NEVC Concludes 2008 Summer Board Meeting

NEVCThe National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition (NEVC) concluded their 2008 Summer Board of Directors Meeting in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, July 15. The meeting was held in conjunction with the National Corn Grower Association’s Corn Congress.

The board meeting was well attended by board members ranging from automobile manufacturer representatives, ethanol producers, state corn growers and more. Items on the agenda covered budget items, membership, and issues that are hindering the advancement of E85 infrastructure such as the lack of Underwriters Laboratory certification on E85 dispensers.

KlobucharThe NEVC along with cosponsors hosted a reception for the attendees of the Corn Congress on Monday, July 14. Also, a reception at the nation’s Capitol was held on July 15. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar addressed the crowd at the reception. She thanked the Minnesota Corn Growers Association for their leadership on pushing this year’s Farm Bill to its success.

Sponsors for the meeting included: the Missouri Corn Growers Associaiton, VeraSun Energy, ICM, Dresser Wayne, Ohio Corn Growers Association, Minnesota Corn Growers Association, Kansas Corn Growers Association, Siouxland Energy and Livestock Cooperative, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, Kentucky Corn Growers Association, Mid-Missouri Energy, Gilbarco Veeder-Root, White Energy, Clean Fuels Development Coalition, and Chrysler Corporation.

Photo above features Minnesota’s Amy Klouchar with members of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association.

Blue Hawaii Using Green Algae for Biodiesel

While the waters along those world-famous Hawaiian beaches will still be picture-perfect blue, some folks in the Aloha State are banking on some murky-green H2O for power.

This story from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin says three companies will team up to develop the world’s first commercial microalgae facility on Maui that will produce oil for biodiesel and and animal feed.

Alexander & Baldwin Inc., HR BioPetroleum Inc. and Hawaiian Electric Industries subsidiaries Hawaiian Electric Co. and Maui Electric Co. said yesterday they have signed a tentative agreement to build an algae plant on up to 1,000 acres of agricultural land owned by A&B next to HECO’s Maalaea power plant starting in 2011.

It would be one of the first commercial plants of its kind in the world, according to Ed Shonsey, HR BioPetroleum chief executive officer, and adds to several major isle biodiesel projects announced in the past two years.

“It’s a very new area in the field of biofuels and alternative energy,” Shonsey said. “There are approximately 20 companies in the world that are investigating this approach and of those 20 there are only approximately two that actually have pilot facilities and have demonstrated the ability to do it outside the lab and scale it up, and we are one of those.”

The plant is expected to be profitable in its first year of operation.

GM and National Governors Assn. Partner for Additional E85 Stations

GMMinnesota’s Governor Tim Pawlenty recently announced a partnership between General Motors Corp. (GM) and the National Governors Association which will assist in increasing the number of E85 fueling stations across the country. No specific numbers have been announced but the goal is to boost the slow pace at which new pumps capable of dispensing 85% ethanol fule have been added in recent years.

GM agreed to find the appropriate locations to add the E85 through the numbers in their customer database of registered vehicles. They will aslo assist in finding state grants for the sites. The automaker recently announced their 18 vehicle flexible fuel lineup for model year 2009. Ford, GM and Chrysler have all agreed to offer have their vehicle line as E85 compatible by 2012.

GM has assisted in installing about 300 E85 pumps in 15 states over the last three years. GM cars and trucks account for 3 million of the 7 million flex-fuel vehicles on U.S. roadways and the company produced more than 1 million flex-fuel models in North America and Brazil last year.

Ethanol Key Issue in MO Governor’s Race

Ethanol has become the key issue in the race for the governor’s mansion in Missouri, as the two main Republican contenders square off over the state’s new ethanol mandate.

Sarah Steelman, who is also the State Treasurer, has now switched her position to opposing Missouri’s mandate that requires that practically every gallon of gasoline sold in the state must contain at least 10 percent ethanol. Just earlier this year, she had backed the mandate, but now has sided with Big Oil’s contention that it is raising food and fuel prices… a contention her opponent in Missouri’s August 5th Republican Primary, Congressman Kenny Hulshof refutes with plenty of facts from ag and non-agricultural sources in this article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

- A recent analysis from Merrill Lynch concluded that oil prices would be about 15% higher, if it weren’t for biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel. (Multiple press accounts)

“- A U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Energy analysis found that without ethanol, gas would be higher by 35 cents per gallon. (USDA & DoE letter to Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, June 11, 2008)

“- An Iowa State University study found that ethanol has lowered gas prices by 30 to 40 cents per gallon. (Omaha World-Herald, editorial, May 11, 2008)

“- A Missouri-based A.G. Edwards analyst asserted: “Ethanol blending could help ease U.S. refining bottlenecks and that could be ultimately reflected in lower prices at the pump.” (Reuters, February 14, 2008)

“- The International Energy Agency (IEA) states that biofuels make up about 50 percent of the extra fuel coming to the market from sources outside the OPEC oil cartel. William Ramsey, deputy executive director of the IEA, said: “If we didn’t have those barrels, I am not sure where we would be getting those half a million barrels.” (The Financial Times, April 26, 2008)

Hulshof’s campaign has compared Steelman to Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, who, as an oil dictator, also has no interest in the development of ethanol in the U.S.

Iowa College Offering Wind Turbine Technician Program

As the need for wind energy grows… expected to grow at double-digit rates in capacity over the next 20 years… the need for workers who can construct, repair and maintain those green energy systems grows as well. To help meet that need, a college in Northwest Iowa… an area known for its wind power generators… is offering a program to train those workers.

This story from KTIV-TV in Sioux City says Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville (in full disclosure, my alma mater) is helping meet the growing need:

Even with all of that growth there is one place where the wind industry is falling short. “Man power, there is a shortage of man power to man the wind turbines that are being operated across the country and that is where our program comes in,” Zeits said.

According to Iowa Lakes Community College they were the first in the state to start the two year program that trains technicians to work on wind turbines. Students in the wind energy program learn everything from how to repair the blades to the basic physics of wind energy.

According to the American Wind Energy Association those trained workers can’t come to soon. “We expect that we are going to have a need for a 180,000 workers in the industry within the next 22 years,” said [John] Dunlop.

The article goes on to point out that portion of Iowa, Southern Minnesota and South Dakota is right in the middle of a booming wind power generation area… right around that little college that has a wind-powered sailboat as its symbol. Kind of befitting, huh?

Consumer-Scale Wind Generators Gain Popularity

With utility rates rising… and expected to get even higher… it’s no wonder people are looking at generating their own electricity.

This story from the Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch says backyard wind power generators are growing in popularity, despite their sometimes hefty price tag:

“They are definitely growing [in popularity],” says Ron Stimmel of the AWEA, the national trade association for the wind energy industry. Sales of turbines that generate 2 kilowatts to 10 kilowatts of electricity, the smallest category of turbine and the ones most likely to be in residential use, have been rising nearly 25% annually, he said.

The rising cost of electricity has been driving wind-turbine sales. Homeowners in an area of high winds with a properly sited turbine can shave up to 80% off their monthly electricity bills, industry experts say.

Some wind turbines can cost anywhere from $12,000 – $50,000, which, even if they save homeowners 80 percent of their electricity costs (as some do), it can take some time to recoup their costs. Some state governments are helping people get back some of that money to encourage the growth of the home-scale wind farms. The article points out, for example, in New York, homeowners can get back as much as 40 percent of the start-up costs… two-thirds of the money upfront to help buy the system and the rest when it is connected to the power grid.

Wisconsin Paper Mill Turning Into Biodiesel Plant

A 100-year-old paper mill in Northern Wisconsin is being converted to make biodiesel.

This press release posted on the Milwaukee Business Journal web site says Flambeau River BioFuels has received a $30 million U.S. Department of Energy grant to build and to operate a first-in-class refinery that will turn biomass from forestry and agricultural operations into biodiesel at an existing pulp and paper mill in Park Falls:

When in full operation, the biorefinery will produce at least 6 million gallons of liquid fuels per year in the form of renewable sulfur-free diesel. The biorefinery will not be dependent on any food-based feedstock materials, but rather on by-products or residuals from forest and agricultural sources. The biorefinery will also generate at least 1 trillion BTUs per year of process heat that will be sold to Flambeau River Papers, which will make it the first integrated pulp and paper mill in North America to be fossil fuel free.

“This grant supports Flambeau River BioFuels’ goal to be a major contributor in achieving the Federal government’s goal of increasing renewable fuels production and reducing our nation’s dependence on Mideast oil,” said Bob Byrne, President, Flambeau River BioFuels. “With this funding, we will be able to accelerate the retrofitting of this mill from a pure pulp and paper plant to a broader production facility that will produce biofuels within the same facility, thus sharing key infrastructure elements and costs.”

The plant is expected to help in two different areas of the area’s economy on two different levels: in the short term, it will produce engineering and construction jobs to convert the paper mill into a biodiesel plant; and in the long term, it will create highly skilled jobs at the plant and in the area’s logging industry. The plant is expected to open in 2010.

Maryland Biodiesel Plant Resumes Re-Opening Plans

Officials with a Maryland biodiesel plant, where a man was killed while working on bringing the idled refinery back on line in May, say they will continue to work to get the facility back in to production.

This story from the Delmarva Daily Times says Greenlight Biofuels held a town meeting in the Princess Anne community to reassure residents that the explosion had nothing to do with the production of biodiesel, and the plant’s design probably prevented any further casualties in the refinery and community:

“We are working on a plan to continue production,” Carol Walston, general manager at Greenlight, said in a marketing-style presentation at the monthly town meeting that touted a company-sponsored student scholarship program and an 11-member work force including several employees from the area. “We want to be a part of the Princess Anne community and we continue to talk about ways.”

Walston assured residents that Greenlight invested $8 million in engineering, design and other precautions to make the plant safe and underscored that the explosion that killed a contract worker and shook homes around the Hampden Avenue “was not related to the production process.”

“The building itself is incorporated with engineering and safety aspects,” Walston said, and distributed small vials of a near-transparent liquid — a manufactured biodiesel fuel product she said smelled of cooking oil. “(The building) did keep the community safe during the accident.”

The presentation was enough to prompt a majority of Town Commissioners to give Greenlight Biofuels a vote of confidence. The company will also create a community outreach project to educate residents and to ease tensions. No date has been set for the opening of the plant.

Wisconsin Corn Growers Offer Free E85

WI Farm Tech DaysThe Wisconsin Corn Growers Association (WCGA) is offering a free $20 E85 gift card at this year’s Wisconsin Farm Technology Days. The promotion is part of the celebration of reaching over 100 stations offering the clean, renewable fuel.

The gift cards will be available at the WCGA booth in tent D this week, offered from a variety of state merchants in exchange for a receipt showing a purchase of at least eight gallons of E85. The offer is limited to one per household.

“With gasoline prices hovering around $4 per gallon, American consumers must realize that ethanol and the country’s Renewable Fuels Standards are part of the solution for rising food and energy costs,” says Randy Woodruff, president of the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association. “Home-grown biofuels are replacing imported oil and helping lower gas prices as much as 40 cents per gallon. In addition, several recent studies have shown that petroleum prices impact retail food costs three times more than farm prices do, yet big oil and food companies continue trying to blame farmers for the high cost of groceries.”

Currently, there are 112 E85 fueling locations within the state of Wisconsin to fuel about 154,000 flexible fuel vehicles.

Blackhawk Buys Mothballed Illinois Biodiesel Plant

An Illinois biodiesel company has bought a biodiesel refinery that had been mothballed. Blackhawk Biofuels, LLC, with $19.8 million in financial backing from the state of Illinois, has bought the 45-million-gallon-a-year biodiesel plant at Danville, Illinois.

This press release from Blackhawk’s web site says the company will upgrade the facility to accept a wider range of feedstocks in hopes of making it economically viable:

The improvements to the biodiesel plant, managed by Renewable Energy Group (REG), will enable it to produce biodiesel from animal fats as well as soybean oil, making it one of only a handful of plants nationwide with this capability. This ability will help ensure the plant’s profitability, create 15 new jobs and secure more than a hundred jobs at the Danville facility and the adjacent soy crushing plant, as well as approximately 75 construction jobs.

Blackhawk Biofuels will partner with Renewable Energy Group to operate the facility. REG, a leading biodiesel producer and marketer, will operate the Danville facility and market the plant’s biodiesel. Biodiesel production is expected to begin as early as this fall.

“We expect this plant will become a premier facility within the REG network,” said Renewable Energy Group Chief Operating Officer Daniel Oh. The plant has a secure raw material source, a skilled and motivated workforce, and an efficient distribution network. The planned upgrades will further enhance its market advantages.

The $19.8 million comes from the Illinois Finance Authority (IFA). Another $4.8 million in Opportunity Returns grants to construct the new plant have been made available through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Biodiesel Favorite of Favorite Foods

New Hampshire-based Favorite Foods, a $20 million a year broadline foodservice distributor, is switching its fleet of trucks to biodiesel.

This story from the Foster’s Daily Democrat says it is part of the company’s overall green plan:

“As a business, we have always done everything we can to positively impact our customers and our economy,” stated Chris Barstow, president of Favorite Foods. “Now, we are taking steps to positively impact our environment. By investing in initiatives like a Biodiesel program, energy efficiencies in our new warehouse, and an expanded recycling program that will allow us to reduce waste exponentially, Favorite Foods can give back in a whole new way.”

Favorite Foods has provided its customers with their own means of giving back. “In addition to these internal initiatives,” Chris continued, “we are also focused on making available to our customers an array of sustainable, eco-friendly products that allow them to contribute to a healthier environment.”

Now while the fleet of seven Favorite Foods trucks running on biodiesel might not seem like it will change the world, just think if every food distributor… or any distributor for that matter… used only biodiesel in all of their delivery trucks. Just my opinion here, but I think it will be all of the little companies that will end up making all the difference in the world.

Nation’s Capital to Host Renewable Energy Expo

A coalition of business, environmental and energy policy organizations advocating aggressive development of renewable energy will team up with members of Congress for the the 11th Annual Congressional Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency EXPO + Forum, July 31st in Washington, DC.

According to the group:

This year’s EXPO will bring together more than three dozen businesses, sustainable energy industry trade associations, government agencies, and energy policy research organizations to showcase the status and near-term potential of the cross-section of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. A morning news conference will feature Members of the U.S. Congress while afternoon speakers will discuss the role sustainable energy technologies can play in meeting America’s energy needs.

As Congress, the Administration, the business community, environmental advocates, and American voters search for options to address ever-higher energy prices, increased reliance on energy imports, and the potential threat posed by rising levels of greenhouse gas emissions, the EXPO will help address the role that sustainable energy technologies might play. This will include not only the technical aspects of renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies but also related issues such as economics, jobs potential, environmental benefits, current and near-term market potential, model programs in the public and private sectors, institutional and legal barriers, etc.

The EXPO will be going on in the Cannon House Office Building – Caucus Room (on the 3rd floor) and is free and open to the public. No RSVPs are required. For more information contact:
Ken Bossong,
Sustainable Energy Coalition
Phone: 301-270-6477 x.23

French Firm to Develop Va Tech Ethanol, Hydrogen Technologies

French firm Biométhodes has inked an exclusive deal with Virginia Tech’s Intellectual Properties Inc. division to option-to-license the school’s processes to convert biomass into ethanol and hydrogen.

This story from the school says the processes were invented by Percival Zhang, assistant professor of biological systems engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech:

An integrated biorefinery pilot plant in Virginia is envisioned to advance the process for the conversion of biomass into ethanol and valuable co-products, focusing especially on biomass pretreatment. The process for transformation of biomass into hydrogen will be developed in France and will be validated through a biohydrogen fuel cell prototype and small-scale model car.

Zhang developed a novel and innovative process for releasing sugars that can be fermented into ethanol from non-food sources into sugars that can be converted to ethanol. His process uses enzymes and mild and recyclable physicochemical conditions that do not require high pressure or high temperature. The gentle pretreatment process also results in no sugar degradation and separates other highly profitable products, such as lignin and acetic acid. “More revenues from lignocellulose components other than sugars would be vital to the success of biomass refineries,” said Zhang.

According to Gilles Amsallem, Biométhodes chief executive officer, “The pilot plant will integrate two major technologies – Virginia Tech’s pretreatment process, which breaks down the biomass, and Biométhodes’ hydrolysis enzyme optimization technology to improve the cellulose degradation into fermentable sugars.”

Virginia Tech officials believe the ethanol production from biomass can reach into the billions of gallon a year with Biométhodes scaling up the hydrogen end to deliver fuel cells for cars.

Crop Group Confirms Ethanol Calibration System

PioneerDuPont recently received confirmation from an independent sources that its ethanol yield calibration system really works.

The external independent validation came from the Illinois Crop Improvement Association (ICIA), which demonstrated that the Ethanol Yield Potential (EYP) near infrared (NIR) calibration does reliably predict the ethanol output of whole corn grain. The calibration, developed by DuPont business Pioneer Hi-Bred, allows ethanol plants to rapidly and consistently evaluate incoming grain, helping both plant managers and growers determine which corn hybrids and management practices can improve ethanol production.

Illinois crop improvement association“Rapid determination of EYP of corn can be a valuable step in improving ethanol plant efficiency,” said Dennis Thompson, ICIA chief executive officer. “ICIA recognizes the need for rapid measurement tools based on standardized reference lab methods. Our initial validation procedures have shown a strong correlation between the Pioneer EYP calibration and our laboratory method.”

The calibration has been incorporated into the QualiTrakSM system from Pioneer, a measurement and reporting program that facilitates the flow of ethanol yield information to both plant personnel and corn growers. The technology allows ethanol producers to use analytical data to manage the corn grain feeding for their ethanol production process through rapid analysis and grading at the point of grain receiving. Farmers are then able to take this information and combine it with their on-farm agronomic performance data to tailor the corn hybrids they plant and apply management practices to maximize the ethanol yield on every acre.

ACE Announces Lineup for 2008 Ethanol Conference

ACE 08“Fueling Revolution” is the theme for the 2008 Ethanol Conference and Trade Show being held August 12-14 at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Nebraska.

The conference officially gets underway on August 13 with morning breakout sessions on a number of important topics, including Protecting Profitability in Volatile Markets, Mid-Range Ethanol Blends & E85,
Current Issues in Distillers Grains, and Cellulosic Ethanol: Feedstock Production, Handling, and Logistics.

Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman will speak at the opening of the general session Wednesday afternoon. After remarks from the American Coalition for Ethanol leadership, a panel discussion on “Innovations in Corn Ethanol” will be held, featuring experts from the National Corn Growers Association, Chippewa Valley Ethanol Co. of Benson, Minnesota, and VeraSun Energy Corp.

A full agenda and registration information is available on-line at the ACE website.