Approps Bill Shortchanges Rural America

According to the Agriculture Energy Coalition (AgEC), the current version of the House Appropriations Committee’s Fiscal Year 2016 Agriculture Appropriations Bill would shortchange rural America. As it currently stands, the bill would reduce mandatory spending levels for Energy Title programs including the Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP), Biomass Crop Assistance Program and the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program. In light of this, AgEC has vowed to fight the changes in mandatory spending.

Lloyd Ritter, co-director of the AgEC, said, “The renewable energy and energy efficiency programs in the Farm Bill help rural America create new manufacturing opportunities and AgEC logostable, well-paying jobs. A new report to Congress, released just yesterday, demonstrates the broad economic impact of innovative biobased technology. The biobased products industry contributes $369 billion annually to the U.S. economy and employs more than four million Americans. The more than 40,000 biobased products already on the market displace about 300 million gallons of petroleum per year, which is equivalent to taking 200,000 cars off the road. Countless wind, solar, biomass and other projects are making a major impact as well.”

Ritter continued, “Nevertheless, the House Appropriations Committee is seeking to roll back the mandatory funding levels Congress agreed to last year when passing the bi-partisan Farm Bill. For Fiscal Year 2016, the House bill proposes cutting millions from the Section 9003 program, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, and the Renewable Energy for America Program.”

“Such reductions in the mandatory funding levels that Congress previously set will undermine the ongoing effectiveness of these programs. The Agriculture Energy Coalition, comprising renewable energy, energy efficiency and agricultural groups, will continue to fight to ensure that these programs are implemented successfully,” concluded Ritter.

USDA Funds 544 REAP Projects

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded 544 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects more than $6.7 million as part of the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement at the Snake River Brewing Company, in Jackson, Wyoming. The company received a $13,810 REAP grant to install a solar panel to generate energy for the business.

srb-logo-3dThese grants will help farmers, ranchers and small business owners use more renewable energy, which cuts carbon pollution, reduces our dependence on foreign oil, saves businesses money on their energy bills and creates American jobs,” Vilsack said. “All of these are crucial components to developing healthier, more economically vibrant rural communities.”

REAP was created by the 2002 Farm Bill and was reauthorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. REAP funding has helped farmers expand renewable energy use in recent years. The new Census of Agriculture shows the number of farms utilizing renewable energy production has doubled in the last five years. Since 2009, USDA has awarded $545 million to support more than 8,800 REAP projects nationwide.

Eligible agricultural producers and rural small businesses may use REAP funds to make energy efficiency improvements or install renewable energy systems, including solar, wind, renewable biomass (including anaerobic digesters), small hydroelectric, ocean energy, hydrogen and geothermal.

USDA Restarts Biomass Crop Program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has restarted the Biomass Crop Assistance Program that provides financial assistance to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners interested in growing and harvesting biomass for renewable energy.

According to USDA, financial assistance is available through BCAP for costs associated with harvesting and transporting agriculture or forest residues to facilitibcap_logo_368es that convert biomass crops into energy. Eligible crops may include 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.

Beginning today (June 1, 2015) facilities can apply for, or renew, their BCAP qualification status. $11.5 million of federal funds will be allocated to support the delivery of biomass materials through December 2015. Last year, more than 200,000 tons of dead or diseased trees from National Forests and Bureau of Land Management lands were removed and used to produce renewable energy, while reducing the risk of forest fire. Nineteen energy facilities in 10 states participated in the program.

Financial assistance is also available to grow biomass crops that will be converted into energy in selected BCAP project areas. New BCAP project area proposals will be solicited beginning this summer and accepted through fall 2015, with new project area announcements and enrollments taking place in early spring 2016. This fiscal year USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will allocate up to $8 million for producer enrollment to expand and enhance existing BCAP project areas. The extended proposal submission period allows project sponsors time to complete any needed environmental assessments and allows producers enough lead time to make informed decisions on whether or not to pursue the BCAP project area enrollment opportunity. This fiscal year USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will allocate up to $8 million for producer enrollment to expand and enhance existing BCAP project areas.

USDA Turning Wildfire Fuel into Biofuels

usda-logoThe fuel for wildfires is being converted to biofuels. This posting on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) blog says the agency is tackling the issue of what to do with the trees killed by bark beetles, a source of fuel for forest fires. While the huge bioenergy resource (projected to be 46 million acres) has potential, it faces some real challenges, including access to industrial centers able to process it into biofuel. Several USDA programs look to overcome that issue.

One such program, the Sustainable Bioenergy Alliance Network of the Rockies (BANR), is led by Colorado State University. BANR brings together scientists, educators, and extension specialists from universities and government agencies to work with industry partners to address the major challenges that impact economical and sustainable utilization of insect-killed trees for the production of biofuels and biochar.

Because collecting beetle-killed trees is more of a salvage operation than a harvest, BANR has created teams to address the various challenges. The first order of business is locating the feedstock, which BANR does through various sensing approaches. They will also develop models to predict future beetle infestations. Another team is tackling the logistical problems of harvesting, collecting, transporting, and storing the raw biomass without negatively impacting natural forest regeneration and water resources. Specifically, goals for this aspect of the operation include benchmarking the performance of equipment used to harvest, process, and deliver beetle-killed trees, and then optimize the logistics for site conditions, specific end uses, and facility locations.

USDA also wants to educate youth by developing middle and high school science units that focus on bioenergy; professional development for K-12 teachers; research opportunities for K-12 teachers and undergraduate students; and online coursework for undergrads, graduate students, and K-12 teachers.

Renewables “Rock” U.S. Energy Growth

The SUN Day Campaign’s Ken Bossong, has noted once again that renewable energy sources are dominating the new energy landscape according to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Energy Projects. The reports shows wind and solar accounted for all new generating capacity placed in-service in April. For the month, two “units” of wind (the 300 MW Hereford-2 Wind Farm Project in Deaf Smith County, TX and the 211 MW Mesquite Creek Wind Project in Dawson County, TX) came on line in addition to six new units – totaling 50 MW – of solar.

In addition, wind, solar, geothermal, and hydropower together have provided over 84 percent (84.1%) of the 1,900 MW of new U.S. electrical generating capacity placed into service during the first third of 2015. This includes 1,170 MW of wind (61.5%), 362 MW of solar (19.1%), 45 MW of geothermal steam (2.4%), and 21 MW of hydropower (1.1%). The balance (302 MW) was provided by five units of natural gas.

Hereford Wind ProjectFERC has reported no new capacity for the year-to-date from biomass sources nor any from coal, oil, or nuclear power.

The reports finds the total contribution of geothermal, hydropower, solar, and wind for the first four months of 2015 (1,598 MW) is similar to that for the same period in 2014 (1,611 MW – in addition to 116 MW of biomass). However, for the same period in 2014, natural gas added 1,518 MW of new capacity while coal and nuclear again provided none and oil just 1 MW. Renewable energy sources accounted for half of all new generating capacity added in 2014.

“Members of Congress and state legislators proposing to curb support for renewable energy, such as Renewable Portfolio/Electricity Standards and the federal Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit, are swimming against the tide,” noted Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “With renewable energy’s clear track record of success and the ever-worsening threat of climate change, now is not the time to pull back from these technologies but rather to greatly expand investments in them.”

Today renewable energy sources now account for 17.05 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the country: water – 8.55 percent, wind – 5.74 percent, biomass – 1.38 percent, solar – 1.05 percent, and geothermal steam – 0.33 percent (for comparison, renewables were 13.71 percent of capacity in December 2010 – the first month for which FERC issued an “Energy Infrastructure Update”).

For renewable energy supporters, what may be the best news: renewable energy capacity is now greater than that of nuclear (9.14%) and oil (3.92%) combined. In fact, the installed capacity of wind power alone has now surpassed that of oil. In addition, total installed operating generating capacity from solar has now reached and surpassed the one-percent threshold – a ten-fold increase since December 2010.

Sen Udall & Friends Unveil National RES Bill

U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and friends, Edward Markey (D-MA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) has introduced a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) they say will pump nearly $300 billion into the economy while combating climate change. The bill would require utilities to generate 30 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030.

New Mexico Senator Tom Udall“A national Renewable Electricity Standard will help slow utility rate increases and boost private investment in states like New Mexico – all while combating climate change,” said Udall, who helped pass RES legislation through the U.S. House of Representatives and has continued to champion the issue as senator. “Investing in homegrown clean energy jobs just makes sense, and that’s why I’m continuing my fight for a national RES. More than half the states – including New Mexico – have widely successful RES policies, and it’s time to go all in. I’ve long pushed for a ‘do it all, do it right’ energy policy, and a RES will help us get there.”

If passed, the federal legislation would create the first national threshold for utilities to provide a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable resources, including wind, solar, biomass and others. It would set an 8 percent requirement by 2016, followed by gradual increases to meet the 30 percent by 2030 goal. More than half of the states already have renewable generation standards with specific timelines and target standards, and the legislation would not preempt stronger standards already implemented by states.

“Our record droughts, burning forests, dying fish, and melting icecaps all point to the urgency of taking on climate change,” said Merkley. “The only answer is burning less fossil fuel and moving toward renewable energy. Senator Udall’s bill would accelerate that transition and is a key to saving both our economy and our environment from the ravages of climate change.” Continue reading

Dyadic Gives Details of Biomass-to-Ethanol Program

dyadicBiotech company Dyadic International, Inc., has announced details of its program to build a large-scale biomass-to-ethanol plant. This company news release says in the 2G BIOPIC, a new advanced biofuels project funded by a $1.13 million grant from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 program, Dyadic will work in collaboration with Compagnie Industrielle de Matière Végétale (“CIMV”) and five other industry partners.

Dyadic’s Chief Operating Officer, Danai Brooks, stated, “We are pleased to continue working closely with CIMV, and believe that Dyadic’s C1 enzymes will play a critical role in the 2G BIOPIC project success. The aim of 2G BIOPIC is to demonstrate the performance, reliability and sustainability of producing bioethanol from agriculture waste and wood. The demonstration plant built in the 2G BIOPIC program will process one ton of biomass per hour, or about 50 times the size of the CIMV pilot plant upon which the project is based. Successful funding of the 2G BIOPIC program further highlights the strength of Dyadic’s C1 Expression System in the field of advanced biofuels.”

Emmanuel Dutournier, CIMV’s Chief Financial Officer, Member of the Board of Directors and 2G BIOPIC Program Coordinator, continued, “2G BIOPIC is the second EU funded program where we are collaborating with Dyadic Netherlands. The first program Biomimetic, which deals with depolymerization of our BioligninTM, opens up many opportunities and we look forward to furthering our work together with the Dyadic team. We believe that the Dyadic and CIMV technologies are highly complementary, as Dyadic’s C1 enzymes work particularly well with the purer plant material produced from CIMV’s biomass pretreatment technology.”

The grant will be paid out over three years, with the first approximately $500,000 paid up front.

Yukon Seeks Input on Biomass Energy Strategy

yukonA Canadian territory is seeking the public’s input on a biomass energy strategy. This news release from the Yukon government says wood is at the heart of the proposal.

“A biomass energy strategy will guide the development of an emerging sector that can offer yet another much-needed solution to deliver adequate energy during our long, cold winter months,” Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources Scott Kent said. “The adoption of modern, clean-burning wood-heating technology will increase demand for wood products and create new jobs in the forestry and the heating industries.”

Six key action areas are being proposed:

Using biomass energy for government infrastructure.
Developing regulations, policies and programs for a biomass energy industry.
Managing air quality to protect public and environmental health and safety.
Facilitating the development of a biomass energy industry in Yukon.
Ensuring a sustainable timber supply.
Ensuring biomass fuel quality and security.

“Using biomass for heat is a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable solution for heating in the territory,” Kent added. “The proposed action items are a clear path forward for achieving a viable, safe and clean industry that will be good for Yukon’s economy and environment. We look forward to receiving feedback from the public.”

Comments will be accepted until June 26.

Students Present Wood to Biofuels Design

Students at Washington State University have developed facility site designs for a potential liquid depot to process wood from slash piles in the Pacific Northwest. The liquid sugar can be used to produce chemical products including biofuels. Designs and findings were presented in a webinar. The students work together on real-world projects while attending the Integrated Design Experience (IDX) course that includes undergraduate and Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 3.40.17 PMgraduate students from a variety of majors at WSU and the University of Idaho.

The students are working with the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA), a WSU-led organization determining the feasibility and sustainability of using forest residuals to produce biojet fuel and other products. The Presenters described the process of turning forest residuals into liquid sugar, transportation logistics and how wastewater will be treated. A techno-economic analysis for the conversion process was also included.

The location for the sugar depot was identified as highly optimal based on a ranking of Northwest U.S. facility sites completed by IDX last semester.

“These students perform critical data gathering and analyses for the NARA project and for stakeholders,” said Karl Olsen, one of three IDX instructors and part of NARA’s education team. “Their work will be incorporated into a final supply chain analysis for the Idaho-Washington-Oregon-Montana region in 2016.”

Renewables Exceed 75% Of New Gen Capacity

Renewable energy sources including wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower provided over 75 percent of the 1,1229 MW of new electrical generating capacity that went online in first quarter of 2015. The results were published in the recent “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Energy Projects. The remaining 302 MW added was from natural gas. FERC reported no new capacity from biomass sources for the quarter nor any from coal, oil, or nuclear power.

© Kennytong | Dreamstime.com - Solar Panels And Wind Turbine Power Photo

© Kennytong | Dreamstime.com – Solar Panels And Wind Turbine Power Photo

During Q1 2015, eight new “units” of wind came online with a combined capacity of 647 MW — accounting for 52.64 percent of all new generating capacity. Solar provided 30 units (214 MW), geothermal steam provided one unit (45 MW), and hyrdropower provided one unit (21 MW). Five units of natural gas provided the new capacity from that sector.

According to the SUN DAY Campaign, the numbers for the first three months of 2015 are similar to those for the same period in 2014 when renewable energy sources (biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) provided 1,422 MW of new capacity and natural gas 159 MW while coal and nuclear provided none and oil just 1 MW. Renewable energy sources accounted for half of all new generating capacity last year.

Renewable energy sources now account for 16.92 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.: water – 8.53 percent, wind – 5.65 percent, biomass – 1.38 percent, solar – 1.03 percent, and geothermal steam – 0.33 percent. Renewable energy capacity is now greater than that of nuclear (9.11%) and oil (3.92%) combined. Moreover, as noted, total installed operating generating capacity from solar has now reached and surpassed the one-percent threshold.

“The trend lines for the past several years have been consistent and unmistakable,” said Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Each month, renewable energy sources – particularly wind and solar – increase their share of the nation’s generating capacity while those of coal, oil, and nuclear decline.”