U.S. Toyota Makes Cars with ‘Green’ Gas

Toyota will soon be manufacturing cars with “green” gas. The company announced its efforts to nearly eliminate all CO2 emissions from its factories and vehicles and will achieve this, in part, with electricity produced from methane. The “green” gas, also known in some instances as renewable natural gas, is a byproduct of trash decomposition from the nearby Central Kentucky Landfill.

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 12.26.51 AM“We will generate one megawatt (1 million watts) per hour at the site,” said Toyota’s environmental strategies manager Dave Absher. “That’s enough annual energy generation to produce approximately 10,000 vehicles. The system can eventually be scaled up to 10 megawatts per hour.”

Toyota has announced aggressive global emission reduction goals for all of its production plants as well as for the cars they produce. This year the company launched the Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle and has made the technology available for use by other automakers. In addition, they are developing manufacturing technologies that also use hydrogen as a power source within their plants. The company has also integrated other renewable energy power sources including wind, solar and locally produced renewable energy. Toyota hopes to reach its zero emissions goal by 2050.

“The landfill gas generator represents the kind of thinking that our company is asking us to do to reduce our carbon footprint over the next 35 years,” said Kevin Butt, Toyota’s general manager for environment strategies. “It’s a small step, but a significant one. These types of changes to our manufacturing operations coupled with other global initiatives will help us reach this very aggressive goal.” Continue reading

ARF Releases 2016 Prez Candidate Midterm Report

America’s Renewable Future (ARF) released a 2016 Presidential Candidate midterm report card today during a press call putting candidates into three categories: good, needs work and bad. Scores were based on the candidates’ support of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and ethanol in particular. Candidates who received good grades included Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump (who is visiting an ethanol plant in Gowrie, Iowa this week), Bernie Sanders, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Chris Christie, Lindsay Graham, George Pataki, and Martin O’Malley.

The midterm report was published to serve as a guide for voters come February 1, 2016 to understand where candidates stand on biofuels.

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

“Ethanol and the RFS are top concerns for Iowa caucus-goers and Americans everywhere, because renewable fuel like ethanol is making America cleaner, stronger, and more secure,” said ARF Co-Chair Rep. Annette Sweeney in a press release following the press call. “We will make sure Iowans know where candidates stand, and ensure all of our supporters see this report card.” The RFS enjoys broad support from Iowa’s Democrat and Republican caucus-goers, with 76% and 61% respectively saying in a recent poll that they would be more likely to support a candidate who is pro-RFS.

For a candidate to receive a “good” score, he or she must have demonstrated consistent support for the RFS and Iowa farmers. A “needs work” candidate is one is has given inconsistent and undefiend positions on the RFS. These include: Marcio Rubio, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina and John Kasich. A “bad” candidate is one who has stood against Iowa Farmers and the RFS and includes Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Bobby Jindal.

“The midterm report card is not the final word, but it puts everyone on notice that Iowans can see whether candidates are preparing to stand with them or against them,” added Sweeney. “We will be releasing a final report card in January, when the middle category will be gone and candidates will either be designated as with us or against us.”

ARF State Director Eric Brandstad said during the press call that ARF plans to notify their list of 45,000 supporters and other allies about these results at ethanol plant caucus trainings, phone calls from field staff, and other one-on-one grassroots efforts. In addition, ARF will utilize a mix of paid media tactics including direct mail, digital, and radio advertisements and Brandstad said they also plan to release caucus instructional videos.

Listen to the press conference audio here: ARF Midterm Candidate Report Score Card Press Conference

Researchers Develop New Offshore Wind Prototype

Two researchers from the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya’s (UPC) Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering have developed a new model for floating structures designed for offshore wind turbines anchored in deep, deep waters. Climent Molins’ and Alexis Campos’ prototype, WindCrete, is a cylindrical structure with a large float and ballast base that enables the platforms to be self-stabilizing.

offshore wind prototypeThe researchers say the main innovation of this model compared to similar ones already on the market are seamless, monolithic structure and the use of concrete for its construction. This model uses concrete instead of steel, which is more expensive, and thus reduces costs by an estimated 60 percent, according to Molins and Campos. The researchers also say the concrete is more resistant in the marine environment, and as a result, the structure has fewer maintenance requirements and a lifespan of approximately 50 years. The structure is also absence of joints and this increases its durability against the effects of wind and sea avoids the damage that typically appears in transition areas.

The researchers explain that the WindCrete includes a 5 MW wind turbine that can carry rotors of up to 15 MW with only an incremental cost. This new system reduces the cost of wind energy to 12 cents per kilowatt hour. According to Molins and Campos, this is half the price per kWh for this type of energy in the Canary Island, an area that will rely on offshore wind power.

The prototype was developed within the framework of the European project Alternative floating offshore substructure for offshore wind farms, which is carried out in the framework of KIC-InnoEnergy in collaboration with Stuttgart Wind Energy at the University of Stuttgart and Gas Natural Fenosa. A preliminary design was carried out to ensure technical and economic feasibility.

Energy Companies Sign On to Climate Pledge

Energy company across the U.S. have signed on to support the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, a program the White House announced in July 2015. The 81 companies are part of the third round of pledges and have committed to reduce their impact on Earth. Abengoa Bioenergy US, Aemetis, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Biogen, Novozymes, Pacific Ethanol and Tri-Global Energy are just a few of the energy companies who have signed on to increase low-carbon investments, deploy more clean energy and take other actions to build more sustainable businesses.

White house logoSome examples of actions taken by Pacific Ethanol include: by 2025, produce a minimum of 50 million gallons per year of ultra-low carbon ethanol that will reduce GHG emissions by 90% on a relative basis (g/MJ) compared to gasoline. They also pledged to reduce their process carbon emissions by 40% by 2025, “as part of an effort to develop long-term business plans that align with the deep decarbonization necessary to keep global average temperatures from rising less than 2C”.

Other examples include commitments to add more wind and solar energy from Tri-Global Energy while Abengoa has pledged to require contractors and suppliers to calculate and report their GHG emissions in order to accurately and affirmatively achieve further incremental emissions reductions in the supply chain; and continue to improve energy efficiencies and emissions controls in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 10%, compared to a 2005 baseline, by 2025.

The measures taken by these hundreds of companies helped President Obama set an ambitious but achievable goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide by 26-28 percent. To date, 150 countries representing more than 85% of global carbon emissions have reported post-2020 climate policies to the United Nations. To read the American Business Act on Climate Pledge as well as to read the 81 companies’ pledges, click here.

U.S. Census Fun Fact: Wind

Did you know that the first practical wind turbine generator dates back 74 years to 1941? It was then that Palmer Putnamof Vermont demonstrated his device. His 1.5 MW wind turbine had blades 66 feet in length, and in 700 hours of operation, produced nearly 300,000 kilowatt hours.

Innovators were working on wind turbines between the World Wars, mostly for rural areas in Canada and America where people had difficulty getting power. However, it was Putnam who realized that to generate more power, more efficiently, location and high wind speeds were vital. When searching for his ideal location, Putnam looked for wind speeds in excess of 30 mph. He also wanted to be able to supply alternating current to the grid without the losses incurred by converting direct current to alternative current.

According to his patent, he found his “advantageously exposed” location in that of Grandpa’s Knob, a 1976 foot high forested summit with a rocky base. During the winter of 1940-1941, workers built the 120 foot (36 meter) tower and turbine. The wind turbine featured just two steel blades, each weighing 7.5 tons each and were 66 feet (20 meters) long —bigger than the wings of all but a handful of bombers flying at the time. The turbine was designed to operate in wind velocities between 30 and 60 miles per hour and to withstand gusts stronger than 140 mph.

Today, there are more than 2,700 electric power generating facilities (i.e. wind farms) producing 4.1 million megawatt hours. Wind power now provides 4.5 percent of the U.S. electricity production. Siemens is building the world’s longest blade that is 74 meters long, nearly 243 feet, the length of an A-380 Airbus airplane,

DuPont & Quad County Sign Enzyme Contract

DuPont Industrial Biosciences will continue to supply the enzymes that enable Quad County Corn Processors’ (QCCP) Cellerate process in the production of cellulosic biofuel from corn kernel fiber.  The ethanol plant developed the process and was the first in the country to produce cellulosic ethanol gallons from the corn kernel fiber. QCCP uses DuPont Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 8.24.19 AMOPTIMASH suite of enzymes from the DuPont Accellerase portfolio of cellulosic enzymes. The OPTIMASH enzymes are specifically formulated for use in the corn fiber cellulosic application.

The process was developed using DuPont’s enzymes. Over the last year of production, QCCP Chief Engineer Travis Brotherson has seen a marked difference in value between DuPont’s enzymes and its competitors’ offering. “DuPont’s enzymes have consistently outperformed other products in driving cellulosic ethanol and corn oil yield in our Cellerate process,” said Brotherson.

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 8.24.24 AMQCCP currently produces 2 million gallons of biofuel per year from cellulose conversion, but anticipates production of an additional 2 million gallons of biofuel per year once a C5 yeast is approved. The benefits of adding second-generation biofuel production to an existing dry grind ethanol facility are substantial – from additional ethanol, Cellulosic RINs1 to additional distiller’s corn oil. QCCP further estimates that their technology has the potential to enable grain ethanol plants in the United States to produce over 1 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol annually based on total corn kernel fiber conversion in the dry grind industry.

“DuPont’s goal is to enable the bioeconomy through science,” said Jan Koninckx, global business director for advanced biofuel at DuPont. “To reach that goal, we offer multiple solutions, from our full advanced biofuels technology licensing to delivering customized solutions in both enzyme technology and co-product production for ethanol producers. We’re proud to be a partner with QCCP, enabling the growth and success of advanced biofuels here in the United States.”

DuPont is commissioning its cellulosic biofuel facility in Nevada on October 30, 2015. The plant is fueled by corn stover and will produce 30 millions gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year.

NEC to Participate in Int’l Buyer Program

The National Ethanol Conference (NEC) has been selected to participate in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Buyer Program (IBF). This marks the first time the NEC has been selected, an annual ethanol conference hosted by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). The NEC will take place Feb. 15–17, 2016 in New Orleans.

RFA-NEC general logoThe IBF program recruits pre-screened foreign buyer delegations from U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide and brings them to selected trade shows and conferences in the U.S. as a medium to connect U.S. companies with international buyers. The NEC draws attendees from around the globe and next year’s event will see representatives from Brazil, China, India, Mexico and the Philippines.

“We are extremely excited about being selected to participate in the IBF, and for the opportunity to work closely with the Department of Commerce to provide a pathway that connects domestic ethanol producers with international markets,” said Edward Hubbard, RFA’s general counsel. “Export promotion is a crucial component for maintaining the vibrancy of the ethanol industry, and the NEC provides the perfect forum for accomplishing that goal. By joining forces with the Department of Commerce, the RFA is ensuring that the NEC will be the premier destination for U.S. ethanol producers who are interested in opportunities to promote their products in the international marketplace.”

Registration for the National Ethanol Conference is now open and will headlined by John Hofmeister, the founder and CEO of Citizens for Affordable Energy, former president of Shell Oil Company and author of “Why We Hate the Oil Companies“.


EDF RE Completes 194 MW Wind Farm

Spinning Spur 3 delivers clean electricity to the towns of Georgetown and Garland in Texas. (Photo: Business Wire)

Spinning Spur 3 delivers clean electricity to the towns of Georgetown and Garland in Texas. (Photo: Business Wire)

EDF Renewable Energy’s (EDF RE) Spinning Spur 3 Wind Project located in Texas is now in operation. The 194 MW wind farm was completed three months ahead of schedule and the renewable electricity produced will feed into the CREZ (Competitive Renewable Energy Zone) transmission infrastructure and be sold to Georgetown Utility Systems and Garland Power & Light, two municipal utilities who signed long-term power purchase agreements. Spinning Spur 3 is located 50 miles west of Amarillo in Oldham County and consists of its 97 Vestas V-100 2 MW wind turbines.

“We are excited to have commenced commercial operation of the Spinning Spur 3 project, and would like thank the residents of Oldham County and surrounding areas for helping us reach this important milestone,” said Ryan Pfaff, executive vice president of EDF Renewable Energy. “We are also pleased to be working with Garland Power & Light and Georgetown Utility Systems to supply clean, competitively priced electricity to their customers for years to come.”

With the Spinning Spur 3 project in operation, the Group’s installed capacity in the state has now reached 1,066 MW through six wind energy projects.

NRDC Report: U.S. Energy Economy Healthy

America’s energy economy has never been better according to a new report, “A Tectonic Shift in America’s Energy Landscape,” from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). One key finding is that innovative energy saving techniques have enabled the country to more than double its economic productivity from oil, natural gas and electricity over the past 40 years. This means, finds the report, that energy efficiency has contributed more to meeting the country’s needs than all other resources combined.

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 11.00.06 AM“Although the nation’s energy news has trended from bad to worse for decades, we’ve seen a remarkable turnaround, much of it due to the huge and inexpensive resource of energy efficiency — getting more out of every energy dollar,” said Ralph Cavanagh, NRDC co-director of the energy program. “But you’d never know it from those who want to build the massive KXL pipeline, ratchet up oil and gas drilling, launch a nuclear renaissance or embrace an ‘all of the above’ energy policy.”

NRDC’s First Annual Energy and Environment Report, America’s (Amazingly) Good Energy News, is the product of a detailed, extensive analysis of recent government data that shows total U.S. energy use in 2012 was below the 1999 level even though the economy grew by more than 25 percent (adjusted for inflation) during that period. This result, shows the report, is that factories and businesses are producing substantially more products and value with less energy, the amount of gasoline per mile driven is down, and the cost of all energy services (from lighting to refrigeration) also has decreased.

“These energy reductions are saving hundreds of billions of dollars every year, helping U.S. workers and companies compete worldwide, and making our country more secure,” added Cavanagh.

The report notes that the amount of climate-warming carbon dioxide pollution also is down, putting the nation on track to meet President Obama’s emissions reduction target of 17 percent over the next seven years, though much more must be done, says NRDC, to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Here is a snapshot of several of the report’s major findings: Continue reading

Michigan Consumers Could Save Millions with Wind

A wind vision for new growth in Michigan,” finds Michigan energy consumers could save millions of dollars while Michigan farmers could reap millions in land lease payments by building new wind farms. The new report was released today by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and the Wind Energy Foundation (WEF) who held a roundtable discussion at Macomb Community College where students are learning skills that will enable them to secure well-paying jobs in the renewable energy industry. Of special interest is the finding that building a robust wind energy industry in the state can in particular revitalize add new wind manufacturing jobs to Michigan’s economy.

A Wind Vision for New Growth in Michigan“With stable policy we can grow wind energy and we can save Michigan homeowners and businesses over $3.59 billion dollars,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. “Because of American ingenuity, wind energy’s costs have dropped by 66 percent in just the last six years and by continuing to invest in wind over a billion dollars in savings can be passed onto consumers in Michigan and across the Great Lakes region.”

The data in the report came from calculations made using the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) 2015 Wind Vision report. The new data finds that wind energy can supply ample electricity to power more than 710,000 homes while adding more than $11.6 million dollars in annual property tax revenue. In addition, Michigan landowners would be paid by wind farm owners an additional $7.6 million in lease payments a year by 2030.

“Michigan’s previous renewable energy policies have put the state on a path for success,” said Beth Soholt, Executive Director of Wind on the Wires. “Public policies that encourage the development of more wind energy are a win-win. Local economies will grow from the jobs and economic development that come from new wind energy projects, and consumers will benefit from the clean, renewable, and low-cost energy wind can provide.” Continue reading