities are providing them with new rate options for their EVs.”

According to the report, EV rates typically give steeper discounts at night and during other off-peak hours. Across the 14 states with EV tariffs, the average equivalent “price per gallon” was $0.75. Without EV-specific tariffs, the US Department of Energy calculated that the cost of an “eGallon” was $1.42. The average cost of gasoline in these states was $3.70.

“EV owners are an increasingly important focus for utilities,” added Gardner. “On average, they consume more electricity — not even counting electricity consumed by the EV — and are more likely to have solar panels installed at their home. EV tariffs that offer overall lower prices while encouraging off-peak charging are a great way to engage these customers.” Northeast Group found that 95 of the 100 largest utilities in the US had EV-specific information on their websites for customer engagement purposes.

Utilities that still do not offer special EV rates can make new rate offerings part of broader customer engagement efforts. These broader customer engagement efforts may include social media, mobile apps and new customer offerings.

Northeast Group’s benchmark found that in total, over 21 million utility customers across 25 electric utilities in 14 states had access to EV tariffs in the US. This number is set to grow over the coming years as EV sales grow and regulators begin encouraging EV tariffs.

Sapphire’s Algae Project Picked for China Eco Program

Sapphire1Sapphire Energy has been picked to partner with China’s Sinopec’s to produce algae-derived renewable crude oil. This statement from Sapphire says it’s part of the U.S.-China EcoPartnerships program, one of six new U.S.-China partnerships that promote cooperation between the U.S. and Chinese companies that work on clean energy, climate change, and environmental protections.

“This collaboration between our two companies exemplifies the mutual goal of producing cleaner energy solutions for the U.S. and China. Together, we will demonstrate that crude oil from algae can be produced with favorable economics; that it can be integrated into existing fuels distribution networks; and that it will deliver substantial advantages for the reduction of CO2 emissions in both nations,” [said Sapphire Energy CEO Cynthia Warner].

“Projections from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that China, the world’s most populous country, will be the largest importer of oil in 2014. The need for renewable, sustainable and low carbon energy solutions to meet growing demand is vital. Given China’s leadership and strong support for embracing new, clean, sustainable fuel options, along with the country’s abundant availability of non-farmable land and non-potable water, Sapphire Energy’s proven algae-to-energy technology platform offers a promising solution.”

Sapphire Energy is based in San Diego, Calif. with an R&D facility in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and is currently operating the first Integrated Algal BioRefinery in Columbus, New Mexico.

Benefuel’s New Solid Catalyst Opens Biodiesel Opportunities

BenefuelInnovative ideas in solid catalysts could open new opportunities in the biodiesel market. This article from The American Oil Chemists’ Society’s Inform magazine says Benefuel’s new proprietary solid catalyst process will convert inedible oils and fats into biodiesel, turn both glycerides and free fatty acids into alkyl esters for industrial use, and do it all cheaper than other esterification or transesterification processes.

To us, the path ahead was clear: The biodiesel industry needed a fully continuous, fully integrated production refinery for biodiesel—one that could receive a variety of feedstocks and process them continuously to biodiesel and glycerin. The fixed-bed reactor design and our new catalyst were at the heart of this approach. Although the wide versatility of our catalysts for esterification and transesterification were well recognized, development of other applications had to wait for process validation in biodiesel.

Benefuel’s Ensel® fixed-bed process is quite simple. It employs our second solid catalyst, which was developed in conjunction with Süd-Chemie India Pvt. Ltd. (Kerala)and patented in the United States and Japan (US 8,124,801 and JP 5,470,382) with applications in other countries.

This durable, promoted, metal oxide catalyst is largely insensitive to water and effectively converts every feedstock that has been tested in numerous pilot plant-scale operations. Examples include degummed soybean oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil from dried distillers’ grains with solubles, yellow grease, beef tallow, crude palm oil, palm fatty acid distillate, and even a mixture of degummed soybean oil and oleic acid (7:3, vol/vol).

The article goes on to list several advantages to using a solid catalyst, including economic—continuous production at commercial scale regardless of changes in feedstocks or feedstock blends; a catalyst life of several years instead of “catalyst as reagent,” as in conventional biodiesel production; and an ability to blend feedstocks to achieve optimal cold-flow properties in the final product at a low raw material cost.

Benefuel is retrofitting a biodiesel plant with this technology, the former Axens’ biodiesel plant in Beatrice, Nebraska. The company is also pursuing other opportunities in Southeast Asia and Canada.

Don’t Miss the Biofuels Financial Conference

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 12.23.20 PMDon’t miss the annual Biofuels Financial Conference: Climate of Opportunity hosted by Christianson & Associates. This year’s event takes place August 27-28, 2014 in Bloomington, Minnesota. The conference is aimed at plant managers, board members, plant CFO’s and more.

This year’s featured session is Expanding Beyond the Baseline. Industry experts will provide critical information about financial opportunities and options available for ensuring that your organization explores all avenues for maximizing the value of your plant’s production capabilities. Topics will cover:

  • Jonathan Olmscheid of Christianson & Associates will provide background on grandfathered volume and on the valid pathways to maximize RIN value beyond your plant’s grandfathered production volume. Since the export market provides another avenue for ethanol sales and thus increased production, Olmscheid will also touch on some key points about the export market and Canadian RINs.
  • Experts from plants and from Merjent will describe in detail the process of petitioning for pathways using two advanced technologies, from an engineering perspective as well as a general plant management perspective.
  • Paula Emberland of Christianson & Associates will review best practices and formulas for evaluating such improvement projects including diversifying co-products and improving processes, to calculate ROI, and an expert from Hydrodynamics will discuss, as an example, their bolt-on biodiesel production technology.

Early bird registration ends July 21. Click here to learn more about the Biofuels Financial Conference and to register online.

Congressman Seeks Country Labeling for Fuel

braley-headshotCongressman Bruce Braley (D-IA) has introduced a bill that would give consumers the ability to know where their fuel is produced.

“America has a decision to make about its energy future. We can gut the RFS and move toward further reliance on Saudi Arabia, Venezula, and Nigeria for our energy needs—or we can continue our path toward energy independence by making investments in ethanol and other domestic energy sources,” Braley said.

Braley’s Country of Origin Labeling for Fuels Act would require gas stations to post the country of origin of the fuel right on the pump, letting consumers “know whether their fuel is coming from Saudi Arabia or from ethanol produced right down the road.”

The U.S. consumes more than 15 million barrels of oil each day, with nearly half of that total coming from other countries, including Canada, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, Venezuela, Mexico, and Nigeria. Since the creation of the RFS in 2005, nearly 10 billion gallons of foreign oil per year have been replaced by renewable ethanol.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFJuhl Renewable Energy Systems, Inc. has announced that its been named as lead contractor for all rooftop installations through Solar Chicago, a new program serving Chicago, Illinois and several neighboring villages. Juhl Renewable Energy Systems partnered with Microgrid Solar and local Chicago-based installation contractors Ailey Solar and Kapital Electric to jointly submit a coordinated proposal in response to a competitive Request for Proposal solicitation issued by the Solar Chicago Program Administrator, Vote Solar, a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization.
  • Sunpreme Inc., a US-based solar photovoltaic company that designs and manufactures its own cells and panels, has announced the commissioning of a 82kW rooftop solar system at the Gurudwara Sahib, Fremont, California. The system is one of the largest rooftop solar installations to use Sunpreme’s advanced solar PV technology that will generate 150,000kWh of clean, emission free electricity annually.
  • Ecotech Institute now has a generator capable of powering 15,000 average America homes. The generator, which is one of the most expensive components in a wind turbine, is a donation from Alstom, the world’s leading energy solutions and transport company. Matt Pevarnik, an account executive for Alstom who serves on Ecotech Institute’s advisory board, spearheaded the donation.
  • Dominion Virginia Power will install more than 3,000 solar panels capable of generating more than 800 kilowatts of electricity – enough to power nearly 200 homes – at the Prologis Concorde Distribution Center in Sterling, Va. The panels will be installed on the rooftops of two adjacent buildings on its campus and will cover nearly 102,000 square feet.