Algae. Tec Facility Continues to Attract Attention

Joanna Schroeder

Parliamentary Secretary for Defence and Member for Eden-Monaro Dr Mike Kelly recently visited Alage.Tec facility in Shoalhaven (Australia). The plant is proving out technology that produces low cost, high grade algae-based biofuels. While on site, Dr. Kelly was briefed about the technology by company representatives.

One element with great promise is the fact that algae “eat” carbon to grow. In Israel and China, for example, the carbon-hungry algae are being used to abate emissions from coal-fired power stations that are a similar size to the ones used in Australia.

“This region is fast becoming a flagship for renewable energy in Australia,” said Dr. Kelly during his visit. “We have already seen over $1 billion being invested in renewable energy projects in Eden-Monaro and the lower Shoalhaven region – that includes wind and wave energy, solar, biomass and geothermal.”

Dr. Kelly continued, “To have a company like Algae.Tec here in Bomaderry, which recently signed a collaboration agreement with Lufthansa to produce aviation biofuels and also with Holcim Lanka, is a wonderful boon. The possibilities of this technology are extremely exciting. Their algae technology has almost no impact on the environment and could potentially eliminate emissions from coal-fired power stations.”

Roger Stroud, executive chairman of Algae.Tec noted that that the biofuels technology being used in Shoalhaven is the same technology that will be used by the company to produce aviation and other transportation fuels.

“We currently have feasibility studies underway with interested parties in Texas, Brazil, China, Sri Lanka and Germany, as well as another site in New South Wales,” said Stroud. “The Shoalhaven facility has already had VIP visits from some of the world’s largest companies wanting to see how the technology delivers sustainable low cost fuel, carbon capture, and energy security.”

advance biofuels, algae, Alternative energy, aviation biofuels, Carbon Dioxide, International, Renewable Energy

Propel Receives $21M in Investments

Joanna Schroeder

Propel Fuels has closed on the initial phase of its Series D round of funding with $11 million in equity capital from existing investors Nth Power, Craton Equity Partners, and @Ventures as well as a new investor, Gentry Venture Partners. In addition, the company has secured $10 million in debt financing from CapX Partners. With the additional funds, Propels plans to accelerate its build out of its network of alternative energy stations.

Operating on the west coast, Propel has stations that offer E85 and biodiesel blends along with conventional fuels. In addition, the stations help people with other facets of transportation including carbon offsets, tips on improving fuel economy, rideshare opportunities, services for bicyclists, and recycling.

“The continuing support of our existing investors, the new investment from Gentry, and the access to additional debt capital from CapX is a strong endorsement for our vision, our accomplishments, and team,” said Matt Horton, CEO of Propel. “This new funding, combined with grant funding from the State of California, will enable us to accelerate the build out of our alternative fuel stations across state, offering consumers true choice and a better experience at the pump.”

As part of the investment by Gentry, Thomas B. Raterman, a Partner, has joined Propel’s Board of Directors. Raterman has more than 30 years of corporate finance, investment banking, and executive management with rapidly growing entrepreneurial companies.

Raterman added, “We’re witnessing a revolution in transportation, whether it’s innovative new enzymes to create clean fuels, or whole new drivetrains and power systems in the vehicles themselves. Propel is creating a position as a trusted source of the most advanced fuels on the market today – no matter what type of vehicle you drive. We’re excited to help them succeed.”

advance biofuels, Biodiesel, Carbon Dioxide, E85

Just the Ethanol Facts

Cindy Zimmerman

The National Corn Growers Association has created a simple website that offers just the facts about ethanol.

The website EthanolFacts.com offers information about E15, food versus fuel, energy security, jobs in rural America and more. There is a lot of discussion about ethanol these days, and plenty of need for a look at the facts. That’s why the National Corn Growers Association has created the EthanolFacts.com website as a simple place to get the facts and links to a lot more information about our favorite domestic renewable fuel.

“For years, NCGA has been at the forefront of promoting ethanol as an important choice for today’s drivers, who are demanding fuels that are not only cleaner-burning, but powerful and made right here in the United States,” said Chad Willis, a Minnesota corn farmer who serves as chairman of NCGA’s Ethanol Committee. “EthanolFacts.com provides the key information to people who want to know the simple truth about a very complex subject so they can continue the conversation about how farmers are not only helping feed the world, but fuel it, too.”

EthanolFacts.com was designed for simplicity and clarity on a number of platforms, especially mobile platforms such as tablets and smartphones – and NCGA also has print versions available.

corn, Ethanol, Ethanol News, NCGA

Solectria Renewables Named A Top Job Creator

Joanna Schroeder

Solectria Renewables has been named by Inc.’s Hire Power List, as a top job creator. The awards recognized private businesses that have generated the most jobs in the past three years. The company generated 105 jobs between 2008-2011, ranking them #1 Energy Sector job creator in Massachusetts. The company was also one of the top 10 private business job creators within the U.S. Energy Industry during the same time frame. Today, Solectria has more than 160 employees in various positions including engineering, quality, customer service, assembly, administration, sales, marketing and management.

“Solectria Renewables is extremely honored to receive this prestigious award from Inc. Magazine,” said Aybike Doganci Crott, Chief Operating Officer of Solectria Renewables, who accepted the award during an award ceremony. “Solectria Renewables has been profitable for over 6 years, doubling or tripling sales each year. With this amount of growth, our staff has grown tremendously and we predict this will continue.”

The inaugural Hire Power Awards were sponsored by Bank of America and Merrill Lynch. The awards were created to honor American companies who have increased their workforces.

Eric Schurenberg, Inc. editor-in-chief added, “The top 100 companies on the list have created 73,032 American jobs in the three-year period from 2008 to 2011 – an amazing feat, given that much of that job growth came during the heart of the recession. And it isn’t just the big guys that are adding jobs. Companies with less than $50 million in annual revenue make up nearly one-third of the Hire Power list.”

Clean Energy, Solar

Movie Review – Chasing Ice

Joanna Schroeder

I spent the weekend in the Twin Cities attending several environmental events. The first event was a screening of the documentary Chasing Ice, produced by environmental photographer James Balog who founded Extreme Ice Survey. It is hard for me to put my emotions into words after watching this moving. It was simultaneously incredibly beautiful and yet horrific. Beautiful in that the imagery of the ice was stunning and horrific because the crew caught on film the melting of glaciers.

James Balog, along with several teams, installed 25 cameras in Greenland, Iceland, Alaska and Montana and over the course of three plus years, the cameras took photos every 20-30 minutes and as I write this, have taken thousands of photos of the glaciers. Every six months, the teams traveled in oftentimes heralding weather to check the cameras, take additional photos and video and switch out memory cards. The results was stunning time lapse photography – who knew that ice could be so beautiful.

Yet what might have been most amazing, was that his cameras and crew caught what is to believed the largest calving incident ever recorded on film. A portion of a glacier in Greenland broke off (nearly the size of Manhattan) over the course of 75 minutes. It was amazing to watch but then the reality of what you are witnessing takes hold  – watching the disappearance of the glaciers. While glaciers have calved for centuries, they typically stay about the same in size – one piece breaks off while more ice forms. Yet today, these glaciers are not being replenished, per say, they are vanishing.

One element of the film that could be most interesting, was that James Balog began as a climate skeptic and now believes that climate change is real, and a major part of it is caused by human actions. For those who already believe in climate change, or those who continue to be climate skeptics, this is a must see film. And for those climate skeptics who still deny that climate change is real after seeing this film, well then nothing will change your mind.  (I would like to thank the Will Steger Foundation for providing 840 free tickets to see Chasing Ice).

Climate Change, Education, Environment, global warming, Movie Review, Video

Solar Exceeding Performance Expectations

Joanna Schroeder

According to SunPower Systems, who has solar systems operating at 25 California Water Agencies, their power systems have exceeded expectations for overall performance. The company estimates that the systems have saved the state’s public agencies a cumulative total of approximately $5.3 million over the past 12 months.

SunPower has designed and built nearly 25 megawatts of solar power systems at 43 water facility sites over the past decade. The company says on average, those systems are generating 102 percent of expected production.

“Water agencies and facilities typically have huge energy demand and a responsibility to rate payers to minimize operational costs,” said Howard Wenger, SunPower president, regions. “SunPower delivers the most efficient and reliable solar technology on the market today, with guaranteed performance that ensures these facilities lock in positive financial returns. We are very pleased that our water agency and district customers are seeing returns above and beyond expectations, delivering added value to the public agencies and their ratepayers.”

SunPower has two new water agency projects currently under construction in California: a 922-kilowatt system for Western Municipal Water District located in Riverside, California, and a 1.2 megawatt system for Oceanside, California. This system is estimated to provider between 25-30 percent of electricity for the facility and save more than $1.6 million in electricity costs over the next 20 years.

Both systems will use the SunPower T0 Tracker, a ground-mounted technology that rotates the solar panels to follow the sun during the day, that the company says increases energy capture by up to 25 percent over conventional fixed-tilt systems, while reducing land use requirements.

Alternative energy, Electricity, Energy, Solar

FAPRI: RIN Prices Could Be on the Rise

John Davis

There could be big money in store for Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs)… or not. A new report from the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri (FAPRI-MU) says that the ethanol blend wall could have the biggest effect on how RIN prices rise or fall:

Expanding ethanol use in the future could require more E15 and E85 sales. More E15 or E85 could require costly infrastructure development and the prices of these fuels might have to be discounted to coax consumers to buy them. Based on this understanding of the fuel market, pushing more ethanol through the system would be increasingly difficult for fuel blenders, meaning that conventional RIN prices could rise in the future.

If the mandates will become more difficult to meet as they force ethanol use to exceed the blend wall, then RIN prices could rise in the future. RINs can be stored, up to a point, so current RINs might reflect expectations about future RIN prices. However, the price of conventional RINs generated in 2012 is less than $0.05 per gallon – 1-2% of the current wholesale price of ethanol – as of November 2012.

But… on the other hand…

There are reasons why the conventional RIN price would remain low despite the looming blend wall.
1. The blend wall could be less of a constraint than expected if ethanol expansion is easy, drop-in biofuels become commercially viable, or more biofuel is used other than as in motor fuels.
2. RIN stocks in the future are expected to exceed the maximum permitted amount, although 2012 market data about biofuel disposition cast some doubt on this explanation in the short run.
3. RIN buyers and sellers could expect that the EPA would waive the broad mandates in the future in the event that the associated RIN prices rise sharply, but this question goes well beyond our analysis.

The report looks at three possible scenarios, and some of those expectations include expanding the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). The bottom line is that the change in RIN prices could mean billions of dollars.

Ethanol, News

Ethanol Groups Respond to EU Investigation

Cindy Zimmerman

The European Commission today issued a “general disclosure document” setting forth its proposed ruling in the anti-dumping investigation involving U.S. ethanol exports to Europe.

Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) issued a joint statement on the issue:

“We continue to cooperate with the Commission’s investigation. We are troubled by news that the Commission is recommending a 9.6 percent anti-dumping duty to its Member States. We remain convinced that if all the facts are considered, the European Union will decide not to impose any anti-dumping duties on imports of ethanol produced in the United States.”

Last year, the European Union (EU) initiated anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations regarding U.S. exports of ethanol to Europe and current U.S. policies surrounding ethanol production and use, specifically the expiring volumetric ethanol excise tax credit, or VEETC, available to blenders of ethanol and gasoline. Allegations by EU ethanol producers suggested that U.S. ethanol exports to Europe were taking advantage of the tax incentive before export, thus lowering its price and harming EU ethanol producers. However, by August of this year it appeared the issue had been resolved and the EU would not be taking any action.

Ethanol, Ethanol News, Exports, Growth Energy, International, RFA

EIA Releases 2013 Annual Energy Outlook Forecast

Joanna Schroeder

The Energy Information Agency (EIA) has released its 2013 Annual Energy Outlook forecast summary. While the report looks at all forms of energy with estimates going as far as 2040, there were two areas pertinent to biofuels. The summary forecast stated that renewable fuel use will grow at a much faster rate than fossil fuel use, and the share of generation from renewables will grow from 13 percent in 2011 to 16 percent in 2040.

The summary forecasts that while total liquid fuels consumption will fall, consumption of produced  biofuels increases significantly, from 1.3 quadrillion Btu in 2011 to 2.1 Btu in 2040, and its share of total U.S. liquid fuels consumption will grow from 3.5 percent in 2011 to 5.8 percent in 2040.

The increases are much smaller than those in AEO2012, however, as a result of diminished FFV penetration, a
smaller motor gasoline pool for blending ethanol, and reduced production of cellulosic biofuels, which to date has been well under the targets set by the EISA. (EPA issued waivers that substantially reduced the cellulosic biofuels obligation under the RFS for 2010, 2011, and 2012.) In addition, the production tax credit for cellulosic biofuels is scheduled to expire at the end of 2012.

At first glance the outlook for biofuels looks good, but the ethanol industry doesn’t want the take-away being all is good, but rather cautions that this news is not an invitation to curbing or eliminating the RFS.

“Doing so would only prove their lack of understanding of EIA’s report and, more importantly, show their ignorance of the purpose of the RFS,” said ACE Executive Vice President Brian Jennings. “Congress designed the RFS as a flexible and forward-looking policy to serve as a catalyst for biofuel use, and by design, the RFS is built to help break through the blend wall.”

“EIA, on the other hand, makes its projections based on market conditions and known technology. Ten years ago, the EIA Outlook said we could only make 3.4 billion gallons of ethanol in the U.S. by 2020. Congress deemed that unacceptable, and passed the RFS to encourage alternatives to oil, and they were right. The RFS works. Our industry produced almost four times that much ethanol two years ago – ten years ahead of schedule.”

The blend wall is one that is not very high and we’re already at the top but now we can’t get over and down the other side. Scaling the blend wall and increased market access is key, explained Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy.

“Currently the blend wall is preventing additional use of biofuels. While grain-based biofuels, such as corn ethanol have not only met, but exceeded the goals, the blend wall has prevented full saturation into the commercial marketplace and has discouraged investments in next generation biofuels.”

Buis added that Growth Energy and the biofuels industry will continue to work with retailers and consumers to educate them on higher blends, such as E15 and continue to garner the support necessary to break through the blend wall.

So if there is one takeaway its this – biofuels are growing and will continue to grow but only if the RFS stays in place and communities across the country work together to bring choice to Americans at the pump.

ACE, advance biofuels, Cellulosic, Growth Energy, Renewable Energy, RFS