UCR Helps Solar Energy Get a Boost

A recent article published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters by University of California, Riverside (UCR) chemists looks at the research focused on “singlet fission,” a process in which a single photon generates a pair of excited states. This 1->2 conversion process has the potential to boost solar cell efficiency as much as 30 percent.

UC Riverside Singlet Fission researchIn addition to improving solar panels, the research can also aid in developing more energy-efficient lighting and photodetectors with 200 percent efficiency that can be used for night vision. Biology may use singlet fission to deal with high-energy solar photons without generating excess heat, as a protective mechanism.

Today solar cells work by absorbing a photon, which generates an exciton, which subsequently separates into an electron-hole pair. It is these electrons that become solar electricity. The efficiency of these solar cells is limited to about 32 percent; however, by what is called the “Shockley-Queisser Limit”. Future solar cells, also known as “Third Generation” solar cells, will have to surpass this limit while remaining inexpensive, requiring the use of new physical processes. Singlet fission is an example of such a process.

“Our research got its launch about ten years ago when we started thinking about solar energy and what new types of photophysics this might require,” said Christopher Bardeen, a professor of chemistry, whose lab led the research. “Global warming concerns and energy security have made solar energy conversion an important subject from society’s point-of-view. More efficient solar cells would lead to wider use of this clean energy source.”

EU Tariffs on U.S. Biodiesel Could be Renewed

USEUflagsTariffs by the European Union against American biodiesel could be renewed. This article from Bloomberg says the EU is threatening to renew the tariffs of up to $323 per metric ton based on some probes against Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. (ADM), the world’s biggest corn processor, and Cargill Inc.

The inquiries will determine whether the expiry of the import taxes would be likely to lead to a “continuation or recurrence” of subsidization and dumping and of “injury” to EU producers, the European Commission, the 28-nation bloc’s trade authority in Brussels, said today in the Official Journal. The anti-subsidy and anti-dumping duties were due to lapse tomorrow and will now stay in place during the investigations, which can last as long as 15 months.

The subsidy and dumping cases highlight tensions accompanying EU and U.S. efforts to expand global trade in biofuels. Biofuels, which also include ethanol, are a renewable energy from crops such as rapeseed, corn, wheat and sugar. In a separate trans-Atlantic commercial dispute, the EU in 2013 imposed a five-year anti-dumping duty on U.S. bioethanol.

U.S. exports to the EU of the type of biodiesel covered by the European anti-subsidy and anti-dumping duties were valued at $1 billion a year and came to a virtual halt after the bloc imposed the levies in July 2009. In May 2011, the EU widened the duties to cover more blends and extended the levies to Canada, saying American exporters dodged the trade protection.

The investigation also comes as the EU is trying to meet its own goal of at least 10 percent of land transportation fuels to come from biofuels in 2020 and more than double the share of overall use of renewable energy in the EU to 20 percent.

ACE Panel Focuses on Int’l Ethanol Opportunities

The 27th Annual Ethanol Conference is fast approaching and this year a key focus will be examples of expanding international ethanol markets. American Coalition for Ethanol’s (ACE) conference will take place on August 4-6, 2014 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

ACElogoShannon Gustafson, ACE director of strategic projects, says the panel will focus on the international sales and marketing opportunities that are available to domestic ethanol producers who are looking to tap into foreign markets. The panel will include Gene Griffith of Patriot Renewable Fuels, Chad Martin of Eco-Energy and Clayton Haupt of CHS Inc.

“This panel will provide valuable perspectives from both the producer and marketing sides of the aisle. New developing markets for ethanol aren’t just here in the U.S. anymore. Consumer demand for ethanol is growing across the globe, and this panel will highlight the potential for domestic ethanol producers to develop new revenue streams and new markets for the ethanol industry,” said Gustafson.

The ACE Conference will also feature an Innovators panel of four domestic ethanol producers who are adding new processes and technologies to their existing ethanol plants to differentiate themselves from the pack, a Retailer Roundtable involving gas station owners who are making money and attracting new customers by selling higher blends of ethanol fuel, and other topics like the future of ethanol blended fuels, a look at the proposed regulations in the Food Safety Modernization Act, and an examination of rail regulations and possible long-term improvements of the domestic rail system.

More information on the 27th Annual Ethanol Conference can be found here. Click here to register.

Ethanol & Corn Production Up, Food & Gas Prices Down

Growth Energy is attacking the myth that ethanol production increases food prices.

Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy notes that time and again, Big Oil, big Food and special interests are attacking the ethanol industry and placing blame on them for rising food prices. “But when you look at the facts, nothing could be further from the truth. Recently, there has been a surge in ethanol production, while at the same time corn prices have been falling. Currently, corn is trading at $3.99, half the cost of Growth_Energy_logo-1what it traded for two years ago, yet food prices continue to rise because the cost of oil continues to climb. In fact, a recent World Bank study outlines how crude oil prices are responsible for 50 percent of the increase in food prices since 2004.”

Buis continued by noting that while Big Oil continues its “fear mongering” about the use of ethanol, American Consumers have just experienced a six year high in gas prices over the 4th of July weekend. In fact, he said, gas prices continue to stay at near record prices while ethanol is trading around one dollar per gallon below the cost of wholesale gas.

“Clearly global political unrest is once again responsible for driving consumer fuel prices higher, ” said Buis. “And, because of Big Oil’s monopoly over the fuels market, consumers currently have to pay more to drive to the store and the hits keep on coming when they check out at the grocery line! What I find interesting is that while Big Oil and Big Food continue to propagate the same old myths about food and renewable fuels, they are not as forthcoming when it comes to explaining to the public why they are making record profits on the backs of American consumers.”

“As President John Adams once said, ‘Facts are stubborn things.’” “Clearly,” said Buis, “this is the case for Big Oil, Big Food and their cronies, who are doing everything in their power to find a straw man to divert attention away from their excessive appetite for increased profit margins at the expense of hardworking American families.”

How Will the EPA Water Rule Will Impact You?

New Holland ZimmPollOur latest ZimmPoll asked the question, “What will be on your Independence Day grill?”

It looks like most people stuck with the traditional 4th of July grillers. Hamburgers and hot dogs topped the list and I can’t say I am surprised. Maybe everyone was saving their creative genius for the fireworks display.

Our poll results:

  • steak – 14%
  • hamburgers – 25%
  • hot dogs – 18%
  • pork chops – 14%
  • chicken – 4%
  • fish – 0%
  • shrimp – 4%
  • lamb chops – 0%
  • venison – 0%
  • multiple meats – 11%
  • other – 10%

Our new ZimmPoll is now live and asks the question, “How would the EPA water rule impact you?”

One of the hottest topics in the ag sector these days has to do with water rights. 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. Have you looked in to how this water rule would impact your operation?

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFSunEdison, Inc. has announced a new project that will install 159 kilowatts (kW) of solar PV micro-grids with battery storage in six remote Indian villages, which will bring electricity to, and thereby improve health and education for, 4,875 off-grid people. Working with the Government of India’s Rural Electrification Corporation and the Madhya Pradesh Urja Vikas Nigam state agency, SunEdison will build, operate and then transfer the facilities to a public entity after five years.
  • The first annual Bioproducts World Showcase & Conference will be held October 5-8, 2014 in Columbus, Ohio. The OBIC Bioproducts Innovation Center (OBIC) at The Ohio State University will host the Showcase to feature innovative, biobased products in a single event for key decision makers and procurement officials from commercial and government entities. Registration is open.
  • Bechtel has successfully delivered and installed all of the modules for the first liquefied natural gas production train at the GLNG facility on Curtis Island in Queensland. The successful installation marks a major milestone in the construction of the plant, which will consist of two production trains. Train 1 is made up of 82 modules that were built at a Bechtel-managed module yard facility in the Philippines and transported to Curtis Island over a 19-month period. Modules for Train 2 are being constructed at the same facility and shipped to the island. The final modules for the second train are scheduled to be delivered and installed later this year.
  • Independent Energy Solutions (IES) has finished the construction of a solar carport project with a 325 kilowatt peak capacity located at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Arizona. The project utilized HatiCon Solar alTite penetrating flat roof mounting system with a 15 degree tilt used in conjunction with Hyundai 250 watt solar modules. The alTite system’s long spans reduced penetrations to the carport structure. Preassembled components and no on-site fabrication allowed for faster installation under the hot Arizona sun. To further accelerate the installation time a comprehensive service package was provided by HatiCon Solar. Services were comprised of optimized, site specific engineering solutions and full logistical support.

UOP Renewable Jet Fuel Selected by Petrixo

Petrixo Oil & Gas will be using the Honeywell UOP Renewable Jet Fuel Process to produce renewable jet fuel and renewable diesel at a new refinery scheduled to be built in Fujairah United Arab Emirates. The technology will process around 500,000 metric tons per year of multiple renewable feedstocks into Honeywell Green Jet Fuel and Honeywell Green Diesel.

Honeywell Renewable Jet Fuel flightEarlier this year, Petrixo announced that it will invest $800 million to build the new refinery, which will have a design capacity of 1 million tons per year of biofuel products, and will be the first commercial-scale renewable jet fuel production facility outside of North America.

“Petrixo believes that new energy solutions are immensely important for scalable, environmental and renewable solutions,” said Dr. Eid Al Olayyan, chief executive officer of Petrixo Oil & Gas. “UOP’s green fuels technologies are proven refining solutions that produce high-quality products compatible with petroleum-based fuels.”

The UOP technology is designed to provide flexibility to adjust the feedstock mix depending on parameters such as cost and availability. The technology also enables the adoption of newer-generation feedstocks, such as oils derived from algae and halophytes, as scalable supply chains for these lipids develop.

“UOP’s renewable process technologies produce real fuels, rather than fuel additives such as biodiesel, that fit seamlessly into existing fuel supply chains,” explained Veronica May, vice president and general manager of UOP’s Renewable Energy and Chemicals business unit. “The renewable fuels produced by our technology also offer lower greenhouse gas emissions relative to traditional petroleum-based fuels.”

Blended up to 50 percent with petroleum-based jet fuel, Honeywell Green Jet Fuel requires no changes to aircraft technology, meets all critical specifications for flight, and can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 65 to 85 percent compared with petroleum-based fuels.

Globeleq Inaugurates Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm

Globeleq has inaugurated its latest wind energy project in South Africa. The 138 MW Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm is located between the towns of Jeffreys Bay and Humansdorp in Eastern Cape and has an estimated annual production of 460 GWh and will provide renewable electricity for nearly 100,000 average South African households.

Jeffreys Bay Wind-Farm-SunsetBack in April, Globeleq marked the start of operations at two solar facilities, the 50 MW De Aar and 50 MW Droogfontein installations on the Northern Cape. All facilities are part of South Africa’s renewable energy program and according to the company, are among the very first large scale renewable power plants to be built in the country.

Mikael Karlsson, Globeleq’s CEO said, “The completion of these facilities is the result of a truly global partnership with the Government of South Africa and Eskom and the private sector of developers, investors, lenders, constructors, suppliers and the local community. It demonstrates significant support for independent private power producers in the region and indicates the sustainability of the renewable energy sector. As the leading African private power company, Globeleq is committed to pursue further investments in clean and reliable power for the region.”

Similar to other countries, South Africa has identified job creation and skills development through development of renewable energy. During the wind farm’s construction, Globeleq said more than 700 people worked on the site, of which 45 percent were drawn from the local community. A percentage of the project’s operational revenues will be reinvested into the local community through socio-economic and enterprise development programs creating the skills needed to support the growth of the renewable energy industry in South Africa.

“What an exciting time to be a part of this industry. In such a short period we have built an alternative source of energy which will provide ongoing benefits for the country and the industry alike,” said Mark Pickering, Managing Director of Globeleq South Africa.

Globeleq is the majority shareholder in a consortium group, consisting of Mainstream, Old Mutual, Thebe, Enzani, Usizo and the Amadla Omoya Trust. Globeleq through its wholly owned South African subsidiary, manages the operation and commercial aspects of the Jeffreys Bay, De Aar and Droogfontein facilities.

Cape Cod Biodiesel Company Gets State Grant

capecodbiofuelsA Massachusetts company is getting some help from the state to turn used cooking oil into biodiesel. This article from CapeNews.net says Cape Cod BioFuels is getting a $280,000 state grant to turn the waste into green fuel gold.

The grant from the state Department of Energy Resources is intended to help the business increase advanced biodiesel production through expanding and upgrading its 8,800-square-foot facility on Jan Sebastian Drive.

At present, co-owner Andrew R. Davison said, the company collects waste cooking oil from 700 restaurants on Cape Cod and in Plymouth County, bringing in 450,000 gallons a year.

Mr. Davison said Cape Cod BioFuels plans to double the number of restaurants from which it collects the waste oil.

And by matching the state grant with the business’s own funds, Cape Cod BioFuels plans to increase and improve the production capacity at its facility, converting the increased waste-oil volume from the restaurants into more recycled product to sell.

Cape Cod BioFuels officials say they won’t need to expand their plant to increase production, looking to hit 30,000 gallons per week.

Brazil Airline Plans to Use Renewable Jet Fuel

gol-airBrazil’s GOL Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes airline has signed a memorandum of understanding with Amyris that could pave the way for GOL commercial flights to soon use Amyris renewable jet fuel.

Amyris-logo (1)Under the memorandum of understanding, GOL and Amyris will work together to establish a framework for bringing Amyris renewable jet fuel produced from Brazilian sugarcane to GOL’s commercial flights following regulatory approvals and validation by standard-setting bodies, including ASTM International and Brazil’s Oil, Gas and Biofuels Agency (ANP).

The partnership, under of auspices of the Brazilian Biofuels Platform, an industry and government-supported initiative to encourage the use of renewable fuels in aviation, was announced at Brazilian Aviation Day celebration, which included participation of Brazil’s Secretary of Civil Aviation, Minister Moreira Franco, and a number of industry stakeholders including Brazilian Airlines Association (ABEAR), Brazilian Biodiesel and Biojet Association (UBRABIO), GE, and Boeing among others.

American Ethanol Weekend Preview

American Ethanol 200 logo_resizedAmerican Ethanol is racing into Newton, Iowa for an exciting weekend at the Iowa Speedway. It’s an ethanol-powered packed event for American Ethanol. This weekend features the American Ethanol 200 presented by Enogen on Friday July 11th and the Indy Corn Indy 300 presented by DeKalb on Saturday, July 12th.

This year race fans can learn about the benefits of ethanol in many ways. For example, Syngenta will be holding a media briefing to make a major announcement regarding their support for the ethanol industry, provide an update on a new cellulosic ethanol technology and discuss efforts to improve market penetration for American ethanol. Quad County Corn Processors became the first ethanol plant in Iowa to produce commercial scale cellulosic ethanol last week and the first to produce cellulosic ethanol using the Enogen corn trait. Syngenta will be working with Quad County to license the ACE technology to other ethanol plants.

In addition, FFA students living near the speedway will be stationed around the track to discuss the benefits of E15, the same fuel the NASCAR drivers will be racing with, as well as higher blends of ethanol such as E85. They will also be collecting donations to help support flex fuel infrastructure and all funds will be matched by Syngenta. The funds will be used to help retailers install equipment to offer consumers more choice at the pump.

IowaCornIndy300_712E067B4EBE7On Saturday, the ethanol fun continued at the Iowa Corn Indy 300 presented by DeKalb. This is the 8th running of the Iowa Corn Indy sponsored event. In past years the race has been 250 laps but for the first time this year, drivers will compete to be the first to the finish line after 300 laps. This year, Indy Car will be filling up with 85% ethanol – the same fuel Iowans can find at nearly 200 stations.

Both races begin at 7:30 pm and DomesticFuel.com will be bringing readers weekend ethanol race event coverage. You can also follow the events via Twitter @DomesticFuel and @jmschroeder and on DF’s Facebook page. We’ll see you for some #EthanolFun!

Dominion Virginia Power Dedicates ODU Solar Project

Norfolk, Virginia-based Old Dominion University (ODU) is the recipient of the first solar roof installation in the Hampton Roads area. Dominion Virginia Power dedicated the solar project located on ODU’s Student Recreation Center. Last May, Dominion selected the university to be one of the first participants in the company’s Solar Partnership Program under which Dominion builds and operates solar facilities on leased rooftops.

“ODU is a good fit for this program as it continues to pave the way for alternative energy research at the university level in the Commonwealth,” said Ken Barker, vice president of Customer Solutions at Dominion. “This project will undoubtedly provide both community and educational benefits. Our new program allows us to integrate solar power into our diverse mix of resources to ensure reliable electricity. Solar energy will be a source of generation moving forward, and we hope to add 20 to 30 new solar installations over the next several years.”

odu-rooftop-aerial-photo1More than 600 solar panels were installed as part of the solar energy system. These panels will generate about 125 kilowatts of electricity during daylight hours, which is enough to supply the energy needs for an equivalent of 31 homes.

John R. Broderick, president of Old Dominion University said of the solar project, “With Dominion’s generous support over the years, our university’s development of solar technology and groundbreaking photovoltaic energy research has been recognized nationally. Thanks to more than $3 million in research grants from a variety of sources, including Dominion Virginia Power, Dr. Sylvain Marsillac and his team have been able to further this research by testing solar energy concepts on the rooftops of Kaufman Hall, the Student Recreation Center and more.”

The Solar Partnership Program was approved by the Virginia State Corporation Commission in November 2012. PowerSecure, a North Carolina-based company with offices in Virginia, was chosen as the engineering, procurement and construction company to complete the project. Under the program, Dominion will construct and operate up to 30 megawatts of company-owned solar facilities on leased rooftops or on the grounds of commercial businesses and public properties throughout the company’s Virginia service area. When fully implemented, the program will generate enough electricity for up to 7,500 homes.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFAccording to a new market report published by Transparency Market Research “Biofuels Market: Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast 2013 – 2019,” biofuels production was 24,326.7 million gallons in 2012 and is expected to reach 50,921.4 million gallons by 2019, growing at a CAGR of 9.6% from 2013 to 2019.
  • Lightway Solar and its wholly-owned subsidiary Baoding Guangdong New Energy Company Limited, have announced that the company has signed a fifteen-year 70 million yuan (US $11.2 million) loan agreement with China Development Bank (CDB) Hebei Branch. The loan will be used for the first phase – a 9.645MW facility – of a distributed photovoltaic (PV) power station project in Baigou, Hebei province. This facility is being developed and built by Lightway Solar, and has been formally connected to the grid since July 1, 2014. When all phases of the project are completed, the facility will deliver 20MW. The project is based on a model where the power generated will be primarily consumed by local users and any unused electricity will be available for sale to other entities connected to the grid. The completed facility will be capable of delivering power to 3 million recipients connected to the grid.
  • Sonnenbatterie, Europe’s smart energy storage solution, has announced it is now open for business in North America with five new channel distribution partners throughout the United States. The Sonnenbatterie product range spans from 4.5 kWh residential units to commercial 20 kWh storage blocks, which can be connected to build units up to 200kWh in capacity. All Sonnenbatteries include integrated smart meter functionality with mobile energy monitoring and management.
  • Energy Upgrade California wants to know how Californians plan to save energy and water this summer and will reward those who make a pledge to help California Stay Golden with the chance to win prizes that can help save water and energy. The Stay Golden California sweepstakes is the latest effort to promote energy and water savings across the golden state. Californians can enter the sweepstakes by submitting their pledge describing how they will save water and energy during this hot and dry summer. Weekly prizes include solar backpacks, energy efficient Bluetooth speakers made from renewable materials, an energy efficient kit including an energy hub and smart plug, and a programmable thermostat. Complete rules and eligibility for the sweepstakes are available here.

Intersolar North America Awards Champion of Change

The first ever Champion of Change award was bestowed upon Michael Peevey, president of the California Public Utilities Commission during Intersolar North America taking place this week. The award was given in conjunction with the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA) for Peevey’s outstanding commitment to supporting renewable energy at the national and international levels.

“For three yeTuesday, July 8ars, the Intersolar AWARD program has singled out landmark projects in North America that represent major technological, economical and environmental achievements,” said Markus Elsässer, CEO of Solar Promotion International, an organizer of Intersolar North America. “This year’s winners demonstrated how well designed systems that utilize the latest technologies to deliver cost-effective solar energy could benefit a variety of customer requirements. These projects, from off-grid applications to mid-sized systems to utility-scale installations, highlight solar energy’s versatility and show that the industry is well on its way toward maturation.”

The Intersolar AWARD winners for solar projects in North America were judged on pioneering character, uniqueness, economic benefits, benefits for the environment and society, degree of technical innovation and proof of innovation. An independent committee of industry experts chose three award winners:

  • First Solar won the award for its Agua Caliente Solar Project, a 290 MW project that is currently the largest fully operational PV power plant and covers 2,400 acres in Yuma County, Ariz. First Solar developed, engineered, constructed and operates the system, which was designed to minimize land disturbances and to maximize stability, reliability and cost-effectiveness. This project revolutionizes how solar integrates with the power grid.
  • Solaire Generation Inc. won the award with the Whole Foods Market Solar Carport. The 325-kilowatt installation is New York’s largest solar carport, and, in addition to generating enough energy to meet 20 percent of the store’s demand, the eye-catching project showcases how solar power can be integrated with other green initiatives such as rainwater harvesting and brownfield re-development. The carport has a capacity to recover 30,000 gallons of rainwater and is educating shoppers with its unique design of both the practical and aesthetic potential of solar.
  • Princeton Power System won the award with its distinctive Alcatraz Island Microgrid System. Created as a response to failures of conventional energy sources, Alcatraz is a pioneer in energy independence. Princeton Power Systems cooperated with the U.S. National Park Service and created a system that provides more than 80 percent of the island’s electricity needs for the one million visitors that come every year. The 400kW system creatively utilizes prison spaces, such as old generator rooms and rooftops, and integrates cutting-edge technologies without compromising the historic quality of the site and making the system invisible to the outside viewer.

“By expanding our AWARD program to honor individuals alongside technologies and key projects, we are highlighting the people and the ideas that drive the industry,” added Klaus Seilnacht, CEO of FMMI International GmbH, an organizer of Intersolar North America. “The solar industry needs advocates like Michael Peevey. We are excited to continue to recognize the people who have helped make North America one of the largest solar markets in the world.”

Optimus’ Bolt-On Biodiesel Solution Gets EPA Approval

optimusHardware and software that bolt onto diesel truck engines and allow pure biodiesel to run through the system has gained some key approvals from the U.S. government. Optimus Technologies is the first to receive the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) approval for an advanced biofuel conversion solution for existing medium‐ and heavy‐duty trucks. This company news release says that while the system can be used with a wide variety of fuels, this also marks the first time anyone has been able to be compliant with 100 percent biofuels, creating opportunities for ethanol refiners as well.

The solution is based on a combination of Optimus’ Vector bi‐fuel (diesel or biofuel) conversion system ‐‐ hardware and software that bolts‐on to existing diesel engines ‐‐ and certified, pure biofuel. Fuels tested were derived from a variety of bio‐sources including non‐food grade corn oil, recycled cooking oil, and pure biodiesel (B100). While Optimus may be first to the U.S. market, such solutions have been available in Europe for more than a decade.

“We’re very excited that the EPA has approved our technology,” said CEO Colin Huwyler, “Our solution represents a tangible opportunity for fleets to shrink their operating costs while improving the environment. And, our solution does not require multi‐million dollar start‐up costs like CNG does.” Fleet operators have been surprised to find that CNG solutions require capital‐intensive modifications to fueling stations and maintenance facilities, extending payback periods well beyond 5 years. Optimus’ solution can leverage current facilities with only minor modifications, offering paybacks as little as one year.

The news release goes on to point out that a network of biofuel suppliers are supplying the fuel at the standard Optimus needs.

“We are very glad that Optimus has secured EPA approval,” stated Rory Gaunt, CEO of Lifecycle Renewables, a leading renewable fuel provider based outside of Boston, MA. “We have been a strong supporter of Optimus’ efforts. Now, we will be able to expand our market reach and grow into servicing commercial and government fleets with our high quality, renewable fuels.”

Emissions testing shows that Optimus has a significant overall reduction in tailpipe emissions in comparison to diesel, with particulate matter reduced by about 40 percent.