BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFThe history, changes and recent state of solar power systems will be covered by James Earl Jones in an upcoming “In America” segment. The segment will examine how solar power systems are saving people money, creating ‘green’ energy, and how it’s changing the landscape of the energy industry.
  • Sunpin Solar Development and Suntuity, a Global Project Developer have begun commercial operation of their 3.97 MWp DC ground mounted distributed generation facility located in Tolland, Massachusetts. The utility scale solar system is interconnected to Western Massachusetts Electric Company’s distribution system powering the municipalities of Agawam and Longmeadow. All electricity produced by the project (net of 1.75% parasitic load) will be sold (50% to the Town of Longmeadow, 50% to the Town of Agawam) through Solar Net Metering Power Purchase Agreements with both townships.
  • Pattern Energy Group has acquired the 200 megawatt Logan’s Gap Wind project in Texas, which is currently under construction. Upon completion of the project, the company will have an owned interest of 164 MW and three institutional tax equity investors will acquire the balance. Pattern Energy acquired the Logan’s Gap Wind project for a total cash funding commitment of approximately $113 million.
  • Martifer Solar has completed development of a 4.27 MW PV plant in the UK for Smartenergy Renewables AG. The 4.27 MW PV Francis Court solar plant is located near Exeter. Martifer Solar has sold the project rights and will complete the engineering, procurement and construction) and subsequent operation & maintenance services.

Vertimass Secures $2M BioJet Fuel Grant

Vertimass is in negotiations with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to receive a $2 million grant to aid them in commercilizing the conversion of their “green” catalyst technology that converts ethanol into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel blend stocks. The resultant fuel is compatible with current transportation fuVertimassel infrastructure.

The company has a world-wide exclusive license for the technology from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Vertimass hopes to expand the ethanol market and believes that its fuel will be certified under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). According to the company, benefits of their technology include:

  • A single step conversion of ethanol into a hydrocarbon blend stock without the addition of hydrogen.
  • The ability to process between 5 percent and 100 percent of ethanol concentrations.
  • Production of minimal amounts of light gases.
  • Operation at relatively low temperature and atmospheric pressure.
  • The ability to shift product distributions in response to changing market demands. The technology, which dilutes ethanol streams, will result in higher yields to gasoline, jet fuel and diesel products and is expected to prolong the life of vehicles.

“This green catalyst technology can be rapidly added to an existing ethanol plant with low capital and operating costs while providing fuel flexibility and essentially replacing dehydration operations,” said Charles Wyman, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of Vertimass. “With the ability to add operations to existing plants at a rapid pace and low cost, the new product will help meet the goals of Renewable Standard Fuel production and also help the Federal Aviation Administration achieve their target of 1 billion gallons of renewable aviation fuel by 2018.”

The new Vertimass technology has an estimated yearly production potential of 140 billion gallons. The technology would also expand opportunities to use more ethanol from corn in the U.S., sugarcane in Brazil and cellulosic biomass worldwide.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFThe Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) has announced that Iowa’s 43 ethanol plants produced 3.9 billion gallons during 2014, up from 3.7 billion gallons the previous three years. Iowa continues to be the number one ethanol producing state, and is estimated to account for roughly 27 percent of national ethanol production in 2014. For the first time, a small amount of the ethanol production came from cellulosic feedstocks such as corn stover and corn kernel fiber.
  • The Toyota Research Institute of North America (TRINA), in partnership with The Electrochemical Society (ECS), is requesting proposals from young professors and scholars pursuing innovative electrochemical research in green energy technology. The purpose of the ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship is to encourage young professors and scholars to pursue research in green energy technology that may promote the development of next-generation vehicles capable of utilizing alternative fuels.
  • According to the latest report from GTM Research, “The Future of Solar-Plus-Storage in the U.S.,” the nation will install 318 cumulative megawatts of behind-the-meter solar-plus-storage capacity through 2018. Between California’s recent mandate for the state to procure 1.3 gigawatts of energy storage for its grid and the announcement of Tesla’s Gigafactory, the energy storage market is nearing a tipping point.
  • BBI International has announced that Heating the Midwest, a regional conference focusing on biomass derived thermal energy, will be co-located with the 2015 International Biomass Conference and Expo. Heating the Midwest will be held on Monday, April 20, 2015 at the Minneapolis Convention Center and will bring together leaders of the woody and agricultural biomass industry interested in supporting and expanding the use of biomass for heat and combined heat and power in the Midwest.

Solar Tariff Ups Solar Costs, Hurts Consumers

A final decision has been made by the U.S. Department of Commerce regarding solar tariffs on solar parts assembled in China using components from a third country. The decision created a Separate Rates Group that will be subject to an AD tariff of 52.13 percent and a CVD tariff of 38.72 percent. For example, Yingli will be subject to a combined AD/CVD rate of 29.18 percent.

CASE-logo“We are deeply disappointed in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s decision to accept such a broadly defined scope for this ruling, and to levy harsh, protectionist tariffs,” said Robert Petrina, managing director of Yingli Green Energy Americas. “It’s well known that our customers, partners, and other stakeholders represent the majority of the solar industry and U.S. jobs. We will continue our vigorous defense on their behalf with the hope that national efforts to increase solar power’s cost-competiveness are not derailed further.”

According to the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) this ruling will not only increase the cost of solar imports but will also adversely affect U.S. solar manufacturers. For example, following the announcement Hemlock Semiconductor announced it will close down its plant in Clarksville, Tennessee where the company produced silicon for solar panels. The company cited the ruling as a factor in its decision to close down U.S. production. CASE also says the decision will affect Georgia-based Suniva company.

“Imposing unilateral tariffs on all solar modules assembled in China, including those with solar cells produced in the U.S., Taiwan or any third country, will undercut the growth of American solar jobs and hurt our domestic solar industry,” said Jigar Shah, CASE president.

“Suniva, based in Norcross, Georgia, is America’s leading solar manufacturer. But the Department of Commerce’s decision to broaden the scope of the case may put American companies like Suniva in the bizarre position of paying severe import duties on a product (PV cells) they manufactured in America when those cells are assembled into modules in China,” continued Jigar. “More drastically, Hemlock Semiconductor announced that it plans to close its Clarksville, Tennessee manufacturing plant due to ‘ongoing challenges presented by global trade disputes.’ Over $1.2 billion of investment and 50 jobs will be lost, in addition to the 400 jobs already lost to layoffs in 2013 as a result of the initial 2012 tariffs.”

Jigar said that due to the global threat of climate change and the need to reduce carbon emission, it makes no sense to impose tariffs on solar imports. He urges the U.S and Chinese governments to negotiate free and fair trade in the global solar industry.

What Were Biggest Ag Stories of 2014?

New Holland ZimmPollOur latest ZimmPoll asked the question, “What type of gadget is on your wish or to-give list?”

Did you find your favorite gadget under the tree this year? Our results were pretty evenly spread out. I was excited to see many were wanting to utilize drone technology. But the GoPro video camera exceeded all other gadgets. I think that might be what I use my Christmas money on.

Here are the poll results:

  • Smart Phone – 12%
  • Tablet – 9%
  • Hybrid Laptop – 0%
  • Wearable Tech – 9%
  • Mobile Power Supply – 5%
  • Cordless Power Tools – 9%
  • Drone – 12%
  • Camera – 9%
  • GoPro Video Camera – 26%
  • Bluetooth Speakers/headphones – 3%
  • Other – 6%

Our new ZimmPoll is now live and asks the question, What do you think were the biggest ag stories of 2014?

No matter the segment of agriculture you are involved in, their has been at least one ag story throughout the year that has caught your attention. Let us know which topped your list as the biggest ag story of the year. As we review stories from 2014 I can’t help but wonder what 2015 will bring.

Sorghum for Cellulosic Ethanol Update

While corn stover might be the big talk recently in the cellulosic ethanol game, sorghum could emerge as an alternative to the feedstock for the advanced green fuel. During the recent American Seed Trade Association CSS 2014 and Seed Expo in Chicago, Leah Guffey caught up with Scott Staggenborg of Chromatinasta-css-14-chromatin, a sorghum genetics company, and they talked about using sorghum for cellulosic ethanol.

“People forget that many of sorghum’s original uses were for animal feed, so biomass yield is important and digestability is important,” said Staggenborg. “So if you think about cellulosic ethanol production, it’s just really a big, steel or concrete digester, rather than a four-legged digester.”

He went on to say that with the 40,000 varieties of sorghum availability, his company is taking advantage of traditional breeding and modern molecular methods to get the most out of sorghum, especially for cellulosic biofuels. One of the breeds he points to as having great potential for biofuels is sweet sorghum, which he compares to an annual sugarcane, except sorghum has to re-established each year from seed.

“It’s high biomass, and it has high juice yields, as well as high sugar yields,” Staggenborg explained. “Those three combined result in high sugar yields per acre, and that’s the goal of our breeding program, as well as altering the composition of the sugar itself.”

He added that the Renewable Fuels Standard is a big driver in making sure there is a market for sorghum-based, or any other feedstock-based, cellulosic biofuel.

“The RFS establishes a market, establishes a need, sort of primes the pump for the demand, until it becomes something that widely available, although it’s already widely accepted, and allows a fledgling industry to move forward.”

You can hear all of Leah’s interview with Scott here: Scott Staggenborg, Chromatin

Top Domestic Fuel Stories for 2014 is now in its 10th year bringing news and information about all types of renewable energy.

This year’s top stories, based only on Word Press statistics, shows the diversity of energy sources available that are making a difference today. What do you think were the top renewable energy news stories for 2014?

Hemp to biofuels research
Dupont “future fuel” ethanol here today
Ethanol on the road to Sturgis
Advancements in Algal biofuels – year in review
Advanced Ethanol here at last
Congress in no hurry to renew biodiesel tax credit
First Magma-enhanced geothermal system
EPA Admin visits FuelCell Energy
Advanced biofuels group questions corn stover study
Patriot Renewable Fuels signs cellulosic deal

Ethanol Report 2014 Year in Review

ethanol-report-adEvery year is interesting for the ethanol industry and 2014 was no exception.

Some of the highlights included record production and sales, healthy exports, and the commercial reality of cellulosic ethanol. The low point of the year was definitely the inability of the federal government to set volume obligations for 2014 under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), leaving the industry in somewhat of a limbo.

In this Ethanol Report, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen takes a look back at some of the good news and bad news for the ethanol industry in 2014 and wishes us all a very happy new year.

Ethanol Report on 2014 Year in Review

MPM Technologies Signs Waste to Energy Deal

MPM Technologies, a subsidiary Carbon Cycle Power (CCP) has signed a lease agreement with an affiliate of Spokane Valley manufacturer Wheeler Industries, Inc., to house the demonstration unit of CCP’s waste-to-value solution. The patent-pending photon-induced, electric-arc gasification technology can procCarbon Cycle Power gasification technologyess biomass or municipal solid waste to produce heat and power.

“After reviewing several viable options, the one that made the most fiscal sense was to manufacture and demonstrate in the same location,” said Brian Burrow, interim CFO for CCI/MPM. “We’re literally building the unit on one side of the street and deploying the demo on the other side of the street. It really is an ideal scenario.”

Carbon Cycle Investments acquired a controlling interest in MPM following a stock purchase agreement in April 2013. The company already has an agreement with Wheeler Industries as the manufacturer of the reaction chamber of its gasification technology. Manufacturing will begin immediately.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFEnogen corn enzyme technology from Syngenta has been selected as the winner of Agri Marketing magazine’s prestigious Product of the Year award for 2014. Enogen is the industry’s first and only biotech output trait designed specifically to enhance ethanol production.
  • H&S Bakery has unveiled its fleet of propane autogas-fueled vehicles. The conversion funds came in part form Maryland Clean Cities Coalition grant from the Maryland Energy Administration. Over the next two years, H&S aims to operate about 10 percent of their current 600-vehicle fleet with propane autogas. The company has also installed a private refueling station that includes an 18,000-gallon underground propane tank.
  • China WindPower Group Limited has announced that two new PV power plants have commenced power generation on 23 December at Nedong County, Tibet and Indiana, USA. The Nedong County, Tibet project has an installed capacity of 20 MW and the project in Indiana has an installed capacity of 11.1MW. It is the largest distributed PV power plant in the state.
  • Infocast has announced the annual Wind Power Finance and Investment Summit will return February 10-12, 2015 at the luxurious Rancho Bernardo Inn, in San Diego, CA. The Summit wil explore the latest issues and challenges and opportunities within the industry. Speakers from Duke Energy Renewables, EDF Renewable Energy, First Wind, Bank of Merrill Lynch, Capital Dynamics, Energy Capital Partners, California ISO, ERCOT, along with many more, will be on-hand to discuss a variety of topics and relay the latest insights for 2015.

Christmas Trees to Power More than Spirit of Holidays

recologyNow that Christmas is done, it’s that time of year to think about what to do with that natural tree that brightened your holiday (although in our house, we like to keep it up as close to the Epiphany as possible). Once you’ve decided that your tree needs to vacate your living room, it can still live on in the form of biomass for renewable energy. This piece from the Mission Local website says that in San Francisco, those green tannenbaums can now be green power.

At the biomass plant, the Christmas trees rise like phoenixes — or at least steam does, when their chips burn inside boilers. The steam-powered turbines generate electricity that is sold to PG&E. Then “it powers your laptop computer,” said Recology spokesperson Robert Reed.

Overall, San Francisco’s Christmas tree chips produce about 20 megawatts of power, or enough energy to serve 20,000 houses for a month, according to Chris Trott at the Tracy Biomass Plant. The plant has paid Recology for the chips for the past two Christmases, but only enough to cover the cost of transporting them to Tracy.

The rest of the year, Tracy Biomass uses peach pits, walnut shells and tree trimmings to power the plant.

Officials add that turning the trees into biomass fuel also reduces Christmas tree-related fires, as well as keeping the material out of landfills.

DF Cast: Bundling Biomass for a Cellulosic Future

As cellulosic ethanol plants are opening up across the country, those facilities need a way to get the feedstocks, while farmers need a way to get that biomass to those new refineries. That’s where Pacific Ag comes in.

In this edition of the Domestic Fuel Cast, we talk to CEO Bill Levy and Steve Van Mouwerik, Vice President of Operations for Pacific Ag, as they talk about how their custom field residue business, which started in 1999 for baling crop residues for animal feeding operations, is a good fit for the emerging cellulosic industry, as Pacific Ag is demonstrating at Abengoa’s cellulosic ethanol biorefinery in Kansas that went online this past October and is expected to produce 25 million gallons of advanced ethanol per year.

Hear more about it here: Domestic Fuel Cast - Bundling Biomass for a Cellulosic Future

Green Biologics Buys Central MN Ethanol Co-op

greenbiologics1A Los Angeles-based industrial biotechnology and renewable chemicals company has bought a Midwestern ethanol producer with plans to convert the operation to producing renewable normal butanol (n-butanol) and acetone. This news release from Green Biologics Inc. says the company closed the deal to buy Central MN Ethanol Co-op (“CMEC”), which includes a the 21 MGPY ethanol plant.

“We are extremely pleased with the successful closing and look forward to the leadership role that Green Biologics will play in bringing renewable chemicals to commercial reality,” said CMEC CEO Dana Persson. “The OPA team did an outstanding job on all facets of this transaction including expanding the list of bidders to include renewable chemical companies such as GBL.”

Since 2012, OPA has worked with CMEC’s Board of Directors and Company Management to assess its strategic alternatives, including acting as financial advisor to CMEC on the sale of its minority stakes in Guardian Energy, KAAPA Ethanol and Bushmills Ethanol.

Mark Fisler, Ocean Park Managing Director, commented, “This sale marks the 17th successful biofuels transaction for Ocean Park Advisors, which further solidifies the firm’s position as a leader in biofuels investment banking. This pioneering deal demonstrates that it is possible to retrofit and reposition a first generation ethanol plant as a renewable chemical plant.”

The plant will start producing renewable n-butanol and acetone in 2016.

Biodiesel Giant REG Adds Harding to Board

reg-logoBiodiesel giant Renewable Energy Group has added an international business veteran to its board of directors. This company news release says Peter J. M. Harding was elected to the post.

Harding has served in leadership roles for international businesses involved in commodities trading and asset management. Most recently, he was the Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Board of Directors of Westway Group, Inc. (“Westway”), a liquid storage and liquid animal feed business, from May 2009 until his retirement in June 2010.

“Peter Harding has had a distinguished career where he gained expertise in the different industries that are part of the REG supply chain,” said Jeff Stroburg, Chairman of the Board. “His diverse skillset and business know-how will be a great asset to our board and our company.”

Harding has also served as a member of the Board of Directors of New Orleans College Prep since 2008 and was appointed Chairman of the Board in July 2013. From 2003 until joining Westway, Mr. Harding served in various roles at ED&F Man, including as member of their Executive Committee, Board of Directors and Managing Director of their Molasses & Palm Oil Trading, Feed Products, Third Party Storage, and Biofuels Division. He also served as Chief Executive Officer of Westway Holdings Corporation from 1997 to 2006. Concurrent with his service as Chief Executive Officer, he served as President of Westway Terminal Company, Inc. from 2001 to 2004. From 1995 to 1997, Mr. Harding also served as Chief Executive Officer of ED&F Man’s North American Cocoa Processing Group and prior to that as Chief Executive Officer of Savannah Cocoa, Inc. from 1992 to 1995. Mr. Harding served as Vice President of Sales & Marketing of Refined Sugars, Inc. from 1985 to 1989. Additionally, Mr. Harding owned and managed an asset management firm and commodity fund during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Mr. Harding attended the Harvard Business School program for Management Development in 1985.

Harding’s term will expire in 2017.