Green Power Purchases 20MW Georgia Solar Project

Silicon Ranch Circle Solar FarmGreen Power EMC, the renewable energy supplier for 38 Georgia Electric Membership Corporations (EMCs), has reached an agreement to purchase the full output of a new 20 megawatt (MW) solar project planned for construction in Hazlehurst, Georgia. The solar farm will cover nearly 135 acres, and feature 87,000 ground-mounted solar modules.

Under an agreement with owner-operator Silicon Ranch Corporation, Green Power EMC will receive all the energy produced by the solar project over a 25-year period. Construction is scheduled to begin this year, and the facility will be ready to produce electricity in late 2015.

Jeff Pratt, president of Green Power EMC, said the Hazlehurst project is the result of a request for proposals issued in late 2013 to add more solar energy to Green Power EMC’s portfolio. The company already purchases the output of two solar projects, a 115 kilowatt (kW) rooftop array near Athens, Ga. and a 150 kW ground-mounted array near Warner Robins, Ga. He said the project will nearly double the total renewable capacity of Green Power EMC – from the current 32 MW to about 52 MW.

“This is a major solar power addition, not only to our portfolio but also to the state of Georgia,” said Pratt. “The project moves us further down the road to becoming a much more sustainable state.” According to Pratt, the 20 MW project will produce enough electricity to serve about 3,000 EMC households.

Matt Kisber, president of Silicon Ranch Corporation, who also owns and operates Georgia’s largest solar farm in Social Circle, Georgia, said, “We are excited about the opportunity to partner with Green Power EMC and their members in deploying their first, large-scale solar array. I commend the leadership and membership of Green Power EMC for creating this initiative to provide competitively priced, renewable power solar generation to their Georgia membership.”

New England Coast Offshore Wind Leases Available

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Acting Director Walter Cruickshank joined Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to announce more than 742,000 acres offshore Massachusetts will be available for commercial wind energy leasing. The proposed area is the largest in federal waters and will nearly double the federal offshore acreage available for commercial-scale wind energy projects.

“Massachusetts is leading the way toward building a clean and sustainable energy future that creates jobs, cuts carbon pollution and develops domestic clean energy resources,” said Secretary Jewell. “Thanks to Governor Patrick’s vision and leadership, the competitive lease sale in Massachusetts will reflect the extensive and productive input from a number of important stakeholders. This includes interests such as commercial fishing, shipping, cultural, historical, environmental, and local communities to minimize conflicts and bring clarity and certainty to potential wind energy developers.”

Mass Wind Energy AreaThe Massachusetts Wind Energy Area is located approximately 12 miles offshore Massachusetts – from its northern boundary, the area extends 33 nautical miles southward and has an east/west extent of approximately 47 nautical miles. BOEM proposes to auction the Wind Energy Area as four leases.

“Today’s announcement is a momentous occasion and the culmination of years of cooperation and hard work between the Commonwealth and federal officials,” said Governor Patrick. “Through our investments and proactive planning, Massachusetts is poised to lead the charge in offshore wind energy development, with the economic and environmental benefits that come with it.”

The Interior’s is working to develop a sustainable offshore wind program through its ‘Smart from the Start’ wind energy initiative for the Atlantic Coast. To date, BOEM has awarded five commercial wind energy leases off the Atlantic coast: two non-competitive leases (Cape Wind in Nantucket Sound off Massachusetts and an area off Delaware) and three competitive leases (two offshore Massachusetts-Rhode Island and another offshore Virginia). The competitive lease sales have generated about $5.4 million in high bids for about 277,550 acres in federal waters. BOEM is expected to hold additional competitive auctions for Wind Energy Areas offshore Maryland and New Jersey later this year.

“The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has been working hand in hand with BOEM to foster responsible commercial wind development in federal waters off Massachusetts,” said BOEM Acting Director Cruickshank. “Members of the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Task Force have been great partners in our planning process for the Wind Energy Area and the Proposed Sale Notice.”

In response to the announcement, Conservation Law Foundation, who is working to advance responsibly sited offshore wind energy, said, “This is a meaningful leap forward for New England and the nation to seize the unparalleled renewable energy opportunity of offshore wind,” said Sue Reid, Vice President of Conservation Law Foundation and Director, CLF Massachusetts. “Because of the sheer scale of offshore wind energy’s potential, it has unmatched ability to displace the dirtiest and costliest energy generation on the grid. It is an essential building block of our clean energy future—one that can deliver wide-ranging environmental and public health benefits while boosting our regional economy.”

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFOak Ridge National Laboratory will be home to two Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) announced by U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. The Department of Energy awarded a total of $100 million to 32 EFRC projects to accelerate the scientific breakthroughs needed to build the 21st-century energy economy. The two ORNL EFRCs are a renewal of the Fluid Interface Reactions, Structures and Transport (FIRST) Center, which is led by David Wesolowski, and a new award to the Energy Dissipation to Defect Evolution (EDDE) Center, led by Yanwen Zhang.
  • A decades-long partnership between Sandia National Laboratories and the Norwegian research organization SINTEF (Stiftelsen for industriell og teknisk forskning) will now tackle energy challenges such as renewable energy integration, electric grid modernization, gas technologies and algae-based biofuels, under an expanded agreement. The goal of the collaboration is to investigate various technical areas from an international perspective. The agreement enables the organizations to undertake joint research, seek new funding opportunities and establish multidisciplinary partnerships. Both research organizations are known for groundbreaking work in energy research.
  • Clean energy campaign Operation Free criticized three anti-clean energy amendments to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2015 (H.R. 4870). The amendments were introduced by Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX), and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), respectively. “If adopted, these amendments would irreparably harm DoD’s investments in clean energy and energy efficiency,” said Michael Breen, leader of Operation Free. “The Department of Defense needs the freedom to continue to address this vital strategic objective – without unnecessary hindrances from Congress. As the largest institutional consumer of fuel in the world, the U.S. military is dangerously vulnerable to the volatile global oil market. Domestically-produced renewable options improve American energy security, help supply our military around the world, and grow the economy here at home.”
  • A new “drop-in” aviation biofuel called farnesane, which is made from plant sugars, has now been approved for use in commercial jets by ASTM. It can now be blended up to 10 percent with conventional petroleum jet fuel (Jet A/A1). Some facts: Farnesane, which is made from plant sugars, is the third type of biofuel approved for use by airlines and other stakeholders in the commercial aviation industry. When produced sustainably, aviation biofuel reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 50 to 80 percent compared to petroleum Jet A/A1 through its lifecycle. The newly approved biofuel is made with a process called “direct fermentation of sugar” using an advanced biotechnology developed by California-based Amyris, Inc. and with support from TOTAL, S.A., the French oil company.

SEIA Releases Cutting Carbon Report

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) recently released a report, “Cutting Carbon Emissions Under §111(d): The case for expanding solar energy in America”. The report, which was released to coincide with the Clean Power Plan, offers a detailed case as to why states should take advantage of clean solar energy as part of their efforts to comply with §111(d) of the Clean Air Act. This year alone, solar is expected to generate enough electricity to effectively offset 13.8 metric tons of CO2 emissions.

Once the new EPA emission standards are in place, each state will be required to create a compliance plan that must be approved by federal regulators. Failure to do so could result in a more restrictive EPA-mandated plan.

“For many states struggling to reduce their carbon emissions, solar can be a real game changer,” said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch. “We have a very simple message to SEIA Cutting Carbon Emissionsstate regulators: Do the math. When it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, the 13 GW of solar currently installed in the United States generates enough pollution-free electricity to displace 14.2 billion pounds of coal or 1.5 billion gallons of gasoline. Put another way, it’s the equivalent of taking 2.7 million passenger cars off U.S. highways each year.”

According to the report, which was prepared by SEIA staff in consultation with member companies, solar has already proven to be a key part of many states’ energy mix – as demonstrated on March 8 when solar provided a record 18 percent of California’s 22,700 megawatt (MW) demand.

“Today, solar is the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in the United States, employing 143,00 Americans and accounting for nearly 30 percent of all new electric generation capacity installed in 2013 – second only to natural gas,” Resch continued. “All totaled, solar is now generating enough clean, reliable and affordable electricity to effectively power nearly 2.5 million homes. We’re doing our part to help fight climate change, but we can do a lot more in the future – and that’s something we will be stressing to state regulators once the new carbon rules for power plants are announced.”

Resch also noted that solar energy’s rapidly falling prices and rapidly growing generating capacity, as well as the volatility of fossil fuel prices, give solar energy the potential to transform compliance with both new carbon emission requirements and other existing requirements under the Clean Air Act.

The report notes, “Historically, air pollution emission reduction from the electric sector has been achieved primarily through pollution control equipment at power plants. Today, the EPA and states recognize that the reduction of carbon emissions from the electric sector requires a new approach that treats the production and delivery of electric power as a broad system, in which power plant modifications, demand side reductions and renewable energy all contribute to emission reductions.

“Solar contributes to a balanced portfolio of energy resources, and can help achieve an optimal long-term strategy for each state’s economy and environment,” the report continues. “By including solar energy as part of their §111(d) compliance plan, states can cost-effectively meet their Clean Air Act requirements while reaping a wide range of additional benefits.”

Ethanol Safety Seminars Scheduled for Tennessee

Two Ethanol Safety Seminars will be taking place in Tennessee this June: June 25, 2014 at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum and June 27, 2014 at the Nashville Fire Academy. The seminars are designed for individuals who respond to ethanol-related emergencies as well as those who work at fixed-facilities and transport fuel. The free seminars RFA Ethanol Safety Seminarsare sponsored by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and the Knoxville & Holston River Railroad and Nashville & Western Railroad.

Both seminars are free and feature a morning session from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and an evening session from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Registration is limited to the first 100 people per seminar. Lunch and dinner will be provided. Certificates from the Tennessee Fire Fighting Commission will be awarded to attendees at the completion of the course.

The goal of these seminars is for attendees to gain full ethanol emergency response training experience that they can immediately put to use in the field as well as pass along to other first response teams. A majority of this training is based on the “Training Guide to Ethanol Emergency Response,” a training package created by the Ethanol Emergency Response Coalition (EERC) that has been distributed throughout the United States and to several countries worldwide.

“We cannot take our industry’s impressive safety record with hazardous materials for granted,” said Scott Ogle, general manager of Knoxville & Holston River Railroad. “Ethanol Safety Seminars provide emergency responders with the training they need to keep their guards up and American communities safe.”

Attendees will receive in-depth information on proper training techniques that first responders and hazmat personnel need to effectively respond to an ethanol-related emergency. While primarily targeting first responders, hazmat teams, safety managers, and local emergency planning committees, it is also open to the general public.

“Ethanol Safety Seminars allow the emergency response community to maintain a level of preparedness that guarantees that the cities and towns they serve receive swift and capable responses to ethanol-related incidents,” said Kristy Moore, RFA vice president of technical services. She also noted that other Safety Seminars will be taking place in other locations this summer.

E85 Found for $1.39 Less Than Gas In Iowa

For several months, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) has been tracking wholesale E85 prices in Iowa and this week found the largest price differential since they began the E85 Price Listing Service: $1.39 per gallon less than gasoline wholesale.

Kum and Go E85 station in Stuart, IA on June 16, 2014. Price: $2.74 per gallon. Photo; Joanna Schroeder

Kum and Go E85 station in Stuart, IA on June 16, 2014. Price: $2.74 per gallon. Photo: Joanna Schroeder

On Monday, June 16, the average price of regular 87-octane gasoline without ethanol was $3.18 per gallon at the Des Moines Terminal, according to OPIS. Meanwhile, Absolute Energy, an ethanol plant in St. Ansgar, Iowa, was selling E85 for $1.79 per gallon.

“E85 is currently being sold in wholesale markets across Iowa at more than a $1.00 per gallon discount to regular gasoline, and that’s serious savings for Iowa families,” said IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “With the Summer driving season in full swing and uncertainty in the Middle East keeping oil prices elevated, using ethanol is not only helping to support the state’s economy and energy security, it’s also providing Iowa families with a much needed price break at the pump.”

E85 is a fuel blend containing between 70 and 85 percent ethanol. E85 is currently sold at more than 200 fueling sites in Iowa, and can be used in all flex-fuel vehicles (FFV). Click here to see a list of all the E85 stations in Iowa. To determine if your vehicle can use E85, please check your owner’s manual, the vehicle’s fuel cap, or click here for a list of FFVs.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFSenators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) have introduced the Energize Africa Act, legislation promoting electrification in sub-Saharan Africa. The House passed companion legislation, H.R. 2548, on May 6, 2014. The Energize Africa Act prioritizes and coordinates U.S. government resources to achieve three goals in sub-Saharan Africa by 2020: promote first-time access to electricity for at least 50 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2020; encourage the installation of at least an additional 20,000 megawatts of electrical power using a broad mix of energy options to help reduce poverty, promote sustainable development and drive economic growth; and encourage the necessary in-country reforms to make such expansion of power access possible.
  • Green Plains Inc. has announced the appointment of Mr. Gene Edwards to its board of directors effective June 19, 2014. Edwards served as Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer of Valero Energy Corporation until his retirement in April 2014.
  • A wave of new methanol plants spurred by a surplus of natural gas may lead to a glut of methanol in the US by 2018, according to a new study released by global energy news and price reporting organization Argus. The Argus JJ&A Methanol Dynamics study is a comprehensive analysis of the global methanol market with a particular focus on China—the world’s largest methanol market—and the fast-moving US industry. The study also provides a series of 20-year price forecasts for key regions, as well as a global supply and demand outlook and a production cash cost comparison of all methanol producers around the world.
  • Siva Power, a leader in advanced solar energy, today announced it has received an initial investment in a $15 million round to help scale the manufacturing of its industry-leading thin film solar technology, which can surpass the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s SunShot Initiative target of solar module cost of $0.50/watt. The company has also hired solar industry veteran Leroy Luo as president of Siva Power China to lead operations in that market.

Fight Over Clean Power Plan Gets Dirty

I’ve written a bit about the Clean Power Plan – the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed plan to reduce carbon emissions from utility plants by 30 percent by 2030. The plan has caused hope and consternation and both environmental groups and the utility industry is weighing in.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has cited a new disinformation campaign has been waged by “Big Polluters” who they say are intent on subverting the country’s first ever carbon pollution standards (aka, Clean Power Plan. In response, NRDC has launched a campaign of it’s own in response to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Study and National Mining Association (NMA) who say that putting limits on carbon will increase electricity prices. However, both the Washington Post and Denver Post have fact checked the study and claims and found some of them to be false.

“The real truth is: We need to cut the carbon pollution spewing out of power plants to protect our health and future generations. We can do this, and save people money on their electric bills even as we invest in energy efficiency that creates hundreds of thousands of new jobs,” said Peter Altman, director of NRDC’s Climate and Clean Air Campaign.

NRDC launched the ad on national television outlets and digital platforms to challenge critics of carbon pollution standards proposed on June 2 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The standards, when finalized says NRDC, can reduce carbon pollution at least 30 percent by 2030 by empowering states and utility companies to work together to make reductions in the most cost-effective way for each state.

In addition to debunking opponents’ claims, the NRDC ad goes after Big Polluters’ efforts to undermine energy efficiency initiatives in a number of states. For example, utility and fossil fuel-funded front groups peddled disinformation to attempt a freeze on Ohio’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS) and Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS) in 2014.

But ramping up energy efficiency, NRDC has shown, can help accomplish the goals of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, and help consumers. NRDC recently released an analysis showing that strong limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants could save Americans $37 billion on their electric bills and create a net 274,000 jobs. These jobs, growing mostly through investments in energy efficiency and renewables, can put to work electricians, roofers, carpenters, insulation workers, heating/air conditioning installers and heavy equipment operators, among others.

American Drivers Can Save 61 Cents Choosing E85

E85 price at Kum and Go in Adel Iowa on June 16 2014

E85 price at Kum & Go in Adel, Iowa on June 16, 2014. Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

Fuels America wants Americans to know that as turmoil in Iraq pushes gas prices up, ethanol can save them money. In an analysis of data covering the past year from E85prices.com shows that drivers with “Flex Fuel” vehicles in the U.S. can pay an average of $0.61 less per gallon by filling up with E85, which contains up to 85 percent American ethanol.

The association notes that ethanol is a higher octane fuel that improves engine performance, and that’s why it has been added to gasoline for decades. Today it is now being blended at higher levels into the fuels used throughout professional auto racing. Prices for American-grown renewable fuels like ethanol and advanced biofuels have grown increasingly competitive thanks to America’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which ensures that homegrown renewable fuels are available as an option to American consumers. In addition to saving American drivers money, the RFS has helped to support 852,000 jobs and $184.5 billion in economic output in the U.S.

The analysis of data from “E85 Prices” also revealed that drivers nationwide have at times saved as much as $0.76 per gallon at the pump over the past year by filling up on E85. And because ethanol increases the available fuel supply, it helps to drive down the price of gasoline for all drivers regardless of whether they choose a higher blend fuel like E15 or E85.

Meanwhile, violenFuels America Digital RFS adce in Iraq is driving high gas prices even higher than predicted. Fuels America notes that mere worries about oil supply issues have already helped drive world and U.S. prices to their highest levels since September. Americans could see prices for regular gasoline jump more than $0.20 per gallon over the next couple weeks as violence in Iraq continues.

Fuels America’s announcement coincides with a paid advertising campaign to highlight the consumer savings the RFS and the renewable fuels industry deliver for Americans. This week, the coalition is running digital ads that ask Americans why we should “let Big Oil pump us dry,” and call on our leaders to “invest in affordable, homegrown renewable fuels” by protecting America’s Renewable Fuel Standard.

UC Riverside Named an Energy Frontier Research Center

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Ernest Moniz has announced $100 million in new funding for 32 new Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs). The EFRCs are designed to accerlerate the scientific breakthroughs needed to build a new 21st century energy economy in the U.S. One of the new research centers will live at University of California- Riverside (UC Riverside). “Spins and Heat in Nanoscale Electronic Systems” (SHINES) will receive $12 million over four years from DOE. The lead researcher is UC Riverside Professor of Physics Jing Shi, who will work with researchers from seven universities. SHINES is one of 10 new projects announced, along with 22 other projects receiving new funding based on achievements to date.

“Today we are mobilizing some of our most talented scientists to join forces and pursue the discoveries and breakthroughs that will lay the foundation for our nation’s energy future,” Secretary Moniz said. “The funding we’re announcing today will help fuel innovation.” He said the intent of the Energy Frontier Research Centers is to make fundamental advances in solar energy, electrical energy storage, carbon capture and sequestration, materials and chemistry by design, biosciences, and extreme environments.

UC Riverside Professor Jing Shi“I am happy to hear the news,” said Shi, the UCR physics professor who has put together an interdisciplinary team of researchers from UC Riverside, UCLA, Johns Hopkins, Arizona State University, University of Texas, Austin and Colorado State University, Fort Collins. “I’m looking forward to seeing the scientific advances that they come up with,” said Michael Pazzani, UC Riverside’s Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development. “This is exactly the kind of scientific leadership that UC Riverside has been encouraging and supporting This project will lay the groundwork for energy technology for the nation.”

SHINES will investigate several aspects of basic research: new ultrathin films, nanostructured composites, high resolution imaging, the transport of electrical signals, heat and light. “All of it will be studied, modeled and simulated in order to help the nation’s ability to advance in the way we use energy,” said Shi, the lead researcher.