Food, Water Security Focus of Water for Food Event

The role of data in wWFF_cvent_banner_670px_nogates2ater and food security will be explored in the upcoming Water for Food Global Conference taking place in Seattle, Washington October 19-22, 2014.

Global food demand is growing. With a changing climate and increased competition for scarce water resources, people are now faced with the complex challenge of needing to double agricultural production by 2050 with less water than is used today. A topic of interest is how to use the tremendous amount of data we now have—from technology ranging from remote sensing to smart mobile devices—to effectively address this problem.

Water for food logoHosted by the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska in association with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “Harnessing the Data Revolution: Ensuring Water and Food Security from Field to Global Scales,” will bring together international experts in the fields of science, technology, policy and practice to discuss potential solutions to achieve a more water and food secure world. The conference will focus specifically on how data can improve the productivity and sustainability of small and large farmers.

Don’t miss your chance to be part of this important discussion. The early registration discount ends September 18, 2014. For more details, visit waterforfood.nebraska.edu/wff2014/.

RFA Releases Report to Debunk ‘Food v Fuel’

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) has released a new report today in an effort to “debunk” what they call the “fictional” food versus fuel debate. The report finds that while corn prices have dropped dramatically over the past two years, retail food prices of key foods including eggs, beef, poultry and pork have remained steady or continue to increase. The report concludes, “… fluctuations in corn prices do not significantly affect consumer food prices.”

RFA Corn Prices are plungingThe report examined a number of factors that contribute to food prices including the cost of food production, pointing to Citibank’s Sterling Smith who stated, “Corn prices may have come down 50% (from their highs), but that doesn’t mean a box of corn flakes will fall 50% in price. Much of the price of food comes from the processing and movement of food…” Additionally, the report also highlighted the role of crude oil in retail food prices, finding that “…every step in the food supply chain is significantly affected by energy costs—especially crude oil.”

The report also compared corn prices to the price of dairy products, pork products, beef products poultry products and egg products from January 2007 – July 2014. Report findings include:

Retail prices for key dairy items like milk and cheese have been largely unresponsive to changes in corn prices. In fact, since January 2011, milk and cheese prices have been negatively correlated to corn prices, meaning retail milk and cheese prices have tended to move in the opposite direction of movements in corn prices.

  • Retail prices for items (like chicken legs, frozen whole turkey, fresh whole chicken) have risen steadily and smoothly since 2007. Wide swings in corn prices did not interrupt or affect the gradual trend toward higher prices for these items.
  • Retail prices for pork products have not shown any meaningful relationship to corn prices over the past seven years. It is well documented that the recent acceleration in pork and bacon prices has been driven by piglet casualties resulting from Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv). These retail price increases have occurred at a time when corn prices have been plunging.
  • Retail ground beef prices have steadily and smoothly trended higher over the past seven years, showing no obvious response to wide swings in corn prices.

“The food vs. fuel folks screamed to high heaven when the price of corn rose during the drought and immediately blamed high corn prices and ethanol for food price increases,” said Bob Dinneen, RFA president and CEO. “However, these same critics remain suspiciously quiet now that corn prices have dropped, but retail food prices aren’t dropping along with them. The food vs. fuel argument is just another misguided attack on biofuels and the Renewable Fuel Standard, which is reducing foreign oil dependence, lowering gas prices for consumers, and revitalizing rural America.”

Western US Slowly Adopts Geothermal Energy

EIA operational geothermal plants in USCalifornia has been the leading geothermal energy state in the U.S. but according to a recent Today in Energy published by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) other western states are slowing adopting geothermal energy.

There are currently 64 operating conventional geothermal power plants in the U.S., accounting for nearly 2,700 megawatts (MW) of total capacity at the end of 2013 or 0.4 percent of total U.S. generation. Over three-fourths of U.S. geothermal power generation in 2013 was in California, largely because of favorable geothermal resources, policy, and market conditions in the state, according to Today in Energy. The largest group of geothermal power plants in the world, a complex called the Geysers, located in Northern California, has more than 700 MW of capacity.

Since 2001, only 7 of 30 new plants exceeding 1 MW have been built in California, where most available low-cost geothermal resources have previously been developed. Sixteen of those 30 plants built after 2001 are in Nevada, with the remainder in Oregon, Idaho, Utah, and Hawaii. Most of the newer plants are relatively small, and while geothermal generation rose 11% between 2008 and 2013, the geothermal share of total U.S. electricity generation has remained consistently around 0.4% since 2001.

Geothermal plants are virtually emissions free, and unlike renewable sources such as wind and solar, they provide an available, dispatchable source of baseload power that is able to operate at a relatively high capacity factor. EIA projects that geothermal electricity generation could more than quadruple between 2012 and 2040 (increasing to over 67,000 GWh), helping California and other states with renewable portfolio standards satisfy their mandated renewable generation requirements.

Yelo- A Solar Powered Desk in a Bag

Students in need of electricity in rural schools have a new way to learn: YELO. Designed by Prayas Innovation the bag converts into a school desk. It comes equipped with a LED light that is powered by solar energy kit. The rechargeable battery in the solar kit can be charged through solar energy as well as supports AC charging. YELO is made up of corrugated sheet is durable and has strength to carry belongings worth more than 5 kg and is the outcome of several months of research and user trails.

With millions of stEmpowering Rural Education - 'YELO' an Innovative Solar Powered School Bag that Converts into a Deskudents out of school world-wide, India ranks highest amongst countries with students not attending school. Students in rural areas lack access to basic educational infrastructure. Sitting on the floor in incorrect posture for long working hours results in back pain, bad eyesight and inability to concentrate and study.

YELO addresses these needs by helping children carry their books and belongings irrespective of weather conditions. The same bag with a single fold technique smartly transforms into a school desk. The desk offers an angle of 30-35 degrees for students to write and read, thus ensuring they maintain an ergonomic posture while studying at school or at home.

“We look forward to collaborate with corporates, NGO’s and other social organizations who share similar vision for working towards this cause,” said Manish Mathur, managing director of Prayas Innovation.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFCanadian Solar Inc. has announced that a wholly owned subsidiary of the company has entered into an agreement with Sichuan Development Investment Management Ltd. to establish an investment fund to finance the development, construction and ownership of solar power generation projects in China. A total of RMB5 billion (US $800 million) is expected to be raised from Sichuan Development, Canadian Solar and third party investors.
  • The Global Onshore Wind Energy Market Report With TOC is now available from Transparency Market Research. This research is estimated, analyzed and forecasted the market volume and revenue for the wind power generation market. It provides an in-depth analysis of the market size of wind power in terms of capacity (MW) and revenue (USD Billion). The baseline data for this report has been taken as 2013, while all the forecasts are carried out for the 2014 to 2020 period.
  • Terra Posts PV, a leading utility-scale PV installer, has completed of the mechanical construction on the U.S. Virgin Islands’ largest solar project to date. ‘Spanish Town Solar Project,’ consists of 5MW DC located on the island of St. Croix. The energy produced will contribute to the territory’s goal of reducing fossil fuel consumption by 60 percent over 10 years. ‘Spanish Town Solar Project’ will provide the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) with enough electricity to power approximately 1,500 homes.
  • The American Solar Energy Society (ASES) has announced that the largest annual grassroots solar event in the nation will be taking place October 4-5, 2014. Attending the tour will allow communities across the country the opportunity to see new and innovative technologies locally that will benefit the environment on a global level. Americans have a voice in how they get their energy. Visiting homes on the tour will allow visitors to learn, engage and be a part of the solution to current energy challenges.

Tender Issued for Isreal Timna Solar Park

A tender is being issued to organize and operate the Tima Solar Park, an new 50 MW PV tracker solar energy farm in southern Isreal. The solar project is being led by the Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Initiative. The new Timna Solar Park will be located on a 247 acre plot of land adjacent to the site of the former Timna Mines, which is approximately 18 Eilat Eilot logomiles north of Eilat. The tender will be open to only PV Tracker solar systems and the cost of the bid will cover only the acquisition of the land. The tariff per installed kilowatt has already been determined by the government of Israel according to regulations established in 2012 for solar energy harvested by PV systems. The allocation of the land and project have already been approved by the Israeli Land Authority.

“We are very proud to announce this tender for the Timna Solar Park and significantly expand the amount of solar energy produced in the Arava and Eilat regions, which currently stands at 65 megawatts,” explained Dorit Davidovich-Banet, CEO of The Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Initiative and Chairperson of the Eilat-Eilot Green Energy Conference “The new Timna Solar Park offers bidders and their investors an attractive opportunity to build a profitable solar energy field supported excellent infrastructure and a dynamic renewable energy ecosystem.”

The tender to build and operate the Timna Solar Park is scheduled to be published on October 19,2014 and is open to qualified bidders worldwide, while the Timna Industrial Zone, where the Timna Solar Park will be located, will be managed by the Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Initiative. Detailed maps of the area and a completed environmental impact report will be provided to qualified bidders as part of the bid process. Each bidder will be required to submit a detailed plan of its proposed technology and systems to the Israeli National Planning Committee for approval.

Eitan Parnass, director general of the Green Energy Association of Israel, added, “The Timna Solar Park will substantially increase Israel’s renewable energy production and will play an important role in diversifying the country’s energy mix,” said “This project also holds the potential to serve as the basis for international cooperation throughout the region with connectivity and supply of solar energy to the national grids of neighboring countries.”

At the Eilat-Eilot Green Energy Conference, there will be a special conference session dedicated to discussing the project details and bidding process for the Timna Solar Park. This conference session is scheduled for 1pm on December 9, 2014 with bidders taken on a tour of the Timna Solar Park site the following day.

New Tool Helps Biodiesel Producers Evaluate Catalysts

swricfb1A new tool installed at a research institution in Texas will help biodiesel producers and refiners of other fuels evaluate better the catalysts they use. This news release from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) says the custom-designed circulating fluidized bed (CFB) helps turn biological feedstocks and heavy crude oils into refined fuel samples that clients can assess for quality and profitability, more quickly than previously used systems, cranking out samples of about a half liter per hour.

The 15 foot tall, 150 square foot CFB is in operation and available to respond to the current push for biofuels, which require catalyst-aided processing of raw materials, or feedstock, derived from biological materials such as algae, corn or wood, or from refinery products such as heavy crude oil. Clients can use a CFB to evaluate new catalysts and determine how plant-derived, bio feedstocks and bio oils can be efficiently integrated into refineries.

The CFB system converts biomass, material derived from plants or wood, to organic liquids using fast pyrolysis, a thermal conversion of organic material in the absence of oxygen. It also can emulate a fluidized catalytic cracking (FCC) unit, a refinery process to convert complex hydrogen molecules to simpler molecules, to convert lower-valued feedstock to higher-value products such as gasoline or diesel. For example, fluidized cataltyic cracking is commonly used in producing gasoline from crude oil.

SwRI’s new circulating fluidized bed is flexible in operation to test both fast pyrolysis processes for biomass-to-biofuels conversion technologies and FCC refinery unit operations.

“In the U.S., a pilot-sized CFB such as ours is unique since conventional FCC testing equipment is smaller and produces very small quantities of material for testing,” said Eloy Flores, an assistant manager in the Fuels and Energy Development Section in SwRI’s Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Division. “We can produce enough material for fuel specification or standardized testing. In addition, we are capable of high riser velocities associated with biomass fast pyrolysis.”

Part of what SwRI does is certify biofuels for on-road use through emissions testing.

Biodiesel Imports Set Record for Year-to-Date

census-logoThe U.S. is importing biodiesel at a record rate for the year so far. This article from Platts cites U.S. Census Bureau data that shows imports reached a 2014 year-to-date record in July of 69,474 metric tonnes, more that twice the previous record set in March. Low palm oil prices seem to be the big driver, although biodiesel imports are far below last year’s overall levels when reinstatement of the $1-a-gallon federal tax credit made it profitable for blenders.

The top origin for US biodiesel imports in July was Indonesia at 24,043 mt, up 60% from the previous month and the highest since December 2013 when 52,350 mt were imported.

Traders attributed the surge in imports from Indonesia to lower palm oil prices.

A couple of producers from Indonesia are already registered with the EPA and would be capable of generating RINs if they ran an approved feedstock. Although palm oil has not been approved as an eligible feedstock to generate RINs under RFS2, grandfathered biodiesel plants — construction of which started prior to December 19, 2007 — can assign RINs with a D6 code to palm oil-based biodiesel if they keep up with the appropriate documentation.

Also, for the first time this year, imports from Argentina were recorded at 18,217 mt. A massive 441,772 mt were imported from Argentina in 2013.

More imports are seen coming from Argentina – a sign traders are pretty confident the blender’s credit will be restored and made retroactive. Political watchers believe that restoration could happen after November’s elections.

Cambi Group Inks Waste-to-Energy Deal

Cambi Group has inked a deal with Beijing Drainage Group (BDG) and Beijing Drainage Construction Company (BDC) to convert Chinese sludge treatment into renewable energy and byproducts. BDG and BDC are exemplifying the direction to meet China’s five goals for sewage sludge treatment: increased biogas production, sludge volume reduction, pathogen kill for safe land application, energy recovery, and recycling of resources.

The Gaobeidian wastewater treatment plant will be fitted with the Cambi THP solution and be operational within 2016. BDG is planning to build another four large-Cambi Groupscale sludge projects in the period 2016-2017. When all of the five sludge plants are operating, all the sewage sludge in Beijing could potentially be treated by the Cambi THP solution and Beijing Drainage Group will become the single largest company using advanced anaerobic digestion in the world.

The general manager of Beijing Drainage Construction Company, Mr. Lei Shi, commented, “Cambi has proven itself to have the best THP solution and technology. Our partnership is truly a historic moment for China and will provide the country with an environmentally friendly solution to the treatment of sludge.”

Cambi’s chief executive officer Per Lillebø celebrated this benchmark by applauding BDC and BDG for choosing the 21st century leading technology and doing what is right for Beijing and China, in terms of technological solution, cost efficiency and environmental sustainability: “We are proud to sign this partnership for the future and are committed to making the Gaobeidian project a successful example for the rest of China and the world,” he said.

CESA Releases Solar Group Purchasing Guide

Clean Energy States Alliance GuidebookThere is a new guide available for state program managers who are looking at the opportunity of community group purchasing for solar energy. “Planning and Implementing a Solarize Initiative: A Guide for State Program Managers,” was produced by The New England Solar Cost-Reduction Partnership, a coalition of five New England States managed by the Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA).

This guide features detailed cases studies of two particularly well-developed and successful programs from New England: Solarize Connecticut and Solarize Massachusetts. Solarize is a group purchasing program for solar PV systems that lowers acquisition costs for rooftop solar installations. As more homeowners join the group purchasing program, the cost goes down, because of a tiered-pricing plan with reduced prices for more participation. The guide will be helpful to program managers and other stakeholders in states across the country seeking to develop their own Solarize programs.

According to the guide, solarize programs in both Connecticut and Massachusetts have been tremendously successful in increasing the rate of residential solar adoption in three ways:

  • First, Solarize expands the potential customer base. In Connecticut, 20% of households who signed a contract for a new solar PV system through the Solarize CT program had never previously considered installing solar.
  • Second, the program speeds up solar deployment. In Massachusetts, the number of small-scale solar projects more than doubled in the vast majority of participating Solarize communities as a result of the program. In Connecticut, during Phase I of their Solarize program, selected Solarize municipalities achieved 24-65 times the rate of new solar installation contracts as compared to the rate during the prior seven years.
  • Third, Solarize programs help drive down the installation prices for consumers. In Connecticut, Solarize has resulted in cost reductions of between 20-30 percent for customers. Solarize Mass has achieved an average price reduction of 18-20 percent for installed projects.

The guide is available here.

OCI Solar Power Fires Up New Solar Farms

Three new solar projects have been fired up by OCI Solar Power adding 45 MW of solar energy. The newly operational Alamo 4 project in Brackettville, Texas, generates 39 MW for CPS Energy, San Antonio’s community-owned utility. The solar farm features more than 150,000 solar panels and covers 600 acres of privately-owned land. Alamo 4 is OCI Solar Power’s first Texas project outside of metropolitan San Antonio and employed approximately 550 people during construction.

OCI Solar Power Alamo 4 Solar Farm“The progress we’re making with the opening and construction of new projects means more than half of our Texas projects are now complete or underway,” said OCI Solar Power President and CEO Tony Dorazio. “This also means the number of solar jobs in the state is increasing.”

With the commencement of operations of Alamo 4 comes the start of construction for Alamo 3 in San Antonio and Alamo 5 in Uvalde, Texas. OCI Solar Power is partnering with the San Antonio River Authority to lease land for the 5.5 MW Alamo 3 project near Loop 1604 and IH10 on the northeast side of town. Alamo 3 will be the first Alamo project to feature locally made solar panels from manufacturing partner Mission Solar Energy and a new dual axis tracker technology from Sun Action Trackers. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

“We are very excited to be partnering once again with OCI Solar Power for the expansion of this valuable resource in the San Antonio region,” added SARA General Manager Suzanne Scott. “This partnership has proven to be a successful venture and we look forward to the continued growth of sustainable practices in our community.”

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFNavitas Systems LLC, a leading provider of energy-enabled system solutions, energy storage products, and power electronics for commercial, industrial and government/military customers, has been awarded its first Department of Energy (DOE) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II grant. The $1M SBIR Phase II award will support the development of innovative battery technology to reduce cost and extend range, overcoming two prominent challenges which limit electric vehicle adoption. Navitas is focused on removing these barriers.
  • REFF-West, a renewable energy financing forum in the western United States, will take place September 16th & 17th in San Francisco. Silicon Valley meets Wall Street as industry leaders convene for panels and discussions to highlight financing trends for renewable energy, with a focus on one of the hottest regions for clean tech in the world: the western U.S.
  • Clean Energy Collective (CEC) and Midwest Energy (MWE), a customer-owned electric and natural gas cooperative serving central and western Kansas, have broken ground on the Midwest Energy Community Solar Array, a 1.2 megawatt, state-of-the-art solar PV facility that will make solar ownership available to Midwest Energy’s 50,000+ electric members. Midwest Energy is the first utility in the state to offer the community-owned solar solution to its customers, bringing accessibility and affordability to solar ownership in Kansas. CEC will manage construction, operation, and sales of the 3,960-panel facility being built on six acres in Colby, Kan. on land owned by MWE.
  • In honor of National Wildlife Day, San Francisco-based nonprofit Everybody Solar has announced they will crowdsource a new commercial solar project for Wildlife Associates, the wildlife sanctuary located in Half Moon Bay, just south of San Francisco. The 25 kW solar array will help Wildlife Associates cut their annual electric bill by $10,000 annually and enable them to reallocate these funds to their core mission, e.g., taking care of wild animals like cougars, condors, ant-eaters, etc., and educating the community about the importance of wildlife conservation and sustainability.

US Solar Nears 16GW of Installed Capacity

According to a new report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the U.S. installed 1,133 MW of solar photovoltaics (PV) in the second quarter of this year. Q2 2014 U.S. Solar Market Insight report finds that more than half-million homes and business are now generating solar energy and they account for nearly half of all solar PV installation in the quarter. The residential market has seen the most consistent growth of any segment for years and its momentum shows no signs of slowing down.

Across the U.S., cumulative PV and concentrating solar power (CSP) operating capacity has exceeded 15.9 gigawatts, enough to power more than 3.2 million homes.

pv_map_by_state“Solar continues to soar, providing more and more homes, businesses, schools and government entities across the United States with clean, reliable and affordable electricity,” said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch. “Today, the solar industry employs 143,000 Americans and pumps nearly $15 billion a year into our economy. This remarkable growth is due in large part to smart and effective public policies, such as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), net energy metering (NEM) and renewable portfolio standards (RPS). By any measure, these policies are paying huge dividends for both the U.S. economy and the environment, and they should be maintained, if not expanded, given their tremendous success, as well as their importance to America’s future.”

Showing continued strength, the utility PV segment made up 55 percent of U.S. solar installations in the second quarter of the year. It has accounted for more than half of national PV installations for the fifth straight quarter. In just two years, the utility segment has quadrupled its cumulative size, growing from 1,784 megawatts in the first half of 2012 to 7,308 megawatts today.

Shayle Kann, Senior Vice President of GTM Research added, “Solar continues to be a primary source of new electric generation capacity in the U.S.” said “With new sources of capital being unlocked, design and engineering innovations reducing system prices, and sales channels rapidly diversifying, the solar market is quickly gaining steam to drive significant growth for the next few years.”

GTM Research and SEIA forecast 6.5 gigawatts of PV will be installed in the United States by the end of this year, up 36 percent over 2013.

Equipment Sales Down Due To Commodity Prices

New Holland ZimmPollOur latest ZimmPoll asked the question, “How do you think commodity prices are impacting farm equipment sales?”

Looks like the majority of us believe that since prices are down, sales will also be down. And the other majority polled don’t see this changing in the near future.

Here are the poll results:

  • Prices down, sales down – 38%
  • Temporary slump – 8%
  • Good crops, sales ok – 10%
  • Downward trend will continure – 35%
  • No idea – 9%

Our new ZimmPoll is now live and asks the question, How important is it to know about farming in other countries?

Chuck is quite the world traveler these days. No, he isn’t on vacation. He is actually working…we think. Over the year’s the ZimmComm duo has brought you stories about farming from many various countries from around the world. That leads us to wondering how important you think it is to know how farming differs in other countries. Can you learn from them? Should we be sharing more of our knowledge?

NBB Offers Webinar on Biodiesel Classroom Safety

biodieselclassroomLots of the next generation of biodiesel producers today are biodiesel students. But making biodiesel can require handling of some hazardous material, so that’s why the National Biodiesel Board is offering the webinar, Biodiesel in the Class Lab: Ensuring Safety, on Sept. 25th from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. Central time:

NBB is teaming up with the Methanol Institute to present this interactive webinar, which will help students and teachers understand the basics of biodiesel production and safety. You’ll also hear from a high school chemistry teacher who built a biodiesel lab, helping him earn the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators for 2014.

Speakers:

Mike Morgan, Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel Co-Chair/Utah State
University/Biochemistry Undergrad
Scott Fenwick, National Biodiesel Board Technical Director
Larry Lavin, Methanol Institute Senior Manager for Government & Public Affairs
Darrin Peters, Rockwood Summit High School Chemistry Teacher

For more information and to reserve your webinar seat, click here. Better hurry, though, because space is limited!