US Troops in Afghanistan Turn Waste into Biodiesel

bagrambiodieselKilling the bad guys… and staying green, that’s how American troops roll. This article posted on the military’s DVIDS channel says U.S. forces at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, are turning waste cooking oil into biodiesel.

“Bagram generates an average of 186 gallons of used cooking oil each day,” said Christopher Waechter, Fluor country environmental manager. “We chose a turn-key biodiesel processing system for ease of use … by local national laborers.”

Waechter said the initiative was proposed as a cost avoidance measure with a three week return on investment. The overall cost avoidance is projected to be as much as $750,000 per year.

Since Fluor provides Hazardous waste processing for Forward Operating Bases Dahlke and Fenty, they are able to ship used cooking oil from those locations he said.

In addition to the cost savings, the process has the added benefits of removing used cooking oil from the waste stream and increasing the skill sets of the local national workers while allowing them to work in a safer work area.

Using biodiesel to fuel the incinerators is also a much safer option than traditional methods according to Waechter.

“Biodiesel is both biodegradable and non-flammable,” Fluor Health, Safety and Environmental director Peter Provost said. “JP8 has a flashpoint of 98°F whereas the biodiesel has a flashpoint of 300°F so we’ve improved our safety envelope by more than three times. Any time you can achieve that kind of a percentage improvement, [its] a good thing.”

So far, nearly 26,000 gallons of used cooking oil has been turned into almost 27,000 gallons of biodiesel, saving taxpayers more than $207,000.

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

Geothermal Industry

The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) is calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to include geothermal energy in the Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP). In a letter, GEA makes the following suggestions that would allow geothermal power plants to fully be included in CEIP:

  1. Include metered MWh generated from geothermal resources or allow states to include geothermal resources if their state contains these resources.
  2. Since the timeframe for geothermal includes exploration and more permitting in many states than an equivalent wind or solar project, include projects where significant construction has begun; this could include a binding written contract to the manufacture, construct, or produce electricity on a piece of the geothermal property, and includes expansion of existing facilities (incremental generation) or a new facility.
  3. Projects online in 2020 and 2021 under this program would receive credit for their MWh generated like wind or a solar project.

US geothermal energy photo DOE“Without this amendment to the CEIP program, GEA is concerned the way the current rule is written would shift investment away from geothermal projects in the west,” states the letter, noting geothermal’s importance in the low-income communities such as the Imperial and Coachella Valleys.

The letter states, “geothermal power meets the criteria and the spirit of the CEIP by providing emission free power in low-income communities. In fact, studies have shown, geothermal binary plants are less polluting than either wind or solar technologies on a lifecycle basis. In addition, these plants are located in some areas with the highest unemployment rates in the west. Adding geothermal to this provision could help expand these facilities, providing jobs and economic opportunities in these impoverished communities. Overall, geothermal power will be essential to western states’ long term clean energy portfolio and economies, while being consistent with the CEIP’s directive to advance clean technology in impoverished communities.”

Recently several senators (Reid, Feinstein, Boxer, Wyden, Merkley, Hirono, and Schatz), submitted a letter to EPA Administrator McCarthy also calling for geothermal energy to be included in the program. The letter stated, “We have noted that the Clean Energy Incentive Program includes solar and wind energy, but does not include a number of other important clean energy technologies that the federal government has historically defined as renewable energy resources, like geothermal energy, marine and hydrokinetic energy, biomass, small irrigation power, and qualified hydropower, as defined under Section 45(c) of the Internal Revenue Code. The Environmental Protection Agency should ensure that other clean energy sources of electricity are eligible for matching emission rate credits under the Clean Energy Incentive Program.”

DOE Releases Energy Productivity Roadmap

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz recently released a new roadmap to increase energy productivity.  “Accelerate Energy Productivity 2030: A Strategic Roadmap for American Energy Innovation, Economic Growth, and Competitiveness,” reviews proven and effective strategies and actions to advance energy efficiency.

Strategies include:

  • states securing energy productivity through setting and updating vehicle and product codes and standards, and providing energy performance information to consumers;
  • utilities and regulators designing rates and related policies that more effectively align energy efficiency with utility business models; and
  • businesses reinvesting avoided energy costs.

Accelerate Energy Productivity 2030Moniz says by doubling energy productivity, American families will be able to power their homes and vehicles using less energy, while American businesses will be able to manufacture more while spending less and cutting harmful carbon emissions.

“Cutting energy waste and doubling energy productivity will help American families save money on their energy bills, enable businesses to produce more while using less energy and strengthen the U.S. clean energy economy,” said Moniz. “This roadmap provides a path for families, businesses and governments, among others, to follow. By taking steps to increase efficiency and cut waste, the U.S. will be more competitive globally and will see direct and long-lasting benefits for decades to come.”

The Roadmap focuses on scalable actions that have the potential to reduce energy consumption and support economic growth. The federal government, many state and local governments and a number of organizations in the private sector are already deploying energy productivity strategies, including some that are featured in the report, demonstrating that the goal of doubling energy productivity can be achieved. While energy productivity strategies often involve multiple economic sectors and levels of government, the strategies laid out in this report demonstrate that any organization or individual can take steps to double national energy productivity by 2030. The report provides a foundation for scaling up these efforts nationwide, while allowing for flexible and tailored solutions.

Prez Candidates Recommit RFS Support

Several presidential candidates have reiterated their support for the continuation of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). (Click here to read articles relating to the candidates stand on energy issues).

ARF-Logo-Retina-AltSen. Santorum reaffirmed his support at a forum hosted by Heritage Action in South Carolina on Friday, at Iowa’s Faith and Freedom Presidential Forum on Saturday, and at the taping of Rural Town Hall on RFD-TV on Sunday saying that the RFS creates jobs and domestically produced fuels and keeps the U.S. secure.

“Sen. Santorum has been an unwavering champion for renewable fuels and has always stood with Iowans on this crucial issue,” said America’s Renewable Future (ARF) State Director, Eric Branstad, “It’s why he won the Iowa caucus in 2012.”

Also during the Forum, Trump said that he supports the RFS. “I am totally in favor of ethanol, 100 percent.” This is the first time Trump gave his stance on the topic publicly.

The Rural Town Hall event also marked Sen. Webb’s first public affirmation of support for the RFS and Gov. Pataki’s full support. Pataki said that the government needed to keep the promise it made with the RFS, “Washington made a commitment to those farmers and those investors, we have to keep our word.”

Branstad added, “ARF is thankful for the commitments these candidates made and that all the above candidates took the time to meet with our organization or to tour an ethanol plant. A large part of our effort was providing education to all the campaigns and it’s clear that we’ve done that. Now we can focus on letting Iowans know where each candidate stands and on turning out our army of 50,000 caucus-goers on Feb. 1.”

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDF1Gevo has announced that Ruth Dreessen, a Director since 2012, has been named Chairman of the Board, and that Shai Weiss, Director and Chairman, has stepped down from the Board of Directors. These changes will take effect immediately. In addition, Gary Mize, Director since 2011, will assume the role of Audit Committee Chairman.
  • DuPont recently completed a five-year field study on the performance of solar panels from around the world, and Dr. Alex Bradley, Principal Investigator, DuPont Photovoltaic Solutions, shares those findings in PV Tech’s special PV Power issue. Learn what to look for – and what to specify – to help ensure your solar panels will provide safe and reliable power output for their 25 year expected lifetime, to protect your solar investments.
  • Coronal Group and Panasonic Eco Solutions in North America (Panasonic) announced a strategic investment in Blue Oak Energy, a solar engineering and construction company. This investment will allow Blue Oak Energy to expand its depth and breadth to meet the growing demand from its customer base. Blue Oak Energy will continue to operate as an independent entity under the leadership of its Founder and CEO, Tobin Booth.
  • The African Renewable Energy Fund (AREF) announced during the African Development Bank’s “Energy Week” that it successfully reached its final close at its hard cap, with US $200 million of committed capital to support small- to medium-scale projects, with investment at the final close from European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Global Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Fund (GEEREF), among other investors.

Nidera Biodiesel Earns Sustainability Certification

NideraA Dutch company specializing in commodity services and solutions for the global agricultural markets has earned an important sustainability certification for its biodiesel made from waste cooking oil. Nidera received the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) certification for the production of the green fuel.

“We were very pleased to work with RSB to certify UCO biodiesel produced at the Biodiesel Aragon facility [in Huesca, Spain],” said Bert Ooms, Nidera’s Group Communication Manager. “We are very happy to have a new option available for the certification of sustainable biofuels and waste materials.”

Rolf Hogan, Executive Director of RSB said, “Nidera and Biodiesel Aragon have chosen RSB to demonstrate the sustainability of their biodiesel production from used cooking oil. This shows a high level of commitment to sustainability in their operations”.

RSB is recognized by NGOs as the “most comprehensive and ambitious” biomaterials sustainability certification program in the world. RSB provides a holistic approach towards sustainability assurance, covering social, environmental and operational aspects.

Grid Guru Debunks Clean Power Plan Blackouts

According to a new white paper, implementation of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) will not cause blackouts and opposers to the plan claim. Lauren Azar, former Commissioner at the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin and senior advisor to former Energy Secretary Steven Chu, conducted a detailed review of the recent history of the power industry and found that utilities will quickly adapt to changes brought about by the CPP.

The Electric Grid 2030Using recent industry trends as the foundation, the paper demonstrates how the power sector has adapted to change in the recent past. One key indicator in the final CPP is the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) estimate that there will be a need to build at most 13.6 gigawatts (GW) of new natural gas plants in the next 10 years to meet the demand for electricity as coal plants phase out. The paper notes that, from 2000 to 2010, the country added the equivalent of 237 GW in new natural gas plants as power producers seized the opportunity to capitalize on the vast supply of cheap natural gas—showing that the natural gas industry is capable of building over 13 times the amount of power plants than the EPA estimates will be needed to maintain resource adequacy.

In a similar examination of the renewable sector, the paper finds that in 2014 alone, the country added nearly 7 GW of solar and 4.9 GW of wind electric-generation, making the EPA’s estimated target of 81 to 84 GW in those renewables by 2030 a feasible task.

Recent history serves to demonstrate how the energy industry can adapt to comply with the CPP without risking additional blackouts, but the paper also notes that, in the unlikely event of a reliability issue, the CPP has several backup plans to address any grid reliability threat.

GMP & Yeloha Offer Unique Solar Sharing Program

Green Mountain Power (GMP) and Yeloha, a peer-to-peer Solar Sharing Network, have launched a unique solar sharing program, the first by a utility. The platform enables customers to generate their own solar energy and share it with other residents online whose roofs are not suited for solar panels. Customers will be offered to host the panels free of charge in exchange for sharing some of their solar power. GMP says the program represents a beacon of change for nationwide energy.

“This is a unique opportunity to empower more people to be able to harness the power of the sun,” said Mary Powell, president and CEO GMP, a B-Corp utility. “We see a tremendous opportunity in leveraging more rooftops around Vermont for the benefit of all those who may currently be renters, or own homes that are not well suited for solar. As Vermont’s energy company of the future, we are transforming the old grid system into one where power is generated and consumed closer to the home or community where it is needed. This partnership with Yeloha will help accelerate this revolution in distributed power.”

How it Works - AnnotatedYeloha is an online platform with a mission to make solar accessible to everyone, including those who don’t own a roof suitable for solar, such as renters and apartment dwellers, or those who can’t afford the panels by going solar on someone else’s roof. The platform is sometimes referred to as the “Airbnb of Solar”.

“We are pleased to join forces with Green Mountain Power, a forward-thinking energy provider, as our first utility partner,” said Amit Rosner, Co-Founder and CEO, Yeloha. “Working together, we have the unique opportunity to democratize access to clean energy; literally bringing power to the people, by the people.”

The initiative will start as a pilot in Rutland and Barre Vermont.

Biofuels Capacity to Grow to 61B Gallons by 2018

According to new research, global biofuels capacity will grow to 61 billion gallons per year (BGY0 by 2018. Ethanol and biodiesel will continue to dominate with 96 percent of the capacity in 2018, but novel fuels and novel feedstocks will be major drivers of capacity growth, according to Lux Research.

The study finds that novel fuels and novel feedstocks will grow at a rate of 27 percent and 16 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR), respectively, through 2018. Ethanol and biodiesel will grow at a slower 2 percent rate but will reach capacities of 40 BGY and 19 BGY, respectively.

Biofuels growth from Lux research“While ethanol and biodiesel dominate global biofuel capacity today, limits on their growth mean that novel fuels like renewable diesel, biojet fuel and biocrude are crucial to the future of the industry,” said Victor Oh, Lux Research Associate and lead author of the report titled, “Biofuels Outlook 2018: Highlighting Emerging Producers and Next-generation Biofuels.”

“Producers also need to tap into novel feedstocks like waste oils, non-edible biomass, and municipal solid waste to push the industry beyond food-vs.-fuels competition,” he added.

Lux Research analysts studied growth of biofuels utilizing an alternative fuels database of over 1,800 production facilities globally. Among their findings:

  • Waste oils will dominate next-generation biofuels. With a 52% share, biodiesel made from novel feedstock, specifically waste oils, will lead novel fuels capacity in 2018. Cellulosic ethanol and renewable diesel follow with 19% and 18%, respectively.
  • Americas continue dominance. With a 64% share of global biofuels capacity, the Americas are a dominant force. The region, led by the U.S. and Brazil, also leads in utilization of global production capacity with 86%, much higher than the global average of 68% in 2014.
  • Eight countries are biggest emerging producers. China, Indonesia and Thailand in Asia; Colombia and Argentina in the Americas; and Portugal, Poland and France in Europe are the biggest emerging production centers for biofuels after the U.S. and Brazil.