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.”

Phoenix Energy Gets $4.9 Mil Grant for Biomass

phoenixenergyA California company has received a $4.9 million grant to build one of the first forest-sourced biomass gasification plants. Phoenix Energy‘s joint venture, North Fork Community Power’s project, received the money from the California Energy Commission to build the plant, as well as funding research into the emerging field of forest biomass use.

The plant will utilize local forest biomass sustainably sourced from restoration and fuel reduction activities on local forest lands, including the Sierra National Forest. The biomass will be used to make electricity, heat and biochar – a solid carbon byproduct that is used as a soil conditioner and filter media. The project will also be one of the first projects to use forest-based fuel under California’s new SB 1122 bioenergy law.

“This project is a fantastic community story and an example of what can be accomplished with a robust a public/private partnership,” said Phoenix Energy CEO, Gregory Stangl. “In the North Fork community, a sawmill was the main employer for years, and local jobs evaporated when it closed down in the 1990’s. This facility will not only make an impact on reducing fire danger and stopping wasteful ‘pile and burn’ disposal of excess forest material, but will bring back permanent jobs to a town where the forest economy used to provide them. California is littered with communities up and down the Sierra foothills with a similar story,” continued Stangl.

The plant will be built in phases with an initial 1 MW financed mainly by the California Energy Commission grant and private and community investors.

Canadian Company Plans Biomass Pellet Plant

sustaneA clean-tech company in Canada is looking to build a $13-million commercial plant to turn biomass into pellets. This article from Halifax’s Chronicle Herald says Sustane Technologies Inc. will make the biomass pellets from landfill waste.

The demonstration plant, which would be at Chester’s Kaizer Meadow landfill, is slated to be operational in mid-2016.

Warden Allen Webber said Tuesday that Sustane CEO Peter Vinall approached the municipality about six months ago about helping to commercialize the technology.

“At that point in time, he was really looking to attract our waste to a facility he intended to build in another municipal unit,” Webber said in an interview.

“We met with him on several occasions and convinced him that the most appropriate location would be Chester because we owned a landfill and did control 30,000 tonnes of waste, both of which he needed.”

The plant would take about 40 percent of the waste in the landfill and convert it into the fuel pellets, and the technology is hoped to save municipalities 20 percent in the landfill and disposal costs.

Researchers Build Biomass for Batteries

uhouston1Researchers at the University of Houston have discovered a polymer made from biomass that could end up being a key ingredient in a new organic material battery. This article from the school says the discovery promises a low-cost, environmentally friendly energy source.

The discovery relies upon a “conjugated redox polymer” design with a naphthalene-bithiophene polymer, which has traditionally been used for applications including transistors and solar cells. With the use of lithium ions as dopant, researchers found it offered significant electronic conductivity and remained stable and reversible through thousands of cycles of charging and discharging energy.

The breakthrough, described in the Journal of the American Chemical Society and featured as ACS Editors’ Choice for open access, addresses a decades-long challenge for electron-transport conducting polymers, said Yan Yao, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the UH Cullen College of Engineering and lead author of the paper.

Researchers have long recognized the promise of functional organic polymers, but until now have not been successful in developing an efficient electron-transport conducting polymer to pair with the established hole-transporting polymers. The lithium-doped naphthalene-bithiophene polymer proved both to exhibit significant electronic conductivity and to be stable through 3,000 cycles of charging and discharging energy, Yao said.

The researchers say the discovery opens the door for cheaper alternatives to traditional inorganic-based energy devices, including lithium batteries, and could make for cheaper electric cars one day.

California Firm Buys Connecticut Biomass Plant

plainfieldA California firm has bought a biomass plant in Connecticut. This article from the Sacramento Business Journal says Greenleaf Power has agreed to buy the 37.5-megawatt Plainfield Renewable Energy plant.

Greenleaf did not disclose a value for the transaction, which is expected to close later this year. But the Washington Post reported the sale price was $30 million in cash and $80 million in secured notes. The seller was Leidos Holdings Inc. of Reston, Va.

Plainfield becomes Greenleaf’s sixth plant, along with facilities in Mecca, Tracy, Humboldt County, Susanville and Quebec City. The acquisition brings Greenleaf’s total renewable energy capacity to more than 180 megawatts.

The plant in Connecticut opened at the end of 2013 and burns waste wood. The plan is to sell the electricity to Connecticut Light and Power under a long-term agreement.

Proposed Oregon Biomass Plant Seeks Energy Buyer

oregonflagA proposed biomass plant in Oregon is getting closer to getting off the ground, if it can just find a buyer for the energy it produces. This article from The Columbian says the city of La Pine could get a wood-burning power plant.

“It’s just been on hold due to market conditions,” said Rob Broberg, president of Biogreen Sustainable Energy Co. “And we plan on holding out until we are able to market and sell power.”

The company must find an energy buyer to make the planned plant economically viable, said Rick Allen, La Pine city manager.

“They need to find a power company that wants to buy their power,” he said. “That’s really the issue.”

The $75 million, 25-megawatt biomass plant would produce enough electricity to power about 19,000 homes, Broberg said. The plant would burn wood — limbs and other scrap left over after logging, debris from thinning projects and urban waste — to heat water, create steam and turn a turbine.

Biogreen has been trying to build a biomass plant in the forest-surrounded city of La Pine for more than five years.

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.”

Researchers Combine Biomass, Solar Conversion

Photo: UW-Madison Chemistry Department

Photo: UW-Madison Chemistry Department

University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers have come up with a new approach to combine solar energy conversion and biomass conversion.

In a study published this week in Nature Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison chemistry Professor Kyoung-Shin Choi and postdoctoral researcher Hyun Gil Cha discussed their research to split water into hydrogen, a clean fuel, and oxygen using photoelectrochemical solar cells (PECs).

They developed a novel PEC setup with a new anode reaction. This anode reaction requires less energy and is faster than water oxidation while producing an industrially important chemical product. The anode reaction they employed in their study is the oxidation of 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) to 2,5-furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA). HMF is a key intermediate in biomass conversion that can be derived from cellulose — a type of cheap and abundant plant matter. FDCA is an important molecule for the production of polymers.

“When we first started this study, we were not sure whether our approach could be really feasible,” Choi says. “However, since we knew that the impact of the study could be high when successful, we decided to invest our time and effort on this new research project at the interface of biomass conversion and solar energy conversion.”

Read more from UMW.

UK Opens Its Largest Biomass Plant

RWEbiomassThe largest biomass plant in the United Kingdom has opened in Scotland and promises to help the UK meet a goal of 11 percent of non-electrical heat demand by renewable sources by 2020. This story from the BBC says the RWE Markinch Biomass plant in Glenrothes replaces the former 1950s coal and gas-fired power station on the site of Tullis Russell.

It represents a reduction in fossil fuel-related carbon dioxide emissions by around 250,000 tonnes per annum,

The new facility is already providing all of Tullis Russell’s electricity and steam requirements, with excess electricity generation being fed into local networks.

Paul Coffey, chief operating officer at RWE Innogy, said: “RWE has taken biomass combined heat and power technology in the UK to the next level.

“The Markinch plant is providing Tullis Russell with a state-of-the art low carbon power source, and exporting enough energy into the local network to power around 45,000 homes.

“With a multi-million pound investment and over 2.6 million man hours spent constructing the plant we’re delighted it is fully operational and has surpassed efficiency targets for energy production and emissions.”

The project was started in 2009 with construction completed in 2014.