NASCAR Drives 5 Million Miles on E15

NASCAR has announced that during the NASCAR Nationwide Series race in Phoenix it surpassed more than five million competition miles across its three national series on Sunoco Green E15, a biofuel blended with 15 percent ethanol, made from American grown corn. The five-million-miles have been accumulated across practice, qualifying and racing laps dating back to 2011 when the biofuel was introduced.

“Fuel is fundamental to our sport and our teams demand performance without compromise,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition. “With more 5 million miles on E15than five million miles of hard competitive driving across our three national series, Sunoco’s Green E15 renewable fuel stands up to rigorous racing conditions while significantly reducing our impact on the environment.”

In 2011 NASCAR entered into a partnership with Sunoco and the American Ethanol industry, launching its long-term biofuels program to reduce emissions of the fuel used across its three national series. The transition to the biofuel has reduced on-track carbon emissions and teams report an increase in horsepower.

“The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) joined the American Ethanol partnership with Growth Energy and NASCAR because we knew ethanol would perform and shine in a very public way. General awareness of ethanol and its benefits is extremely high with the tens of millions of fans who watch racing every week,” said Martin Barbre, NCGA president and Carmi, Ill. farmer. “Ethanol support has always been strong in corn production states, but now the knowledge of ethanol’s economic, environmental and energy security advantages are growing coast to coast.”

Since transitioning to the biofuel blended with 15 percent ethanol, American Ethanol says NASCAR has helped validate the fuel’s qualities and the positive environmental impact of ethanol in front of an audience of millions of NASCAR fans, helping shift attitudes and behaviors around the use of ethanol.

“This five million mile mark is yet another testament to Sunoco Green E15’s value as a fuel and a real validator of our product,” said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy. “You couldn’t ask for a tougher testing ground and Sunoco Green E15 stands up to the challenge each weekend and that’s good news for everyone who supports renewable fuels.”

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFNewWorld Capital Group, LLC has announced a strategic investment in Astrum Solar, a residential solar installer. NewWorld will also assume a seat on Astrum’s Board of Directors. NewWorld’s co-investors in the transaction were CCM US, LLC and Constellation.
  • Mario Garnero, founder and Chairman of Brasilinvest, Brazil´s foremost merchant bank, and one of the key people on the launching of ethanol mass production project in Brazil, was invited by the Prime-Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu to be a speaker at the Bloomberg Fuel Choices taking place in Tel Aviv from November 12-13, 2013. Israel is on the forefront of research in biofuel and clean energy researches since it has established the world’s most ambitious target: to change its transportation system by replacing 60% of its oil consumption with new technologies by 2025.
  • Alternative Fuels Americas, an advanced biofuels company, confirmed the extension of offtake agreements for the sale of over 3.7 million gallons of biodiesel, accounting for more than $14 million in potential revenues. The company has signed 4 offtake agreements for (1) two million gallons, (2) one million gallons, (3) 571,000 gallons and (4) 190,000 gallons, respectively. All buyers are based in Costa Rica.
  • The Corbett Administration today awarded more than $3 million in Alternative Fuel Incentive Grants to 33 companies, counties and organizations making the switch to compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG), or propane for medium to light-weight fleet vehicles. Abruzzo also announced that the second round of Act 13 Natural Gas Vehicle grants opened on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 providing an estimated $11 million to help pay for the incremental purchase and conversion costs of heavy-duty natural gas fleet vehicles weighing more than 14,000 pounds. The Act 13 Natural Gas Vehicle grants are financed by impact fees paid by natural gas operators.

Xcel Continues to Attack Rooftop Solar

Xcel energy has been fighting the loss of market share through its efforts to curb rooftop solar in areas in Colorado. The Alliance for Solar Choice is striking out against the utility for disregarding consumer choice in what they call “an attempt to protect its monopoly status and inflated profit margins.” This would occur if Xcel were able to eliminate the fair credit customers with rooftop solar receive for delivering their excess solar energy to the grid.

Last week’s election results show that Xcel faces an uphill battle in trying to stifle rooftop solar and consumer demands for choice and independence on energy matters. On two separate votes related to Boulder’s effort to create its own utility, pro-municipalization positions outpolled pro-Xcel positions 2:1. Meanwhile Lafayette, Boulder, and Fort Collins all passed restrictions on hydraulic fracking.

“These results demonstrate a clear public desire for more choice, local control and more renewable energy,” said Meghan Nutting, Colorado resident and representative of The Alliance for Solar Choice. “Coloradans know last century’s fossil fuel status quo and a centralized monopoly doesn’t work for a 21st Century Colorado.”

According to The Alliance for Solar Choice in 2011 and 2013, Xcel spent more than $2 million telling the citizens of Boulder that the utility knows better than the community; yet they say, consumers are not buying it. Xcel is currently asking the Public Utilities Commission for permission to pay rates below market value to rooftop solar customers who feed electricity back into the grid. Xcel’s proposal would undermine a policy called net metering and prevent consumers from receiving fair credit for the rooftop solar power they produce. Net metering is in place in 43 states.

“We all should have the choice to produce our own power from the sun without being penalized,” said Nutting. “But Xcel wants to increase their monopoly over our power sources and eliminate this freedom.”

Xcel’s attempts to end net metering and rooftop solar align with a national playbook outlined by the utility’s own trade association Edison Election Institute (EEI) said The Alliance for Solar Choice. EEI’s January 2013 report “Disruptive Challenges” warns that increased consumer adoption of distributed solar will lead to “declining utility revenues, increasing costs, and lower profitability potential, particularly over the long-term,” and proposes efforts to eliminate or counter net metering. Utility monopolies across the country have responded with political force. Just this month, EEI disclosed that it spent more than half a million dollars over a ten-day period on anti-rooftop solar advertising in Arizona.

9 Propane Conversion Centers Join Alliance AutoGas

Nine new propane conversion centers have joined the Alliance AutoGas, a U.S. distributor of PRINS autogas technologies. New members include:

  • Benna Ford, Superior, Wisconsin
  • R. Anthony Enterprises, Marion, Ohio
  • MRT Manufacturing, Forest Hills, Virgina
  • NAEU North American Upfitters, Hooksett, New Hampshire
  • Northside Auto & Truck Service Watertown, Wisconsin
  • Clean Car Conversions, Indianapolis, Indiana
  • NTC Delta Transportation, Greenville, Mississippi
  • Gary Sapp Automotive, Pensacola, Florida
  • Sherwood Ford of Salisbury, Salisbury, Maryland

Alliance AutoGas Services and NetworkAlliance AutoGas coordinates propane autogas vehicle conversions, installs refueling infrastructure and provides ongoing vehicle maintenance support and training, through a network of more than 90 member companies and conversion centers throughout North America.

“It is of the highest importance that Alliance AutoGas provides a quality support network and keep the vehicles running on the road,” said Stuart Weidie, president of Alliance AutoGas.

Brendan Dunican, sales representative of North American Equipment Upfitters, Inc., added, “The Alliance AutoGas Group is important because it brings together businesses that have common goals and interests in the green initiative (that would normally have no interaction). We (NAEU) working as a conversion center are diversifying our business while maintaining a sense of environmental responsibility. Cleaner gas makes for a cleaner world and future.”

And Northside Auto and Truck Service’s John Mason, president, said they joined because, “Our fleet managers tell us that domestically produced, clean propane that is easier on their pocketbooks are important to them. We are pleased to be a part of the Alliance AutoGas network, enabling our fleets to meet their expectations,”

Largest Solar Plant in Japan Launched

A 70 megawatt (MW) solar power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, southern Japan has come online. The Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar Power Plant went online officially on November 1, 2013 and is being operated by a special purpose company established by Kyocera Corporation and six other companies to sell the electricity to a local utility under Japan’s feed-in-tariff (FIT) program. An inauguration ceremony was held recently to celebrate the country’s largest utility-scale solar power plant.

70MW Solar Power Generating System 1Following the Great East Japan Earthquake in March of 2011, interest in solar energy has risen as a viable way to resolve power supply issues. To help promote the use of renewable energy, the Japanese government launched a restructured FIT program in July 2012 which mandates that local utilities are required to purchase 100 percent of the power generated from solar installations of more than 10 kilowatts (kW) for a period of 20 years.

Kagoshima Mega Solar Power Corporation was established by Kyocera and six other companies in July 2012 to explore a new business model for utility-scale solar power generation. Under a financing plan devised by Mizuho Corporate Bank, the new company was tasked to develop and operate the 70MW solar power plant on land owned by IHI Corporation with the power generated to be purchased by Kyushu Electric Power Co. based on the FIT program. As the largest shareholder of the new company, the Kyocera Group was responsible for the supply of solar modules as well as part of the construction, and will also undertake maintenance of the system with Kyudenko Corporation.

In addition, a tour facility has been built adjacent to the 70MW plant that is open to the public and features a circular viewing room where visitors can observe the 290,000 solar panels from an elevated vantage point and enjoy the view of the ocean bay and grand Sakurajima volcano in the background. Display zones for visitors such as students and tourists provide information about environmental issues and the science behind photovoltaic energy generation.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFIKEA has announced plans to nearly double the solar array atop its Perryville, Maryland distribution center, the state’s largest such solar energy system. Installation of the new panels will begin this month with completion expected after the New Year. The 467,618-square-foot solar addition will consist of a 2.2-MW system, built with 7,337 modules, and will produce 2,695,355 kWh of electricity annually for the facility. Including the existing system, this distribution center’s total 4.9-MW solar installation of 25,913 panels soon will generate 6,092,533 kWh of clean electricity yearly.
  • Dyadic International has announced that it has been issued U.S. Patent No. 8,551,751 B2 entitled, “BX11 Enzymes Having Xylosidase Activity” by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The invention relates to methods of developing and producing novel enzymes, more specifically for the development of a variety of fungal enzymes. Also described in the patent is the encoding of nucleic acid molecules for such enzymes, compositions, recombinant, and genetically modified host cells, and methods of use, and also addresses methods to convert lignocellulosic biomass into fermentable sugars with enzymes that degrade the lignocellulosic material and novel combinations of enzymes, including those that provide a synergistic release of sugars from plant biomass.
  • First Power and Light, LLC (FPL) has signed a Letter of Intent to acquire SolPower Renewables, Inc. a Florida corporation in a stock only transaction. SolPower sells Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) services in Florida, South and Central America as well as the Caribbean. FPL intends for SolPower to operate as a wholly owned subsidiary allowing it to maintain its focus on these geographic areas that are not currently serviced by FPL.
  • Ennovor Biofuels has appointed a new chairman, managing director and plant manager. Chairman John Markham will take responsibility for guiding the strategic development of the business. David Frohnsdorff has been appointed managing director to coordinate all aspects of the company’s production, sales, feedstock development and purchasing, as well as fund raising and infrastructure development for the group. New plant manager David Jackson will manage plant operations.

U.S. Electricity Mix is Changing

According to the most recent Today in Energy published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the mix of fuels used to generate the electricity in homes, factories and businesses across the U.S. has changed over the past few years. While coal remains in the lead, with all the grassroots efforts around ending coal use and as a result the decommissioning of coal plants across the country, the fossil fuel has lost share to other players including natural gas and non-hydroelectric renewables such as wind and solar.

Regional Electricity Use mapThe report show that the generation mix is not uniform across the country and varies significantly by region (EIA has divided the country into seven regions) depending on available resources and regional market prices. There are several factors that affect fuel mix in any given month including the region’s capacity, the delivered costs of fuels and system constraints.

Natural gas has gained market share from coal in much of the country, find the report, but this is less true in markets closer to the cheaper Powder River Basin coal in the West. Renewable sources are generally growing, especially in Texas and the West. Petroleum-fired electricity generation has been declining for several decades, but it can continue play an important role at rare times when other alternatives are not available.

EIA is planning on publishing a series of articles focused on each region and its electricity generation mix over the coming weeks.

National Grid Salutes Veterans

Today is Veterans Day in the United States where the country comes together to thank those Americans who have risked or given their lives to keep the country safe. In recognition of this day, National Grid is highlighting its programs to attract and retain veteran employees including it participation in Troops to Energy Jobs. The program is an initiative in which National Grid has partnered with five other energy companies across the country, and the Center for Energy Workforce Development, to develop an accelerated process for bringing military veterans into the energy industry workforce nationwide.

National Grid’s pilot program for Troops to Energy Jobs took place in Massachusetts, and employing veterans in the state remains a top priority for the company.

Troops-to-Energy-Jobs-logo“National Grid, along with other electric and gas companies, recognizes that veterans have spent their military careers protecting national security and are, among many things, battle-tested, self-motivated and safety-conscious—traits that translate well into a second career in the utility industry,” said Marcy Reed, president of National Grid in Massachusetts. “By hiring veterans into the company, we are ensuring the continued production and delivery of safe, reliable power to Massachusetts homes and businesses, and that service members are continuing to protect national security as they work to deliver a product that fuels our lives and powers our economy.”

In recent years National Grid said it has taken several steps to improve its opportunity for veteran outreach, including creating a dedicated veterans outreach specialist role within the company. This integrated specialist is responsible for veteran recruiting efforts and assists veterans as they transition into civilian positions within the energy field.

“Hiring veterans is a smart business decision. But, beyond that, it’s about pride and opportunity,” said Steven Spaeth, veterans outreach specialist for National Grid who is also a veteran himself. “Our industry has a role to play that is bigger than just hiring—we can help to pave the way for transitioning veterans into civilian jobs. Recognizing and supporting veterans once they are hired is critical to achieving a successful transition as we move our dedicated service members from the front lines to the power lines.”

National Grid also has its own Veterans Employee Resource Group (VERG) to help implement the Troops to Energy Jobs national template in all its service territories. This group of 185 members is strongly involved with recruitment and outreach efforts that encompass National Grid’s Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Upstate NY and Downstate NY businesses. The company’s VERG provides ongoing support to veteran employees, assists the Human Resources Department by reviewing resumes for candidates who are veterans, and maintains a visible presence in local communities, including attending career fairs to recruit other veterans.

National Grid works with the Department of Labor in Massachusetts as well as at local One-Stops in its efforts to recruit veterans. The company also works closely with veterans organizations such as the Office of Veterans Affairs, directing candidates to the Troops to Energy Jobs website for assistance in translating military skills to those needed in energy jobs. The company will often tweet job openings and veteran-themed resources as part of its effort to reach as many veterans in as many different ways as possible.

Sustainable Roadmap for Jamaica Released

The Worldwatch Institute has released the report, “Jamaica Sustainable Energy Roadmap: Pathways to an Affordable, Reliable, Low-Emission Electricity System,” that looks at the measures that the Jamaican government can take to transition its electricity sector to one that is socially, environmentally and financially sustainable. The report also analyzes the potential for energy efficiency and renewable energy deployment in Jamaica and discusses the social and economic impacts of alternative energy pathways, concluding that a scenario of high renewable penetration can bring significant savings, greater energy security, gains in competitiveness, and many other important benefits to the country.

Jamaica Sustainable Energy Roadmap“Jamaica is paying a colossal price to import polluting and health-threatening fossil fuels, even when it has the best clean energy resources at its doorstep: wind, solar, hydro, and biomass,” said Alexander Ochs, Director of Climate and Energy at Worldwatch and a co-author of the study. “The Jamaican government has set a nationwide goal of 20 percent renewable energy use by 2030; our Roadmap will help to realize this goal. What’s more, our analysis shows that the bar can and should be set much higher: Jamaica can become a zero-carbon island in a matter of decades, and its people would benefit enormously from such a transition.”

Worldwatch collaborated closely on this project with the Government of Jamaica. “I am very confident that the outcome of this project will enable Jamaica to map, in more precise ways, the additional electricity generation capacity that we seek,” says Jamaican Energy Minister Philip Paulwell. “We intend to use the Roadmap to determine the next phase of new generation capacity, and it will enable us to be far more efficient than we have in the past.”

Jose Maria Figueres, president of the Carbon War Room and former president of Costa Rica, points to the broader benefits of the study and Worldwatch’s Sustainable Energy Roadmap work: “This report provides the practical steps that enable us to fast-forward the deployment of renewable energy. With it, we can boost national economies and improve conditions of well-being. [Jamaica] can become a shining example of what the future is all about.”

The Roadmap also delves into the full societal costs of Jamaica’s current electricity sector to the costs of alternative pathways that are based on high shares of domestic renewable energy. The report concludes that Jamaica will benefit economically, socially, and environmentally if it relies more heavily on renewable energy sources and less on fossil fuels. In addition, based on analysis of Jamaica’s investment environment, the Roadmap suggests regulatory and institutional changes that will be necessary to attract new investments in clean energy solutions.

USDA Releases Updated 2013 Corn Crop Report

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has just released its updated 2013 corn crop report and is estimating the 2013 corn harvest will achieve a new record of 13.99 billion bushels, 7 percent larger than the previous record and a 30 percent larger than last year’s drought-shortened crop. USDA expects yield to average 160.4 bushels per acre, the 2013 corn harvestsecond-highest yield on record. The report also showed a 2 percent decrease in planted acreage compared to last year. However, the Genscape LandViewer yield forecast remains on the lower end of analysts’ predictions at 13.57 billion bushels.

Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis said of the updated corn harvest forecasts, “It is clear from this report that the food versus fuel debate over the U.S. renewable fuel policy can be put to bed. Our farmers have once again proven we can produce abundant quantities of high quality food, feed, fiber and renewable fuel.”

Other highlights from today’s USDA report:

  • Corn ending stocks are projected to hit 1.89 billion bushels, the highest since 2005.
  • Corn prices are projected at $4.10-4.90 per bushel, the lowest in three years.
  • 4.9 billion bushels are slated to be used to make ethanol and animal feed co-products. Roughly two-thirds (3.28 bbu.) of the corn destined for ethanol plants will be converted to fuel ethanol, while the remaining one-third (1.62 bbu.) will be processed into high-protein, high-energy animal feed. On a net basis, just 22% of the record corn supply in 2013/14 will be used for ethanol production.
  • Livestock feed is again projected to be the top use of corn, with 5.2 billion bushels of consumption. When feed co-products from ethanol are considered, livestock will consume the equivalent of 6.8 bbu., or 46% of the corn supply.
  • World grain ending stocks are projected to hit the second-highest level in the last 12 years.
  • World grain production is projected at a record 2.43 billion metric tons and supply is expected to rise to 2.88 billion metric tons. This means U.S. ethanol production is expected to use just 2.95% of the world grain supply on a net basis—the lowest in four years.

“This year’s corn crop is a tremendous accomplishment and we applaud America’s farmers for their hard work and resilience,” said Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). “It is truly remarkable that the second-best yield in history was achieved despite an extremely late, wet planting season and the so-called ‘flash drought’ late in the summer. This year’s yield and record crop highlight the astonishing innovation and technological change occurring in agriculture. Producing a crop this size using 1980-era technology and average yield would have required 76% more harvested acres.”

Dinneen added, “This historic crop underscores the urgency of maintaining demand. Now, more than ever, the Renewable Fuel Standard must stand as is. No cuts, no reductions. This country will be swimming in excess corn if the RFS requirements are cut.”