Calling All Ethanol Advocates!

With the new year well underway, there are only 23 days for ethanol and biofuel advocates to submit comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding the 2014 proposed Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Today Brian Jennings, Executive Vice ACElogoPresident for the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), is urging ethanol supporters to voice their concerns.

“We have just 23 days to submit comments to EPA by the January 28 deadline. It’s vitally important that EPA hears your personal story on how limiting ethanol use in 2014 would affect your family, your community, and your business,” said Jennings. “ACE hosted a webinar for our members on December 17 providing tips for how to make a convincing case to EPA during the comment period; if ethanol supporters need assistance they should contact ACE and we will provide this webinar to them.”

Already more than 10,000 comments have been submitted to EPA. ACE will be submitting formal comments to EPA by January 28, 2014 and has set up a digital RFS Action Center at so supporters can share their personal stories with EPA about the importance of the RFS.

Ohioans Support Clean Energy

Ohio is voting “yes” for clean energy according to a new poll conducted by Yes for Ohio’s Energy Future. The survey found that Ohioans support the Ohio Jobs Initiative, the Ohio Clean Energy Initiative by a margin of 35 percent (64 percent likely to vote in favor versus 29 percent unlikely). The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP), who found during the survey that 55 percent of respondents were not aware of the Jobs Initiative. The proposed policy needs 385,247 signatures by July 4, 2014 to be on the November 2014 ballot to enable Ohioans to vote on the bill.

According to Yes for Ohio’s Energy Future, who backs the initiative, the Jobs Initiative enacts an amendment that would provide $1.3 billion a year for 10 years from state general obligation bond funding in a comprehensive array of areas, including clean energy YES FOR OHIO'S ENERGY FUTURE CLEAN ENERGYindustries and energy-related public infrastructure projects in the areas of solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, biomass, smart grid, along with other technologies. Funding includes research and development, academic and educational development as well as vocational training support.

Beginning in January 2014, the Ohio Energy Initiative Commission (OEIC) will begin accepting a limited number of early project proposals as part of the Fast Start Program; however, funding is limited to one quarter of the annual budget. Early project proposals may be placed on a prioritized list for funding, which is contingent on passage of the Initiative. Eligible categories of applicants include individuals, companies, non-profits, municipalities, and state agencies.

Project proposals for funding will be reviewed by independent reviewers at the OEIC through a simple open, transparent, and publicly-published process that evaluates the technical, economic, financial and environmental merits of each proposal.

Yes for Ohio’s Clean Energy future says the Ohio Clean Energy Initiative mirrors the enormously successful bi-partisan jobs initiative, Ohio Third Frontier, which began in 2002 under Republican Governor Bob Taft and continued under Democratic Governor Ted Strickland. The program is credited with producing 55,000 jobs at an average salary of $65,000 per year and at an overall Return on Investment of 9:1.

No Changes Needed to 2014/2015 RFS

According to a new analysis from Iowa State University’s Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD), the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal to reduce the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) blending requirements is unwarranted and economically irrational. “Feasibility and Cost of Increasing US Ethanol Consumption Beyond E10,” demonstrates that the 2014 statutory RFS requirements could be easily met with no new investment in refueling infrastructure, and 2014 requirements could be achieved with only modest infrastructure investments.

CARD LogoWhen EPA released the lower volume obligations for renewable fuel back in November 2013, the agency cited the so-called E10 “blend wall” as a key factor in its decision to propose the cut. Yet the authors of the report, Bruce Babcock an Sebastien Pouliot write, “…the assumption by EPA that a 14.4 billion gallon ethanol mandate in 2014 was not feasible is not correct. …meeting a 14.4 billion gallon ethanol mandate is feasible in 2014 with no new stations, modestly lower E85 prices, and judicious use of available carryover RINs.”

The analysis finds that cutting the 2014 blending requirements below the “blend wall” results in a “self-fulling prophecy that stunts any future growth potential in domestic ethanol consumption”. The report states that exceeding E10 levels (overcoming the ‘blend wall’ with higher blends of ethanol such as E15 and E85) is contingent on the EPA setting mandates sufficiently high to incentivize the investments in fueling infrastructure that allow the targets to be met.

In terms of 2015, the authors argue that, “Adopting a 14.4 billion gallon ethanol mandate would send a clear signal that EPA is not locked into keeping ethanol mandates below E10 levels. It would also increase RIN prices enough to incentivize investments in new E85 stations that would give EPA the freedom to move the ethanol mandate to 15 billion gallons in 2015.”

The authors conclude, “The 14.4 billion gallon mandate level in 2014 is feasible to achieve even if no new E85 stations are added. Adding stations would lower the cost of meeting the 14.4 billion gallon mandate and, more importantly, would allow EPA to increase mandates by even more in the future.”

The analysis also finds that if EPA set the 2014 requirement for renewable fuel at 14.4 billion gallons, and no new E85 or E15 stations were added, RIN prices could be expected to average 69 cents each. However, adding 500 additional E85 stations in 2014 would reduce RIN prices to just 18 cents apiece.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFGevo has announced that the U.S. Army has successfully flown the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter on a 50/50 blend of Gevo’s ATJ-8 (Alcohol-to-Jet). ATJ is a renewable, drop in alternative fuel for JP8 that addresses the Army Energy Security Strategy and Plans mandate that the Army certify 100% of its air platforms on alternative/renewable fuels by 2016. This flight marks the first ever Army Aircraft to fly on the isobutanol ATJ blend. Flight testing is being conducted at Aviation Flight Test Directorate (AFTD) on Redstone Arsenal, AL and is anticipated to be complete by March 2014.
  • Hanwha SolarOne, a global photovoltaic manufacturer of solar modules, has announced that it will supply 11.5 MW of solar modules to Ikaros Solar Belgium NV. The modules are scheduled for delivery in January and February 2014. Ikaros intends to install the modules in a solar park in Norfolk County, United Kingdom. Hanwha SolarOne will supply its 72-cell module HSL-72 for the project.
  • The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission has approved a power purchase agreement (PPA) between the Hawaii Electric Light Co. Inc. (HELCO) and Hu Honua Bioenergy LLC for the Hu Honua biomass project. According to documentation published by the PUC, the proposed 21.5-megawatt (MW) Hu Honua plant is to be located on the site of the former Hilo Coast Power Co. in Pepeekeo, Hawaii.
  • The USDA has awarded nearly $10 million to a consortium of academic, industry and government organizations to research the use of insect-killed trees in the Rocky Mountains as bioenergy feedstock. The consortium, led by Colorado State University, will explore recent advances in thermochemical conversion technologies that enable the production of onsite liquid biofuel and coproduct production. The project is working with Greenwood Village, Colo.-based Cool Planet Energy Systems.

C-Max Solar Energi Taps Sun for Power

Ford Motor Company has announced its new C-MAX Solar Energi Concept, what they call a first-of-its-kind sun-powered vehicle with the potential to deliver the best of what a plug-in hybrid offers, without depending on the electric grid for fuel.

Instead of powering its battery from an electrical outlet, Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept harnesses the power of the sun by using a special concentrator that acts like a magnifying glass, directing intense rays to solar panels on the vehicle roof.

Ford C-MAX Solar Energi ConceptThe result is a concept car that takes in essence a day’s worth of sunlight to deliver the same performance as the conventional C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid, which draws its power from the electric grid. Today, Ford C-MAX Energi is getting an EPA-estimated 108 MPGe (miles per gallon electric) city and 92 MPGe highway, for a combined 100 MPGe.

“Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept shines a new light on electric transportation and renewable energy,” said Mike Tinskey, Ford global director of vehicle electrification and infrastructure. “As an innovation leader, we want to further the public dialog about the art of the possible in moving the world toward a cleaner future.”

SunPower is providing solar cells for the roof of the concept car. Ford also partnered with Georgia Tech Institute of Technology to develop a way to amplify the sunlight in order to make a solar-powered hybrid feasible for daily use.

The collaborative research teams developed an off-vehicle solar concentrator that uses a special Fresnel lens to direct sunlight to the solar cells while boosting the impact of the sunlight by a factor of eight. Fresnel is a compact lens originally developed for use in lighthouses. Similar in concept to a magnifying glass, the patent-pending system tracks the sun as it moves from east to west, drawing enough power from the sun through the concentrator each day to equal a four-hour battery charge (8 kilowatts).

With a full charge, Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is estimated to have the same total range as a conventional C-MAX Energi of up to 620 miles, including up to 21 electric-only miles. Additionally, the vehicle still has a charge port, and can be charged by connecting to a charging station via cord and plug so that drivers retain the option to power up via the grid, if desired.

After C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is shown at the 2014 International CES, Ford and Georgia Tech will begin testing the vehicle in numerous real-world scenarios. The outcome of those tests will help to determine if the concept is feasible as a production car.

Consumer Attitude About Renewable Energy Rebounds

According to a new consumer survey from Navigant Research, favorable attitudes toward a number of clean and renewable energy concepts, particularly solar energy, wind energy, hybrid vehicles and electric cars, have rebounded significantly from their 2012 levels.

The survey finds the average favorability rating for 10 concepts, which fall under the Solar and wind togethercategories of clean energy, clean transportation, smart grid, and building efficiency, also rose, to 51 percent, the highest level seen in Navigant Research’s annual survey since 2010.

“Between 2009 and 2012, there were steady declines in favorability for some clean energy concepts, particularly the most favorable concepts, such as solar energy, wind energy, and hybrid and electric vehicles,” said Clint Wheelock, managing director with Navigant Research. “This year saw statistically significant increases in favorability for seven of the 10 concepts, and a decline for only one – nuclear power.”

The white paper, “Energy and Environment Consumer Survey,” analyzes the survey responses as a basis for comparing consumer views of 10 energy and environment topics to one another. In addition to favorable and unfavorable opinions, the number of respondents unfamiliar with a concept is also considered in order to compare the level of consumer awareness within each topic.

The survey of 1,084 U.S. adults was conducted in the fall of 2013, and asked respondents to provide their level of favorability for the following key concepts: solar energy; wind energy; nuclear power; hybrid vehicles; electric cars; natural gas vehicles; biofuels; smart grid; smart meters and LEED certification.

According the Navigant Research, the similarly high levels of favorable views toward solar and wind energy indicate that consumers are generally supportive of the more established renewable energies that harness naturally occurring power sources. Since these two concepts have retained their most favored status year after year, Navigant Research asserts that consumers consider these renewable energies to be important pieces in the power generation portfolio of the future.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFKenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has appointed Simon Gicharo as new Chairman to the country’s Geothermal Development Company (GDC). Gicharu is the founder of Mount Kenya University and will now be tasked to fast-track development of Kenya’s geothermal resources. GDC is expected to drill 1,4000 steam wells for the development of up to 5,000 MW in geothermal power generation capacity by 2030.
  • Canadian Solar has announced that its wholly owned subsidiary, Canadian Solar Solutions Inc., has completed the sale of Mississippi Mills, a 10 megawatt AC solar power plant valued at over C$61.0 million to TransCanada Corporation on December 31, 2013.
  • Online registration for the 2014 National Biodiesel Conference and Expo ends on January 6, 2014 so register now. The event is taking place in San Diego, California on January 20-23, 2014.
  • The registration deadline for the 2014 Clean Energy Challenge is Wednesday, January 8, 2014. The Clean Energy Challenge is Clean Energy Trust’s annual business plan competition that will award $500,000 in total funding to help Midwestern entrepreneurs, students and researchers bring new clean energy technology to the marketplace. The competition has produced consecutive winners of the Department of Energy’s National Clean Energy Business Competition, and finalists have secure $40 million in outside investment, created more than 200 Midwest jobs and registered more than 25 patents.

UC Riverside to Host Solar Energy Summit

The University of California, Riverside is hosting a summit focused on solar energy in Inland Southern California on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at its Bourns College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research and Technology. “Solar Energy in Inland Southern California: The Future is Now,” will take place from 7:30 am to 6 pm PST.

The event is designed for city leaders, planners, council members, businesses, utility companies and the public to learn about the latest technologies, public policy/regulations, UC Riverside Solar Careconomics and environmental/sustainability issues relating to solar energy.

Topics covered will include: regional, state and federal legislative perspectives on solar energy; financing options for solar systems; and bringing together solar technology, policy, economics and the environment.

Among the scheduled speakers are: David Hochschild, commissioner, California Energy Commission; Roland Winston, director, UC Advanced Solar Technologies Institute and a professor, UC Merced; John White, executive director, Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies; Ed Randolph, director, California Public Utilities Commission Energy Division; and Sarah Kurtz, photovoltaics reliability group manager, National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The conference is co-sponsored by three UC Riverside entities: the Center for Sustainable Suburban Development, which is part of the School of Public Policy; the Center for Environmental Research and Technology; and the Southern California Research Initiative for Solar Energy. The latter two are part of the university’s Bourns College of Engineering.

First Wind Supports Local Teachers

First Wind is supporting local teachers for the third year through its partnership with DonorsChoose.org. The program was developed to enhance the value of the company’s financial contributions in communities where they have wind projects. During 2013, the company will award $15,000 to teachers for educational efforts.

Through DonorsChoose, First Wind supports teachers and their innovative classroom projects in its communities that include Sheffield and Lyndonville, Vermont; Danforth, Maine; Beaver, Utah; Boston, Massachusetts; Kahuku, Hawaii; Tekoa, Washington; and other communities.

“As we continue to grow, First Wind is committed to being an active community member and we want to help support innovative and exciting educational projects in our host First Wind Kidscommunities,” said Carol Grant, Senior Vice President of External Affairs at First Wind. “This program starts with the good idea of a teacher in one of our communities. Our contribution is to support that idea and help bring it to life. We’re glad to have a small part in helping these inspiring teachers and their students.”

In its second full year, First Wind funded 43 projects at 31 schools, which reached and positively touched nearly 2,600 students. For example, First Wind donated funds toward a project to supply graphing calculators for a pre-calculus classroom in Mars Hill, Maine, which is near the Mars Hill project. First Wind also donated funds to a classroom in Cedar City, Utah, which is near the Milford Wind projects, to help the classroom purchase books to implement the S.T.E.A.M. program (Science & Technology interpreted through Engineering & the Arts, all based in Mathematical elements).

The recipients of the funds have been publicly grateful to First Wind. “Thank you so much for your donation. Our school has limited funding, especially for anything in addition to what is required,” said Mrs. Heidi Thomas of Milford Elementary School in Milford, Utah who wrote the response on the First Wind DonorsChoose webpage. “Your donation makes it possible for the students in my classroom to experience their learning hands-on. This allows students to deepen their knowledge and understanding of the curriculum. Once again, thank you so much for your support of our school and the vision to create a better future generation.”

New York Shines with Solar Support

The state of New York is a shining example of what solar support can do for the industry. NY Governor Andrew M Cuomo recently announced the additional commitment of $108 million in funding over the next two years for the his NY-Sun initiative. The funds cover for residential and commercial solar energy projects and bring the two-year budget to $216 million for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

Long Island Solar Farm“Solar power is critical to making our environment healthier and our energy system more resilient,” said Governor Cuomo. “The funding approved today will expand the use of clean, renewable power across New York State and ensure we continue to be a national leader in solar energy. Today’s announcement highlights the ongoing success of NY-Sun, attracting the economic benefits of a vibrant solar industry, creating more jobs, and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.”

Governor Cuomo launched the NY-Sun initiative in 2012 in an attempt to increase the amount of solar power installed each year in New York State. Since its inception, the NY-Sun initiative, which brings together and expands existing programs administered by NYSERDA, New York Power Authority (NYPA) and Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), has installed or funded development for a total of 299 megawatts of solar photovoltaic capacity. This is more than was installed in the entire prior decade.

The funding was approved by the Public Service Commission (PSC) and Chair Audrey Zibelman said of the decision, “The Commission recognizes the substantial opportunities that solar power offers residential and commercial customers to reduce electricity bills and improve the environment. We fully support the solar power goals set by the Governor’s NY-Sun initiative.”

With this decision, the PSC authorizes NYSERDA to plan a transition of its current solar programs to a regional megawatt block structure that includes a longer-term schedule for incentive rebate levels that change according to a predetermined set of targets. In essence, as more solar megawatts are installed, the per-megawatt rebate level falls. Also, as part of this transition, NYSERDA will continue to set aside $30 million to increase solar installations in the downstate regions. The remainder of the $108 million will be allocated based on regional budgets and market conditions.

“At a time when many of our political leaders are failing to address the need to transition to clean energy sources, Governor Cuomo continues to position New York as a leader in solar energy,” said Shaun Chapman, president, New York Solar Energy Industry Association. “Through the NY Sun Program, which the Public Service Commission has responsibly acted upon, our industry is now empowered to deliver jobs and clean, low cost, renewable energy to all New Yorkers.”