Tom Slunecka Joins Minnesota Soybean Growers

Tom Slunecka has been named the new executive director for the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) and Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council. Prior to taking the helm of the soybean team on August 27, 2012, Slunecka was the vice president of marketing for PhibroChem where he focused on ethanol and animal agriculture. He also served as the executive director of the organization Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC).

“I am very happy to have the opportunity to work with these strong groups and look forward to the challenges and opportunities that agriculture will be faced with in the coming years,” said Slunecka, a long-time member of the biofuels and agricultural industry. “I am excited to help execute current and future research projects to bring new opportunities to Minnesota producers’ farm gate. Equally important is to continue to work with the strong leaders developing and implementing farm policies necessary to support soybean farmers’ profitability. I appreciate the opportunity to play a part in fulfilling the visions set forth by Minnesota Soybean.”

Slunecka is moving to Minnesota from Omaha and is a native of South Dakota. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Agriculture from South Dakota State University in Brookings and will bring his vast experience to the soybean industry.

“We are very happy to add a leader of the quality that Tom provides,” said MSGA President and Dodge County farmer Bruce Schmoll. “He is visionary and will help establish and achieve goals that will benefit soybean growers across Minnesota.”

Thanks a Million Ohio

Ohioans who sign up to secure a low electric generation price for four to seven years have a chance to reduce their energy bills with FirstEnergy SolutionsThanks a Million giveaway. Eight residential winners will each receive $25,000 and $50,000 will also go to the winner’s corresponding local school district to use for an under-funded program, supplies or however they need to use the money as long as it is for the betterment of the school. In addition, eight Ohio businesses will each win $50,000.

The contest runs through October 31, 2012 and to be eligible, a resident or business must enroll in an electric generation offer that would freeze the per kilowatt-hour (kWh) price at 6.99 cents on electric generation until 2019, or 6.49 cents per kWh until 2016. This would fix electric prices for four or seven years, helping businesses and residences budget their energy costs for the future and not have their budgets negatively impacted if electricity prices go up.

“As an Ohio-based company, FirstEnergy Solutions is committed to helping Ohio’s residents and businesses through this sluggish economy, which is why we created our Thanks a Million giveaway,” said Donald Schneider, President of FirstEnergy Solutions. “It’s a good boost to our economy and it directly benefits eight Ohio school districts with much-needed funding.”

Schneider said that today the country is seeing historically low prices in the energy market but they are not sustainable. There are signs pointing to increased costs including environmental compliance and plant retirements that will raise energy prices. By locking in electricity prices, concluded Schneider, customers could potentially see considerable saving over the long term.

South African Mine Goes Off-Grid with Solar

JinkoSolar is partnering with Solea Renewables to deliver a Limpopo province chrome mine in South Africa the first off-grid utility scale photovoltaic system in the country. When completed, the 1 megawatt plant will produce an estimated 1.8 gigawatts of electricity per year and be comprised of 4,179 polycrystalline PV panels supplied by JinkoSolar. It will also reduce the mine’s daytime diesel generator use. This is part of an effort in South Africa for the country to increase the use of renewable energy as well as increase power supplies from independent producers.

“While the global demand for South African coal, platinum, palladium and chromium increases, mines and other industrial consumers face power supply constraints due to capacity challenges at Eskom. The turnkey delivery of our PV plants will not only benefit end-users, but it will in turn help reduce the ever present and increasing energy demand Eskom faces,” said Vusi Mhlanzi, Director of Solea Renewables. “We chose JinkoSolar panels for its superior performance and reliability, as seen in utility-scale installations across Asia, Europe, and Americas.”

The off-grid PV solar system is expected to be completed by late October 2012. According to Mhlanzi, the system will be a good example of how solar energy can create a “long-term hedge against all rising costs of power.”

Kangping Chen, CEO of JinkoSolar added, “We have great expectations for South Africa. The region’s booming population, strong economic growth and abundant sunlight represent an exciting opportunity for solar and for JinkoSolar. We look forward to working with Solea Renewables, an experienced EPC partner on this momentous project.”

IRFA Renews Safety Alliance

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) has renewed its safety alliance with the Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Iowa OSHA) for two years. The partnership is designed for the two organizations, through IRFA’s Safety Task Force, to explore best management practices and improve the recognition and control of workplace hazards in ethanol and biodiesel plants throughout Iowa.

“The safety alliance between IRFA and Iowa OSHA since 2009 has been mutually beneficial, and IRFA is proud to continue this working partnership for another two years,” said IRFA Biofuels Manager Grant Menke. “The regular meetings have fostered important dialogue and improved understanding between both organizations as well as fellow renewable fuels producers.

Menke continued, “While the Iowa renewable fuels industry remains proud of its safety and compliance record, we continue to strive for improvement. This safety alliance, which is open to every Iowa biodiesel and ethanol production facility, is one of the best tools we have to continue learning, communicating and getting better.”

Micheal Mauro, Iowa’s Labor Commissioner congratulated IRFA for its leadership and dedication to safety in the renewable fuels industry. “Iowa Renewable Fuels Association has made a conscious decision to make protecting workers a priority in the workplace. Their continued commitment for workers’ safety and health is a testament for other companies to follow.”

Book Review – Last Summer at the Compound

This weekend I read the fiction book “Last Summer at the Compound,” by JH Bartlett.  The story takes place outside of Boston, near the aging Pilgrim nuclear power plant with the same design as Fukushima (the plant that was hit by the tsunami). Taking place a year after the Fukushima disaster, there are fears surmounting in the community and in one of the main characters that a disaster with the plant could take place, whether by accident or design. The book ends on Labor Day weekend, so I thought it was only fitting to review the book today.

The story chronicles a multi-generation family who spends each summer near the water at the family “compound”. This summer an unsettling change is in the air and the family begins to discuss whether to sell the property or hang on. One of the most vocal family members to sell is Sarah, who is worried the nuclear power plant will be attacked or have a severe accident. She is also concerned about the spent rods that have been stored near the plant with no where to go.

On the plus side, the author does a good job of laying out the pros and cons of nuclear energy through the characters. Also through her characters she brings up the need for renewable energy and the ongoing wars that have taken place around the world for oil as well as environmental concerns as reasons to support clean energy.

On the negative side, I felt that the characters’ voices weren’t authentic enough and the end of the book was unfulfilled. I also felt like there were many missed opportunities to really explore nuclear energy and various plot lines. The story was more of a novella and it missed the opportunity to be a novel with a true, in-depth exploration of both nuclear power and family dynamics.

DF Cast: Debating the RFS Waiver

The EPA has just started the 30-day comment period for a proposed waiver of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). And just as the comments started, the National Corn Growers Association has asked for even more time for comments to come in.

But there’s no lack of viewpoints already out there. In this edition of the Domestic Fuel Cast, we’ll hear from National Turkey Federation president Joel Brandenberger, Purdue University’s Wally Tyner and Chris Hurt, former Secretary of Agriculture Clayton Yeutter, and Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis giving their thoughts about a possible RFS waiver.

You can listen to the Domestic Fuel Cast here: Domestic Fuel Cast

You can also subscribe to the DomesticFuel Cast here.

New Holland Promotes Ethanol at Farm Progress Show

New Holland was all about American Ethanol at the 2012 Farm Progress Show this past week in Boone, Iowa.

“This year we’ve got a whole emphasis on a brand new partnership with American Ethanol,” said New Holland North America Vice President Abe Hughes about the equipment and signage at the show exhibit promoting ethanol and the NASCAR partnership. “We’re putting our name on the line saying that we’re 200% behind ethanol production.”

Hughes says they support ethanol because of the stability it’s brought to the American farmer. “It’s brought income stability to them and their families and it’s helped rejuvenate rural communities,” he said.

New Holland is also working on new ways to harvest corn stover for cellulosic ethanol production, with the introduction this year of the Cornrower combine attachment. “We’ve got the equipment to support the collection of stover in a clean way,” said Hughes. “You’ve got to handle it very carefully so you don’t get dirt in there and it leaves just the right amount of residue to avoid erosion.”

Listen to an interview with Hughes from FPS: Interview with Abe Hughes

2012 Farm Progress Show Photo Album

Vocal Trash Sings About Being Green

Here is a fun story for a Friday. A group called Vocal Trash entertains consumers across the country with a musical mix of pop, rock and swing used to educate listeners about being green. The group’s song reflect earth-friendly values like recycling and upcycling. As if this is cool enough, the group also “recycles” their instruments used in their performances.

“If you want a high energy show, with standing room only crowds, Vocal Trash is the way to go,” said Danny Aguilar of the Delaware State Fair. “They have been a huge entertainment hit for our patrons and they demand Vocal Trash return each year.”

Fans have raved about the singing, industrial style drumming and comedy all interwoven into their live performances. While people dance and sing along with the group, they are also learning about their impact on the environment and offering simple solutions and ways to improve their environmental footprint.

Kelsey Rae, a member of Vocal Trash said of their style, “We’re like a fusion of the Black-Eyed Peas and Al Gore. We’re simply presenting a positive message in an effective way. Music and dance is universal… there’s no better way to reach the masses. THINK… before you throw it away.”

FuelCell Energy Calls for Support of Infrastructure

FuelCell Energy is calling for support of a bill that would improve the infrastructure for fuel cells and hydrogen. The Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Infrastructure for America Act was introduced by U.S. Congressman John B. Larson and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal. The goal of the legislation is to accelerate the adoption of stationary fuel cell power and generation and hydrogen energy infrastructure. In addition, the bill would also help support domestic manufacturing of the fuel cell industry.

Earlier this week, Congressman Larson and Senator Blumenthal along with U.S. Congressman Chris Murphy visited the Torrington, Connecticut production facility of FuelCell Energy where the legislation was announced.

“The kind of work being done here at FuelCell Energy to provide highly efficient on-site power generation is exactly the kind of work we should be seeing more of to help move us to a stronger future,” said Congressman Larson. “I look forward to continuing my work with the delegation to improve federal incentives for this sustainable, American technology. It’s good for our economy here in Connecticut and for the energy security of the Nation.”

The Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Infrastructure for America Act creates a tiered investment tax credit (ITC) to reward highly efficient stationary fuel cell power plants utilizing a combined heat and power (CHP) configuration. There is already a tax credit in place that provides 30 percent tax credit for stationary fuel cell power plants operating with at least a 30 percent efficiency. The new piece of legislation would increase the tax credit to 40 percent for fuel cell power plants achieving at least 60 percent efficiency. It also increases the tax credit even higher to 50 percent for fuel cell power plants achieving at least 70 percent efficiency.

“Fuel cell technology and energy can create jobs and enhance our state economy as well as free America from dependence on foreign oil — a huge win-win for everyone,” Senator Blumenthal added. “I am proud to introduce this bill modeled on Congressman Larson’s measure, which promises major benefits to Connecticut companies, helping to make our state the fuel cell capital of the world.”

France Walks the Walk for Reduction of Fossil Energy

It appears that France is walking the walk with its call for a reduction of use of fossil fuels. The country uses more nuclear energy than any other; yet, have publicly stated they will phase out its use of thermal power. According to a new report, from GlobalData, “Thermal Power in France, Market Outlook to 2020, 2012 Update – Capacity, Generation, Regulations, Power Plants, Companies,” France is one of the few European countries will is capable of achieving a reduction of fossil use by the end of the decade.

The largest share of the French power market is occupied by the nuclear industry, which at 63,130 MW will account for almost half of the country’s 2012 total installed capacity. While nuclear power will still increase by the end of the decade, it will be only marginally, with installed capacity expected to reach 67,530 MW by 2020.

The country is forecasted to drop from 27,720 Megawatts (MW) in 2012 to 23,783 MW in 2020, declining at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 1.9%. At the same time, other major European nations such as Germany, Italy and the UK are expected to increase thermal installed capacity during this period.

As a result of France’s reduction of use of thermal power, they are increasing their use of renewable energy. Today, the county generates 130,231 MW in today and is estimated to increase to 156,639 MW in 2020. The government is factoring in reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as energy efficiency in all decisions and is planning on installing a five million solar thermal units by 2020 with 80 percent of the solar arrays installed on homes.