USDA Offers Incentives for Biomass for Energy

usda-logoEnrollment is underway for farmers and forest landowners to get financial assistance for growing new sources of biomass for energy or biobased products. This U.S.Department of Agriculture (USDA) news release says the money comes from the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP).

Biomass energy facilities or groups of producers may submit proposals for new BCAP project areas. Proposals will be accepted on www.grants.gov through Nov. 6, 2015. USDA will also allocate $7.7 million towards four existing BCAP project areas in New York, North Carolina, Ohio/Pennsylvania and Kansas/Oklahoma, targeting the establishment of an additional 10,500 acres of shrub willow, giant miscanthus, and switchgrass for energy. Project area sponsors include Chemtex International, Aloterra Energy LLC, Abengoa Biomass LLC and ReEnergy Holdings LLC. Farmers and forest landowners may enroll for biomass establishment and maintenance payments for these four sites through Sept. 25, 2015.

In June, USDA began accepting applications from foresters and farmers seeking financial assistance for removing biomass residues from fields or national forests for delivery to energy generation facilities; the deadline for those applications is Sept. 4, 2015. The retrieval payments are provided at a cost-share match of $1 for $1 up to $20 per dry ton with eligible crops including corn residue, diseased or insect infested wood materials, or orchard waste. The energy facility must first be approved by USDA to accept the biomass crop, and deliveries to the facilities can continue until Dec. 11, 2015.

So far, BCAP has provided incentives for producers across more than 48,000 acres in 71 counties and 11 different project areas.

College Works on Bio-Inspired Fuel Cell

Koylu-UmitResearchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology are working on developing fuel cells made from natural, biological sources. This article from the school says Dr. Umit Koylu, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, has received a six-month $50,000 Innovation Corps Teams (I Corps) Program grant from the National Science Foundation to accelerate tech-transfer and explore commercialization of a biology-inspired polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell.

“Nature perfected its natural delivery system,” Koylu says, glancing out his window. “Our team of researchers came up with an engineering version of it.”

The technology was developed during four years of research led by Dr. Ming Leu, the Keith and Pat Bailey Missouri Distinguished Professor of Integrated Product Manufacturing and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Missouri S&T.

Koylu currently works with Dr. John W. Sheffield, visiting associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, who is professor emeritus of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Missouri S&T; and post-doctoral Missouri S&T researcher Dr. Warren Vaz.

To get useable energy out of fuel cells, they have to be stacked together, which takes up a lot of space to produce minimal results. However, the bio-inspired fuel cells are expected to increase peak power density by up to 30 percent over conventional fuel cells, Koylu says. That means bio-inspired cells would take up less space than current models, or more could be stacked in the same amount of space, increasing power.

The research is set to end in December.

Need Biomass? There’s an App for That

Genera Energy has developed a biomass app to use as a crop planning and learning tool for biomass farmers and landowners. The Biomass app has multiple features including a biomass crop library complete with detailed information, photos and range maps for the most utilized biomass crops in the U.S., along with the ability to overlap crop ranges in a live, interactive map function.

Genera-Logo-150x75“We are very pleased with the Biomass app’s features,” said Sam Jackson, vice president of business development for Genera Energy, Inc. “The information that the app is built on is the result of years of research and development in the biofuels management industry.”

According to the company, another key function, is a multi-function biomass calculator that helps the user determine how much biomass they’ll need for their specific situation, including conversion technology, conversion rate, and location. The results can then be emailed to the user. People wishing to convert biomass to biofuels, biochemical, bioproducts, or biopower, the app will provide realistic projections and crop suggestions based on actual, in-the-field studies and crop outcomes.

Jackson added, “Probably the most important aspect in developing the app was working directly with biomass producers, project developers, and policy makers across the different aspects of the industry. This helped us to develop an app specifically targeted to what users actually needed and wanted.”

The free version of the app is available for both Apple- and Android-based devices. Visit the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store from your phone to download.

Williamsburg Students Win BioenergizeME Challenge

BioenergizeME Infographic Challenge winning team from Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design. From left to right: Nicholas Shannon, Najee Neil, Xavier Abreu Negron, Alfredo Sanchez III and Victor Perry. Photo credit: Joanna Schroeder

BioenergizeME Infographic Challenge winning team from Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design. From left to right: Nicholas Shannon, Najee Neil, Xavier Abreu Negron, Alfredo Sanchez III and Victor Perry. Photo credit: Joanna Schroeder

The future looks bright for the bioenergy industry as the next generation is already showing great enthusiasm and talent for sustainable fuels and products. This past spring, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) kicked off a pilot program for high school aged teams (grades 9-12) to use technology and their creative mojo to design bioenergy-based infographics. The BioenergizeME Infographic Challenge theme was “Exploring the Future of American Energy Landscape,” and the winner was announced during the BioEnergy 2015 Conference to great applause.

The wBioEnergizeME infographic challenge winnerinning team was a group of 14 year old freshman students from Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design located Brooklyn, New York: Nicholas Shannon, Najee Neil, Xavier Abreu Negron, Alfredo Sanchez III and Victor Perry. There were 76 teams that submitted entries and 50 teams shared their infographics through social media channels including Facebook and Twitter garnering more than 12,000 page views. Infographics from all competitors can be viewed on the BioenergizeME Infographic Challenge Map.

Teams were given four topic areas to choose from: Bioenergy History, Workforce and Education, Science and Technology and Environmental Impacts. Once a team selected their topic area, they conducted research and then developed an infographic that visually explained a specific area within a topic such as cellulosic energy or how algae is used to produce biofuels. With the success of the program, the BioenergizeME Infographic Challenge will be rolled out nationwide next spring.

View the 2015 BioEnergy 2015 photo album. 

Schroeder to Participate in Bioenergy 2015

bio2015Domestic Fuel’s own Joanna Schroeder will be part of next week’s U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Bioenergy Technologies Office’s (BETO) eighth annual conference “Bioenergy 2015: Opportunities in a Changing Energy Landscape.” She’ll be in Washington, D.C., moderating the session titled, “Reaching Your Stakeholders: Effectively Engaging and Educating Key Audiences,” on the second day of the June 23-24 conference.

This session focuses on demonstrated communication strategies and tactics to engage and educate key audiences—such as the general public, communities, policy makers, and investors—on bioenergy. Panelists, through a facilitated discussion, will provide attendees with unique insights, success stories, and best practices and lessons learned that improved public perception of bioenergy at local, regional, and national levels.

About 600 participants are expected to attend the conference, including key stakeholders from the bioenergy industry, Congress, national laboratories, academia, and the financial community. Some of the other issues they’ll discuss include:

– Impact of changing oil prices
– Vehicle/fuels co-optimization
– Future of the Renewable Fuel Standard
– Environmental benefits of biofuels
– Innovative technologies and emerging pathways
– U.S. manufacturing in a global marketplace.

Check out the full agenda here.

Novozymes Part of Global Bioenergy Initiative

sustainableA new UN Sustainable Energy for All initiative was announced this week with the goal of “doubling the global use of renewable energy and ensuring universal energy access by 2030.”

Co-chaired by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials, the initiative includes Novozymes, a global technology provider for the biofuels industry, as a partner in the project to scale up the development and deployment of sustainable bioenergy solutions.

novozymes“With this initiative, we help bring together a diverse range of global frontrunners to advance the development and use of sustainable bioenergy in countries where the environmental and socio-economic benefits are greatest,” said Thomas Videbæk, Executive Vice President for Business Development with Novozymes. “It is a unique chance to involve governments, industry, financial institutions, academia, and civil society to identify opportunities where action on sustainable bioenergy can be accelerated.”

Accounting for nearly half of the global enzyme market, Novozymes has been a major player in the commercial development of cellulosic ethanol. “We produce the enzymes that help break down starch and make sugar available for first generation ethanol and we are working on a number of projects to help breakdown cellulosic material,” said Videbæk in an interview today with DomesticFuel.

Videbæk says next generation biofuels are considered “sustainable bioenergy” under the initiative’s High Impact Opportunity (HIO) goals. “I look at the biofuel area, be it first or second generation, as very sustainable forms of energy,” said Videbæk. “We certainly hope to see that continues going forward.”

Which is one of the reasons Novozymes wanted to be part of this initiative that they hope will help get some regulatory clarity regarding sustainable bioenergy around the world, including the United States. “And we can get politicians to commit to mandates and targets for this type of energy, because we believe that is for the best of the planet’s future,” Videbæk said.

In this interview, Videbæk explains much more about the new initiative and Novozymes’ role in it. Interview with Thomas Videbæk, Novozymes

USDA Presents Climate Change Initiative

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and presidential advisor Brian Deese visited Michigan State University Thursday to announce a comprehensive national strategy to partner with farmers, ranchers and forest land owners to address the threat of climate change. The new initiative, “Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture & Forestry”, will utilize voluntary, incentive-based conservation, forestry, and energy programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase carbon sequestration and expand renewable energy production in the agricultural and forestry sectors.

climate-vilsack“American farmers and ranchers are leaders when it comes to reducing carbon emissions and improving efficiency in their operations. That’s why U.S. agricultural emissions are lower than the global average,” said Vilsack. “Through incentive-based initiatives, we can partner with producers to significantly reduce carbon emissions while improving yields, increasing farm operation’s energy efficiency, and helping farmers and ranchers earn revenue from clean energy production.”

Vilsack outlined details of the ten USDA Building Blocks for Climate Action, which includes promoting renewable energy technologies and improving energy efficiency. “We’ve incentivized the shift from fossil-based energy to renewable sources of energy in rural communities,” said Vilsack. “According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, 57,299 farms reported using a renewable energy producing system in 2012. That’s more than double the 23,451 operations that reported the same in 2007.”

The Secretary also talked about the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) and the funding of anaerobic digesters to help farm operations produce electricity from captured methane.

Vilsack announcement on climate change initiative

New Report Highlights Bioenergy’s Sustainability

SCOPEA new report shows the positive relationship between bioenergy and sustainability. The research from the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) and developed under the aegis of the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) is based on more than 2,000 references and major studies taking a comprehensive look at the current bioenergy landscape, technologies and practices.

Considering an extensive evaluation of current bioenergy resources status, systems and markets, potential sustainable expansion and wider adoption of this renewable resource the authors highlight recommendations for policy and deployment of bioenergy options: liquid biofuels, bioelectricity, biogas, heat, bio-based chemicals.

This assessment is a collective effort with contributions from more than 130 experts from 24 countries, encompassing scientific studies ranging from land use and feedstocks, to technologies, impacts, benefits and policy.

The authors considered how bioenergy expansion and its impacts perform on energy, food, environmental and climate security, sustainable development and the innovation nexus in both developed and developing regions. The report also highlights numbers, solutions, gaps in knowledge and suggests the science needed to maximize bioenergy benefits.

The panel discussion with the release of the report included experts from academia, industry and NGOs presenting and discussing the current status and trends in biomass production and its possible implications for policy, communication and innovation strategies for a sustainable future.

U of Iowa Selects REPREVE Renewables

The University of Iowa has selected REPREVE RENEWABLES to provide agricultural and business development services for their Biomass Fuel Project. The goal of the project it to assess and improve environmental aspects of new and existing biomass crops and subsequent fuels. In addition, REPREVE RENEWABLES’ perennial grass, giant miscanthus, will be used to power the U of I’s power plant, whose has a goal of using 40 percent renewable energy by 2020.

REPREVE RENEWABLES will employ its Accu Yield System – a proprietary, precision agricultural system, to plant and establish giant miscanthus. repreveAccording to the company, use of the Accu Yield System reduces the cost of establishment and increases yields, two factors that will make this project economically feasible.

REPREVE RENEWABLES will move forward by securing land commitments for 2,500 acres in the Iowa City area, including the Eastern Iowa Airport where giant miscanthus will be grown to improve soil and water quality by reducing soil erosion.

“The University of Iowa is a leader in sustainability, just as REPREVE RENEWABLES is a trailblazer in biomass production and logistics,” said Jeff Wheeler, CEO of REPREVE RENEWABLES. “The Biomass Fuel Project provides the opportunity to achieve breakthrough renewable energy solutions. Working as a team with the local community, we can create new revenue sources for farmers and landowners, improve the soil, mitigate erosion and runoff, and increase the use of renewable energy to reduce the carbon footprint. We are honored to be a part of the University’s 2020 Vision.”

CH2M Hill Involved In Seawater Bioenergy Facility

A pilot-scale bioenergy facility that will use seawater irrigated desert land to produce both bioenergy and food in the water is under development in Masdar City. The Integrated Seawater Energy and Agriculture System (ISEAS) involves a complete seawater agricultural system that will serve as a research and development facility for Masdar Institute (MI) of Science and Technology and the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC). The project is expected to be operational in late summer.

Dr. Alejandro Ríos, Director, Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium, noted, “This project has potential for groundbreaking innovation, particularly considering the unique conditions in Abu Dhabi’s environment. CH2M HILL has assembled a world-class team of engineers to tackle this very interesting challenge, and we at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology are confident that the engineering expertise that has gone into the design of the pilot facility will enable such innovation.”

Growing_sustainable_sbrc_enCH2M HILL was commissioned last year to provide technical support and to design a sophisticated pilot-scale facility of the ISEAS on designated land in Masdar City. CH2M HILL said they worked closely during the design phase with MI and SBRC to refine the technical aspects of the new facility, with the intention of an innovative sustainable system that will serve as a research and development facility for MI and SBRC.

A significant aspect of the new pilot-scale facility is the use of seawater to produce water stock to grow seafood, mainly fish and shrimp, (aquaculture) for human consumption and Salicornia plants for fuel and byproduct production. The plants thrive in arid, desert conditions and do not require fresh water or arable land to grow. The effluent is diverted into cultivated mangroves that are used for water treatment and biomass production, removing nutrients and providing valuable carbon storage.

“CH2M HILL is proud of our involvement with this notable pilot research project and of our successful partnership with MI and the SBRC. The project team has not only created an innovative biofuel project to address challenges of energy and water security, but is also playing an essential role in supporting the advancement of sustainable biofuel research in the UAE,” said Neil Reynolds, CH2M HILL’s regional managing irector for Middle East, North Africa and India (MENAI).