Biodiesel – The Fuel That Pays for School

Joanna Schroeder

For one lucky Minnesota high school senior, biodiesel is going to be the fuel that pays for school. The $1,000 Clean Air Choice Biodiesel Scholarship will be awarded to the student who writes the best 1,000 word essay about the benefits of biodiesel to Minnesota. The second place winner will be given a $500 scholarship.

The scholarship that was announced during the annual Education Minnesota Professional Conference in St. Paul is administered by the American Lung Association in Minnesota. The organization supports and promotes biodiesel as a clean air choice that reduces fuel emissions. The award is sponsored by the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council.

Rules and the online entry form can be found at

advance biofuels, Biodiesel, Education

Five Things You Should Know About Solar

Joanna Schroeder

Inovateus Solar, based in South Bend Indiana, has proposed five things you should know about solar.  The free white paper, “The Good News About Solar: Five Facts You Should Know,” delves in to five areas about solar energy that demonstrates why solar energy should be a part of the energy mix. The five reasons:

  1. 1.  The U.S. Solar Industry Continues Strong Growth.
  2. 2.  The Cost of Solar Continues to Drop Dramatically.
  3. 3.  Solar Power Creates Jobs.
  4. 4.  Solar Incentives are Only a Fraction of Coal, Oil, and Gas Incentives.
  5. 5.  Solar is an Essential Part of the Energy Mix.

“We compiled this research to let people know about all the great things going on with the solar energy industry,” said Inovateus President T.J. Kanczuzewski. “The solar industry is growing at an exponential level. Out of a thousand success stories, a few solar companies have had a rough go of things because of increasing competition. But this competition is important, because it is weeding out weaker players. The majority of solar firms are thriving in a tough economy.”

“The attention these few companies get from the media sometimes puts a bad spin on solar,” added Kanczuzewski. “We’d like to let people know the truth about solar and how it fits prominently into the energy mix for our future.”

Electricity, Energy, Solar

Upward Biodiesel Trend Continues

Joanna Schroeder

The biodiesel industry has another solid month in September producing 86 million gallons of biodiesel. Year-to-date, production is around 843 million gallons and if strong production numbers continue will set a new total biodiesel production record in 2012. The industry set a record in 2011 producing 1.1 billion gallons.

Biodiesel production is reported under the EPA’s Biomass-based Diesel category in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) numbers show a total of 96.5 million gallons of Biomass-based Diesel produced for the month of July, including renewable diesel production.

advance biofuels, Biodiesel

Habitat for Humanity Homes Go Solar

Joanna Schroeder

Habitat for Humanity has constructed 12-home new affordable housing development in Oakland, California with the aid of Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E) Solar Habitat program. In its sixth year, the Solar Habitat program provides solar power to Habitat homes built in Central and Northern California, and to date 416 solar-powered Habitat homes have been completed.

“Today, the City of Oakland celebrates yet another partnership with Habitat for Humanity and PG&E. Together, we are transforming a site that has long been vacant in this community,” said City of Oakland Council President Larry Reid. “We look forward to how the development of these 12 new Solar Habitat homes on Edes Avenue can change an entire neighborhood and are excited about several additional Habitat for Humanity developments in the area.”

This year, PG&E donated $1.27 million for the program and will be enough to provide solar panels for 64 homes. On average, the solar energy produced saves the home owner about $500 per year in electricity costs. Each solar panel generates nearly 300 kilowatt house per month.

“Habitat for Humanity’s mission of making homeownership a reality for deserving families in California and around the world is one PG&E is proud to support,” said Chris Johns, PG&E President. “Through our flagship Solar Habitat program, PG&E and Habitat for Humanity are bringing clean, renewable and affordable energy to homes and neighborhoods across PG&E’s service area, particularly to those that historically have been underserved and overlooked. Together, we’re building a brighter future for the people of this State.”

Janice Jensen, President and CEO of Habitat East Bay/Silicon Valley said they are tremendously thankful for the support. With the help of the city and PG&E, to date 128 Habitat homes have been completed in a one-mile radius and the homes are both financial and environmentally sustainable.

Electricity, Energy, Solar

Using Compost to Fuel Compost Cars

Joanna Schroeder

For those of you who are slacking off this afternoon and surfing the web looking for cool stories about renewable energy, well look no further. I have found the current greatest idea of the month: converting compost into fuel and then fueling cars made out of compost. Are you hooked?

Okay, so this is really not a real technology. The Onion is currently doing a spoof on Ted Talks and their lastest installment is on the greatest energy innovation of all time – compost. And it’s hilarious. The “innovator” says, “So how does it work? It’s quite simple. Instead of using gas, it uses compost.” He calls this concept, “compostization,” which he then describe the implementation plan. And leaves the fake audience with this thought to mull over, “Behind every great achievement is a visionary. I’ll be your visionary and you do the things I come up with.”

Yes, I must admit, I too would like to be your visionary and have everyone else do my work. That would be awesome!

I’m sure some of you are going to want to post a comment or send me an email or tweet that says it’s not funny to joke about something as serious as the need for new alternative energy sources. While I am an adamant believer that we do need to continue to develop innovatives technologies to produce energy, we also need to take a moment and be a less bit serious and have a little fun at our expense. And compost cars is just the ticket. I leave you with this famous quote, “Surround yourself with people who take their work seriously, but not themselves.”

Alternative energy, Opinion, Video, Waste-to-Energy

Genuine Bio-Fuel Produces Biodiesel in Seconds

Joanna Schroeder

Florida-based Genuine Bio-Fuel says it has developed a new production process that refines biodiesel fuel in seconds using ultrasonic shearing technologies. Traditionally, it takes several hours to produce biodiesel using batch reactors and the result, says the company, is varying qualities of biodiesel, by-products, water consumption and contaminated water discharge. Genuine Bio-Fuel says using this technology limits future technological advancement.

“Batch reactors are too cumbersome and limiting, said Executive Vice President Jeff Longo. The batch process is time consuming, taking anywhere from a couple of hours to days to complete. Plus, it is not conducive for using a variety of alternative feedstocks of variable quality.”

The company invested in developing a new technology that would reduce operational costs, reduce energy usage and produce high quality fuel. The result was to use ultrasonic shearing that uses sound waves to bond a catalyst to feedstock, which creates a chemical reaction.

During the ultrasonic process, according to the company, the feedstock and catalyst are simultaneously added to the tank and passed through a chamber of ultrasonic sound waves. These sound waves jumble the elements so violently that they become instantly bonded together. After this reaction, the mixture flows into another tank where any remaining raw components will be expelled through a centrifuge – unlike the batch process, which uses water. From there the fuel is passed through an ion exchange polishing tank to polish the final product.

Longo says today Genuine Bio-Fuel is the only plant that truly uses continuous-flow, ultrasonic, shear-mixing technology to product biodiesel. In the process, the company also cut production time and costs, it energy use is about 60 percent below industry average, and there is no need for excessive heat and pressure.

advance biofuels, Biodiesel, Video

Getting Ready for Export Exchange

Cindy Zimmerman

usgcThe 2012 Export Exchange is coming up next week in Minneapolis, the second event of its kind co-sponsored by the U.S. Grains Council and the Renewable Fuels Association to bring together buyers and sellers of grains and livestock feed, including the ethanol by-product distillers dried grains with solubles or DDGS.

“The Export Exchange is a fabulous opportunity for customers to get together with suppliers internationally,” says RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen. “We’ll have more than 300 countries represented. There will be users of distillers dried grains from China to Europe to South America. Just about every ethanol producer – or I should say DDGS producer – will be in attendance.”

RFA VP of Research and Analysis Geoff Cooper says about 25% of the distillers grains that have been produced by U.S. ethanol plants in the last several years has been exported. “Last year we shipped distillers grains to more than 50 countries, so it’s really become a huge component of the global feed market,” he said, noting that if the supply of distillers grains was a nation’s corn crop, it would rank as the fourth largest in the world behind the U.S., Brazil and China.

While DDGS output has decreased this year as ethanol production has slowed down as a result of the drought, Cooper says we are still seeing very strong demand for distillers grains because it is priced lower than corn but provides more nutrition and energy value for livestock and poultry.

Domestic Fuel reporter Jamie Johansen will be covering the event and she interviewed both Dinneen and Cooper for a preview. Listen to or download those back to back interviews here: Export Exchange Preview

Audio, Distillers Grains, Ethanol, Ethanol News, Export Exchange, Exports, RFA

Oilseed Processing Facility Foreclosure Auction

Chuck Zimmerman

Maas Companies of Rochester, MN will liquidate the former Northwood Mills Oilseed Plant, a state of the art oilseed processing facility located outside of Grand Forks, North Dakota at a Sheriff’s Foreclosure Auction on November 27. The auction will be conducted on-site at the plant, 530 35th Street NE, Northwood, North Dakota. Here is some more information:

Northwood Mills opened its doors in 2007 but struggled with the economic conditions and volatile pricing for its products. The 40 Acre plant operated for approximately two years, the equipment is pristine and ready for a new owner. The auction offers the plant for sale as one lot including all real estate, process and auxiliary equipment, storage and completed furnished office space. Originally the plant was used for soybean crushing but later crushed canola, sunflowers, corn germ and flax with outputs ranging from 200-300/tons per day. The plant offers excellent access to transportation for both raw materials and finished products via highway and rail with expansion availability for a 30 car rail spur on the BNSF line.

Maas Companies Inc, a company specializing in the selling of commercial and industrial assets of Rochester, Minnesota will conduct the auction. Tyler Maas, Sales & Marketing Director states, “the sheriff’s foreclosure sale offers the plant to a new buyer at a significant savings over the approximate $10.2 million dollars that was spent to design and build the facility. In this economy, an auction offers new buyers a great economic opportunity.”

Check open house dates after the break. Read More

Facilities, Processing

Green Metrics Missing in Biofuel Debate

Joanna Schroeder

According to Jody Endres, College of Agricultural, Consumer & Environmental Sciences, and The Energy Biosciences Institute at the University of Illinois, and Daniel Szewczyk, academia has failed to create green metrics in measuring the pros and cons of biofuels. A framework to evaluate what constitutes a “green” economy is needed along with measurement metrics.

Endres and Szewczyk note that energy policies such as the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), E.U. Renewable Energy Directive (RED), and the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) require increasing amounts of biofuels to reach goals. When pointing out the benefits of biofuels, the White House touts the environmental, energy security and green economic benefits. In addition, supporters also say a biofuels economy “generates economic activity that preserves and enhances environmental quality while using natural resources more efficiently”.

Yet for the past several years a campaign against biofuels has been mounting, with the current drought across the U.S. fueling the food versus fuel debate to new levels.  Dissenters say that ethanol is causing the price of feed for livestock and poultry in particular to go up and many global associations accuse ethanol of causing food shortages. In light of this myriad of criticism, the biofuel industry is concerned they will lose Congressional and public support, which would be detrimental to the development of advanced biofuels.

Setting aside the arguments, the authors say that best hope in the battle for funding and biofuels’ public image is the potential for creating a green economy in rural America. The study of “greenness,” as opposed to only generic economic development, say the authors, is critical because “greenness” distinguishes and justifies bioenergy sector subsidies in an extreme climate of budget austerity and political polarity.

In response to bioenergy compliance, efforts are beginning to seek to measure the economic and social benefits of environmental improvements within the broader meaning of “bio” fuels. Federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Department of Defense (DOD) also appear to recognize the need to develop social impact metrics that tie to environmental achievements for project funding decisions. In the future, it is the hope that compliance will be in part measured by a biofuels’ green metrics.

Biodiesel, biofuels, Ethanol, RFS

U of A Wins ‘Underground’ Biodiesel Grant

Joanna Schroeder

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health awarded a $1.4 million grant to the University of Arizona‘s Mel and Enid Zumerman College of Public Health along with the department of mining and geological engineering. The three-year project will compare exposure and health effects of miners using diesel versus biodiesel fueled underground mining equipment. During the past few years, miners have shifted to the use of biodiesel-blend fuels in an effort to reduce exposure to particulates from engine exhaust.

Study results will have a dual purpose. Researchers be able to determine the effects of biodiesel-blend fuels in the mining community, and also apply data to establish the beneficial or detrimental effects on the everyday people who are exposed to biodiesel-blend fuels through vehicular emissions.

“Exposures to diesel particulate in underground mining often exceed existing standards,” said Dr. Jeff Burgess, the study’s principal investigator and a professor at the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health. “Biodiesel blends are being employed to reduce these exposures, yet there is no information on whether this increases, decreases or fails to change the toxicity to miners of equipment emissions. This study will help determine the health consequences of using biodiesel fuel blends in the underground mining setting.”

“Information on the health effects of conversion to biodiesel fuels in occupational and environmental settings will also help to inform future policy decisions,” added Burgess.

The research team from the UA College of Public Health includes co-principal investigator Eric Lutz, assistant professor and co-investigator Chengcheng Hu, associate professor. Ros Hill, professor of practice in the department of mining and geological engineering and director of the UA San Xavier Mining Laboratory will assist in the study.

advance biofuels, Biodiesel, Research