BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFRenewable energy provider Wheelabrator Technologies will provide live online video coverage of its annual youth environmental summit taking place May 5-8, 2014 in Sunrise, Florida. In all, 150 students from 15 schools in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Florida will gather to present their projects to a panel of Wheelabrator employees, educators and environmental experts. A first for the Symposium series, each team presentation will be made available online, enabling schools, family members,friends, and community and business leaders to watch the presentations unfold live Tuesday, May 6. Interested spectators can view the school presentations by logging on to Wheelabrator’s website.
  • The American Solar Energy Society (ASES) is accepting nominations for six awards that honors persons making significant contributions to the field of solar, renewable energy and the Society. Award nominees must be a member of ASES and nominations are due May 16, 2014. ASES is also accepting nominations for new Fellows of the Society. Click here for more information on the awards and to submit a nomination.
  • Admirals Bank, a leading provider of residential solar and renewable energy lending, has worked with Heatspring Learning Institute to bring an interactive, online training course to residential solar installers across the United States. The online training course, titled Solar Loans vs PPAs: How to Use Simple Solar Loans to Sell More Residential Solar, runs from May 5, 2014 through May 23, 2014. This 3-week online training course was developed by Admirals Bank to provide solar installers and other industry professionals with a comprehensive understanding of how to use residential solar financing to increase sales and home solar installations.
  • International renewable energy consultancy Natural Power has further strengthened its services in North America by appointing wind technical professional, Scott McDonald. Formerly of AWS Scientific (AWS Truepower), PPM Atlantic Renewable, Iberdrola Renewables and Ogin, Inc. McDonald joins Natural Power as Head of Energy Assessments in North America.

California Celebrates Geothermal Awareness Day

Today is Geothermal Awareness Day in California and the geothermal industry is participating with several activities throughout the state including Sacramento, the state’s capitol. On this day, the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) is making a call for people to submit entries for the GEA Honors awards program, which recognizes the contributions made by companies and individuals in the past year that have advanced technology, business and environmental sustainabilityGEA logo through the field of geothermal energy.

“There is a growing need to educate Californians about the benefits of geothermal energy, and Geothermal Awareness Day is a great opportunity to make progress on understanding geothermal power,” said Karl Gawell, GEA’s executive director. “May 5 is Geothermal Awareness Day in Sacramento, and GEA is making key information available at its website free to the public to encourage Californians to learn more about the benefits of geothermal to the state.”

Free reports of interest that are available to the public include:

  • Report on the State of Geothermal In California, April 2012
  • The Values of Geothermal Energy: A Discussion of the Benefits Geothermal Power Provides to the Future US Power System, October 2013 (published jointly with the Geothermal Resources Council);
  • Geothermal Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions, November 2012
  • Geothermal Basics

“It’s amazing to see the success being achieved in the geothermal sector, from cutting edge technology that are bring projects online to valuable research that are bringing us closer to a sustainable future. GEA Honors offers a moment to pause and celebrate the positive developments in the geothermal energy industry,” said GEA Executive Director Karl Gawell.

The deadline for GEA Honors submissions is July 7. Winners of GEA Honors will be announced on August 5 at the National Geothermal Summit at the Grand Sierra Resort & Casino in Reno, Neveda. Click here to view all the categories and to submit a nomination.

Farmers Co-op Breaks Ground on Renewable Fuels Station

Farmers Cooperative Company has broken ground on the future site of its new Mount Ayr, Iowa renewable fuels retail location. The station will offer consumers higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel including ethanol blends E10, E15 as a registered fuel, E30 and E85, as well as biodiesel blends B10, B20 and B99 for jobbers and special use customers.

Groundbreaking-Group.2“The price of [E10] in Iowa is 17-30 cents below gasoline, so the savings is even greater with higher ethanol blends,” Iowa Governor Terry Branstad told the audience at the groundbreaking ceremony. “I’ve told the EPA, if E15 is offered to give consumers a choice, they will choose cheaper renewable fuels.”

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey told attendees, “For this project, we have a great partnership with [Iowa State University] who will be conducting a study to find out why motorists choose the fuels they do. This is a great opportunity to convince others to make the same type of investment.”

Farmers Cooperative Company was selected to receive $125,000 in funding for the new site from Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s “Fueling Our Future” program, administered by the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS). In addition, Farmers Cooperative will receive $100,000 in funding from the Iowa Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program. Construction will begin later this year.

“We congratulate Farmers Cooperative Company on this great event to celebrate the groundbreaking on a true renewable fuels retail location that will provide consumers with greater access to clean, locally-produced ethanol and biodiesel,” added Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Managing Director Lucy Norton. “With the help of Gov. Branstad’s ‘Fueling Our Future’ program and the Iowa Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program, Iowans will continue to benefit from fuel choice at locations like this one.”

Strata Solar Completes Nine Solar Projects in NC

Strata Solar, has installed nine utility-scale solar projects across North Carolina (NC) using more than $100 million of tax-equity financing provided by a subsidiary of Wells Fargo & Company. When combined, the projects produce enough electricity to power 5,000 homes and were in part made possible by a 35 percent North Carolina Renewable Energy Tax Credit. The power will be purchased by NC utility Progress Energy Carolinas.

Strata Solar Nash 58 solar array in NC“We are very proud of our ability to invest and build in North Carolina’s rural communities. These projects bring jobs, significant local spend, and an increase in the tax base without the requirement of county dollars which is typical of development projects,” said Markus Wilhelm, Strata Solar’s CEO. “On a number of occasions we’ve witnessed these projects having an impact on attracting additional investors who are looking for business-friendly environments.”

The three largest projects – Bladenboro, Wagstaff and Nash 58 – all exceed six MWs in capacity and provide a significant boost to the local tax base without requiring additional county expenditures on sewer, roads or any other infrastructure.

“As a leading provider of capital in renewable energy and cleantech across the U.S., Wells Fargo is excited to participate in the rapid expansion of solar in the Southeast,” said Barry Neal, Head of Wells Fargo’s Environmental Finance Group. “We are proud to partner with top-tier developers like Strata who share in our commitment to support communities and deploy clean energy.”

Companies Need to Step Up Sustainability Efforts

According to a recent report, while there are pockets of sustainability leadership in the U.S. business community, much more needs to be done. The Ceres and Sustainalytics study found that most companies are merely taking small, incremental steps to address sustainability issues that could impact not only their bottom line, but also the economy and planet.

Ceres Sustainability Report 2014Given the acceleration of environmental and social challenges globally – floods, droughts, and workplace tragedies – most U.S. corporations are not keeping pace with the level of change,” said Mindy Lubber, president of the sustainability advocacy group, Ceres. “Those that step up to the challenge will be best positioned to thrive in the rapidly changing, resource-constrained 21st century economy.”

The report assesses the sustainability performance of 613 of the largest publicly traded companies in the U.S. and covers nearly 80 percent of the total market capitalization of all public companies in the country. It tracks corporate performance against 20 key metrics essential for any sustainable corporation to follow, including governance, disclosure, greenhouse gas emissions reductions and labor standards. It identifies sustainability trends across eight key sectors, highlighting industry best practices and which companies are leading among their peers. It also provides aggregate data and online scorecards for companies on each performance area. Key findings include:

  • While many companies are taking action to reduce GHG emissions, few have set time-bound targets. More than two-thirds of the companies evaluated (438) have activities in place aimed at reducing GHG emissions, but only 35 percent (212) have established time-bound targets for reducing GHG emissions. In terms of renewable energy, 37 percent of companies have implemented a program, while only six percent have quantitative targets to increase renewable energy sourcing.
  • More companies are setting clear sustainability standards for suppliers. Fifty-eight percent of companies (353) have supplier codes of conduct that address human rights in supply chains, compared to 43 percent in 2012. However, only a third (205 companies) have some activities in place to engage suppliers on sustainability performance issues, up from 27 percent in 2012.
  • A growing number of companies are incorporating sustainability performance into executive compensation packages. Twenty-four percent of companies (147) link executive compensation to sustainability performance – up from 15 percent in 2012.

The metrics used in this report were first spelled out in the Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability, which has been used by dozens of leading companies since 2010 to incorporate sustainability into their business planning and corporate accountability infrastructure.

“The findings of this report should inspire companies to examine their own progress and identify where they stand on the path to sustainability,” said Michael Jantzi, CEO and Founder of Sustainalytics. “This is about more than how companies stack up against their peers – it’s about how innovation is driving performance from the corporate boardroom throughout the entire supply chain.”

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking public comments on the draft action plan for its RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative. The plan guides EPA’s efforts over the next two years to encourage renewable energy development on current and formerly contaminated lands, landfills and mine sites when such development is aligned with the community’s vision for the site. The agency will solicit comments for 30 days. Comments on the proposed plan are due by Friday, May 30.To submit a comment, please send to
  • Mars, Incorporated, in partnership with Sumitomo Corporation of Americas, have announced an agreement on a new 200MW wind farm that will generate 100% of the electricity needs of Mars’ U.S. operations, which is comprised of 70 sites, including 37 factories and 25,000 Associates. ‘Mesquite Creek Wind,’ a 118-turbine wind farm was jointly developed by Sumitomo and BNB Renewable Energy and is based near Lamesa, Texas with a footprint of 25,000 acres­ and an annual output of over 800,000 megawatt-hours. The wind farm represents the biggest long-term commitment to renewable energy use of any food manufacturing business in the United States.
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has pre-qualified a four-company team led by TransGen Energy of Rockville, Maryland to bid for solar projects at U.S. military installations throughout the United States and its territories. The TransGen Energy team was one of 38 entities recently authorized to pursue solar power generation Task Orders under a Multiple Award Task Order Contract (MATOC).
  • According to UNICA, the cane sugar processed by mills in South-Central region of the country totaled 12.57 million tons in the first half of April 2014, up 62.52% in compared to the value observed in the same fortnight last year (7.73 million tonnes). Since the beginning of the 2014/2015 season until April 16, grinding totaled 16.41 million tonnes – 71.45% higher than in the same period of 2013 (9.57 million tons). At the end of the first fortnight of April this year 153 mills were in operation in the region, compared to 155 recorded in the same period last year.

Oregon Institute of Technology Goes All Renewable

According to Oregon Institute of Technology, they are the first campus in the world to produce all of its energy needs using renewable energy. The campus is now 100 percent powered by a combination of solar and geothermal sources. The achievement was noted in a ceremony that included U.S. Senators Wyden and Merkley, Oregon Senator Whitsett, and First Lady Hayes.

The campus has been entirely heated by geothermal water for several decades, and now the geothermal resource is being utilized in a 1.75-megawatt combined heat and power plant to provide electricity. Additionally, a 2.0-megawatt solar array was installed on 9 acres of campus land and commissioned at the end of last year.

“The geothermal and solar projects all serve important and dual purposes for Oregon Tech,” said Christopher Maples, president of Oregon Tech. “They support the education of our students in the growing green jobs industry, and they put us closer to our goal of becoming a climate neutral campus by 2050.”

Oregon Insitute of Technology Geothermal-Solar EnergyOregon Tech built the geothermal power plants in two stages, beginning with a 0.28- megawatt module that was the first operating geothermal power plant in Oregon. The success of that system, followed by the ability to garner additional financial support, led to the installation of a 1.75- megawatt project. In combination, they generate an estimated 8,315,000 kilowatt hours annually, reducing energy costs by nearly one-half million dollars per year.

In addition to the combined heat and power system, Oregon Tech installed 7,800 ground-mounted solar electric panels next to the John F. Moehl football stadium, with a total capacity of just under 2 megawatt. The solar project is an “all-Oregon” project and is one of the largest solar photovoltaic system in the state of Oregon and the largest multiple campus, university system-based contract for solar energy in the nation.

The university received a Blue Sky grant from Pacific Power to support the system installation, which has had a positive economic impact on Klamath Falls and the surrounding areas. SolarCity, the contractor that installed the system, used all local contractors and labor to complete the project.

The combined output from the three renewable energy projects on the campus will exceed the campus electricity use by an estimated 700,000 kilowatt hours per year. That energy will be donated to Pacific Power’s low-income subsidy program, making Oregon Tech the largest non-utility net metering contributor in the state.

Liverpool Researchers Study Agave for Biofuels

A PhD student at the University of Liverpool is studying a plant that may be a viable feedstock to produce advanced biofuels. Agave sisalana is a proposed biofuel plant that can be grown in semi-arid conditions unsuited to food crops. The plant is already grown for fibre in countries like Brazil, Tanzania, Kenya and Madagascar. Sisal fibre has traditionally been used for marine ropes, bailer twine, and rugs, but today it is also finding new uses such as reinforced plastic composites for car door panels.

According to Bupphada, agave has a number of favorable characteristics for use as a fuel, as it contains large amounts of sugar and cellulose, and grows well in seasonally dry areas. As second generation biofuels technologies for converting cellulose to liquid transportation fuels are maturing fast, agave may prove to be a good feedstock.

agave sisal-plantsSupervised by plant biologist, Dr James Hartwell, Bupphada is investigating the genomic basis for agave’s ability to grow productively in dry regions.

“Unlike most plants, agave opens the pores in its leaves and captures carbon dioxide during the cool, humid night,” said Hartwell. “It uses an adaptation of photosynthesis called Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM), which means that it loses a lot less water during photosynthesis in comparison to major food crops like wheat or rice”.

In collaboration with Liverpool’s world-leading Centre for Genomic Research, Bupphada has sequenced RNA from agave leaves in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the genes used for CAM photosynthesis. Long-term, the hope is that knowledge of which genes are important in agave will help accelerate its improvement as a biomass feedstock crop.

Bupphada came to Liverpool as a result of a partnership that the ARDA has with the University. After completing his PhD, he plants to return to Thailand to work at the Agricultural Ministry, applying his new findings on research projects there.

“Biofuels are a credible way of reducing our reliance on oil, but the areas in which they are grown requires careful planning,” said Bupphada. “Understanding how plants like agave grow in marginal areas means we can maintain food supply, while also creating alternative sources of income for communities.”

CHS to Aquire Illinois River Energy

Sinav Limited, based in London, England has signed an agreement with CHS to sell 100 percent of their stock that includes Illinois River Energy. The ethanol plant is based in Rochelle, Illinois and produces 133 million gallons of ethanol per year. Providing all conditions are met, the transaction is expected to close in June.

Illinois River EnergyIllinois River Energy is a top-tier ethanol plant, well-situated in a strategic growth area that will add value to our farmer-owners through expanded grain origination, additional renewable fuels gallons and distillers grain by-products,” said Mark Palmquist, CHS executive vice president and chief operating officer, Ag Business.

CHS markets renewable fuels to energy customers across the U.S. and through 1,400 Cenex- branded retail petroleum outlets, including more than 1,000 Cenex convenience stores, and markets dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) globally on behalf of more than 20 ethanol plants across the United States.

“We have enjoyed a strong business relationship with CHS as they have been our ethanol marketer since the start of Illinois River Energy operations in 2006. Today, we look forward to formally joining CHS and adding value to the global cooperative as an ethanol, DDGS, and distillers corn oil producer,” added Richard Ruebe, CEO, Illinois River Energy.

H2FIRST To Improve Hydrogen Fueling Infrastructure

Last year the U.S. Energy Department launched H2USA, a program aimed at addressing the challenge of hydrogen infrastructure. Established by the Energy Department’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the Hydrogen Fueling Infrastructure Research and Station Technology (H2FIRST) project will draw on existing and emerging core capabilities at the national labs and aim to reduce the cost and time of new fueling station construction and improve the stations’ availability and reliability.

By focusing on these aspects of the hydrogen fueling infrastructure, the effort hopes to accelerate and support the widespread deployment of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles. Automakers are investing in hydrogen technology as evidenced by Toyota’s recent announcement that it will begin selling its Fuel Cell Vehicle in 2015. Last year, GM and Honda announced plans to jointly develop hydrogen fuel cell cars, and Hyundai will lease its Tucson Fuel Cell hydrogen-powered vehicle in California this spring.

“The success of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles largely depends on more stations being available, including in neighborhoods and at work, so drivers can easily refuel,” said Daniel Dedrick, hydrogen program manager at Sandia who is involved with several other partners in the program. “With H2FIRST, we’re definitely on the road to making that happen more quickly.”

The partners include several agencies from the state of California, widely regarded as the nation’s epicenter of zero-emission vehicles.

“This new project brings important federal know-how and resources to accelerate improvements in refueling infrastructure that support the commercial market launch of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles,” said Air Resources Board Chairman Mary D. Nichols. “California is committed to deploying at least 100 hydrogen refueling stations in the next decade, and the H2FIRST effort is a big step toward the development and deployment of a broader, consumer-friendly infrastructure for us and the rest of the United States. We are excited to be joined by such prestigious partners in this effort.”

H2FIRST’s technical goal is to develop and apply physical testing, numerical simulation and technology validation to help create low-cost, high-performance materials, components and station architectures. H2FIRST also will collect and distribute data supporting industry’s efforts to reduce the costs of integrated fueling systems and networks. Continue reading