IndyCar Pit Crew to Run on Solar at Indy 500

wilsonsolar1An IndyCar pit crew will be the first ever to be powered by solar. IndyCar driver Stefan Wilson and the #ThinkSolar campaign team will be sponsored by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) for Wilson’s 2016 Indianapolis 500 bid.

Wilson aims to realize a dream of following his late brother Justin Wilson’s path to the Indy 500 by merging the worlds of motorsports and solar energy through #ThinkSolar. ASES and Wilson share the common goal of moving solar forward, faster.

ASES is the nation’s leading association of solar professionals and advocates. For 61 years, ASES has provided leadership in the renewable energy sector hosting important annual events such as the ASES National Solar Tour and ASES National Solar Conference, and also publishes the award-winning Solar Today publication. Alignment with Wilson’s #ThinkSolar campaign represents an interesting collaboration for the organization in bringing the solar, renewable energy and IndyCar industries together.

The ASES mission to “inspire an era of energy innovation and speed the transition to a sustainable energy economy” aligns well with Wilson’s #ThinkSolar objectives. Among these are connecting race teams, track and sanctioning body officials with solar companies that can design and engineer solar systems to power practical needs in the sport such as charging stations, lights, other electronic assets, beginning with his own.

This endorsement by ASES is a really exciting development and validation of the #ThinkSolar campaign’s vision,” said Wilson. “They’ve helped shape an industry that’s committed to solving many of the energy challenges we face today. Together, we’ll strive to invigorate conversations around commonplace solar applications as well as the design and engineering innovations that will drive the future of renewable energy for this sport and the world.”

ASES Executive Director Carly Rixham is equally excited about the partnership. “We think Stefan’s #ThinkSolar campaign is a great way to get solar in front of people in a new way. There is already some solar in the racecar industry. In fact, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has a 9 MW solar farm nearby with 39,312 solar panels,” she said. “Now, bringing solar onto the track will increase the visibility of the technology with a diverse audience. It’s an honor to support Stefan and his earnest interest to reduce environmental impact.”

New Zealand to Get First Major Biodiesel Plant

z energyNew Zealand will soon get its first industrial-scale biodiesel plant. This article from Radio New Zealand says the Z Energy plant will produce the green fuel from animal fat and is expected to make about 5 million gallons of biodiesel per year when it opens in June.

While the planned 20 million litre production will be just a fraction of the company’s total diesel sales of 860 million litres, Z Energy views it as a start in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transport.

Even getting this far was a problem, according to Z Energy chief executive Mike Bennetts.

He said the globally low prices for crude oil make it harder for biofuels to compete.

The cost imposed under the Emissions Trading Scheme for burning fossil fuels was also low, which discouraged the use of clean alternatives such as biofuel and this affected the economics of the plant.

“They are marginal, and (as a listed company) we’ve always been very honest about that,” Mr Bennetts said.

But Z was pressing on, aiming to add 5 percent biofuel to its conventional diesel by June, and signing up companies such as Fonterra to commit to its product.

“We’ve been well supported by Fonterra, Fulton Hogan, Downers and New Zealand Post, to pay us a small premium to actually take the product.

“And then we are looking for the rest of New Zealand to follow through on some of the statements they make to use around ‘why don’t you guys do something about a less carbon intensive future?'”

Company officials say they made the project a reality by cutting start-up costs to a minimum.

Students Benefit From Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel

James Anderson discusses his research with an attendee during #NBB16.

James Anderson discusses his research with an attendee during #NBB16.

It’s never too early to encourage the next generation of biodiesel and bioproduct scientists and this is just what NBB is doing through its Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel program. Several members of the group attended this year’s conference and presented posters, attended educational sessions and networked, networked, networked.

James Anderson, from University of Illinois, serves as co-chair for the group and he presented his research looking at fatty acid profiles and studying divergent plants. His goal was to identify not the fastest growing soybean plant or the plant with the best resistance, but the plant with the best profile. The idea is that they would identify soybeans that would be even better suited to biodiesel production. He and his team checked their results against some USDA studies and found positive results.

James is finishing up his project soon and will be awarded his PhD and will soon be looking for a job…hint, hint. He can be reached via email to discuss both his research and future opportunities.

Listen to my interview with James Anderson here: Interview with Co-Chair James Anderson

Jesse Mayer and James Anderson, Co-Chairs of the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel.

Jesse Mayer and James Anderson, Co-Chairs of the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel.

Jesse Mayer, from the University of Nevada, Reno, is also a co-chair of Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel. Originally planning on going to medical, he switched gears when the only lab he could find work in was a plant lab. Well, he got hooked. He said he loves the field and the sustainability aspect of it.

He became involved in the group two years ago through his professor. He encourages everyone to join. “It’s really great opportunity to understand all the different aspects of biofuels. Like the students here you’ve got a lot of different fields…. So finding a student organization like NBB, joining them, and getting an idea of what those other aspects are, talking to people in the industry, really helps diversify you as a student and really helps going on to grad school or into the workforce.”

Jesse is also graduating soon and if the networking I saw him doing at the conference is any indication, he won’t be on the market long. You can reach him here.

Listen to my interview with Jesse Mayer here: Interview with Co-Chair Jesse Mayer

2016 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

Policy Panel at #NBB16

nbb-16-panelBack by popular demand, the 2016 National Biodiesel Conference once again featured a panel of former Congressional representatives to talk about renewable fuels policy and in this election year, presidential politics as well.

The panel featured former Republican Congressman Bob Inglis of South Carolina, who spoke at the first general session this week; former Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, and former Republican Congressman Kenny Hulshof of Missouri.

All of the panelists expressed grave concerns about candidates’ abilities to run this country. “I think my party will either choose well or choose its destruction,” said Inglis.

As a Democrat, Dorgan said he was worried about both political parties. “All this (the campaign) is very clever and funny but this is really serious business, we’re talking about the future of this country,” he said.

Hulshof said he was personally supporting John Kasich for president, but definitely was not so much for Trump. “I’m sure there are a lot of Trump supporters here – and that’s great …. for you.”

When it came to policy issues for biodiesel, all of the panelists expressed their support for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and for a producers tax credit.

Listen to the panel here: Biodiesel Policy Panel

2016 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

GOP Debate Spotlights Cruz Views on #Ethanol

debate-cruzWith the Iowa caucuses coming up on Monday, agriculture and renewable fuels finally got some attention in the Republican debate last night, as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was asked about his position on the Renewable Fuel Standard.

“We should be developing oil and gas and coal and nuclear and wind and solar and ethanol and biofuels but I don’t believe that Washington should be picking winners and losers,” said Cruz during the debate. “But I don’t believe Washington should be picking winners and losers and I think there should be no mandates and no subsidies whatsoever,” adding that his tax plan includes eliminating subsidies for oil and gas. He said it is “not true” that he opposes ethanol and noted Rep. Steve King (R-IA) “perhaps the fiercest defender of farmers” in Iowa supports him.

Listen to Cruz here: Sen. Cruz on RFS and ethanol

iowa-cornHowever, the senator’s words got him no love from Iowa Corn Growers president Bob Hemesath, a farmer from Decorah, who urges people in Iowa to “support a candidate who supports the RFS.”

“Ted Cruz claims that he supports ethanol, he does not support the RFS,” said Hemesath during a conference call this morning. “We can’t afford to let the ethanol industry to be taken away from us by a president who doesn’t support the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

Listen to Hemesath’s comments here: Iowa Corn Growers president Bob Hemesath

Bringing #Biodiesel to the Northeast

Paul Nazzaro is no stranger to the biodiesel industry and has been a huge champion for the advanced biofuel in the Northeast for nearly two decades. During the 2016 National Biodiesel Conference & Expo in Tampa, Florida, Nazzaro participated in several panel discussions focused on how to get more biodiesel into the Northeast as each year, more legislation is passed to curb emissions and ultimately promote renewable energy. BioHeat in particular is really gaining ground.

Paul NazzaroYet distribution challenges need be overcome in order to get more biodiesel products into the northeast. Nazzaro said in an interview after the panel discussion that compared to other areas of the country, there are very few terminals where the fuel can be blended and distributed. When asked who is responsible for paying to get more terminals, such as the biodiesel industry or the petroleum industry, Nazzaro said ultimately the cost will fall on consumers. But if they keep asking for biodiesel products, he stressed, suppliers will listen and down the road, biodiesel is not only more environmentally friendly, it will cost consumers less.

Nazzaro is working with a team to help overcome distribution and supply challenges to help ensure that the biodiesel industry can deliver what they promise: high value, advanced, renewable bioproducts.

To learn more listen to my interview with Paul Nazzaro: Interview with Paul Nazzaro

2016 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDF1Invenergy has announced that it has signed a 225 MW wind power purchase agreement (PPA) with Google to provide the tech giant with renewable energy to help support its data center operations. Google first announced this deal in December during the COP21 conference in Paris. Invenergy is one of six renewable energy companies Google partnered with for a total 842 MW of renewable energy across three countries. Of the six agreements, Google’s PPA with Invenergy is the largest.
  • After a multi-year process, and a multi-million dollar utility campaign to eliminate solar competition, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has voted to maintain net metering and continue California’s strong solar market according to The Alliance for Solar Choice.
  • Sumitomo Corporation together with The Japan Steel Works have announced their partnership with Gerdau to manufacture and sell wind power generation forged products under the joint-venture. Gerdau is the largest long steel manufacturer in Brazil. Production of these forged parts is expected to begin in 2017.
  • Canadian Solar Inc. has announced that it has entered into agreements with International Finance Corporation (IFC), to receive a financing package of up to US$70 million in loans and equity investment. The partnership with IFC underscores the Company’s commitment to expanding in Asia and Latin America, as well as conducting its operations in compliance with IFC’s environmental and social performance standards.

‘Glitch’ Gives Mass. Biomass Debate Another Shot

massflagA technical glitch at a recent public hearing on a proposed Massachusetts biomass plant will give proponents and opponents to speak their minds on the project. This article from masslive.com says the Public Health Council expanded its period for public comment on the proposed East Springfield biomass plant that developer Palmer Renewable Energy wants to build.

City Health Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris wrote in an email that the glitch was due to the size of the auditorium, and the commission now needs more time as it seeks transcripts from a stenographer hired by the developer to record the meeting.

The comment period has been extended to Feb. 3. It was originally supposed to close this week, with the board taking up the biomass discussion again at its February meeting…

The hearing featured detailed presentations from both developer Palmer Renewable Energy and opponents of the project. Critics highlighted alleged pollution and health risks while the company’s attorney told the council that efforts to block the project are unlawful — and could trigger a $200 million lawsuit against the city.

Palmer Renewable Energy’s engineering and health consultants delivered testimony defending the project, telling the council it was safe and efforts to block it unlawful.

Neste’s Renewable Diesel Takes on Italian Alps

Neste_logo_pmsRenewable diesel is taking on the Arctic-like conditions of Northern Italy’s Alps. This news release from renewable energy producer Neste says oil and gas retailer Tamoil is using the renewable diesel at a 20 percent blend in its arctic diesel mix.

“We are happy to be able to help our customer Tamoil to be the first in Northern Italy to launch a renewable fuel with excellent cold properties into the market. Neste’s renewable diesel developed and tested in Finland offers uncompromised reliability and performance even in the harshest conditions, such as the Alpine mountain area,” says Kaisa Hietala, Executive Vice President, Renewable Products at Neste.

Neste’s renewable diesel does not contain any conventional FAME biodiesel, and therefore it can also be stored over long periods with full performance available immediately when necessary.

“The idea was born – says Aldo Lancia, Tamoil Italia Supply, Logistics & Wholesales Manager – from strong will to be the first, in Italy, to put on the market a diesel produced from renewable sources, clean and environmentally friendly, characterized by high performance at low temperatures. This was the demand of our customers, for this reason we decided to cooperate with who really considers the environment a precious resource”.

The release goes on to say the legendary Marcialonga cross-country ski race to be run this weekend will use Neste’s renewable diesel in Tamoil’s Gasolio Artico fuel.

Electric Cars Take Over Greenest Vehicles List

Electric cars have taken over this year’s Greenest Vehicles List published by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). The 19th annual environmental rankings published on greencars.org featured nine electric vehicles (EV). The following vehicles comprise the Greenest List for 2016:

For the third year in a row, the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive tops the Greenest List. Toyota’s Prius line continues to perform well, with the new Prius Eco nabbing the 4th spot, while the Prius C and original Prius claim spots #8 and #9. For the first time ever, the Greenest list is completely populated by plug-in and hybrid vehicles; not a single vehicle with only an internal combustion engine appears.

“The 2016 scores are in, and plug-in electric vehicles are outpacing all other vehicle offerings in terms of environmental friendliness. Fortunately, the electricity sector is slated to become cleaner over the life of model year 2016 vehicles, thanks to the Clean Power Plan, and that has bumped up electric vehicles’ green scores this year. Nevertheless, it’s important to acknowledge that how green your electric vehicle truly is depends on the electricity it uses to charge,” said ACEEE Lead Vehicle Analyst Shruti Vaidyanathan.

The newest additions to the list are the Volkswagen eGolf and the Kia’s Soul electric vehicle, which claim the #5 and #7 spots respectively. This year marks the first time a Kia vehicle has earned a top spot since 2009. The improved 2016 Chevrolet Volt also nabs a spot this year (#11) thanks to significant increases in fuel economy and its new streamlined vehicle design.

Modern clean diesels have repeatedly placed well in ACEEE’s annual ranking. However, following the EPA announcement that Volkswagen had cheated federal emissions standards since 2009, greenercars.org suspended its Green Scores for all affected VW, Audi, and Porsche diesel models.

Greenercars.org also identifies practical options in each class among the top widely available, automatic transmission, petroleum-fueled models, since many of the vehicles on the Greenest list are not widely available. The Greener Choices list include the Chevrolet Trax and the GMC Canyon.