Innovation Challenge Leads to Cool Innovation

Innovation Challenge 2The 2014 Northrop Grumman Corporation High School Innovation Challenge (HSIC) has led to some, well, cool innovations in renewable energy and engineering. On February 21, 2014, six student teams from Los Angeles, California high schools took an engineering problem, limited budget and little time and created renewable energy-powered model vehicles. The event was part of National Engineers Week.

The challenge is modeled after a Northrop Grumman program or engineering capability, and designed to stimulate student interest in pursuing careers in scientific or engineering fields. The goal of this year’s competition was to design and build a renewable-energy-powered model vehicle that could carry a payload as efficiently as possible over a set distance.

“The Northrop Grumman High School Innovation Challenge exposes students to the major steps required to develop, document and demonstrate an engineering concept,” said Krystal Puga, a systems engineer on Northrop Grumman’s James Webb Space Telescope project and the company’s HSIC deputy coordinator. “It teaches them how to develop, document and present their ideas; manage a schedule and budget; and prove that their concept meets the customer’s requirements.”

The teams participating in this year’s HSIC included the California Academy of Math and Science in Carson; Da Vinci Science High School in Hawthorne; El Segundo High School; Lennox Math, Science and Technology Academy in Inglewood; Hawthorne Math and Science in Hawthorne; and Palos Verdes Peninsula High School in Rolling Hills Estates.

Over the course of the 12-week competition, the HSIC teams – each one mentored by a Northrop Grumman engineer – were graded on their ability to develop and document their vehicle’s design in a written report; present the concept orally to a panel of engineers; and prove the vehicle’s performance on the test track. Continue reading

Novozymes Joins Advanced Ethanol Council

aeclogoNovozymes has become the newest member of the Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC). The global company is best known in the biofuels space for its work on first and second generation enzymes used to improve biofuel production, including cellulosic ethanol.

“Novozymes and the Advanced Ethanol Council share a strong focus on facilitating the commercialization and growth of advanced biofuels,” said Adam Monroe, Americas Regional President at Novozymes. “Advanced biofuel plants are commercializing now and we must continue engaging in policy discussions along with the AEC to ensure the long-term stability and success of advanced renewable fuels.”

Novozymes operates the largest enzyme plant dedicated to biofuels in the United States, located in Blair, Nebraska. The $200 million plant specializes in making world-leading enzymes, a key technology component for both the conventional and advanced biofuel markets.

“We are very pleased to be working with Novozymes,” said Brooke Coleman, Executive Director of the AEC. “The cellulosic biofuels industry is breaking through at commercial scale and it is absolutely critical that the industry speak with one voice and stay together when it comes to how we engage on policy and regulatory matters. Novozymes is highly engaged on both the business and political fronts, and we look forward to working with them on strategies that will put the industry in a position to succeed in 2014 and beyond.”

The Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC) represents worldwide leaders in the effort to develop and commercialize the next generation of ethanol fuels, ranging from cellulosic ethanol made from dedicated energy crops, forest residues and agricultural waste to advanced ethanol made from municipal solid waste, algae and other feedstocks.

Cali Drought Intensifies, Climate Action Calls Heat Up

As California battles the worst drought the state has seen in centuries, calls for climate action are heating up. During the U.S. Climate Leadership Conference taking place this week in San Diego, California, more than a dozen businesses including Apple, SolarCity, San Diego International Airport, Sapphire Energy and Sungevity signed the Climate Declaration. The declaration urges federal and state policymakers to “seize the economic opportunity of addressing climate change”.

Launched last year by Ceres, a nonprofit sustainability advocacy organization, and its business network, Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP), the Climate Declaration has more than 700 signatories nationwide. The California signatories have added their own special message to the declaration for Washington:

Ceres_BICEPDeclaration_Ad_CA_022414_1“As the world’s 8th largest economy, California is a champion of clean energy progress and innovation,” states the declaration. “Thanks in part to its smart energy policies including its landmark climate law, AB32, California has been a global leader in job creation, clean energy investments and GDP growth.”

In 2012, California supported more than 43,700 jobs in the solar industry (one-third of all solar jobs in the U.S.) and more than 7,000 jobs in the wind industry. In 2013, the state doubled its solar rooftop installations, from 1,000 megawatts to 2,000 megawatts. It also ranks 48th in the country in per capita energy consumption, due in part to the state’s strong energy efficiency programs.

“The 140 plus California companies which have signed the Climate Declaration see the financial upside of tackling climate change today, both for their own bottom lines and the overall economy,” said Anne Kelly, director of policy and BICEP at Ceres. “We welcome them, invite others to come on board and applaud the state of California for its bold steadfast leadership on climate and energy policy.”

Among those is Sungevity, a Bay-Area based solar provider whose workforce has grown from four to about 400 since 2007. The company has operations in nine U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Europe and Australia, and its global network of customers has offset over 100 million pounds of carbon emissions to date.

“Actively addressing climate change is the biggest economic opportunity of our time,” said Danny Kennedy, co-founder of Sungevity and author of Rooftop Revolution, How to Save Our Economy – and Our Planet – from Dirty Energy. “Sungevity’s rapid growth is proof positive that the solar service sector can spur the economy with high-paying jobs that cannot be easily off-shored, particularly in sales, service and maintenance.”

Beyond signing the declaration, or taking their own steps to become more sustainable, many of the company signatories are engaging further with policy makers. Seventy percent of the major company signatories (those with over $100 million in annual revenues) have expressed their views on the need for climate policy by lobbying on Capitol Hill, sending a letter, and/or engaging with the public through social media.

Honolulu Port Moves to Portable Hydrogen Fuel Cells

The Port of Honolulu is moving to portable hydrogen fuel cells by 2015. The move to the emerging technology comes on the heels of a 2013 study and analysis that confirmed the viability of hydrogen fuel cells to provide auxiliary power to docked or anchored ships. Hokulani-KaholoHydrogen researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have joined with several partners in the project, which will result in a portable, self-contained hydrogen fuel cell unit that can float on a barge, sit on a dock or be transported to wherever it’s needed to provide electrical power.

The next phase of the fuel cell demonstration project led by Sandia National Laboratories will feature a portable, self-contained hydrogen fuel cell unit currently in the design phase. Once completed, it will be deployed to the Port of Honolulu by Young Brothers, Ltd., one of the project partners and a primary shipper of goods throughout the Hawaiian Islands. The unit is undergoing detailed engineering and design through mid-2014. After fabrication, assembly and training for Young Brothers operators, the hydrogen fuel cell unit will be operational during a six-month deployment in early 2015.

“No one has ever built this kind of custom unit for this purpose,” said Sandia’s project manager, Joe Pratt. The unit, he said, will fit inside a 20-foot shipping container and will consist of four 30-kilowatt fuel cells, a hydrogen storage system and power conversion equipment.

Ports have been a major source of water and air pollution in the U.S. but remained relatively unregulated until recent years. As ports have begun to expand and their impact on the environment has become more apparent, port operators face a variety of regulations. Many ports have begun to enact sustainability goals or adopt green practices, and that’s where fuel cells can play a role.

The Hawaii project is jointly sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD).

RFS is Revitalizing Rural Iowa

The United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released its Preliminary 2012 Farm Census data and according to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA), it’s easy to see that increased in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) have revitalized rural Iowa.

Iowa-FarmThe USDA data shows that since the increase in the RFS in 2007, Iowa has experienced nearly a 51 percent increase in the value of Iowa farm products, with a more than 67.7 percent increase in crop values and a more than 33.5 percent increase in livestock values. These value increases took place during a time when the amount of land being farmed in Iowa actually dropped 132,193 acres to 30.6 million acres.

“It’s no coincidence the increases in the RFS since 2007 have coincided with the most impressive run of rural prosperity in Iowa history,” said IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “Throughout history, farmers have been so innovative and productive they usually produce themselves out of profitability. This time, the growth in renewable fuels provided new markets for increased production, resulting in the positive economic results detailed by the USDA. However, if the Obama Administration’s proposal to slash the RFS is allowed to move forward, we could see a complete reversal in this rural revitalization.”

Iowa was not the only state to benefit from the growth in renewable fuels. Nationally, farm product values increased 32.8 percent from 2007 to 2012, with crop values increasing 47.9 percent and livestock values increasing 18.7 percent. Meanwhile, U.S. land devoted to farming declined by nearly 7.5 million acres.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFThe AEGPL Congress will be taking place in Genoa, Italy May 14-15, 2014. Hosted by the European LPG Association, the AEGPL Congress is expecting more than 1,200 LPG industry professionals to convene for the event, themed, “Today’s Successes, Tomorrow’s Opportunities”. The event will cover all sectors of the LPG industry with speakers from Europe and around the world.
  • The Asia-Pacific (APAC) solar photovoltaic (PV) module market value is forecast to show modest growth by the end of next year, jumping from $6.7 billion in 2012 to $8.6 billion by 2015, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 7.9%, says a new report from research and consulting firm GlobalData. The APAC region’s solar PV installed capacity is also expected to increase over the coming years, from 19.6 Gigawatts (GW) in 2012 to 420.6 GW by 2030, at a CAGR of 18.6%. In 2013, China and Japan led the region with a combined total of 77% of its solar PV installed capacity.
  • The Chinese government has approved a biobased aviation fuel for commercial use. On Feb. 12, 2014, the Civil Aviation Administration of China published a notice announcing it has granted Sinopec the first certificate of airworthiness for biobased jet fuel. According to information published by the aviation administration Sinopec filed the application for the certificate in February 2012.
  • Chromalloy announced that it has renewed a 10-year agreement with Solar Turbines Incorporated to provide component repairs and new production support for the manufacturer’s leading power systems. Under the agreement Chromalloy will be the preferred supplier for a number of component repairs including turbine blades, nozzles and cases.

GreenTECH Provides Youth with Green Education

greentech_smallMOUSE and Solar One have launched GreenTECH, a program that provides youth with an opportunity to positively impact the greening of their schools and communities. GreenTECH, funded by a three-year, $1.08 million grant from the National Science Foundation to Solar One, MOUSE, and the NYU Wallerstein Collaborative, is an initiative to boost youth interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) skills while introducing them to environmental sustainability and green technology.

MOUSE is about harnessing the spirit and talent of young people to affect change through technology, which for us starts with their learning environment,” said Marc Lesser, MOUSE Education Director. “Ultimately, we view GreenTECH as a way to empower youth to engage with and apply science and technology in ways that position them as activists to address real world problems.” MOUSE is a national nonprofit organization that empowers youth to learn, read and create with technology.

Using Solar One’s CleanTech science curriculum as a platform, MOUSE launched its own badge-based learning program, which includes three levels of hands-on activities for students and teams, and videos that profile engineers and designers involved in energy careers. MOUSE also developed the GreenTECH Lab, a web app that allows youth to visually-display carbon footprint data in their school and reduce its impact.

badge“MOUSE has done a really terrific job adapting our CleanTech program to help students better understand energy and renewables,” said Chris Collins, Executive Director, Solar One. “GreenTECH is so engaging and fun that I am confident it will inspire the next generation of green engineers, scientists and architects.”

To formally recognize the achievements and validate their experience in blending technology with environmental science and leading the greening projects in their school, participants in this program will earn a new MOUSE Squad GreenTECH Badge.

GreenTECH will help youth to learn how energy is created and the potential of renewable energy. It offers a range of projects, such as building an electric generator, performing an energy audit and creating solar-powered toys. These projects will create multiple opportunities for young people to gain expertise in technology, data collection and analysis, and sustainable solutions as they improve their STEM skills and prepare for higher education and careers in the growing green economy.

ACE Preparing for Biofuels Beltway March

Make Washington keep their word was a common mantra during the National Ethanol Conference last week. American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Executive Vice President Brian Jennings is going to help them do just that. Each March, ACE brings nearly 100 ethanol advocates to the Hill to meet with Legislative and key stakeholders to tell their stories about the benefits of ethanol. This year’s Biofuels Beltway March is just around the corner on March 26-27, 2014 in Washington, D.C.

nec14-jenningsThis year, Jennings said they are doing something a bit different. They are asking retailers from different states who have successfully added the infrastructure or the equipment they need to sell E15, E85 or both, to join them. “So they will deliver the message straight from their own experiences that higher blends work. The RFS [Renewable Fuel Standard] works. We want to see you continue to fulfill what the program was intended to do,” said Jennings.

During the NEC conference, a spokesperson from Marathon said E85 won’t work and E15 is a nonstarter. When asked to respond to those comments, Jennings answered, “We added over 200 E85 sites in 2013 and it was based on price. So he is simply not correct when it come to E85. Retailers are looking at it and understanding better today than they ever have how to price E85 relative to straight gas or relative to E10 so the consumer keeps coming back and makes the choice that it works well in my FFV [flex fuel vehicle].”

In terms of E15, Jennings said he was referring to liability. But there are things ACE is working on along with others to erase liability concerns whether those are real or perceive. The other half of the battle and helping them understand the blending economics.

“I was disappointed to hear what the gentleman from Marathon say what he did about higher blends, but what’s going on on the ground, in the states defies the message he was trying to deliver about E85 and E15,” added Jennings.

Listen to Cindy’s interview with Brian Jennings: Interview with Brian Jennings, ACE

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFLeading figures in geothermal power development will be participating in the GEA International Geothermal Showcase in Washington, D.C. on Earth Day, April 22. This includes speakers engaged in projects in Kenya, Tanzania, Switzerland, Romania, Turkey, Italy, Japan, Indonesia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nevis, Colombia, the United States, Iceland and more.
  • The application period is open for the Green Power Leadership Awards. Sponsored by Center for Resource Solutions (CRS) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Green Power Leadership Awards are competitive awards that recognize outstanding commitments and achievements in the green power marketplace.
  • GDF SUEZ Canada, Inc. has announced that the 10MW Beckwith Solar Project in Ontario has entered commercial operation under a 20-year power purchase agreement with the Ontario Power Authority. The project was developed under Ontario’s Feed-in Tariff (FIT) Program, and has the capacity to generate clean, renewable energy for approximately 1,700 homes in Ontario. The $50 million project is located approximately 50 kilometers from Ottawa, and consists of 44,000 solar panels on approximately 80 acres of land.
  • Alterra Power Corp. has completed the acquisition of 100% of the Shannon wind project, a 202 MW wind farm in late-stage development in Clay County, Texas. Alterra acquired the project from Horn Wind, LLC, a north Texas early-stage wind developer that has successfully developed two other wind farms in the region. Last week, Alterra also placed a $4.5 million cash deposit with Oncor, the project’s transmission service provider, which will now begin the design and equipment procurement for the project’s interconnection substation.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFAlgae.Tec Ltd has announce that it has received its first purchase order from an affiliate of Reliance Industrial Investments and Holdings Limited (RIIHL) in connection with the arrangements announced on January 21, 2014. This purchase order is for $2.4 million and is for the supply of certain Algae.Tec algae production technology and associated technical expertise. The work and equipment ordered under this purchase order will be supplied and completed over approximately the next nine months.
  • SunEdison and MIC Solar Energy Holdings, a subsidiary of Macquarie Infrastructure Company LLC have announced the completion of a 16.4 megawatt photovoltaic (PV) solar power plant located outside Tucson, Arizona on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (AFB). The plant is the largest solar energy facility at any U.S. Department of Defense installation and is expected to reduce the Air Force’s utility costs by $500,000 annually for the next 25 years.
  • The K2 Wind Power Project (K2 Wind) has begun hiring workers for the construction following a ruling by the Environmental Review Tribunal, which dismissed the appeal of K2’s Renewable Energy Approval. The 270 MW K2 wind power project will use 140 Ontario-made wind turbines. Over 1,000 workers from across southwestern Ontario will be involved in the manufacturing and assembly of the wind turbines, site construction and operations.
  • Greg Krissek has begun his duties as CEO of the Kansas Corn Growers Association, Kansas Corn Commission and Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association. Krissek has nearly 25 years of experience working with agriculture, ethanol, renewable energy projects and public policy. Krissek fills the position of Jere White, who announced his retirement on February 12. White had been the executive director of Kansas Corn and Kansas Sorghum since 1988.