USDA Funds 244 Agribusiness Projects

Joanna Schroeder

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the funding for 244 projects across the United States that are focused on helping agricultural producers and rural small businesses. The projects will help to lower energy consumption and costs using renewable technologies. The funding is part of USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).

“As part of President Obama’s “all of the above” energy strategy, USDA has partnered with thousands of America’s farmers, ranchers and rural businesses to help them save energy and improve their bottom line,” said Vilsack. “This effort is helping to provide stable energy costs that create an environment for sustainable job growth in rural America.”

For example, grower Matthew Gabler, based in Augusta, Wisconsin, was awarded a grant to install a new 11 kilowatt wind turbine that is estimated to produced nearly 29,000 kilo-watt hours a year for his farm.

Another example is Edaleen Cow power LLC, located in Whatcom County, Washington, has awarded a REAP loan and grant combination of $2,638,000 to install an anaerobic digester. The renewable energy project is estimated to generate 4,635 megawatt hours per year with the dairy’s 2,450-head herd as the sole manure source. The agribusiness will sell the extra electricity to the local utility and will also benefit from the bedding byproduct the digester produces.

In combination, USDA announced over $16 million in investments across the 244 projects. For a full list of awards, click here.

Agribusiness, Alternative energy, biomethane, dairy, Electricity, Energy, energy efficiency, Renewable Energy, Solar, Wind

Solar Efficiency Record Broken

Joanna Schroeder

According to Solar Junction, the company has set a world record for energy efficiency for a commercial ready production solar cell. The company says the power conversion efficiency of its photovoltaic cells was measured at 44 percent at 947 suns, surpassing their own record of 43.5 percent at 418 suns set in April 2011. Both records were verified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

“Breaking our own world record cements Solar Junction as an innovator and leader in the multi-junction cell space,” said Vijit Sabnis, VP Technology at Solar Junction. “We continue to push technological boundaries to further drive CPV costs down.”

The company has developed A-SLAM materials that provide CPV system manufacturers the ability to deliver efficience conversion of solar to electrical energy. CPV panels work by concentrating sunlight onto multi-junction cells that are manufactured at Solar Junction’s San Jose, California facility.

Soon Solar Junction will commission a 6″ production fabrication facility that was funded partially through a U.S. Department of Energy SUNPATH contract. Shipments are expected to begin in early 2013.

Electricity, Energy, Solar

LS9 Top 10 Venture-Backed Company

Joanna Schroeder

According to the Wall Street Journal, LS9 has been selected as one of the 2012 Top 10 Venture-backed Green Companies. This is not the only award bestowed on LS9 this month, they also were named to the 2012 Global Cleantech 100, a list of the top private companies in clean technology and are best positioned to solve tomorrow’s clean technology challenges. LS9 is developing technology to produce renewable fuels and chemicals.

“We are honored to be named to these two distinguished lists from both the The Wall Street Journal and the Cleantech Group,” said Ed Dineen, President and Chief Executive Officer of LS9. “These awards are recognition for the diligence and hard work by all LS9 employees over the past year, and for the continued advancements of our technology platform and business plan.”

The Top 10 includes, beginning with the top ranked company: Recycle Rewards, Boston-Power, Opower, Tigo Energy, Sundrop Fuels, Envia Systems, Calxeda, EnVerv, LS9, and Hara Software.

Alternative energy, Clean Energy, Renewable Energy

Safety, Health Concern in Offshore Wind

Joanna Schroeder

Copenhagen is the home of the upcoming Offshore Wind Health & Safety Summit taking place December 5-6. Sponsored by Wind Energy Update (WEU), the conference wil discuss safety culture, access options and training. With the increase in offshore wind projects, such as the North Sea farm power plant, it will require a larger number of workers. Smart companies, says Wind Energy Update, will position themselves to protect their employees from hazardous environments posed by offshore wind construction and operation.

“I am truly delighted to be working alongside the industry to help them meet their health and safety objectives, not only for 2012, but for the long term” explains Carrianne Matta, VP Health and Safety, for WEU. “I am thrilled to be running this year’s Offshore Wind Health and Safety Summit which has such a fantastic speaker line up.”

Participating companies include: RWE Innogy, RES Offshore, Statoil, DONG Energy, Mainstream Renewables, Siemens, GE Energy, Vestas, Gamesa, REpower, and GDF Suez. The companies will share experiences and strategies and safety programs that will help the industry as a whole help reduce the frequency of health and safety incidents on offshore wind projects.

For more information on the event, speakers, agenda and workshop, click here.

Alternative energy, Electricity, Energy, Renewable Energy, Wind

LCFS Would Benefit Minnesota

Joanna Schroeder

According to a recent study from Political Economy Research Institute, a Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) in Minnesota would have a positive environmental and economic impact. The paper, “The Employment Impacts of a Low- Carbon Fuel Standard for Minnesota,” studied the employment impacts of three different scenarios both to 2021 and further to 2035. In each situation, employment is measured on the number of jobs that could be created in construction and manufacturing (CM) as the transportation infrastructure expands, as well as the number of jobs that would be created in harvesting, transportation, and production (HTP).

In each scenario, employment increases, the least in Scenario 1 and the most in Scenario 3:

  • Scenario 1: assume no change to the distribution of transportation fuel consumption.
  • Scenario 2: assume that the fuel mix will change in response to a national Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2)
  • Scenario 3: outlines a more agressive change in the fuel mix in response to instituting a statewide Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS).

In addition to employment impacts, the study also looks at strategies within the ethanol industry to lower carbon intensity. These include: using renewable energy in place of fossil fuels; increasing the use of flex-fuel vehicles (Minnesota has the largest number of E85 pumps in the country); increasing the blend wall for low level ethanol blends; and increasing production of cellulosic ethanol. The study also looks at increasing the use of biodiesel blends (from B2 to B20) and increasing the number of electric vehicles (EV).

The key findings:Read More

Biodiesel, Electric Vehicles, Ethanol, Low Carbon Fuel Standard

Running on Empty

Joanna Schroeder

For those of you who watched the second debate between Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama, you’ll have heard something that hasn’t come out of the mouth of a presidential candidate in quite some time: ethanol. During discussion on energy policy, candidates typically use the term biofuels – a seemingly less taboo word as criticism surrounds “ethanol”.

How much of the energy debate did you understand? Quite a bit if you read this blog and are an energy enthusiast like myself. However, I suspect, and I’m not alone, that the average American is bordering on energy illiterate.

Cassidy & Associates have a question themselves: do voters know the difference between renewable energy and fossil fuel? A new infographic show that Americans might be running on empty when it comes to basic facts relating energy and illustrates clear partisan perspectives on its production.

“There’s no election season gimmickry here. This should be a splash of cold water reality to boardrooms across America especially as Washington looks to smarter energy investments that deliver the best results for tax-payer dollars,” mused Cassidy & Associates CEO Gerry Cassidy when posting news of the new InfoGraphic to his LinkedIn profile.

Running on Empty pulls together information gathered from studies and polls from nonpartisan organizations such as Public Agenda and the Associated Press.

Cassidy added, “The uncertainty of understanding beyond the Beltway on this, and other priority issues, should be an abrupt reminder that managing your Washington risk has never been more important and the only successful way to do that is to be fully engaged in the public policy process.”

Alternative energy, biofuels, Opinion

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 www.cleanairchoice.org.

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