Interior to Auction 344,000 Offshore Acres

The U.S. Department of Interior has announced the auction of 344,000 offshore acres off the coast of New Jersey for development of offshore wind projects. The lease sale will take place on November 9, 2015. Should the area be fully capitalized, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates at least 3,400 MW of wind power could be developed.

NJ-offshore wind energy MAP“On the heels of this summer’s historic ‘steel-in-the-water’ milestone for the nation’s first commercial offshore wind farm, today’s announcement marks another major step in standing up a sustainable offshore wind program for Atlantic coast communities,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “This effort took significant engagement and cooperation with New Jersey and other stakeholders to advance clean energy development and reduce potential use conflicts, which moves us closer to harnessing the enormous potential of wind energy along the Atlantic coast.”

To date, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has awarded nine commercial offshore wind leases, including seven through the competitive lease sale process (two in an area offshore Rhode Island-Massachusetts, another two offshore Massachusetts, two offshore Maryland and one offshore Virginia). These lease sales have generated about $14.5 million in winning bids for more than 700,000 acres in federal waters.

BOEM Director Abigail Ross Hopper said of the efforts to expand offshore wind in the U.S., “We are pleased to see sustained commercial interest in offshore wind development. We will continue to work closely with members of the New Jersey Renewable Energy Task Force to ensure that our intergovernmental partners remain informed on the next steps proposed by the winners of this auction.”

The New Jersey Wind Energy Area starts about seven nautical miles from shore. Click here to view a map of the Wind Energy Area.

Renewable Energy Future Postcard

Hawaii at the Energy CrossroadsThe Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) has released a new paper, “Hawai’i at the Energy Crossroads“. The report highlights the fight in Hawai’i to control and harness it’s vast renewable energy resources including solar energy. The paper demonstrates the choice between utility-promoted strategies and the distributed energy resources that are gaining ground on their own. The report also provides a “postcard” from the future for how other states can plan for a 100 renewable energy future.

Hawai’i pasted legislation early this year requiring all energy to be produced from renewable resources by 2045.

“More and more customers have easy tools to manage their own energy,” said John Farrell, director of Democratic Energy at ILSR. “Hawai’ians are demanding more opportunities to harvest and store the power of the sun on their own rooftops. Now, mainland leaders are looking toward the island state to decide whether to unlock the same opportunity.”

Ultimately, Hawai’i at the Energy Crossroads shows how outdated utility business plans and corporate takeovers can affect a state’s energy market for years to come.

Ethanol Production with Enogen Tops 1B Gallons

There are now 16 ethanol plants using Enogen corn according to Syngenta. When combined, the plants have a production capacity of more than 1 billion gallons of ethanol per year. In addition, Syngenta says there are also in talks with a number of other plants to begin using the only biotech corn designed specifically to improve ethanol production.

Enogen logoLast year, Enogen was grown on nearly 225,000 acres while in 2016 that number is expected to exceed 400,000 acres. According to Jack Bernens, head of Enogen for Syngenta, the robust alpha amylase enzyme found in Enogen corn hybrids helps an ethanol plant dramatically reduce the viscosity of its corn mash and eliminate the need to add a liquid form of the enzyme.

“This breakthrough viscosity reduction can lead to unprecedented levels of solids loading, which directly contributes to increased throughput and yield, as well as critical cost savings from reduced natural gas, energy, water and chemical usage in ethanol plants,” Bernens said. “Growers who plant Enogen corn benefit as well – they earn an average premium of 40 cents per bushel.”

Syngenta says Enogen is growing in popularity because of the value it delivers and the opportunity it provides corn growers to be enzyme suppliers for their local ethanol plants. Assuming an average yield of 165 bushels an acre, Enogen corn is expected to generate approximately $26 million of additional revenue for local growers in 2016 through per-bushel premiums. Numerous trials have shown that Enogen hybrids perform equal to or better than other high-performing corn hybrids.

“The agreements we have in place with a steadily increasing number of plants will enable them to source alpha amylase directly from growers and keep enzyme dollars in those local communities,” added Bernens. “This is what truly sets Enogen corn apart from other technologies designed to enhance ethanol production. It adds significant incremental value at the local level for communities that rely on their ethanol plant’s success.”

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.

Gravity Renewables + St. Lawrence U Ink Hydro Deal

Gravity Renewables is going to connect St. Lawrence University, located in Canton, New York, to around 4.3 kilowatt hours (kWh) of clean hydropower per year with a new agreement. The renewable, clean energy source will provide St. Lawrence University with reliably prices clean power that will help them get nearly 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources.

“Several years ago, the University made a commitment to strengthening its environmental stewardship,” said President William L. Fox ’75. “The hydro power we have committed to is one more step by St. Lawrence on that important journey.”

Gravity Renewables' Dog River Hydroelectric Facility, also known as Nantanna Mill hydro, is located in Northfield, VT. The plant was originally commissioned in 1983 and now generates approximately 650,000 kilowatt-hours of clean energy each year — enough to power nearly 100 average Vermont homes.

Gravity Renewables’ Dog River Hydroelectric Facility, also known as Nantanna Mill hydro, is located in Northfield, VT. The plant was originally commissioned in 1983 and now generates approximately 650,000 kilowatt-hours of clean energy each year — enough to power nearly 100 average Vermont homes.

The power will come from the King Falls small hydro facility in Lewis County. The dam and its power generation unit were damaged during Hurricane Irene and have been offline since 2011. This agreement will allow for the refurbishment and repair of the dam.

“St. Lawrence University is moving towards the clean energy future and utilizing one of upstate New York’s great natural resources,” said Ted Rose, CEO of Gravity Renewables. “New York is rich in sustainable small and micro hydro facilities—and agreements like this support their continued health. Hydropower’s reliability makes it a perfect fit for institutions looking to move to full carbon neutrality. ”

St. Lawrence University is fast becoming a national leader in clean energy and sustainability. In addition to clean hydropower, the university is using solar and wind energy, and implementing conservation, green building and energy efficiency in an effort to have all 100 percent of its power needs met by renewable sources.

Will Steger Wilderness Center Renewable Showcase

Will Steger, a globally renowned climate expert, has announced a major milestone toward the completion of the Will Steger Wilderness Center, that will be used as a leadership retreat center. The facility now features a stand-alone, carbon free power system that will provide electricity to buildings and workshops throughout the site located outside of Ely, Minnesota near the protected Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). The renewable power system is an extension of the Center’s focus on clean energy and the use of renewable materials and sustainable processes throughout its operation.

Photo Credit: John Ratzloff

Photo Credit: John Ratzloff

The island-mode power grid will also serve as a demonstration project intended to be a model for other off-grid power systems in remote locations.  With the completion of Phase I of this power grid, the system is now capable of providing up to 20 kilowatts of power from a combination of solar and battery sources with solar providing more than half of the energy. The system includes automated demand management capability to provide power for mission-critical functions along with a backup diesel genset for emergencies. It is designed to provide power for multiple buildings on the site and power for the construction finalization of the main retreat center building. The first pilot leadership team is expected to use the center by the fall of 2016.

A launch event will take place October 7, 2015 at the Will Steger Wilderness Center and will include a ceremonial flip of the switch to ‘power-on’ the system by key participants who have provided both technical and material resources. Cummins Power Generation provided the genset and helped in the technical design and feasibility study in the early stages of the project. Other partners include Jon Kramer, CEO of Sundial Solar; Dr. Greg Mowry, associate professor in the School of Engineering at the University of St. Thomas; tenKsolar; and BAE Batteries. Participants in the demonstration project have donated the vast majority of the material and labor for the system.

“This is an exciting time for all those who have worked to demonstrate that it is possible to have a community working with modern technology in a remote wilderness area using only self-contained and renewable energy sources,” said Will Steger, executive director of the Will Steger Wilderness Center. “The completion of the power grid is also a leap forward toward our goal of bringing leaders to a fully functioning wilderness retreat center to work on complex issues such as climate change and sustainability. We’re grateful to all of the contributors to this project who are demonstrating that it is possible to live and work on real-world problems using sustainable practices that will not deplete scarce resources.”

In addition to its future purpose as a leadership retreat center, the Will Steger Wilderness Center has been the base for more than a dozen significant expeditions including the 3,471 mile International Trans-Antarctic expedition, the first unsupported dogsled expedition to the North Pole and many other expeditions that have brought back some of the earliest eyewitness accounts of climate change in remote arctic regions.

BNEF: Wind, Solar Competing with Fossil Fuels

According to a new analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), this year has seen a shift in the generating cost comparison between renewable energy and fossil fuels. The report, “Levelised Cost of Electricity Update,” for the second half of 2015 based on extensive data and global projects shows that onshore wind and crystalline silicon photovoltaics – the two most widespread technologies- have both seen significantly reduced costs while costs have gone up for gas-fired and coal-fired generation.

The BNEF study shows finds that the global average levelised cost of electricity, or LCOE, for onshore wind nudged downwards from $85 per megawatt-hour (MWh) in the first half of the year, to $83 in the second half of the year, while that for crystalline silicon PV solar fell from $129 to $122.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance logoIn the same period, the LCOE for coal-fired generation increased from $66 per MWh to $75 in the Americas, from $68 to $73 in Asia-Pacific, and from $82 to $105 in Europe. The LCOE for combined-cycle gas turbine generation rose from $76 to $82 in the Americas, from $85 to $93 in Asia-Pacific and from $103 to $118 in EMEA.

“Our report shows wind and solar power continuing to get cheaper in 2015, helped by cheaper technology but also by lower finance costs,” said Seb Henbest, head of Europe, Middle East and Africa at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “Meanwhile, coal and gas have got more expensive on the back of lower utilisation rates, and in Europe, higher carbon price assumptions following passage of the Market Stability Reserve reform.”

Levelised costs take into account not just the cost of generating a marginal MWh of electricity, but also the upfront capital and development expense, the cost of equity and debt finance, and operating and maintenance fees.

Among other low-carbon energy technologies, offshore wind reduced its global average LCOE from $176 per MWh, to $174, but still remains significantly more expensive than wind, solar PV, coal or gas, while biomass incineration saw its levelised cost stay steady at $134 per MWh. Nuclear, like coal and gas, has very different LCOE levels from one region of the world to another, but both the Americas and the Europe, Middle East and Africa region saw increases in levelised costs, to $261 and $158 per MWh respectively.

WiSER Encourges More Women in Energy

Many initiatives were launched during the United Nations General Assembly in New York City including the launch of the Women in Sustainability, Environment and Renewable energy (WiSER) Initiative. Founded by Abu Dhabil’s-based Masdar, a renewable energy company, and the Zayed Future Energy Prize, the goal is to empower women to be catalysts of innovation and the drivers of solutions to combat issues potentially aggravated by climate change including the need for renewable energy, clean water and access to food.

“As vital members of society, women are essential to building stronger and healthier economies. Nowhere is this need more important than in achieving a sustainable economic, environmental and energy future,” said Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, United Arab Emirates Minister of State Chairman of Masdar. “WiSER aims to be both a platform for dialogue, new thinking and thought-provoking ideas, as well as a pathway for women to gain real-world experience and to build the skills necessary to be leaders of industry, and drivers of commercial solutions.”

wiser_launch__cloudDuring the launch event at the Plaza Hotel, leadership from Masdar and the Zayed Future Energy Prize unveiled key elements of the WiSER initiative designed to promote the important role that women play in industries related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). WiSER also announced that the group will convene regularly in cities around the world to encourage participation in these fields.

“The WiSER initiative plays a critical role in connecting networks and building relationships across different communities to improve decision-making for sustainable development,” said Razan Al Mubarak, Secretary General of the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD). “To meet the challenges facing the global economy, women must occupy more decision making roles in government, engineering and science in order to meet our needs.”

WiSER will partner with academic and research institutions, women’s networking groups and corporate interests in to create education and training opportunities. Masdar and the Zayed Future Energy Prize also announced the members of the WiSER Advisory Council, who will oversee the implementation of the programs under the WiSER Initiative. The Advisory Council will serve as a global reference for the initiative on women’s leadership and careers in sustainability, particularly related to energy, water and climate change.

Joule Receives EPA Cert for CO2 Ethanol

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 8.39.11 AMJoule’s fuel grade Sunflow-E ethanol has been registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for commercial use in E10 and E15 gasoline blends. The fuel is derived from recycled CO2.

“We are approaching commercialization with a technology that is first of its kind, able to convert CO2 directly into multiple drop-in fuels. It is critical to prove its readiness by meeting government and industry requirements. Having secured EPA registration, our fuel grade Sunflow-E ethanol is now cleared for use,” said Serge Tchuruk, president and CEO of Joule.

Earlier this year Joule announced the results of its third-party testing of Sunflow-E ethanol. Key results included:

  • American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) D4806 – Denatured fuel ethanol for blending with gasolines for use as automotive spark-ignition engine fuel
    German Institute for Standardization (DIN) EN 15376 – Ethanol as a blending component for petrol
  • Joule Sunflow-E ethanol is chemically identical to its traditional counterparts, but differs in the way it is produced. Joule converts CO2 to ethanol directly in a continuous process, using engineered bacteria as living catalysts rather than biomass feedstocks. At full-scale commercialization, Joule ultimately targets productivity of up to 25,000 gallons of Sunflow-E ethanol per acre annually.

Tchuruk added, “Following a full year of production at our demonstration plant, we have achieved a several-fold advance in outdoor productivity. Additionally, we have reached unprecedented levels in our lab reactors, and we know the steps required to replicate these results outdoors. This will further strengthen our position to initiate global deployment.”

Voith Hydro Completes WELP Expansion

The $900 million expansion of the 335 MW Waneta Expansion Limited Partnership (WELP), has been completed. Located near Trail, British Columbia, Canada, the project was executed by a partnership between Fortis Inc., Columbia Power Corporation and Columbia Basin Trust. Voith Hydro supplied two Francis turbines, generators, governors, exciters and various additional auxiliary systems for the project and served as the prime contractor.

Waneta Expansion Grand Opening Ribbon Cutting.

Waneta Expansion Grand Opening Ribbon Cutting.

“In 2010 when I was Energy Minister the first time, there was a vigorous debate within government about whether to allow the Waneta Expansion project to proceed,” said Bill Bennett, Minister of Energy and Mines who officially inaugurated the expansion. “I am grateful that, as a Kootenay resident, I had the opportunity at the time to ensure that this tremendous project was allowed to proceed.”

Located immediately downstream of the Waneta Dam on the Pend d’Oreille River, the Waneta Expansion adds a second powerhouse that shares the existing hydraulic head, generating clean, renewable, cost-effective power from water that would otherwise be spilled. The project also included the construction of a 10 km, 230 kV transmission line.

“The grand opening of Waneta is the culmination of many years of hard work to complete one of British Columbia’s largest infrastructure projects,” said William Malus, CEO of Voith Hydro in Canada. “With Waneta’s expansion now operational, customers across British Columbia will see even more benefits from reliable, affordable, and renewable hydropower generation.”

To celebrate WELP’s expansion, an inauguration ceremony took place that included a First Nations welcome and prayers by Chiefs and Elders of Ktunaxa Nation and Okanagan Nation, the unveiling of plaques by Minister and ribbon cutting, a powerhouse tour of the intake, the control room and walkway to service bay.