Block Island Wind Farm Has Steel in Water

The American wind energy industry along with Rhode Island state legislators and others celebrated what Deepwater Wind is calling a “historic moment” for the offshore wind industry as the first “steel in the water” milestone was met this week for the Block Island Wind Farm. This marks the installation of the first offshore wind farm foundation component – a 400-ton steel jacket on the sea floor – by Weeks Marine and Mason Construction. The site is located roughly three miles off the Block Island coast.

On hand for the ceremony were Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Abigail Ross Hopper, the state’s Congressional delegation, and more than a hundred other elected officials, leaders of national environmental advocacy organizations, federal and state regulators, Block Islanders and project supporters to celebrate the milestone where guests took a ferry tour of the offshore construction site.

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Block Island – Photo Credit: Coastal News Today

“Rhode Island is proud to be home to the nation’s first offshore wind farm – a great opportunity for our state to stake out real leadership in this growing industry,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “Not only are we going to create over 300 good-paying jobs, but we’re going to rebrand ourselves as being more innovative and, over time, make Rhode Island a place that has a more diversified energy supply and greener energy. I’m committed to supporting this progress with a comprehensive jobs plan focused on making it easier to do business in Rhode Island and making sure we are training the workforce today to support the innovations of tomorrow.”

Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski noted, “We know the world is watching closely what we do here, and we’re incredibly proud to be at the forefront of a new American clean-tech industry launching right here in the Ocean State. This moment has been years in the making – and it’s just the start of something very big.” When complete, the offshore wind farm will generate 30 MW.

Construction is set for an eight-week period this summer and more than a dozen construction and transport barges, tugboats, crew ships and monitoring vessels will be active at the offshore construction site. In addition, vessel and crane operators, engineers, welders, scientists, protected species observers and dozens of others are all involved with this momentous operation.

“Weeks Marine and Manson Construction are enthused to assist with this challenging project and excited for the future opportunity it promises,” said Rick Palmer, Project Director for Weeks/Manson, a joint venture leading the installation work. “We commend Deepwater Wind for their diligent efforts that have led to this milestone achievement.” Continue reading

NBB Cites Biodiesel Benefits of RFS

The comment period has officially ended for the final 2014 and 2015 final Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) rule as set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The National Biodiesel Board submitted comments but has a different take on how to keep the legislation moving forward and successful.

Biodiesel at the pumpBiodiesel falls under the Biomass-based Diesel category of the RFS, which is a subset of the overall Advanced Biofuels category. The EPA proposal, which is slated to be finalized in November, would gradually raise biodiesel volumes by about 100 million gallons per year to a standard of 1.9 billion gallons in 2017. The overall Advanced Biofuel standard would rise to 3.4 billion gallons in 2016.

NBB wrote in their comments, “The growth and expansion of the U.S. biodiesel industry in recent years represents a tremendous success story under the RFS. Today, nearly 2 billion gallons of biodiesel and renewable diesel displace an equivalent amount of petroleum diesel. This has resulted in significant reductions in pollution and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, while creating thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in economic impact across the nation.”

“The industry now has production plants in nearly every state in the country making fuel from an increasingly diverse mix of feedstocks, including recycled cooking oil, plant oils such as soybean oil, and animal fats,” the comments state. “In short, the biomass‐based diesel program has exceeded expectations and is achieving the goals that Congress outlined in creating the RFS. As a result, it warrants additional volume growth to meet the objectives of Congress in expanding renewable fuel use in the diesel market and in promoting advanced biofuels under the program.

NBB’s comments follow a letter from 36 U.S. senators last week calling for increased biodiesel volumes, and add to thousands of comments submitted by biodiesel supporters to the EPA in recent weeks. The comment period on the EPA’s pending proposal closed at midnight Monday.

“The EPA’s proposal is an improvement over its initial draft, but the agency can and should do much better,” said Anne Steckel, NBB vice president of federal affairs. “We have presented credible, compelling reasons for increasing biodiesel use under the RFS, and we hope the EPA carefully reviews our comments and those of thousands of other biodiesel supporters who have weighed in.”

Media Communication Tips for BioEnergy

I had the opportunity to facilitate a lively discussion on effective stakeholder messaging during the BioEnergy 2105 conference. “Reaching Your Stakeholders: Effectively Engaging and Educating Key Audiences,” discussed success stories, best practices and lessons learned that have helped to improve public perception of bioenergy at all levels. The panel featured: Melissa Savage, Senior Program Director with the National Association of State Energy Officials; Aaron Wells, Communications Consultant for Fuels America; Wendy Rosen, Leader, Global Public Affairs for DuPont Industrial Biosciences; and Emily York, Vice President of Communications for Abengoa.

BioEnergy 2015 communication panaelists. From left to right: Melissa Savage, Senior Program Director with the National Association of State Energy Officials; Joanna Schroeder, Editor, DomesticFuel.com;Wendy Rosen, Leader, Global Public Affairs for DuPont Industrial Biosciences; Aaron Wells, Communications Consultant for Fuels America; and Emily York, Vice President of Communications for Abengoa.

BioEnergy 2015 communication panaelists. From left to right: Melissa Savage, Senior Program Director with the National Association of State Energy Officials; Joanna Schroeder, Editor, DomesticFuel.com;Wendy Rosen, Leader, Global Public Affairs for DuPont Industrial Biosciences; Aaron Wells, Communications Consultant for Fuels America; and Emily York, Vice President of Communications for Abengoa.

The discussion kicked off with acknowledging that perception is reality and the industry needs to change its perception a bit. One way to do this is to tell the story the right way. Oftentimes, however, public relations professionals don’t provide enough information for journalists to make a valid assessment of the story. Rather, a company needs to package all they want to say. The hook is critical because this will entice a reporter to want to tell the story or a person seeking information what to hear the story. Once you have a journalist hooked, tell the story through the lens of one person, an engineer or farmer, for example. Include visuals – photography, videos and infographics. Also, be mindful of using too much jargon – this is a story killer.

As a journalist, I appreciate the advice of the panelists in telling the story. I receive dozens of press releases each day and some are so horribly written that I delete them even though I know there is probably a good story hidden somewhere in the jargon. On days there is too much news, the stories I focus on have not only a good story but also visuals to accompany that story (and no, a logo is not the visual us reporters are looking for). Another good piece of advice, pitching a few strategic stories is better than flooding the market. If you send me an email or release every day, I’m going to start ignoring you and ultimately miss a great story.

Some other helpful advice from the panelists: Continue reading

IRENA Launches INSPIRE Energy Platform

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has launched a new online platform called INSPIRE, or the International Standards and Patents in Renewable Energy platform. The project is the first of its kind, and provides information on nearly 400 international standards and more than 2 million patents for renewable energy technology.

INSPIRE platform2“The INSPIRE platform provides a strategic window into the innovation and growth taking place in the renewable energy sector,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “It consolidates vast collections of renewable energy patents and standards, which can foster collaboration between innovators, spur improvement through product comparison and benchmarking and help identify partners, matching domestic energy needs to innovative energy solutions.”

The project came to fruition with a partnership between IRENA, the European Patent Office (EPO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). The platform features several features including a standards section that allows users to search through a database of more than 400 internationally used standards and generate reports as needed. It also explains what standards are, how they can be used and why they are important for quality assurance, investor confidence and technology trading. The patents section houses the world’s most comprehensive global patent database for carbon mitigation technologies, the EPO’s PATSTAT, which contains nearly two million patent documents.

“The INSPIRE platform demonstrates the role of the global patent systemINSPIRE platform1 as a support for innovation in renewable energy, encouraging research and development in technologies to serve modern energy needs while addressing climate change,” added EPO President Benôit Battistelli. “INSPIRE also showcases the role of patent information, which provides valuable high-level information to advise policy makers on the renewable energy sector.”

IRENA said the combination of resources on INSPIRE will help users analyse various aspects of renewable energy policy and innovation, and the platform can help indicate the effectiveness of policies to promote renewable energy innovation through the analysis of trends in patent activity.

Biofuel Perennial Crops Could Use Less Water

A new research report from the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) finds that perennial crops grown on marginal land for biofuel use could use comparable water to that of corn. The report looked at how these crops could affect the balance of water between rainfall inputs, evaporation losses, and movement of soil water to the groundwater. The report cites that in humid climates such as the U.S. Midwest, evaporation returns more than half of the annual precipitation to the atmosphere, with the remainder available to recharge groundwater and maintain stream flow and lake levels.

The study, led by GLBRC scientist and Michigan State University professor of ecosystem ecology Stephen Hamilton, is a multi-year effort to compare the water use of conventional corn crops to the perennial cropping systems of switchgrass, miscanthus, native grasses, restored prairies, and hybrid poplar trees, feedstocks currently under review for use as biofuel crops.

Michigan State University; (R) Stephen Hamilton, professor of ecosystem ecology at Michigan State University and GLBRC researcher. Photo by John W. Poole, NPR.

Michigan State University; (R) Stephen Hamilton, professor of ecosystem ecology at Michigan State University and GLBRC researcher. Photo by John W. Poole, NPR.

“When we established the different cropping systems in 2008,” said Hamilton, “we installed soil-water sensors at various depths through the root zone. We’ve been continuously monitoring the soil water content ever since.”

To measure the rate of evapotranspiration occurring within each cropping system, soil-water sensors are used. Evapotranspiration refers to the sum total of water lost while the plant is growing, either from evaporation through the plant stem itself (a process called “transpiration”), or from water evaporated off of the plant’s leaves or the ground. By measuring the amount of precipitation that has fallen against actual soil water content, Hamilton said it’s possible to quantify the water lost to evapotranspiration while each crop is growing.

In a finding that contrasts sharply with earlier modeling studies that found particularly high perennial water use in areas with high water tables, the report finds that the perennial system’s evapotranspiration did not differ greatly from corn. Hamilton’s study, however, took place in Michigan’s temperate humid climate and on the kind of well-drained soil characteristic of marginal farming land.

Hamilton and his team also measured the water use efficiency (WUE) of each crop, calculating which plants grew the most biomass with the least amount of evapotranspiration. Miscanthus had the highest WUE, then corn, followed by poplar, native grasses, and prairie.

Ocean Energy to Play Global Role

The Commission for the Environment, Climate Change and Energy of the Committee of Regions has endorsed a recent report that focuses on the development of ocean energy to meet growing demand for renewable energy. The report states the ocean energy sector will make an “important contribution….to meeting the future energy needs of the European Union.”

ocean-energy-europeIn response to the news, Rémi Gruet, CEO Ocean Energy Europe, noted, “The ocean energy industry welcomes this report from the Committee of the Regions, and recognises the strong leadership Europe’s regions have played in driving the sector forward. With the resource anchored at regional level, ocean energy developments will mean fresh economic activity for existing port infrastructures and maritime supply chains.”

The report looks at Europe’s global leadership in the ocean energy sector and the benefits in terms of industrial growth, jobs and exports. The report also underlines both the pivotal role of the EU in pushing the development of the sector and the significant potential that could be unlocked through exploiting synergies between regions, Member States and the EU itself.

“With 100GW of installed capacity by 2050, the ocean energy industry can make a major contribution to Europe’s energy security and decarbonisation goals. This report is particularly timely and correctly identifies the key actions for Europe to maintain its global dominance and benefit from the growth of ocean energy around the world,” added Gruet.

The report supports the European Commission’s Ocean Energy Forum initiative, assigned to draft an industry roadmap by September this year. The final roadmap will be presented to European Ministers during a summit on ocean energy taking place in Dublin, on October 20, 2015.

Golf Course Repurposed to Solar Farm

Abandoned golf course in Japan that will be repurposed into a 23 MW solar farm.

Abandoned golf course in Japan that will be repurposed into a 23 MW solar farm.

The joint venture between Kyocera TCL Solar and Century Tokyo Leasing Corporation has birthed a solar farm on an abandoned golf course in Koyto Prefecture, Japan. Once complete, the 23 MW solar power plant will generated an estimated 26,312 megawatt hours per year.

In addition to this project, Kyocera and Century Tokyo Leasing, along with two other companies, are developing a 92MW solar power plant at another abandoned golf course in the region. Not limited to Japan, several states in the U.S. including Florida, Utah and Kansas are also considering re-purposing abandoned golf courses for solar development among other uses.

Rendering of the Kanoya Osaki Solar Hills Solar Power Plant in Japan.

Rendering of the Kanoya Osaki Solar Hills Solar Power Plant in Japan.

Solar, said Kyocera, can provide a particularly productive and environmentally friendly use for defunct golf courses, which are characterized by expansive land mass, high sun exposure, and a low concentration of shade trees.

When completed, the new plant will become the largest solar power installation in Japan’s Kyoto Prefecture. The site is located in Fushimi Ward, where Kyocera established its first major solar energy research center in the mid-1970s. This year marks the 40th anniversary of Kyocera’s entry into the solar energy business.

Sen Klobuchar: Time to Govern by Opportunity

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) keynoted the opening session of the BioEnergy 2015: Opportunities in a Changing Energy Landscape conference in Washington, D.C. During her remarks, she noted it isn’t an easy time to be in Washington in terms of Sen Amy Klobuchar BioEnergy 2015energy policy and the country has “lost opportunities” in energy policy since 9-11.

Sen Klobuchar explained that in the summer of 2008, right before the downturn, energy legislation was pushed through but legislators were unable to push through a federal Renewable Electricity Standard (RES). Instead, President Obama, during the worst downturn since the Great Depression, opted to move forward with failed Cap and Trade legislation.

“We’ve been governing by crisis,” said Klobuchar who stressed that now is the moment to govern by opportunity. She quoted Pope Francis who recently released his Encyclical on climate change who asked, “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us?” A better world, said Klobuchar.

Klobuchar ended her remarks focusing on ways the country can build on the progress of the past few years, including the success of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Listen to Senator Amy Klobuchar’s remarks: Senator Amy Klobuchar Remarks

View the 2015 BioEnergy 2015 photo album.

(Note: two days after her presentation the EPA held a public comment hearing in Kansas City where hundreds of people from across the country came together to support the RFS. Coverage can be found here.)

DOE Invests in Sorghum

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has committed to investing up to $30 million in sorghum research through the Transportation Energy Resources from Renewable Agriculture (TERRA) program. The TERRA program seeks to develop technologies that can increase the precision, accuracy and throughput of energy crops breeding. Doing so, said DOE, will enable more detailed measurements of phenotyping, plant physiology and more sophisticated bioinformatics for gene discovery and trait association.

Photo Credit: Mississippi Crop Situation

Photo Credit: Mississippi Crop Situation

“This investment is critical for the sorghum industry’s future,” said J.B. Stewart, National Sorghum Producers board chairman. “Producer investments alone cannot move the industry forward. We must have government and private industry investment. We applaud DOE for making such a vital commitment to our rapidly growing industry.”

This is one of the largest investments the sorghum industry has seen to date and will have a significant impact on the future of sorghum. A total of six projects were funded through the DOE at universities and research institutions across the nation. The project locations are Clemson University, Purdue University, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension, University of Illinois, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

“This underscore’s something we strongly believe in,” added Clayton Short, renewables committee chair for the United Sorghum Checkoff Program. “Sorghum is a genetically diverse crop ripe for improvement. The DOE realizes this and we are excited to see what additional opportunities this leads too.”

NSP and the Sorghum Checkoff continue to invest in relationships with DOE, private industry and researching universities and will keep members updated as research progresses and results are published.

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.