Block Island Wind Farm Has Steel in Water

The American wind energy industry along with Rhode Island state legislators and others celebrated what Deepwater Wind is calling a “historic moment” for the offshore wind industry as the first “steel in the water” milestone was met this week for the Block Island Wind Farm. This marks the installation of the first offshore wind farm foundation component – a 400-ton steel jacket on the sea floor – by Weeks Marine and Mason Construction. The site is located roughly three miles off the Block Island coast.

On hand for the ceremony were Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Abigail Ross Hopper, the state’s Congressional delegation, and more than a hundred other elected officials, leaders of national environmental advocacy organizations, federal and state regulators, Block Islanders and project supporters to celebrate the milestone where guests took a ferry tour of the offshore construction site.

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Block Island – Photo Credit: Coastal News Today

“Rhode Island is proud to be home to the nation’s first offshore wind farm – a great opportunity for our state to stake out real leadership in this growing industry,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “Not only are we going to create over 300 good-paying jobs, but we’re going to rebrand ourselves as being more innovative and, over time, make Rhode Island a place that has a more diversified energy supply and greener energy. I’m committed to supporting this progress with a comprehensive jobs plan focused on making it easier to do business in Rhode Island and making sure we are training the workforce today to support the innovations of tomorrow.”

Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski noted, “We know the world is watching closely what we do here, and we’re incredibly proud to be at the forefront of a new American clean-tech industry launching right here in the Ocean State. This moment has been years in the making – and it’s just the start of something very big.” When complete, the offshore wind farm will generate 30 MW.

Construction is set for an eight-week period this summer and more than a dozen construction and transport barges, tugboats, crew ships and monitoring vessels will be active at the offshore construction site. In addition, vessel and crane operators, engineers, welders, scientists, protected species observers and dozens of others are all involved with this momentous operation.

“Weeks Marine and Manson Construction are enthused to assist with this challenging project and excited for the future opportunity it promises,” said Rick Palmer, Project Director for Weeks/Manson, a joint venture leading the installation work. “We commend Deepwater Wind for their diligent efforts that have led to this milestone achievement.” Continue reading

NBB Cites Biodiesel Benefits of RFS

The comment period has officially ended for the final 2014 and 2015 final Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) rule as set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The National Biodiesel Board submitted comments but has a different take on how to keep the legislation moving forward and successful.

Biodiesel at the pumpBiodiesel falls under the Biomass-based Diesel category of the RFS, which is a subset of the overall Advanced Biofuels category. The EPA proposal, which is slated to be finalized in November, would gradually raise biodiesel volumes by about 100 million gallons per year to a standard of 1.9 billion gallons in 2017. The overall Advanced Biofuel standard would rise to 3.4 billion gallons in 2016.

NBB wrote in their comments, “The growth and expansion of the U.S. biodiesel industry in recent years represents a tremendous success story under the RFS. Today, nearly 2 billion gallons of biodiesel and renewable diesel displace an equivalent amount of petroleum diesel. This has resulted in significant reductions in pollution and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, while creating thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in economic impact across the nation.”

“The industry now has production plants in nearly every state in the country making fuel from an increasingly diverse mix of feedstocks, including recycled cooking oil, plant oils such as soybean oil, and animal fats,” the comments state. “In short, the biomass‐based diesel program has exceeded expectations and is achieving the goals that Congress outlined in creating the RFS. As a result, it warrants additional volume growth to meet the objectives of Congress in expanding renewable fuel use in the diesel market and in promoting advanced biofuels under the program.

NBB’s comments follow a letter from 36 U.S. senators last week calling for increased biodiesel volumes, and add to thousands of comments submitted by biodiesel supporters to the EPA in recent weeks. The comment period on the EPA’s pending proposal closed at midnight Monday.

“The EPA’s proposal is an improvement over its initial draft, but the agency can and should do much better,” said Anne Steckel, NBB vice president of federal affairs. “We have presented credible, compelling reasons for increasing biodiesel use under the RFS, and we hope the EPA carefully reviews our comments and those of thousands of other biodiesel supporters who have weighed in.”

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDF1The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) released a new economic study detailing a devastating relationship between higher electricity prices and job losses. The study, Affordable Electricity: Rural America’s Economic Lifeline, measures the impact of a 10 and 25 percent electricity price increase on jobs and gross domestic product (GDP) from 2020 to 2040. According to the study, a 10 percent increase in electricity prices results in 1.2 million jobs lost in 2021. Nearly 500,000 of those lost jobs are in rural areas of the country, and even 20 years later, the economy fails to fully recover. The impact of a 25 percent increase would be more damaging with 2.2 million jobs lost in 2021, with more than 890,000 of those occurring in rural areas.
  • The Nebraska Ethanol Board will be part of the new “Farm to Fork” interactive activity located in the multi-purpose arena kid’s zone from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. CT during the Lancaster County Super Fair Agriculture Awareness Day Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. Several commodity boards and farm-related sponsors will exhibit giveaways and activities for children.
  • SunPower has announced that it has acquired 1.5 GW of U.S. solar power plant development assets from Australia-based Infigen Energy. With the acquisition, SunPower has assumed ownership of projects in varying stages of development across 11 states. Included in the development portfolio are three projects totaling 55 megawatts (AC) with power purchase agreements with Southern California Edison. All three are located in Kern County, California with commercial operation anticipated in 2016.
  • IEEE Smart Village, a global humanitarian program helping remote, energy-deprived communities build toward sustainability with renewable energy and technology, today launched its new website (www.ieee-smart-village.org) to the world and to crowds assembling this week in Denver at the annual IEEE Power & Energy Society (PES) General Meeting (GM). It also unveiled the new IEEE Global Classroom at the Posner Center for International development.

RFS Comments Piled High at EPA Doors

Boxes upon boxes of comments relating to the Renewable Fuel Standard were delivered to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) doors yesterday as the comment period ended for the final 2014/2015 rule. Despite clear legislation on the amount of renewable volumetric obligations (RVOs) for all facets of renewable fuels, the EPA lowered the amount of corn-ethanol required to be blended in America’s fuel supply. During the timeframe allocated for comments, the biofuels industry came together not only in support of the industry but to call on the EPA to “get back on track” and put the RVOs at minimum at the levels set by legislation.

Leaders from the National Farmers Union and I Am Biotech delivered more than 200,000 comments on behalf of Fuels America to the EPA.

Leaders from the National Farmers Union and I Am Biotech delivered more than 200,000 comments on behalf of Fuels America to the EPA.

Fuels America collected more than 200,000 written comments while VoteVets.org turned in nearly 47,000 petition signatures calling on the EPA to strengthen the RFS.

“It is absolutely crucial, for the wellbeing of our military, and our national security, that we lessen our dependence on oil,” said Jon Soltz, Iraq veteran and chairman of VoteVets.org.  “A strong RFS is a key part of that equation.  It is very simple – every drop of renewable fuel in our gasoline means one less drop of oil.  The EPA should listen to those who love and support our military, and care about our national security, and strengthen the RFS.”

Last week the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) held an RFS rally where hundreds of corn growers from across the country called the EPA to task and told them to “stay the course”. A letter submitted by NCGA states, “The RFS has spurred growth in agriculture, increased energy diversity and decreased GHG emissions from fossil fuels through the development of renewable energy resources. We urge the Agency to stay the course and support this important piece of transformational energy policy, and we request it reconsider its proposed reduction in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 renewable volume obligations.”

Also submitting a letter along with comments was the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). The letter, authored by President and CEO Bob Dinneen, called the proposal “surprising” and imprudent” and he charged the EPA with buying into the oil industry’s false narrative regarding the so-called blend wall. By doing so, he wrote, “EPA has unnecessarily and illegally curtailed the unprecedented evolution occurring in the transportation fuels market that was delivering technology innovation, carbon reduction, and consumer savings.”

The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE0 also submitted comments that included E15 sales data demonstrating that consumers are choosing ethanol at the pump. Executive Vice President Brian Jennings wrote, “The RFS is intended to reduce the GHG emissions of motor fuel and provide consumer access to E15 and flex fuels which are less expensive and cleaner than gasoline. These sweeping goals will not be realized if EPA continues to ride the brakes on the RFS. Issuance of the final RFS in November has consequences beyond trying to get the program back on track.  The decision will come at the same time the President prepares to negotiate an international agreement to reduce GHG emissions in Paris.  What an embarrassment it will be if EPA betrays the Administration’s commitment to curb climate change by restricting the use of low carbon biofuels in the U.S.” Continue reading

Bacteria to Help Grow Better Algae for Biodiesel

rotifer1We hear a lot about probiotics when it comes to nutrition for people. But research in California is developing probiotic bacteria that will help protect algae that can be turned into biodiesel. This article from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory says scientists there have received an additional $1 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop the bacteria to combat pond infestation and increase ecosystem function and resilience.

Annual productivity is a key metric for algal biofuel production that, if optimized, could significantly decrease and stabilize biofuel price per gallon. Since grazers can result in a 30 percent loss in annual biomass productivity, a consistent mechanism for preventing predators will increase productivity and in turn decrease biofuel cost per gallon.

“We are only just beginning to understand that the pond microbiome is not only an indicator of health but also a tool for crop protection,” said Rhona Stuart, one of the team members from LLNL.

The goal of the project is to identify and employ “probiotic” bacteria to increase microalgal survival by two-fold when under attack by rotifers or chytrids in mass algal cultures.

Rotifers and chytrids are common culprits of algae grazing. By using probiotic bacteria to increase algal resistance against these grazers, the team estimates at minimum a 5 percent to 10 percent increase in annual productivity. The proposed tool has several advantages over the baseline, including minimal risk of pest evolution, tailored microbiome diversity to increase ecosystem resilience and productivity, and probiotics that can increase algal productivity and outgrow pests.

The lab says this work will help overcome the barrier that exists in translating laboratory success to open pond success.

Biodiesel Essay Contest Winners Announced

CleanairchoicelogoWinners of the 2015 Clean Air Choice Biodiesel Essay Scholarship have been announced. The American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest in Minnesota says Brianna Bredeson, a recent graduate of Willmar Senior High School, is the first place recipient of the 2015 Clean Air Choice Biodiesel Essay Scholarship, winning a $1,000 scholarship.

“Biodiesel is a much more efficient, healthy and renewable option to become less dependent on foreign oil as a fuel source,” she wrote in her winning essay. “It also creates more jobs and keeps the American economy growing.” See her entire essay .

The second place winner is Sydney Benson of Burnsville. A recent graduate of Apple Valley High School, Benson wrote “…there are numerous benefits to using biodiesel, as opposed to petroleum diesel, within Minnesota and the rest of the world.” Benson will receive a $500 scholarship for her essay.

There were more than 100 submissions to the contest, which is sponsored by the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council and administered by the American Lung Association in Minnesota.

Neb Gov Ricketts Rallies for RFS

On Friday, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts rallied for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in Blair, Nebraska at Novozymes’ biofuel enzyme facility. Also in attendance was Iowa Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson and Kyle Nixon, Novozymes general manager. According to speakers, should the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final rule that slashes the required volumes of corn ethanol by more than one million gallons move forward, it will threaten thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of investments by ethanol producers in Nebraska and Iowa.

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts speaks about the RFS during a rally held at Novozyme's enzyme facility in Blair, Nebraska. Photo Credit: Novozymes

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts speaks about the RFS during a rally held at Novozyme’s enzyme facility in Blair, Nebraska. Photo Credit: Novozymes.

“Agriculture is Nebraska’s number one industry, and ethanol is one of the key agricultural growth industries that have added billions in revenue and thousands of jobs over the past decade to our state,” said Gov. Ricketts. “These efforts were undertaken in expectation that such efforts would meet the commitment of this nation to renewable fuels established by the Renewable Fuel Standard. Nebraskans have cause for concern because the EPA’s proposal to slash billions of gallons of biofuels from the RFS has the potential to negatively impact the future growth of our state. The RFS is an achievable and ambitious target and must be maintained.”

Today is the last day for public comment on the rule and more than 200,000 comments alone were submitted today by Fuels America. Earlier this year the association released an economic study citing the RFS driving $184 billion in economic activity, 850,000 jobs and $46 billion in wages across the country. This activity, found the report, creates a ripple effect as supplier firms and employees re-spend throughout the economy. The local impact for Nebraska is $11.1 billion and nearly 40,000 jobs. Likewise, the impact for Iowa is $19.3 billion and 73,000 jobs.

Today the U.S. biofuels industry produces 14 billion gallons of ethanol and biodiesel.

According to Nixon, enzymes from Novozyme’s Blair, Nebraska plant allow agricultural products like corn starch and corn stover to be converted into conventional and advanced biofuels. He noted the facility has helped realize two of the Obama Administration’s key goals for renewable energy; creating short-term construction and long-term professional jobs; and helping move the U.S. away from foreign oil and towards homegrown renewable fuel, energizing the economy and increasing domestic security. Continue reading

Fuels America Submits 200k+ Pro RFS Comments

More than 200,000 Americans took a stand for biofuels by submitting written comments in support of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Today is the final day of the comment period following the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) releasing its final renewable fuel volumes for 2015 and 2015. Fuels America, during a press call this morning, said these comments only paint a partial picture – tens of thousands of additional pro-biofuels comments are expected by the close of business today.

During an interview with DomesticFuel.com, Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, noted that the only industry that is not benefited by the biofuels industry is the oil industry, and those most hurt when biofuels are not in the marketplace are the consumers when they pay more money at the pump.

rfs-works“The Renewable Fuel Standard represents a promise to rural America—a promise that, when kept, helped rural economies across America make a strong comeback,” said Johnson, whose organization is a Fuels America member and who himself dropped comments off at the EPA this morning. “Today’s tremendous show of support for a strong RFS shows that it is time for the EPA to stop choosing foreign oil over rural America, and start getting the RFS back on track.”

Fuels America said that the comments were just one element of the widespread activism and support from Americans, and they collectively, they tell a story of outrage toward EPA’s proposal to, “allow oil companies to take charge of our renewable fuel supply, and effectively permit them to block competition from cleaner, less expensive, homegrown fuel”. These actions, stressed Johnson, could potentially weaken a biofuels industry that has helped enhance our national security, strengthened rural economies, and improved America’s climate impact.

Erick Lutt, Director of Industrial and Environmental Policy at the Biotechnology Industry Organization, who was also on the call today added, “Today, Americans are sending a strong signal to the EPA that its proposal to lower RVOs under the RFS is unacceptable. The EPA’s misfires and delays have pulled the rug out from the American investors and innovators who have brought the next generation of biofuels online in the U.S. The EPA is already responsible for $13.7 billion in frozen investment in advanced and cellulosic biofuels, and we’re risking sending jobs, innovation, and investment overseas. We can’t afford any more setbacks. The EPA must set RVOs consistent with Congress’ original intent in order to bring investment back to America and allow our country’s innovators to continue developing clean, secure American energy.”

Listen to my interview with Roger Johnson: NFU's Roger Johnson Discusses Importance of RFS

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDF1New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, “Tidal Energy: Current Status and Future Outlook,” finds that the United Kingdom is the frontrunner in the development of newer tidal energy solutions buoyed by an ideal tidal pattern and a supportive regulatory scenario. Canada, China and South Korea are also showing steady progress. The United States is one of the top innovators.
  • Global Solar Tracker Market size is expected to reach 25.86 GW by 2022, according to a new study by Grand View Research, Inc. Increasing focus on renewable energy coupled with growing demand for solar PV and CSP systems is expected to augment demand for trackers. In addition, rising awareness regarding energy conservation and transition from traditional to renewable sources is expected to be a key driver for solar trackers market.
  • SkyPower has signed a landmark agreement with the Kenyan Ministry of Energy and Petroleum for the development of 1 GW of solar projects to be built in four phases in Kenya over the next five years. The monumental US $2.2 billion agreement was signed in Nairobi, Kenya at the sixth annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES). Initiated by the U.S. government in 2010, the conference gathers entrepreneurs at all stages of business development, business leaders, mentors and high-level government officials to help increase support for innovators and job creators around the world.

New Holland Partners with SUNY on Biomass Project

sunyNew Holland Agriculture is partnering with the State University of New York (SUNY) on a U.S. Department of Energy funded research project to develop ways to reduce the cost of delivering biomass for refinement.

New Holland Agriculture will provide SUNY with an FR9080 self-propelled forage harvester with 130FB coppice header for use in the project. The forage harvester and header are used to harvest willow and other short rotation woody crops for biomass applications. The equipment was presented last week at the SUNY ESF Research Station to Dr. Timothy Volk, Senior Research Associate with SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and his research team.

new-holland-forage“As a company committed to biomass and Clean Energy, New Holland is excited for the opportunity to continue our ten year relationship with Dr. Volk and the SUNY research team,” said Doug Otto, New Holland North America’s Forage Harvester Business Manager. “SUNY’s research played an integral role in our ability to develop the 130FB coppice header, so we are pleased that they will be able to use the header to further their biomass research efforts.”

The relationship between New Holland and SUNY dates back to 2004, when a team of company engineers and product development specialists, headed by John Posselius, Director of Innovations for CNH Industrial, set out to assist Dr. Volk with a research project to optimize the logistics of transporting biomass material. After unsuccessful attempts at modifying existing headers failed to improve logistic efficiencies, Posselius pushed his team to create an original design to efficiently and effectively chop woody biomass such as fast growing willows. Following the research and development phase, Posselius and his team passed the project to a design team headquartered in Belgium to finalize the design of the new header.

Learn more about the project from New Holland.