Growth Supports Next Energy Generation

The next generation of renewable energy, and by extension agricultural experts, are in college and now have an opportunity for some financial support. Growth Energy is providing $90,000 in scholarships over the next three years to students majoring in agricultural education.  The “Upper Division” scholarships will be awarded by the National Association of Agricultural Education and given to students during their student teaching appointments.

NAAE logo“Student teaching can be a financial strain on agricultural education majors,” said Dr. Wm. Jay Jackman, NAAE executive director. “They spend every day teaching, so they are essentially working a full-time job with no pay. There is a national shortage of agriculture teachers, so anything we can do to help students finish their degree and get into the classroom is critical.”

Previously, NAAE’s Upper Division Scholarships were $750 each, and approximately 15 were given each year. Growth Energy’s gift means that the scholarship amounts will be doubled, and beginning in 2016, more of these larger scholarships will be awarded.

Tom Buis, co-chair of Growth Energy added, “There is nothing more important to the future of agriculture than those who wish to enter a career that will help further the innovation, promise and bounty of America’s farmers. American agriculture and those invested in it are the backbone of this nation and Growth Energy is thrilled to help support the future leaders of this industry. We are thrilled to help support those who will write the next great chapter of American excellence by providing food, feed and fuel to move our nation forward.”

Growth Energy’s gift is a special project of the National FFA Foundation.

Coal-fired Plant in MO Soon to Burn Biomass

columbiawaterlightA Central Missouri coal-burning power plant that’s been around for more than 100 years will soon get new life using biomass as its fuel. This story from KOMU-TV says Columbia Water and Light’s Municipal Power Plant burned its last coal on Sept. 22 and is undergoing changes to burn the cleaner biomass.

[Columbia Water and Light spokesperson Connie] Kacprowicz said Columbia’s energy efficiency initiative is part of the reason the plant is undergoing changes. In 2004, voters passed the energy mandate before the city council increased the percentages. The ordinance says Columbia must generate 15 percent of its electric sales from renewable sources by 2018. The percentages jump to 25 percent by 2023 and 30 percent by 2029. Kacprowicz said Water and Light is experimenting with several alternatives to coal.

“Our plans at this point are to test out more biomass, which is an approved renewable resource according to Columbia’s ordinance,” Kacprowicz said. “But you can’t just all of a sudden switch from coal to biomass.”

Kacprowicz said the city must either find a biomass that mimics coal or switch out some of the equipment at the plant. The plant was burning small amounts of wood, a type of biomass source, in addition to its coal production.

Christian Johanningmeier, the power production superintendent, said the plant’s experience burning wood makes it a good candidate as an alternative energy source.

“We are looking at converting one of our boilers to 100 percent wood,” Johanningmeier said. “We have lots of years of experience burning the wood and we know that’s a good fuel, it’s readily available and it seems like it works good for us.”

Maine Biomass Plant Gets $500K USDA Grant

woodpelletsA Maine-based power plant is getting $556,520 in U.S. Department of Agriculture grants. This article from BDN Maine says Athens Energy is getting the money to build a new biomass-fueled power generator that runs on wood waste from logging and timberland thinning operations.

The USDA said the proposed Athens biomass plant would produce enough electricity to power about 5,409 homes. It would use $56,520 of the award to use waste heat from the biomass generator to dry wood chips at an adjacent pellet plant, owned by a sister company.

The agency also gave $500,000 to a subsidiary of the company Village Green Ventures, VGBLADS LLC, to build an anaerobic digester that can produce enough electricity to power 727 homes.

USDA also awarded grants to a dozen other rural Maine businesses, mostly to install roof-mounted or sun-tracking pole-mounted solar panels.

Biomass Powers Military Base to Self Reliance

FtdrumA military installation in Upstate New York is now being powered by its own biomass power plant. This article from the Watertown Daily Times says Fort Drum is now officially connected to its on-post ReEnergy biomass plant.

“We’re the only post in the Army that’s self-reliant for energy right now,” Maj. Gen. Jeffrey L. Bannister, the 10th Mountain Division’s commander, said during a media round-table on post Thursday.

He noted the plant was one area in which the post relied on the community to be more cost-efficient.

The direct connection work, ensuring that all power systems interacted correctly, was estimated to cost about $12 million. ReEnergy CEO Larry D. Richardson said the project was a complex effort that required coordination among the Army, the post, National Grid and its own engineers.

“This is not a typical project that’s done every day,” Mr. Richardson said.

He said the direct connection from the plant to the post’s substation was a milestone for the company.

A year ago, the military inked a 20-year, nearly $300 million contract with ReEnergy, the largest such deal in Army history. The biomass plant replaced a coal-fired plant on the post.

Penn State, Ernst Biomass to Hold Open House

PennStateextMore information on growing switchgrass and turning biomass into energy will be available today as Penn State Extension, Ernst Biomass, and the PA Biomass Energy Association hold a free open house and tour of the biomass production and pelleting facility at Ernst Biomass in Meadville, Pennsylvania, starting at 12:30 pm today.

– See new varieties of switchgrass being tested for this region.
– Visit the largest grass-pellet plant in the Northeast.
– Tour the seed processing and storage facilities used for over 400 varieties of biomass and conservation plants.
– Check out educational displays on biomass and energy.
– Have a cup of coffee and share your questions and ideas with renewable energy specialists.

More information is available here.

New Holland Hero Growing for Energy

This year during the Expo Milano New Holland announced its “heros” as part of its “Seeds of Life Series“. One such hero was Brazilian Victor Campenelli, who grows 37,000 acres of corn and sugarcane and also has a cattle operation in Southern Brazil. Looking in to the future, Victor is looking forward to building a power plant utilizing cane straw.

brazil-victorHe works as part of his family business dating back to 1982. Since 2002 their main crops are sugarcane, cattle and corn. He was proud to be a winner because he feels that it helps farmers in his country gain more respect for the work they do to feed, fuel and power the country.

Victor also noted that one thing Brazil hasn’t really capitalized is producing power from biomass. They have completed a project where the plant is able to produce 30 MW per hour and about 240,000 MW per year just using cane straw, a material he said is like trash, its just left behind on the field. He added that it’s good for the land because they only take a portion of the biomass from the field and the remaining cane straw puts organic matter back in the soil and protects from erosion.

There are plans to develop additional power plants using cane straw.

Listen to Cindy interview with Victor Campenelli here: New Holland Hero Victor Campanelli from Brazil

2015 New Holland Heroes & Bloggers Days

Alliance BioEnergy Converts Coastal Hay to Sugar

Ek Laboratories, located in Longwood, Florida, has achieved a 63 percent conversion of Coastal Hay, at commercial scale, into fermentable sugars in less than 30 minutes. The Alliance BioEnergy Plus subsidiary used it licensed and patented mechanical/chemical CTS (Cellulose to Sugar) process.

Coastal HayAccording to Ek Laboratories, unlike most cellulose to sugar technologies, their CTS process does not use liquid acids, applied heat or pressure, enzymes, super critical waters, expensive precious metal lined with equipment or any hazardous materials. The company also says that also unlike other CTS processes, their technology can covert virtually any cellulose material into fermentable sugars in one step in just minutes.

As such, says Ek Laboratories, for the first time, biofuel producers will be able profitably produce cellulosic ethanol, diesel and other biofuels without subsidies.

“We have completely redesigned and custom manufactured the mill and went from 1g in the lab to a mill capable of processing 2,500kg (2.5mt) a day, in a single leap, while seeing the efficiency and conversion rates increase and energy consumption decrease,” explains Dr. Peter Cohen, Director of Analytics at Ek Labs. Unlike traditional chemical processes or industrial scaling, this is a mechanical process where the chemistry happens thousands of times at a micro scale by a kinetic process therefore aided by size and increased impact pressure.

Cohen noted that they should see 70 to 80 percent conversion rates by the time they are finished with the first commercial plant for sub-license RRDA in early 2016. The plant is in construction in Georgia and will convert 1,000mt a day of yellow pine waste and Vidalia onion waste. He added that existing plants can easily be converted to the CTS process.

Aemetis Harvests Record Sorghum Crop in Cali

Aemetis has announced the harvest of sorghum grown in Central California that grew between 12-15 feet tall. The 20 acre demonstration crop was grown using proprietary Nexsteppe seed genetics and harvested in 90 days by Aemetis. The water supply for the sorghum was lower quality pump water containing salts that typically damage crops in western San Joaquin Valley, an area with little water allocation for ag crops. The sorghum will be used to produce advance biofuels.

Aemetis California biomass plant“Nexsteppe’s sorghum is uniquely capable of growing a large amount of biomass in a short period of time using land that lacks quality water and where other plants may not grow,” said Eric McAfee, Chairman and CEO of Aemetis. “Biomass sorghum can be converted to cellulosic ethanol or a variety of other renewable fuels through various available technologies. Aemetis has already processed about 80 million pounds of grain sorghum at its Keyes biorefinery, producing lower-carbon fuel ethanol.”

The company is also a participant of the California In-State Sorghum program (CISS) through a $3 million grant awarded by the California Energy Commission. The CISS program combines research and market development to support the in-state growth of grain sorghum as a reliable low-carbon feedstock for California’s ethanol producers. The CISS program has just completed the first harvest of grain sorghum at the CSU Fresno International Center for Water Technology.

Aemetis’ 60 million gallon per year ethanol plant in California converts sugars to biofuels. The company has a multi-year strategy to transition its biofuel production from traditional starch-based feedstocks to renewable biomass feedstocks that can produce low-carbon, advanced biofuels. The transition is expected to evolve from corn to grain sorghum and ultimately to biomass sorghum and agricultural wastes available in California.

Anna Rath, CEO of NexSteppe, added, “Growing high-yield biomass sorghum in California is a milestone in the production of low-carbon feedstocks for biofuels. NexSteppe is focused on designing industrial sorghum feedstock solutions to support the growing biobased economy.”

UPM BioVerno Diesel Reduces Tailpipe Emissions

Studies have found that wood-based UPM BioVerno significantly reduces harmful tailpipe emissions. Several engine and vehicle tests were conducted by a number of research institutes including VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, University of Vaasa in Finland and at FEV, an internationally recognized vehicle engineering company based in Germany.

UPM BiofuelsThe Finnish company’s renewable diesel functions just like conventional diesel in all diesel engines yet it generates up to 80 percent less greenhouse gas emissions during its lifecycle compared to conventional fossil diesel fuels, as found by the research.

According to the study, the renewable diesel also reduces harmful tailpipe emissions including particle mass, hydrocarbon, carbon dioxide, nitrogeous oxide and carbon monoxide emissions, but the percentage of reduction varied based on vehicle technology and blend. However, all tests demonstrated similar or improved efficiency of the engine, without compromising the engine power, when UPM BioVerno was introduced to the fuel blend. In addition, it was found that by using 100 percent UPM BioVerno diesel fuel consumption decreased.

FEV Germany carried out a series of tests on UPM BioVerno’s effect on engine functionality and emissions with both a diesel blend containing 30 percent UPM BioVerno and 100 percent UPM BioVerno diesel. In addition to measuring engine output and fuel consumption, the tests focused on tailpipe emissions and the performance of UPM BioVerno compared with conventional diesel.

“UPM BioVerno renewable diesel was investigated in a screening campaign at FEV Germany. The results showed that even as a 30% blending component, the accumulated HC emissions were reduced by more than 50% and the CO emissions by more than 40% compared to reference fossil diesel. Our tests also showed good results in NOx emissions and efficiency,” said Dr. Ing Thorsten Schnorbus, manager passenger car diesel, FEV.

UPM BioVerno was also tested in University of Vaasa, Finland using a heavy duty engine. These experiments were performed in the Technobothnia Education and Research Centre in Vaasa.

U of W Research Converts Poplar Trees to Biofuels

New research from the University of Washington is laying the foundation to use woody biomass from poplar trees into sustainably produced biofuels and biochemicals. A five-year $40 million dollar study funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is in its last year and results will seed a wood-based cellulosic ethanol production facility.

Poplar materials, including bark, leaves and wood, are used to make cellulosic ethanol.Dennis Wise/University of Washington

Poplar materials, including bark, leaves and wood, are used to make cellulosic ethanol.Dennis Wise/University of Washington

ZeaChem, one of the industry partners in the study, is moving ahead with plans to build a commercial production facility in Boardman, Oregon, in 2016 that will produce cellulosic ethanol and biochemicals from poplar trees grown specially for those industries.

“We’ve established that poplar is a viable and sustainable feedstock for the production of fuels and bio-based chemicals,” said Rick Gustafson, a UW professor of bioresource science and engineering, who leads the project. “We’ve provided fundamental information that our industry partners can use to convince investors that production of fuels and chemicals from poplar feedstock is a great investment.”

The research team is known as the Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest and they have set up five demonstration tree farms with different varieties of poplar. None of the trees is genetically engineered, but instead researchers bred them to thrive in different environments and to grow fast. The trees can gain up to 20 feet a year, allowing for a harvest every two or three years.

When a poplar tree is cut, its stump naturally sprouts new shoots and the next generation of trees grow out of the parent stumps. Each tree can go through about six cycles of this regrowth before new poplars must be planted, explained Gustafson. Continue reading