Biofuels Industry Urges VP Biden to Stand RFS Strong

The Iowa biofuels industry is asking United State Vice President Joe Biden to stand “RFS Strong”.

A recent Reuters article claimed that Vice President Biden played a major role in attempting to get the Obama administration to gut the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The article detailed an exchange between Vice President Biden and Philadelphia Congressman Robert Brady, US VP Joe Bidenwho contacted Biden on behalf of the Carlyle Group, an alternative asset management firm which had previously purchased two oil refineries in Brady’s district that were struggling due to lower profit margins. Biden reportedly told Brady he could fix the issue.

“If accurate, this report would confirm our worst suspicions—that Vice President Biden and the Administration have done an about-face on their support for cleaner fuels, consumer choice and cutting oil dependence,” said Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Executive Director Monte Shaw. “Iowans and all Americans deserve to know where the Vice President stands on the RFS. Does he really want to walk away from the only federal policy allowing market access for renewable fuels in the face of a century of policy preferences for petroleum? Abandoning the RFS would result in less competition, less consumer fuel choice and higher fuel prices, while strengthening the oil industry’s near monopoly over the transportation fuel sector.”

If the claim is true, IRFA points out that the move to advocate for oil companies to the detriment of renewable fuels would represent a sharp break from Vice President Biden’s track record of supporting the RFS and decreasing America’s dependence on foreign oil. The alleged exchange would also be a departure from the Administration’s commitment to innovative American renewables and pursuit of energy independence, more American jobs, and a brighter climate future.

In response to the claims, IRFA joined dozens of biofuel and ag leaders in submitting a letter to VP Biden requesting a meeting and urging him to revisit the issues he has around the RFS. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is rumored to be releasing its final 2014 renewable fuel volumes (RVO) on or around June 1, 2014.

The letter reminds the Veep that he “campaigned in Iowa in 2007 and 2008 as a strong champion of the bipartisan, common sense Renewable Fuel Standard”. The authors urge: “Please do not be fooled by the crocodile tears coming from the oil industry, who claim to be concerned about rising gasoline prices. Their argument is preposterous on its face”.

In part, the letter reads: “This has already become a full-blown campaign issue in Iowa in 2014, and it will be a major issue for every candidate who visits Iowa in 2016. This is a crucial juncture for America’s renewable fuel industry, and we cannot allow the oil industry to dominate the debate or bully our political leaders into backtracking to greater foreign oil dependence.”

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDF On Thursday, May 15, Ecotech Institute is hosting a one-day “Renewable Energy and Sustainability Forum.” It will go from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at Ecotech Institute’s campus in Aurora at 1400 S. Abilene Street, right off of I-225. Key speakers for this event will include members from Ecotech Institute’s Board of Directors and the CEO of RES Americas, Susan Reilly.
  • Save the date for the Wood2Gasoline Technology Showcase taking place Friday, June 6, 2014 at 1:00 pm. The event will feature technologies to convert biomass to gasoline including Gas Technology Institute’s (GTI) advanced gasification pilot facilities. Department of Energy officials and congressional delegates will be on hand. Team partners Haldor Topsoe, GTI, Andritz-Carbona, Phillips 66, and UPM will review the project successes and define the next steps and future of the technology. You’ll also have an opportunity to tour GTI’s integrated biorefinery pilot plant. Click here to RSVP.
  • BIRD Energy announced its sixth funding cycle for U.S.-Israel joint project proposals with a focus on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency. To be considered, a project proposal must include R&D cooperation between two companies or cooperation between a company and a university/research institution (one from the U.S. and one from Israel). The proposal should have significant commercial potential and the project outcome should lead to commercialization. The conditional grant per project is up to 50% of the R&D costs associated with the joint project, and up to a maximum of $1 million per project. Examples of areas of research and development themes within the scope of this call are: Solar Power, Alternative Fuels, Advanced Vehicle Technologies, Smart Grid, Water-Energy Nexus, Wind Energy or any other Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency technology.
  • Sanmina Corporation and Primus Power have announced a manufacturing agreement focused on the growing energy storage market. Primus Power has developed the EnergyPod®, a safe, low cost, distributed energy storage system that bolsters the stability and security of the electric grid, while offering exceptional power density, reliability and portability. As part of the agreement, Sanmina will assemble and test EnergyPods at its Silicon Valley manufacturing facilities.

Students Hope to Get Solar Edge from Soy

Students at Appalachian State University (ASU) are hoping to get the edge during the Solar Decathlon Europe 2014 using soy-biobased products. The student team designed and built a “reimagined” solar-powered row house that is sailing to France to compete against 20 global teams. ASU, located in Boone, North DOEstudentsfastenersinwoodCarolina, is one of three schools chosen for the sister competition to the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

“We congratulate these students on their innovation and leadership for sustainability,” said United Soybean Board Customer Focus Action Team Chair John Motter. “People around the world will learn from their example.”

The students worked around the clock to design and build the “Maison Reciprocity” house that they will also disassemble and ship to France from Norfolk, Virginia on May 16, 2014. Once in Versailles, students from ASU along with their partner school, Université d’Angers, will unite to reassemble and then compete in the house that offers multiple environmental attributes.

Soy-based, formaldehyde-free plywood as well as durable floor matting are important features of Maison Reciprocity. Students used 1,700 square feet of Columbia Forest Products’ PureBond® hardwood plywood made with its soy-based formaldehyde-free adhesive on DOEstudenttylerthepanelguyfloors, walls and stairs. The product won the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Presidential Green Chemistry Award. Formaldehyde is classified as a known human carcinogen.

“These panels not only provide an attractive finish, but the fact that they are formaldehyde free is an important attribute that will help our entry compete in the ambient air quality portion of the competition,” said Mark Bridges, a graduate student at ASU and the communications manager for the project. “The floor mat, basically a 30-feet-long runner, will protect the floors from the large amount of foot traffic that the home will experience during its weeks of open houses,” Bridges says.

EcoPath™ and the USB provided the mat backed with EnviroCel™, which uses soy as well as recycled plastics. The mats are widely used at the Pentagon and other major facilities with very heavy foot traffic.

Boeing & Embraer Create Aviation Partnership

Boeing and Embraer S.A. have joined together to open a joint research center with the goal of advancing a sustainable aviation biofuel industry in Brazil. Under a memorandum of understanding, the two companies will perform joint biofuel research, as well as fund and coordinate research with Brazilian universities and other institutions. The research will focus on technologies that address gaps in a supply chain for sustainable aviation biofuel in Brazil, such as feedstock production and processing technologies. The companies’ biofuel research center will be located in Sao Jose dos Campos Technology Park.

“Boeing is working aggressively around the world to expand the supply of sustainable aviation biofuel and reduce aviation’s carbon emissions,” said Julie Felgar, managing director of Sao Jose dos Campos Technology ParkEnvironmental Strategy and Integration, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “With our joint biofuel research center, Boeing and Embraer are making a strong commitment toward a successful, sustainable aviation biofuel industry in Brazil.”

In 2013, Boeing, Embraer and the Fundacao de Amparo a Pesquisa of the State of Sao Paulo (FAPESP) completed an action plan – Flightpath to Aviation Biofuels in Brazil – that identified gaps in a potential biofuel supply chain. The joint research between Boeing and Embraer will help address those gaps. This joint center is the next phase of execution of the plan.

Mauro Kern, Executive Vice President, Engineering and Technology, Embraer, said of the new center, “Embraer is committed in supporting the development of sustainable biofuels for aviation and the joint efforts with Boeing will undoubtedly contribute to the company continuing to be in the forefront of research in this area. Brazil has tradition in the area of alternative fuels and enormous potential yet to be explored in bioenergy research.”

When produced sustainably, aviation biofuel emits 50 to 80 percent lower carbon emissions through its lifecycle than petroleum jet fuel. Globally, more than 1,500 passenger flights using biofuel have been conducted since the fuel was approved for use in 2011.

Crystalline Module Manufacturers Outsource Trend

According to a new report from GlobalData, significant growth in market demand and attempts to reduce a number of costs are fueling a module production outsourcing trend among the world’s leading crystalline module manufacturers. Ankit Mathur, GlobalData’s Project Manager for Alternative Energy, said that out of the top crystalline module manufacturers – Yingli Green Energy, Trina Solar, Sharp Corporation, Canadian Solar and Jinko Solar – only the latter company and Trina Solar are able to utilize their own module production fabrication lines without the need for outsourcing.

silicon modulesMeanwhile, Mathur continued, the other companies, including Yingli Solar, have a less-than-68 percent factory utilization rate. However, these firms are still able to boast substantial module manufacturing under their own brand names by outsourcing their production to Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) partners.

“Sharp Corporation’s recent announcement that it will outsource its entire module production from 2014 signifies that most of the leading companies are taking the outsourcing route,” said Mathur. “This is due to a massive increase in global market demand, which is difficult for manufacturers to meet using their existing production capacity. Attempts to reduce other costs, such as logistics costs related to transporting modules from the factory to the customer, are also contributing factors.”

Until last year, key manufacturers could leverage upon plummeting silicon prices to reduce module production costs. However, the expected price recovery of polysilicon in 2014 will make it difficult to implement such reductions further. As a result, said Mathur, companies will either outsource their entire production capacity to OEMs, or produce a certain proportion of modules from their production lines and source the rest from OEM partners.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFAcross the nation, from Florida to Alaska, and in eight countries around the world, events will be held on Saturday, May 17, for the fifth annual “Hands Across the Sand and Land” event, to say no to dirty fossil fuel projects that endanger our local communities, and accelerate the shift to clean, renewable energy such as wind, solar and energy efficiency. The events are a strong show of support for clean energy at a time when a host of new dirty fuel proposals are under consideration. A complete list of events can be found here:
  • Using the same proven technology that has made the Cushing Storage Report an industry standard for crude oil traders, Genscape has launched the New York Harbor (NYH) Product Storage Report. The new weekly report is available one day before the widely used EIA estimates are published. Currently, Genscape has identified a 90% correlation between the gasoline and distillate storage measurements in the NYH Product Storage Report and the EIA estimates for PADD 1B. In addition to aggregate storage levels, the Genscape report offers volumetric detail down to the tank level for a more specific, relevant, and complete data set.
  • Proposals to maintain the growing momentum behind renewable electricity investment in the UK, while continuing to deliver value for money for consumers, have been unveiled. The proposals are about ensuring the right balance of support for renewables and a smooth transition to the Government’s new Contracts for Difference. Proposals include: Consultation on changes to financial support for solar PV; Support for community energy projects under the Feed-in Tariffs Scheme; and Electricity Market Reform: Further consultation on allocation of Contracts for Difference Government response on allocation of Contracts for Difference.
  • Clean Energy Collective has announced that Next Step Living, the Boston-based provider of whole-home energy solutions, is an authorized agent to sell CEC’s community solar solutions to Massachusetts customers in WMECo and NGRID territories.

Brazilian Mid-Level Ethanol Blends Beneficial

According to a recent report published in Nature Geoscience, when drivers in Sao Paulo switched from ethanol to pure gasoline, there was a 20 percent reduction in local ozone levels in urban areas. However, all gasoline in Brazil is blended with ethanol and upon further review, the report actually showed that using med-level ethanol blends (E25) ozone levels improved.

Steve Vander Griend, with Urban Air Initiative, explained how this is the case. Unlike in the United States, Brazil has two legal fuels: E25 (25 percent ethanol and 75 percent gasoline) and E100 (95 percent ethanol and 5 percent water), better known as hydrous ethanol. Nearly all vehicles sold in Brazil are flex fuel and can use any ethanol blend. Under Brazil’s model, drivers can “choose” their blend of ethanol from E25 up to E100 based on price.

Vander Griend explained that ozone emissions are highest with pure gasoline and also hydrous ethanol. However, emissions are reduced when you add ethanol to gasoline, aka a mid-level ethanol blend such as E15 or E30, blends sold in the U.S. This is why this study found that Brazil saw ozone emissions improve when drivers started using E25 instead of hydrous ethanol (E100). Therefore, said Vander Griend, the notable results of this study are that mid-level ethanol blends do in fact improve ozone emissions.

Sao Paulo gas stationWith 70 percent of Brazilian fuel being E25 during the time frame of this study, the study actually demonstrated Brazil has one of the cleanest burning fuels available, continued Vander Griend, and it also highlighted the value of mid-level ethanol blends.

So why are people being led to believe that ethanol is harmful to the environment? Vander Griend said because you can’t buy pure gasoline in Brazil, when authors refer to gasoline they are really referring to E25 making it appear that the authors studied pure gasoline versus ethanol and this is not the case. With reporters and others not digging into and understanding the study, they are ultimately mis-reporting the facts of the study, added Vander Griend.

The bottom line, said Vander Griend, is that mid-level blends of ethanol have been proven to decrease emissions, and if the U.S. is serious about taking the necessary steps to reduce harmful emissions, it is time that mid-level ethanol blends are offered to consumers.

“Not only will consumers benefit from the availability of a choice and savings at the pump, but when they choose the less expensive, homegrown fuel, they will also be decreasing harmful emissions that are detrimental to our children and future generations,” Vander Griend concluded.

PowerBridgeNY Student Award Winners Announced

The first student winners of the PowerBridgeNY awards have been announced by New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. The recently established Proof-of-Concept Center aids clean energy ideas move from the laboratory to commercial product. These awards continue to support the development of New York’s cleantech economy to create jobs and businesses focused on emerging clean-energy technologies.

New York is taking a leading role in supporting the development of cleantech products that are environmentally friendly, reduce energy use and increase reliability of the State’s energy systems,” said Governor Cuomo. “When the best and brightest cleantech researchers in New York State have the opportunity to collaborate with smart, experienced experts in the private sector, the result can be a powerful force for economic development resulting in a cleaner, greener, more sustainable state for future generations.”

cleaning-solar-panelsPowerBridgeNY was created by Columbia University and New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering, leading a consortium of public research institutions throughout the State, and is partially funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The winners, who were awarded up to $150,000, are working on products with the potential to reduce wastewater treatment costs, increase energy efficiency of solar panels, reduce electricity outages, decrease the cost of fuel cells, absorb carbon dioxide.

“The funding announced today will help these scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs move their innovative technology closer to market-readiness as they tackle technical clean-energy issues,” said John B. Rhodes, President and CEO, NYSERDA. “Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s support, the proof-of-concept centers are advancing cleantech innovation in New York State, growing new companies and commercializing the next generation of products that will help reduce the State’s energy use.”

Businesses were judged on the products’ technical potential, the potential appeal to investors and how the scientists could benefit by taking part in this program. Continue reading

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFAvantha Group Company CG, has successfully installed a transformer substation at the Amrumbank West offshore wind farm. The renewable energy unit consists of 80 multi-megawatt wind turbines located 100 km off the German coast in the North Sea. The Amrumbank West offshore wind farm Bio is scheduled to enter service in the autumn of 2015. The wind farm extends over 32 square kilometres, and its 80 technologically advanced 3.6 MW turbines will give it a total capacity of 288 MW, enough to power 300,000 households.
  • Sedex Global is partnering with the World Bank Institute to develop Open Supply Chain Platform – a new initiative to address global gaps in the availability and visibility of responsible supply chain data. The Open Supply Chain Platform will help companies better understand their performance, increase sustainability and diversity, and generate shared values along global supply chains. Developed as part of the World Bank Institute’s Open Private Sector Platform, the web-based and user-managed online platform will offer comprehensive supply chain information and enable businesses to conduct online assessments on their suppliers and consumers, based on a series of governance and sustainability indicators.
  • McPhy Energy will collaborate in the development of the public HTEC refuelling (hydrogen) station in Woodside, California, by providing an electrolyzer which will produce green hydrogen fuel using renewable electricity. The station, which will incorporate Powertech’s innovative station and dispenser design, is planned to be operational at the end of the summer next year. It will be capable of fuelling over 25 hydrogen vehicles per day and easily expand as demand grows. Fills will take 3-5 minutes to provide the cars enough fuel to travel over 300 miles (480 kms).
  • Clean Energy Collective (CEC), a leading community solar developer, has signed an agreement with RGS Energy to act as an authorized reseller of its community solar solution. The agreement with CEC allows RGS Energy to expand its reach to provide solar solutions to customers who rent or lease their property or are otherwise unable to install onsite systems due to site orientation, shading or restrictions imposed upon historic properties.

ECOZ & CDP to Accelerate Renewable Energy

ECOHZ and CDP have signed a partnership to create an open source standard for ECOHZ’s GO² product, allowing other providers around the world to offer this new solution and participate in advancing renewable power generation. The product allows enterprises to track their renewable power consumption as well as develop new renewable generation. ECOHZ says with this system, companies will be able to send a clear signal to the market of what energy type is preferred. In addition, the companies using the technology will also be helping to finance the deployment of new renewable power.

ECOHZ is a provider in Europe of Guarantees of Origin (GO), the only way to document renewable energy from production to consumption. CDP is an international NGO that works with investors, companies, and governments to drive environmental disclosure and action to deliver sustainable economies.

“The EU Parliament’s recent vote in favour of a new law governing corporate reporting of non-financial information, and increased political pressure for everyone to respond to climate change, make enterprises look for certified solutions to stand out with their commitment to sustainability,” said Nigel Topping Executive Director of CDP. “GO and now GO2, are solutions that enable enterprises to take concrete steps to consume renewable energy, and even contribute to building new renewable sources. ECOHZ is the leader in this market and we are excited about the opportunities we see for our partnership.”

There has been a call for more transparency from companies on their non-financial performance and contribution to sustainable development. With climate change issues, governments, regulators and investors are all looking for concrete ways to measure performance. This solution delivers that means of measurement by building on the GO system and bundling renewable energy consumption with a contribution to new renewable energy production. GO² unleashes power plant projects previously blocked due to lack of financing. GO² is a new way to achieve energy neutrality through the creation of new renewable production accessible to corporations that want the lead the way to a cleaner energy future.

Tom Lindberg, Managing Director in ECOHZ AS, added, “We experience increasing interest from large enterprises for documented renewable energy. With GO2 we give increased choice to companies who want to be a leader in sustainability and actively communicate it to their stakeholders. By joining forces with CDP, a global organization accelerating action to achieve sustainable economies, we will drive increased awareness among leading corporates of the opportunities for purchasing documented renewable energy, and linking this directly to the building of additional renewable power capacity.”