Growth Energy Staffer on Advisory Committee

growth-energy-logoU.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker has appointed Jim Miller, Growth Energy’s Vice President and Chief Economist, to a position on the Department of Commerce’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee. The departmental committee was established to advise the Secretary on programs and policies to expand U.S. renewable energy and energy efficiency exports.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to help increase awareness of the importance of renewable fuels as well as expand markets across the globe to help export clean, sustainable energy that will help create jobs right here at home, while improving the environment around the globe and reducing the world’s dependence on fossil fuels,” said Miller.

Miller previously served as the Senior Policy Advisor on the Budget Committee under Senator Kent Conrad (D-N.D.). Prior to his service on Capitol Hill, Miller was appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as the Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Also appointed to the committee was Kelly Davis of the Renewable Fuels Association.

DuPont to Sit on RFA Board

RFANewlogoDuPont will now be sitting on the governing board of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). The company has been an associate RFA member for more than 10 years and has now upgraded its membership as its first cellulosic ethanol plant is in its final stages of construction. The biorefinery will be co-located next to Lincolnway Energy in Nevada, Iowa and when complete will produce 30 million gallons per year of ethanol using corn ag waste.

“Next generation cellulosic ethanol is emerging on the market and DuPont is at the forefront of innovation. Their knowledge and expertise in all aspects of the biofuels industry make them a valuable addition to the Renewable Fuels Association,” said Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the RFA. “I am eager to work together to advance the renewable fuels industry, which is already directly and indirectly employing nearly 400,000 people, reducing GHG emissions, and lowering America’s foreign oil dependence.”

William Feehery, president of DuPont Industrial Biosciences said of their renewed commitment to the ethanol association, “RFA is a leading voice in Washington on issues related to our industry and we look forward to working even more closely together as we reach full cellulosiDuPont Logoc production in the coming year. We acknowledge the hard work RFA has done to promote and defend the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) both as an individual organization and as our partner in the Fuels America Coalition. A stable RFS is vitally important to support growth for the existing corn ethanol industry while garnering the investment needed to expand and grow cellulosic ethanol in the United States. We must keep the technology, research, and development here in the United States so consumers can continue to have choices at the pump and America can reduce its reliance on foreign oil.”

RFA’s Davis Appointed to Advisory Committee

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Director of Regulatory Affairs Kelly Davis has been appointed to the Department of Commerce’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee.

According to Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, the function of the committee is to “provide consensus advice on the development and administration of programs and policies to expand U.S. renewable energy and energy efficiency exports.”

“It is truly an honor to be selected by Secretary Pritzker to serve on the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee,” said Davis. “I look forward to having a seat at the table and helping Secretary Pritzker ensure that our global trading partners understand and appreciate the benefits of U.S. produced ethanol in reducing consumer gasoline prices, improving energy diversity and security, and addressing climate change.”

Davis recently participated in a trade mission to China, led by USDA Under Secretary Michael Scuse, to promote U.S. ethanol and co-products and strengthen the trade relationship between the two countries. Last year, she joined a similar trade mission, led by the U.S. Grains Council, to South Korea and Japan. The RFA board of directors has made opening new markets for ethanol and distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) abroad a top priority, and Davis’ appointment to this prestigious advisory committee reflects that commitment.

API: Extend Domestic Fuel Supply To Lower Gas Prices

In a recent blog post authored by Geoff Cooper, senior vice president of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), the American Petroleum Institute (API) recently released a study that argues that the fracking boom has led to dramatically lower prices for crude oil and refined products between 2008-2013. Cooper wrote that the study suggests that increased Cooper Graphic in API study articledomestic production of crude oil, natural gas liquids (NGLs) and lease condensate from fracking has already extended U.S. supplies and helped to lower gas prices.

The study finds that every 1 million barrels/day of new supply reduces consumer prices for petroleum products between $0.06-0.20 per gallon. Cooper writes that according to economics more supply generally results in lower prices, in this case there are two problems with API’s rationale.

  • Problem 1: Global demand for petroleum products continues to grow faster than global supply. EIA data show global production of crude oil, NGLs and condensate grew by 4.1 million barrels/day between 2008 and 2013. But global consumption of those products ramped up by 5.4 million barrels/day over the same period. Thus, demand gains outstripped supply gains by more than 30%.
  • Problem 2: When energy economist Phil Verleger and researchers at Louisiana State University, Iowa State University, University of Wisconsin, the Department of Energy, and others separately showed that extending the U.S. gasoline supply with ethanol leads to lower pump prices, Big Oil defiantly screamed “NOT SO!” Verleger found that consumer paid $0.50-$1.50 per gallon less for gasoline in 2013 because of ethanol’s extension of the fuel supply. His conclusion corroborated results from Iowa State/University of Wisconsin that showed consumers saved up to $1.09 in 2012 due to ethanol’s aggregate effect on gasoline supplies.

Cooper ends his article by asking the question, “So, which is it API? Does adding volume to the fuel supply reduce prices, or doesn’t it?”

Veterans Asset Offering Vets Online Solar Education

gI_93607_TVA on Roof_SmilesThe Veteran Asset (TVA) is now offering solar PV scholarships for U.S. military veterans through its new 32-hour online training program. The training program is being offered in conjunction with Ambassador Energy Solar College, an Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) accredited training program.

The organization has been providing free solar PV training for vets since May 2014 via a traditional “brick and motar” option at their Ambassador Energy’s training facility in Murrieta, California. The entry level Solar PV Design and Installation is a five-day course with an exam following the completion of the courses. This course is now offered online.

The program is also customized to allow renewable energy company’s to leverage TVA’s specialized vetting process and their program, to help companies hire veteran graduates. Courses can be co-branded to the company, its technologies and geographies it serves.

Kelly Smith, TVA vice president said of the new online program, “The online option not only provides TVA data for determining the next locations for our ‘Brick and Mortar’ training centers but it is also a scalable way for us to cast a wide net, helping us reach as many veterans as possible during this solar ‘gold rush’. We are using technology to help bridge the gap between the desirable supply of a trained veteran workforce and the growing demand from the renewable energy industry. TVA’s entire mission is getting these great folks to work.”

ONR Website Features Hawaii’s Renewable Energy

A new website focused on Hawaii’s multifaceted approach to renewable energy is now live. The website for the Asia-Pacific Technology and Education Partnership (APTEP) is sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR). The military organization notes Hawaii is fast becoming ground zero for the Navy’s drive to develop green technologies.

ATEP websiteAccording to ONR, APTEP approaches the issue from three angles, supporting cutting-edge energy research; educating students and teachers in energy-related fields; and supporting businesses trying to bring alternative energy products to the marketplace.

“Everyone is focused on Hawaii right now,” said Dr. Richard Carlin, head of ONR’s Sea Warfare and Weapons Department. “The studies we’re conducting there and technologies we’re developing will not only help the Navy reduce its need for fossil fuels, but also move the country closer to energy independence.”

October was National Energy Action Month and Hawaii took center stage. For example, in September, the Department of Energy signed a memorandum of understanding reaffirming its commitment to alternative energy efforts in Hawaii, dubbed Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative 2.0. At the same time, ONR, as part of the APTEP program, is sponsoring a new study of technologies and power systems-such as smartgrids and microgrids at three Navy installations on the islands.

Carlin added, “Once we figure out how to make these bases more energy efficient, we can take these new technologies and concepts to other naval bases and ultimately achieve the Navy’s energy goals.”

Chicago to Vote on E15

Today the Chicago City Finance Committee is considering an amended ordinance that according to Alderman Ameya Pawar, one of the bill’s co-sponsor, will ensure Chicago motorists will have a choice at the pump. The “Chicago Clean Air Choice” ordinance would enable retailers to offer drivers E15 fuel.

Chicago E15 logo“Through the ordinance the City of Chicago will once again help lead the way in cleaning up the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other toxic carcinogens in the air,” said Alderman Pawar. In his remarks he was referring to the Chicago City Council’s actions in 1984 that banned leaded gasoline in the city and its 2000 action where the Council banned various toxic additives.

Co-sponsor Alderman Anthony Beale, added that the ordinance has economic and security implications. “By reducing our dependence on fossil fuels by increasing ethanol usage, this ordinance is supporting a renewable fuel that is grown in America, keeping American dollars and troops at home, instead of sending them overseas.”

The original ordinance was introduced last summer. The enhanced ordinance includes an exemption of all filling stations selling less than 850,000 gallons of fuel per year and a 360 day phase in.

SIUE Prof to Write Book on Illinois Biofuels History

The Illinois biofuels industry will be reading about its history in a book. Assistant Professor Jeffery T. Manuel, who teaches at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE), is teaming up with NCERC at SIUE to write the book. He works in the Department of Historical Studies and his biofuels history project was selected for a faculty fellowship award. The Center’s faculty fellowship program is sponsored by the Illinois Corn Marketing Board to foster collaborative research between the NCERC and the University community.

“Farmers, researchers, business leaders, politicians, and many others have been working to build Illinois’ biofuels industry for decades,” said Manuel. “This is an important but overlooked aspect of the state’s agricultural and business history. Fuel alcohol has been suggested as a promising alternative to oil and gas for over a century. My research asks why Americans have repeatedly turned to alcohol fuel as an alternative energy source and why earlier efforts to promote alcohol fuels were unsuccessful.”

gI_88188_Manuel-JeffManuel said his work will include recorded, in-depth interviews of key players in the biofuels industry. The interviews will be archived at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield as part of the Agriculture in Illinois oral history collection.

“We truly appreciate the Illinois Corn Growers’ support of this collaborative relationship, and we are excited to partner with Dr. Manuel on his project,” said NCERC Director John Caupert. “The biofuels industry has a long and fascinating history, with deep roots in Illinois. Dr. Manuel’s work will shed light on the industry’s evolution, and demonstrate the resilience and innovation of the industry’s past and present pioneers.”

Manuel added, “I believe my research will add a valuable historical perspective to SIUE’s existing strengths in biofuels research. I hope that SIUE can become a world leader in a multidisciplinary study of biofuels as we work to create this valuable record for the general public and future researchers.”

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFVictory Energy has hired Robert Williams as the company’s Chief Operating Officer. This is a new position for the company. Reporting to Victory Energy President and CEO John Viskup, Williams will be in charge of overseeing all facets of the Victory Energy operations.
  • SunPower Corp. announced its definitive agreement with Tianjin Zhonghuan Semiconductor Co., Ltd.; Sichuan Development Holding Co., Ltd.; Leshan Electric Power Co., Ltd.; and Tianjin Tsinlien Investment Holding Co., Ltd. to form a joint venture with plans to develop and own at least three gigawatts of photovoltaic (PV) power plants in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The power plants, to be located in the Sichuan Province, are expected to be built primarily with high-efficiency, low-concentration photovoltaic (LCPV) technology.
  • The Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Initiative, the leading body in the field of renewable energy development in Israel, announced that its 2014 Eilat-Eilot Green Energy International Conference and Exhibition will this open with its annual EnergyVest Summit. EnergyVest is a special preconference event for global investors to interact with Israel’s leading renewable energy technology companies, and will be held at the Dan Hotel in Eilat, Israel in the evening of December 7, 2014.
  • The Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa (SEFA) has approved a US $480,000 grant for technical assistance to the Government of the Union of Comoros for a project to facilitate private sector participation in developing renewable energy. The grant will be funded through the “enabling environment” window of this AfDB-administered multi-donor facility mandated to unlock investments in clean energy projects in the continent.

Algae Biomass Organization Gets New Leaders

ABONew leadership is coming aboard the Algae Biomass Organization (ABO). The trade association for the algae industry announced that Tim Burns, Co-founder and Board Member of BioProcess Algae LLC, has been appointed Chair and Martin Sabarsky, CEO of Cellana, Inc. has been appointed Vice Chair of the organization’s Board of Directors for the 2014-2016 term.

Burns and Sabarsky will be leading ABO’s board, which guides the organization in its mission to educate the general public, policymakers, and industry about the benefits and potential of algae to provide sustainable solutions for commodity chemicals, fuels, food, and feed applications, as well as for high-value applications such as, nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics, among other applications. In addition, ABO’s board works closely with its executive director to advocate for policies that can accelerate the development of key market segments and commercial-scale algae production facilities for the full range of products that can be made from algae.

ABO’s board is comprised of representatives from multiple sectors of an industry that is experiencing more investment and seeing new commercial facilities opening or being planned around the world. Board members come from industry sectors that include academia, professional services, algae biomass producers, technology suppliers, project developers, and end-users.

“Tim and Martin are highly regarded algae industry leaders, and I’m looking forward to collaborating with them as we move the industry forward,” said Matt Carr, Executive Director of the Algae Biomass Organization. “Their expertise in CO2 utilization and the entire range of algae-derived products will be invaluable to ABO’s efforts to improve policy, markets, and investment opportunities for all our members.”

ABO also thanked outgoing Board Chair Margaret McCormick for her contributions made to ABO and the algae industry at large. She’ll maintain a position on the board.

REG to Offer More Biodiesel Blends in NE and Midwest

reg-logoBiodiesel giant Renewable Energy Group is adding to the locations that will be selling its green fuel. This company news release says REG Energy Services will be offering additional biofuel blends in New York, Minnesota and Iowa.

REG Energy Services, LLC will offer ultra-low sulfur heating oil and diesel (ULSHO/ULSD) blended with up to 20 percent biodiesel at its New Hyde Park, NY terminal. In addition, ULSD blended with biodiesel will be offered at Minnesota terminals in Alexandria, Mankato, Roseville and Rochester and Iowa terminals in Mason City and Des Moines. This adds ULSD to REG’s existing biodiesel offerings at those locations.

This is the first time REG Energy Services will offer biodiesel fuel blends along the Magellan Midstream Partners terminal system in Iowa and Minnesota. Iowa has a 4.5 cent per gallon incentive for retailers utilizing blends of 5 percent and above. Minnesota has a B5 requirement in the winter when using ULSD and B10 during the summer months.

“This expansion of REG Energy Services provides further access to our fuel portfolio in the Northeast and Midwest markets where we will now offer biodiesel fuel blends in addition to REG-9000™ biodiesel,” said Gary Haer, REG Vice President, Sales and Marketing. “Biodiesel blended fuel provides a convenient solution that further improves REG’s ability to better meet our customers’ needs and growing demand, while enhancing America’s energy and food security, and our environment.”

Iowa-based REG now offers fuel at 34 locations across the US.

Simplifying Propane Autogas Dispensers

2014 World LP Gas Forum Photo Album

perc-wlpgf14-superiorOne of the keys to getting more propane-powered vehicles on the road is getting more propane autogas fueling infrastructure and making it safe and simple for users.

Superior Energy Systems offers a whole line of autogas dispensing systems and during a Propane Education & Research Council event at the World LP Gas Forum, Mike Walters talked about how they are making it so easy your grandmother can use it. “The whole idea is to get autogas fueling to the point of being so similar to gasoline that people aren’t afraid of it,” said Walters, showing off what they nicknamed the Granny Nozzle. “It’s so simple that granny can pull into the C-store and fuel up her SUV without having to have personal protective equipment.”

“What we’re talking about here is low emission transfer versus no emission transfer,” Walters said.

Listen to Walters here and watch the video below to see the system. Mike Walters, Superior Energy Systems

Canadian Youth Speak Out For Wind

The winners of the Canadian Wind Energy Association’s (CanWEA) Power of Wind contest were announced during the association’s 30th Annual Conference and Exhibition in Montreal, Quebec this week. The contest is launched each year during Global Wind Day (June 15, 2015) to bring positive attention to the benefits of wind energy and its growing contribution in Canada.

Power of Wind submissionEach year, CanWEA awards several bursary prizes to students entering or in post-secondary education. This year, students were invited to submit multimedia and written entries on why they believe wind energy is important to Canada’s energy future.

“CanWEA’s Power of Wind contest presents an opportunity for students to share their unique perspective on energy. This year, we reviewed over 200 captivating multi-media entries,” said CanWEA President, Robert Hornung. “The submissions revealed a high awareness among students of wind energy’s role in powering new economic and environmental opportunities, and the ways that Canada can demonstrate global leadership in the development of renewable energy.”

And this year’s Power of Wind contest winners are…

  • Best English language blog: Audrey Cheung, University of Calgary
  • Best French language blog: Pierre-Luc Blain, University of British Columbia
  • Best multimedia entry: Maya Olechnowicz, University of Western Ontario
  • Most creative submission: Long Ting (Tina) Chan, University of Waterloo

Click here to read the winners’ blogs.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFTrina Solar Limited has announced the appointment of Mr. Jeff Dorety as president of its Americas Region, effective October 8, 2014, and Mr. Longxing Huang as president of its Distributed PV Generation Business Unit, effective October 27, 2014. Both Mark Mendenhall, the former president of Trina Solar’s Americas Region, and Mr. Haiyan Sun, the former president of Trina Solar’s Distributed PV Generation Business Unit, have left the Company for personal reasons.
  • NorthWestern Corporation d/b/a NorthWestern Energy announced that it has received the final required regulatory approval in connection with its pending $900 million purchase of eleven hydroelectric facilities representing 633 megawatts of capacity and one storage reservoir from PPL Montana.
  • Satsumasendai City and Sumitomo Corporation have agreed to carry out a joint project on the Koshiki Islands to establish an effective use of reused batteries from electric vehicles as large-scale power storage facilities and to promote renewable energy into the micro-grid of these remote islands. The two parties reached this agreement on October 10, 2014.
  • Vaisala, a global leader in environmental and industrial measurement, has entered the competitive Brazilian renewable energy market auction process as an energy assessment provider, and as a result, has already secured its first certification of a 30MW solar project. Vaisala’s successful auction and tendering certification enables the renewable energy assessment and forecasting firm to work directly with developers and financiers making active investments into this emerging renewable energy market.

NC State Breaks Down Cell Walls

According to Quanzi Li, the greatest barrier to producing biofuels is from stubborn plant cell walls that resist being broken down into biofuel ingredients. Li is the lead author of a paper published in Plant Biotechnology Journal about North Carolina (NC) State’s Forest Biotechnology Group biofuel research progress. Cell walls contain desirable cellulose and hemicellulose, which is “covered up” with lignin, the substance that contributes to the strength of wood but gets in the way of biofuel production.

In the case of wood, the lignin must be removed and then the resulting cellulose is converted to ethanol. Production begins with an expensive pretreatment, followed by enzyme use to release the sugars that can be fermented to produce ethanol. Li and her team are focusing on simplifying the process in various ways.

NC State lignin researchNC State’s team has created genetically modified trees with reduced lignin content. “Normally when you reduce lignin, plant growth is negatively affected, which also reduces biomass production,” explained Li. “However, we now know that we can produce transgenic plants with strong cell walls and normal development but much less lignin.”

Fast-growing trees with high energy content could grow on marginal land without disrupting crop production. NC State has worked extensively with black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa). Forest Biotechnology Group researchers in the College of Natural Resources have developed engineering models that predict how 21 pathway enzymes affect lignin content and composition, providing the equivalent of GPS directions to guide future research.

This comprehensive approach, which involves genes, proteins, plant chemical compounds and mathematical models, fits into a systems biology perspective that’s the key to future breakthroughs, Li said. She added, “Progress has been made in many areas, but we still lack a complete understanding of how the cell wall is formed. We have to have a better idea of the factors that control its formation to produce better biomass for biofuels.”