Duke Energy Expands Wind Portfolio

One of the nation’s largest power companies has added to its wind energy holdings. Charlotte, North Carolina-based Duke Energy has spent $240 million to acquire Vermont-based wind energy company Catamount Energy Corp.

This Reuters story has more:

Catamount has about 300 megawatts of renewable energy in operation, as well as about 1,750 megawatts of development interest in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Duke said the deal price does not include $80 million of assumed debt.

Duke bought Tierra Energy, a leading wind developer in Texas, in May 2007.

It said that combining Catamount with Tierra will result in an entity with more than 5,000 megawatts of wind energy under development in 12 states and about 500 megawatts of operating assets by the end of 2008.

Biodiesel, Ethanol, Wind Part of ND Energy Future

A North Dakota commission is recommending that ethanol, biodiesel and wind play a larger role in that state’s energy future.

The Dickinson (ND) Press reports that the state’s EmPower Commission has issued 10 major goals with renewable fuels at the forefront. Here are some of the goals:

*Support the nation’s 25X25 Initiative to derive at least 25 percent of all energy produced from renewable sources by 2025.

*Increase installed capacity of wind generation to 1,500 megawatts by 2020.

*Produce 450 million gallons of ethanol by 2011 and develop both in-state and out-of-state markets for ethanol and associated byproducts.

*Build new biodiesel plants in North Dakota to produce 135 million gallons by 2015.

The commission, created by the state legislature last year, has worked for the last 10 months to come up with these recommendations and suggestions that also deal with conventional energy sources in North Dakota.

More Tuscon Buses to Run on Biodiesel

Over the next five years, Tuscon, Arizona will be buying more biodiesel buses for the city’s public transportation system.

This story from the Arizona Daily Star says Sun Tran, Tuscon’s bus system, is increasing the number of biodiesel buses… even as the green fuel already goes into a majority of the buses:

The transit system has a contract to expand its fleet of buses running on biodiesel, which already makes up about 56 percent of the buses on our streets. The other 44 percent of the buses run on CNG, said Michele Joseph, spokeswoman for Sun Tran.

Sun Tran plans to buy an additional 119 biodiesel buses over its five-year contract with bus manufacturer Gillig Corp. The buses are also capable of running on regular diesel, but Sun Tran does not use regular diesel in any of its buses.

Sun Tran uses B20 and B5 biodiesel blends in its 114 biodiesel buses.

The article points out that the new biodiesel buses are replacing an even cleaner-burning fuel, compressed natural gas (CNG). But the problem with CNG is that the city would need a new CNG fueling station… a costly proposition at this point. In addition, CNG-fueled buses have to refuel more often.

Louisiana Law Promotes Non-Corn Ethanol

Governor JindalLouisiana Governor Bobby Jindal this week signed into law the Advanced Biofuel Industry Development Initiative, the most comprehensive and far-reaching state legislation in the nation enacted to develop a statewide advanced biofuel industry. Louisiana is the first state to enact alternative transportation fuel legislation that includes a variable blending pump pilot program and a hydrous ethanol pilot program.

The legislation includes the development of ethanol derived solely from Louisiana harvested crops capable of an annual yield of at least 600 gallons per acre. The law also provides for two pilot programs – an advanced biofuel variable blending pump trial and a hydrous ethanol trial.

Officials with Renergie, Inc. are pleased with passage of the law. Renergie is in the process of developing a network of ten ethanol plants in the parishes of the State of Louisiana. Brian J. Donovan, CEO of Renergie, says the legislation will “maximize rural development, benefit consumers, farmers and gas station owners while also protecting the environment and reducing the burden on local water supplies.” The Florida-based company recently received $1.5 million in grant money to design and build Florida’s first sweet sorghum juice mechanical harvesting system and ethanol plant capable of producing fuel-grade ethanol solely from sweet sorghum juice.

New EPIC Board Member Man of Many Hats

One of the newest board members of the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council is a man of many hats. Ray Defenbaugh is the CEO of Big River Resources, a company that’s based in Southeast Iowa. The company already operates a one 100 million gallon ethanol plant and another is under construction.

But, Ray doesn’t just know ethanol production. He’s also quite the fiscally savvy farmer. Ray serves as chairman of the board for a $330 million bank.

That’s still not all. He serves as a director for the Renewable Fuels Association as well.

When asked about this latest “hat” though, Ray says ethanol possesses a “wide area of influence and effect.” He says the fuel is an excellent representation of value added agriculture, “bringing value right back into our Midwestern community right where it belongs.”

Chuck spoke with Ray at EPIC’s first annual meeting. You can listen to Chuck’s interview here:

World Ethanol, Biodiesel Production Doubling by 2030

The amount of biofuels being produced in the world will double between 2010 and 2030… and that represents a significant increase from previous U.S. government estimates of how much ethanol and biodiesel will be produced in the future.

This story from Reuters says a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration says biofuels will be “an increasingly important source” of global energy supplies over the next two decades:

Global biofuels production will rise from 1.3 million barrels per day in 2010 to 2.7 million bpd in 2030, with the United States accounting for almost half that growth, EIA said in its new long-term forecast.

The forecast marks a big jump from the EIA’s previous estimate of 1.7 million bpd of biofuels production by 2030.

The boost will help renewable fuels take up about 8.5 percent of global energy use by 2030, up from about 7.7 percent in 2005, the EIA said.

The report goes on to say that U.S. biofuels output will grow from half a million barrels each day in 2010 to 1.2 million barrels each day in 2030.

Students Build Hydrogen Car, Win Competition

A group of junior high students from Boise, Idaho has won first place in the National Fuel Cell Competition at the 2008 National Middle School Science Bowl in Golden, Colo.

This story from KBCI-TV in Boise says it was a good chance for the students to learn… and the sponsoring U.S. Department of Energy to get some new ideas:

“Each team started out with their motor and this fuel cell,” said eighth grader, Alex Baca, one of the master minds behind the design of the car. “And it was up to you to design some kind of car.”

Five students from the Treasure Valley Math and Science Center at Riverglen Junior High school are bringing home the overall first place trophy in the National Alternative Fuel Cell Competition for their little hydrogen cell vehicle.

“This year we got a monster trophy, so we can show everybody this is what we did and this is what we got,” said Eddie Smith, an eighth grader on the team.

The US Department of Energy sponsored this week’s National Middle School Science Bowl in Colorado, all in search, for creative ideas when it comes to researching alternative fuels.

One of the students’ mentors said while hydrogen may or may not be the answer to the nation’s energy problems… but they won’t know if it is the answer until they ask questions like this.

Biodiesel Rebuilding Iowa Town

On May 25th, 2008, an F5 tornado ripped through the town of Parkersburg, Iowa… killing six people and practically wiping out the small town in Northeast Iowa. Now, with some help from biodiesel, the town is rebuilding.

This story from Biodiesel Magazine says the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association and the Ames, Iowa-based Renewable Energy Group Inc. have announced a $10,000 donation toward the purchase of biodiesel to aid the recovery effort. And that has turned into a statewide money-raising effort:

“The idea was to round the price of diesel up to $5 a gallon and ask people if they would like to donate just a gallon,” an REG representative told Biodiesel Magazine. “We have been overwhelmed by the participation in this fundraising activity.”

KCPS Radio in West Burlington, Iowa, donated $1,000 accumulated from listeners, and although the deadline for helping to purchase biodiesel has passed, persistence to help continues. “My sidekick and I raised the money from our listeners in just one week,” said Chip Giannettino, KCPS station owner and morning show host. “In fact, we’ll exceed $1,000 as donations are still drifting in.”

Western Dubuque Biodiesel in Farley, Iowa; and Central Iowa Energy in Newton, Iowa joined REG and the IRFA in making addiitonal $500 donations. GATX Rail and the Iowa Biodiesel Board were also noted donators among dozens of others.

VeraSun Delays Startup of Third Plant

VeraSunDue to the current market volatility, VeraSun Energy will delay the startup of its 110 million-gallon-per-year ethanol production facility in Hankinson, N.D. This is the third VeraSun facility that has delayed startup operations this month due to market conditions, the other two being Welcome, Minn., and Hartley, Iowa. Construction on the Hankinson facility will be completed by the end of June, while construction on the Hartley and Welcome biorefineries was completed earlier this month.

VeraSun CEO Don Endres says ethanol is currently being sold at a deep discount to unleaded gasoline, which is tightening margins for producers, but he remains optimistic about the industry. “With oil prices hovering around record levels, there is a tremendous urgency for domestically produced fuel options in our country,” Endres said.

Transition To A Bio Economy Conference Wrap Up

Corny GallagherTo wrap things up here at the Farm Foundation Transition To A Bio Economy conference I spoke with board member, Cornelius Gallagher. He says the conference brought together world class leaders who were able to listen to some fantastic presentations. I’ve posted interviews with almost all of them so please scroll back through them.

Corny, as he likes to be called, says that the conference accomplished what it was supposed to which is bringing leaders together to foster knowledge and provide attendees with a better understanding in a broad sense of the bio economy.

The next conference in the series will be held October 15-16 in St. Louis.

You can listen to my interview with Corny here:

You can also download the interview using this link (mp3).

Transition To A Bio Economy Photo Album

What We Need To Know

Peggy CaswellWhat we know and what we need to know was Peggy Caswell’s, USDA-ERS, topic here at the Farm Foundation Transition To A Bio Economy conference. She says we need to know things about how farmers or the providers of biofuels and feed stocks are going to have to change the way they do business. She used the example of having to look at different types of contracts and financing.

She said that ethanol companies are going to need a consistent and reliable source of product and that farming by nature is very variable. So farmers will be taking big risks and that’s why contracting will be necessary. She also calls for a lot more research, something we heard earlier in the program from other speakers.

You can listen to my interview with Peggy here:

You can also download the interview using this link (mp3).

Transition To A Bio Economy Photo Album

Chevron in Biofuels

We heard from Chevron here at the Transition To A Bio Economy conference since according to Paul Bryan, the company has made a major commitment to biofuels. He says they created a biofuels business unit about 2 years ago. Their focus is on 2nd generation biofuels that use non-food crops.

His talk focused on the integration in the biopetroleum business. He describes that as using bio-derived fuels that work with the existing petroleum infrastructure. One of the projects they’re involved with uses micro algae and he’s saying that it will be about 5 to 15 years before it’s in full volume production.

You can listen to my interview with Paul here:

You can also download the interview using this link (mp3).

Post Update: Photo removed at Mr. Bryan’s request.

Transition To A Bio Economy Photo Album

Ethanol Investing Decline

Chris GroobeyThe issue of investment and financing for ethanol plants and bio refineries in general was addressed today by Chris Groobey, Baker & McKenzie, LLP. He works on project financing with investors and lenders and mostly in renewable fuels. He painted a pretty bleak picture.

In fact, he says the New York investment community is not interested in biofuels right now. He says they’re tapped out and that ethanol and biodiesel are not of interest to them at all. So with that being said, what’s next? He says there needs to be a combination of making more money from existing plants by co-locating other facilities or finding other sources of income from the same plant. He also thinks there needs to be more and bigger business structures.

He says this means we’re returning to more traditional models of rural development that take a longer term view. He recommends growing local agriculturally skilled management teams with people who understand farm risk.

You can listen to my interview with Chris here:

You can also download the interview using this link (mp3).

Transition To A Bio Economy Photo Album

More Bio Economy Research Needed

Gale BuchananOur USDA Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics is Gale Buchanan. He was here at the Transition To A Bio Economy conference to talk about the need for research in a growing bio economy. In fact, he sees a need for a tremendous amount of research to address the opportunities presented by the whole energy picture.

He also talked about how impressed he was at last week’s Bio Energy Awareness Days in Washington, DC where 35 different universities made presentations.

You can listen to my interview with Gale here:

You can also download the interview using this link (mp3).

Transition To A Bio Economy Photo Album

Trucking Corn For Ethanol

Frank DooleyWhen it comes to infrastructure needs for a bio economy our rural road system is a key component. To speak about it here at the Transition To A Bio Economy conference we heard from Frank Dooley, Purdue University. He sees a big increase in grain production, primarily in the midwest. With that comes a growing demand for transportation. He thinks we should be concerned because most of the corn will be moved by truck and that’s going to impact rural roads. He also sees an increase in rail transportation but not significantly.

He’s worked on a project with the state department of transportation in Indiana to study traffic flow changes and suggests that more of this type of research needs to be done. He says that a 100 million gallon ethanol plant will have up to 110 trucks in per day.

You can listen to my interview with Frank here:

You can also download the interview using this link (mp3).

Transition To A Bio Economy Photo Album