More Transmission Key Policy Issue for Wind Industry

Joanna Schroeder

Wind on the Wires is an organization based in St. Paul, Minnesota launched about a decade ago to focus on wind policy issues and wind transmission line issues. To learn more about some key policy initiatives for 2013, I spoke with Beth Soholt, Executive Director, who was in Des Moines, Iowa during Iowa Wind Energy Day.

Beth SoholtThe big issue for 2013? “Quite simply its more transmission,” explained Soholt. However, she said, this is a long process. First you have to study where transmission needs to go. You need to study how much transmission is needed for what you want to achieve, and then you have to decide where it’s going to be built. You also have to get somebody who is willing to build it, and this includes convincing them it needs to be built. Once that has been achieved, the project must go through a state regulatory process, and it needs to be funded.

“So the planning piece on what to build and where to build it and the cost recovery piece are two of the big barriers,” said Soholt.

The industry, advocates, think tanks and more banter around numbers in the dozens of billions as the cost to build the needed transmission. But Soholt said that transmission is actually a very small percentage of a consumer’s bill – only about 7 percent. The rest of the bill is to pay from getting the energy from the generator to your house, and other kinds of investments.

Even though this is a relatively small piece of the overall pie, this is what the utilities know how to do, said Soholt.The harder piece is having them include investments for large amounts of renewable energy.

“This is where Wind on the Wires comes in and can sit down with them and educate them in various stakeholder settings,” said Soholt.  The organization can put together a package that lots of different kinds of stakeholders can support and they can also address the cost allocation piece, i.e. who should pay? “If we spread out the cost of transmission among a lot of users it becomes a very, very small percentage for everyone,” said Soholt.

While the “road to market” may be a long one, Soholt said utilities need to go ahead and start implementing.

You can learn more about policy issues, the road to market, and next steps for Iowa’s wind energy industry in my full interview with Beth: Key Policy Issue for Wind Industry: More Transmission.

See the 2013 Iowa Wind Energy Day Photo Album.

Alternative energy, Audio, Electricity, Energy, Wind

Iowa Senator Harkin to Retire

Joanna Schroeder

Senator Tom Harkin Photo- Joshua Roberts with REUTERSIowa Senator and renewable fuel advocate Tom Harkin has announced over the weekend that he will retire after his current term. Leading up to the 2014 elections, Harkin will have served five terms. He said in a statement he will spend more time with his family. In response to the news, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) today thanked Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) for his unwavering support of Iowa’s renewable fuels industry.

“Sen. Harkin has been a staunch supporter of the renewable fuels industry in Iowa, and the work he’s accomplished in renewable fuels policy serves as a benchmark. Sen. Harkin’s role in implementing the first energy title in the Farm Bill, strong support of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), and personal calls to the White House to increase the 2013 renewable volume obligation (RVO) for biodiesel have been instrumental in ensuring Iowa’ renewable fuels industry can compete against the highly subsidized and mandated petroleum industry,” said IRFA President Rick Schwarck.

Among other accomplishments, Harkin in the chair of the Senate Agriculture and Nutrition Committee and was instrumental in the passage of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

biofuels, Iowa RFA

Battery Storage Project at Texas Wind Farm Completed

Joanna Schroeder

Duke Energy Renewables has completed a 36-megawatt (MW) energy storage and power management system at its 153 MW Notrees Windpower Project in West Texas. Development of the storage system began in 2009 with a $22 million grant matching from the Department of Energy and in December the project became fully operational.

“Battery storage is an important innovation to address the variability of wind and solar energy generation,” said Duke Energy Renewables President Greg Wolf. “Developing an expertise in this advanced technology will enable us to expand the use of renewable energy, better integrate it into the power grid and become even more efficient at serving our customers.”

Notrees_picAustin-based Xtreme Power designed and installed the 36 MW-capacity Dynamic Power Resource at Notrees and will continue to operate the system. The battery storage project will help mitigate the variability of wind power, storing excess wind energy and discharging it whenever demand for electricity is highest. The system will also stabilize the frequency of electricity traveling throughout the power grid. Duke Energy is working closely with Energy Reliability Council of Texas, which signals to the battery storage system to either dispatch stored energy to increase frequency or absorb energy to decrease frequency.

“Completion of this project represents a singular success for Duke Energy, for the DOE, and for the entire energy storage community in the U.S.” said Dr. Imre Gyuk, program manager for energy storage at the U.S. Department of Energy. “It will demonstrate the capability of energy storage to mitigate the variability of wind energy and to contribute to the stability of the grid”.

The Electric Power Research Institute will collect performance data from the battery storage system and help assess the potential for broader adoption of energy storage solutions throughout the industry. Technical and economic data will also be analyzed for DOE by Sandia National Laboratory. Results from the storage project at Notrees wind farm will be shared publicly through the DOE’s Smart Grid Information Clearinghouse.

Electricity, Energy, Solar, Wind

Great Model – UK-Ireland Wind Power Project

Joanna Schroeder

The Dublin Energy Minister of Ireland and the UK Secretary of State for Energy have paved the way for the export of Ireland’s wind energy to Britain. The hope is that this project will be a model for other countries as the development of a pan-European electricity grid continues.

Wind farm in Ireland“With greater grid integration the UK and Ireland can expect more independence from imported fossil fuels, lower power prices thanks to greater competition, and more zero-carbon wind energy,” said Justin Wilkes, Policy Director at the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). “This type of win-win-win-wind solution is exactly what consumers, the UK, Ireland and the wind industry will benefit from as Europe’s electricity systems and markets become more integrated. Wind energy is a key driver of this much-needed grid integration.”

The recently published Energy Bill in the UK allows for the direct import of renewable power from neighboring EU Member States, and the Irish government has made clear its support for the export of wind energy from Ireland. In response, EWEA is urging the Irish and UK governments to initiate concrete plans to ensure the memorandum of understanding results in a stable legislative framework which benefits consumers and the wind industry in both Ireland and the UK.

There are a number of UK-Ireland projects under development including the 5,000 MW Energy Bridge project which would deliver Irish onshore wind power to the west coast of the UK, and the 1,100 MW Codling Wind Park which could deliver offshore electricity for 160,000 UK homes by 2020.

Alternative energy, Electricity, Energy, Wind

Advanced Biofuels Gets Court Win

Joanna Schroeder

NBB-logo1Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the advanced biofuels requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Biodiesel is classified in the RFS as an advanced biofuels, and last year more than 1 billion gallons were produced by U.S. biodiesel producers. In response, the National Biodiesel Board’s Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs made the following statement:

“This is just the latest in a series of cases in which the oil industry has tried unsuccessfully to re-litigate the standards for renewable fuels, and it is yet another victory for our nation’s shift toward cleaner, more diverse energy supplies,” said Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs for the National Biodiesel Board. “The fact is that the RFS is a very effective program for improving U.S. energy security, creating jobs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We look forward to working constructively with our partners in the petroleum industry to meet these goals moving forward.”

advance biofuels, Biodiesel, NBB, RFS

What Cellulosic Biofuel Ruling is Not

Cindy Zimmerman

dinneen-capitolThe American Petroleum Institute hailed today’s circuit court ruling to “vacate the 2012 cellulosic biofuel standard” as a “decision to end mandate for non-existent biofuels.” Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen says it is not.

“The mandate for cellulosic ethanol is not ended by this decision by any way shape or form,” said Dinneen, calling API’s characterization “the height of deception.”

Dinneen explains that the court decision simply means that EPA has to have better justification for cellulosic biofuel target numbers under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). “They couldn’t create an incentive for investment,” he said. “All they can do is make a clear headed decision on what is likely to be produced.”

Ethanol Report PodcastIn this edition of the Ethanol Report, Dinneen talks about how the petroleum industry is very afraid of the potential of cellulosic biofuels to take over a greater percentage of the gasoline market. “They’re not happy about having lost 10% of the barrel,” Dinneen says. “They are apoplectic about the potential of losing even more of it to cellulosic ethanol and other biofuels.”

Listen to or download the Ethanol Report here: Ethanol Report on Cellulosic Court Ruling

Subscribe to “The Ethanol Report” with this link.

advance biofuels, Audio, Cellulosic, Ethanol, Ethanol News, Ethanol Report, RFA, RFS

POET Biorefining-Macon Suspends Production Due to Drought

Joanna Schroeder

POET Biorefining – Macon is temporarily suspending plant operations effective Feb. 1 due primarily to a lack of available local corn caused in part by last summer’s drought. All of the plant’s 44 team members will remain employed at their current hours. Many will assist in installation of the approximately $14.5 million in upgrades to the plant that will occur during the down time. The plant will also continue to purchase corn for future use as it is available. There is currently no timeline for resuming production.

POET Biorefining Macon EmployeesThe biorefinery started operation in 2000 ad is located in one of the worst-hit areas of last season’s drought, leaving it unable to source corn locally or bring corn in from other areas at a competitive price.

“Macon has been a very successful plant within the POET network,” said POET CEO Jeff Lautt. “Once conditions improve, I know the plant and its hard-working team members will continue to make POET-Biorefining – Macon a star.”

The plant is in the early stages of construction on a number of upgrades that will improve profitability further once production resumes. Those include:

  • Voilà corn oil technology, which will provide an additional product for new revenue
  • Full BPX technology, POET’s patented “no-cook” process that significantly reduces heat/energy use
  • A new control system
  • A new, more efficient evaporator
  • A new administration building and scale house

Board President John Eggleston added, “We’re all excited to see these upgrades taking effect. It’s investments like these that will ensure continued long-term success for the plant.”

corn, Ethanol, POET

Photovoltaics Versus Biofuels in Energy Conversion

Joanna Schroeder

How does energy produced by the sun (solar) compete with ethanol in terms of land use, life-cycle emissions and cost? These questions are being asked by University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) Bren School of Environmental Science & Management Professor Roland Geyer. He wants to know what makes more sense, growing fuel crops to supply alternative-fuel vehicles with ethanol or other biofuels or using photovoltaics (PV) to directly power battery electric vehicles (EVs).

Screen Shot 2013-01-25 at 1.07.55 PM“The energy source for biofuels is the sun, through photosynthesis,” explains Geyer. “The energy source for solar power is also the sun. Which is better?”

To find out, Geyer joined former BrenSchool researcher David Stoms and James Kallaos, of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, to model the relative efficiencies of the technologies at converting a given amount of sunlight to miles driven. The results have been published in the paper, “Spatially Explicit Life Cycle Assessment of Sun-to-Wheels Transportation Pathways in the U.S.,” in the Dec. 26 issue of the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Results showed photovoltaics (PV) to be much more efficient than biomass at turning sunlight into energy to fuel a car.

“PV is orders of magnitude more efficient than biofuels pathways in terms of land use  — 30, 50, even 200 times more efficient — depending on the specific crop and local conditions,” said Geyer. “You get the same amount of energy using much less land, and PV doesn’t require farm land.”

The researchers examined three ways of using sunlight to power cars: 1) the traditional method of converting corn or other plants to ethanol; 2) converting energy crops into electricity for BEVs rather than producing ethanol; and 3) using PVs to convert sunlight directly into electricity for EVs. Because land-use decisions are local, Geyer explained, he and his colleagues examined five prominent “sun-to-wheels” energy conversion pathways — ethanol from corn or switchgrass for internal combustion vehicles, electricity from corn or switchgrass for EVs, and PV electricity for EVs — for every county in the contiguous United States.Read More

Alternative energy, biofuels, Electric Vehicles, Research, Solar

Mixed Messages for Advanced Biofuels

Joanna Schroeder

There are some mixed messages coming from the D.C. Circuit today as they ruled to vacate the 2012 cellulosic biofuel standard, yet affirmed the 2012 advanced biofuel standard as part of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The biofuels industry reacted to the decisions and noted that although the court vacated the cellulosic standard, it also rejected API’s argument that EPA was required to follow the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s projections in setting its own. The court also rejected API’s argument that EPA was not entitled to consider information from cellulosic biofuel producers in setting its projection, finding that cellulosic producers were an “almost inevitable source of information” Project Libertyfor EPA. According to several biofuel organizations, these were important decisions that give EPA flexibility in setting cellulosic biofuel volumes in the future.

The court vacated the cellulosic biofuel standard because it believed that EPA had impermissibly set the volume with the objective of promoting growth in the industry, rather than simply making an accurate prediction. The biofuels organizations strongly disagree with this characterization — EPA did not determine a reasonably achievable volume and then inflate it, they say. Rather, it set the volume based on the best information available to it at the time. In the end, EPA is free to reinstate the volumes that it had established, as long as the information available at the time would support the agency’s conclusion that those volumes were reasonably achievable. The court’s decision does not now require, or permit, EPA to set volumes based on hindsight.

The D.C. Circuit also affirmed the EPA’s decision not to reduce the advanced biofuel volume, categorically rejecting API’s arguments that EPA must be support its decision not to reduce the applicable volume of advanced biofuels with specific numerical projections.

In a joint statement, the biofuel organizations stated that, “although we disagree with the court’s decision vacating the 2012 cellulosic volumes, today’s decision once again rejects broad-brushed attempts to effectively roll back the federal Renewable Fuel Standard.”

The biofuel organizations include the Advanced Biofuels Association (ABFA), Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC), American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), Growth Energy, and Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). They are reviewing the court’s decision and assessing next steps in the matter.

advance biofuels, Cellulosic, Renewable Energy, RFS

Bioenergy Bytes

Joanna Schroeder

  • MASS companies is holding an online biodiesel auction with online bidding ending on Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 5:00 pm CST. Equipment for sale includes biodiesel process and lab equipment, with some items brand new and others used. You can take an online tour here. BioEnergyBytesDF
  • Ryan Walsh has been named the Director of Sales and Marketing for American Ethanol, a Growth Energy program.
  • LS9, Inc., has announced the appointment of Tjerk de Ruiter as President and Chief Executive Officer.
  • Renewable Energy Group has promoted Jon Scharingson to Executive Director, Sales and Marketing and Jason Schwenneker has been promoted to Executive Director, National Sales and Trading.
  • The Board of Directors of Novozymes has appointed Peder Holk Nielsen as President and Chief Executive Officer effective April 1, 2013. He will succeed Steen Riisgaard.
Bioenergy Bytes