Rancho California Water District to Add Solar

The Rancho California Water District (RCWD) is going solar. They have hired SunPower to design and construct two solar power systems that will total 1.7 megawatts (mW) at two of their facilities. It is anticipated that the solar systems will save RCWD nearly $8.5 million in energy costs over the next 25 years. Back in 2009, SunPower completed a 1.1 mW solar project for RCWD’s Santa Rosa Water Reclamation Facility in Murrieta, California.

“The system that SunPower completed for us in 2009 reliably delivers significant monthly savings on our electricity costs, which we pass on to our customers,” said Andrew Webster, RCWD’s chief engineer. “As a result, we chose to work with SunPower again when we expanded our commitment to solar power, and further maximize our savings and the environmental benefits for our community.”

The first system located at the Senga Doherty Pump Station in Murrieta, will be a 1.1 mW system comprised of SunPower’s T0 Tracker system. The trackers allow for solar panels to move with the sun increasing sunlight capture by up to 25 percent while reducing land requirements. The second system will be installed at RCWD’s headquarters in Temecula. This will be a 610 kilowatt solar parking canopy structure that will provide power to their building.

“With SunPower systems operating at more than 20 water agencies, representing approximately 19 megawatts in total, our experience and ability to deliver guaranteed performance sets us apart,” said Jim Pape, president of SunPower’s residential and commercial business group. “We applaud RCWD’s leadership in taking advantage of the QECB program. Clean, reliable solar power makes good sense today for public agencies and our environment.”

Funding for the project will be through qualified energy conservation bonds that are issued by the state of California. RCWD will own the renewable energy credits associated with the systems. Construction is set for this summer and should be completed by the end of 2011.

Hybrid Ford F150 Launched

The F150 pickup truck, the best selling truck in America, now comes in a hybrid version. Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide has launched a new line of hybrid vehicles including a plug-in hybrid F150. The trucks were specifically designed for fleet operators.

The PHEV F150 will provide drivers with the same performance from a conventional truck, but with higher fuel economy and lower emissions. The PHEV F150 uses Quantum’s new “F-Drive” hybrid system which will have a 35 mile electric range before shifting to a hybrid mode where it can continue for a total range of over 400 miles. The Quantum “F-Drive” hybrid system is available in 2 and 4 wheel drive. To meet the requirements of fleet customers, the F-Drive has been integrated in the F150 vehicle such that there is no impingement into the cab or bed and it maintains full ground clearance.

Alan Niedzwiecki, CEO Quantum Technologies added, “We believe this vehicle fills an important niche for fleet customers desiring a largely electric pick-up truck with extended range capability.”

BP Backs Verdezyne

BP Alternative Energy Ventures and DSM Venturing B.V. have both invested in renewable fuel and chemical company Verdezyne. The two companies were part of a funding round that also included additional monies from existing investors OVP Venture Partners and Monitor Ventures. The announcement was made today during the BIO World Congress underway in Toronto.

“We are thrilled to have these two industry leaders validate Verdezyne’s technology and its business strategy by taking a stake in the company,” said E. William Radany, Verdezyne’s CEO and president. “This new funding, along with the support from existing investors, will enable the company to execute on its goal of creating and deploying first-in-class engineered yeast strains that efficiently produce biobased fuels and platform chemicals.”

According to Verdezyne, they have significantly advanced its robust yeast production platform for their ethanol and adipic acid processes. The additional financing will allow the company to continue to build its yeast metabolic engineering capabilities to produce a pipeline of renewable transportation fuels and platform chemicals.

DSM VP of Biobased Chemicals and Fuels, James Lademarco, added, “Over the past year, we have been impressed with Verdezyne’s progress in its yeast platform for both fuels and biobased chemicals. We see this investment as strategic given the complementary activities to our own portfolio within Biobased Products and Services.”

You can view photos of the 2011 BIO World Congress in my flickr photo album.

IPPC Releases Renewable Energy Report

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released a paper on the potential of renewable energy and its impacts on reducing greenhouse gas emissions that are believed to contribute to global climate change. The report found that close to 80 percent of the world’s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if supported by the right policies.

More than 120 researchers worked with IPPC on the report, “Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN),” and the findings also indicate that the rising penetration of renewable energies could lead to cumulative GHG savings of 220 to 560 gigatonnnes of carbon dioxide between 2010 and 2050.

“With consistent climate and energy policy support, renewable energy sources can contribute substantially to human well-being by sustainably supplying energy and stabilizing the climate,” said Professor Ottmar Edenhofer, Co-Chair of Working Group III at the report launch. “However, the substantial increase of renewables is technically and politically very challenging.”

According to a news release, the upper end of the scenarios assessed, representing a cut of around a third in GHGs from business-as-usual projections, could assist in keeping concentrations of greenhouse gases at 450 parts per million. If this were the case, it could help to hold the increase in global average temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius, a goal laid out in the Cancun Agreements (COP-16).

Youba Sokona, Co-Chair of the Working Group III, said: “The potential role of renewable energy technologies in meeting the needs of the poor and in powering the sustainable growth of developing and developed economies can trigger sharply polarized views. This IPCC report has brought some much needed clarity to this debate in order to inform governments on the options and decisions that will needed if the world is to collectively realize a low carbon, far more resource efficient and equitable development path.”

The six renewable energy technologies reviewed were bioenergy, solar energy, geothermal energy, hydropower, ocean energy and wind energy. The report, which is a summary of a longer, 900 plus page research document, will feed into the broader work of the IPPC as they prepare its Fifth Assessment Report that is scheduled to be released in September 2014.

FREE Webinar: Navigating the USDA REAP Application Process

The Blend Your Own (BYO) Ethanol Campaign is hosting a FREE webinar called “Navigating the USDA REAP Application Process.” The webinar will provide participants with updated and in-depth information on ethanol blending, mid-level ethanol blends, E85 and infrastructure incentives. The BYO Ethanol Campaign is a joint effort between the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE).

In addition, the webinar will provide information on the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). The program has allocated $70 million in funding for retailers interested in expanding or updating their renewable fuel infrastructure with blender pumps. The monies are delivered through a combination of grants and loan guarantees. The USDA has a goal of installing 10,000 blender pumps in the next 15 years throughout the country. Applications are due June 15, 2011.

The webinar is being held on Monday, May 16, 2011 at 3:00 pm EDT. Although this webinar is free, you are encouraged to register by visiting www.BYOethanol.com.

DSM CEO Wins George Washington Carver Award

Royal DSM Ceo Feike Sijbesma has received the George Washington Carver Award for Innovation in Industrial Biotechnology during BIO World Congress. In its 4th year, Sijbesma is being honored as a visionary leader of the bio-economy, an industry that the World Economic Forum projects will contribute nearly $250 billion to the world economy by 2020. Under his leadership, DSM has made several instrumental contributions in the development of industrial biotechnology that includes biochemicals, biofuels, health and nutrition and supporting sustainable development.

Sijbesma believes that over the next 100 years, the world will be shifting away from the Fossil Age into the third Green Industrial Age, an age based on not taking from the land, from developing feed, fuel and fiber from the land in a sustainable manner.

“The so-called fossil-age will make a shift to the bio-based economy. In two or three centuries from now, people will look back on our civilization as a merely brief moment in history where we in a period of just about 250 years shifted our total economy to coal, oil and gas,” said Sijbesma during his acceptance speech. “To make the shift back to living with, and especially off, nature, we need to start this shift now. We are at a turning point towards a next green industrial revolution to secure our feed and fuel needs in the future.”

Listen to my interview with Feike Sijbesma here: The Next Green Industrial Revolution Begins with Biotech

Sijbesma believes biotechnology holds the key to our future and will provide solutions for energy and food. Continue reading

GreenField Ethanol Launches G2 BioChem

The World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing (BIO World Congress) kicked off this morning in Toronto, Canada with a bang. GreenField Ethanol, the largest producer of ethanol in Canada, announced the launch of G2 BioChem, a collaborative partnership that will validate and bring to commercialization GreenField’s innovative patented process technology. The partnership includes companies such as Novozymes and Andritz and the company has been given full support from a number of federal and Ontario programs including Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), Innovation Development Fund (IDF), Sustainable Chemistry Alliance (SCA) and Center for Research and Development in the Bio-economy (CRIBE).

“G2 BioChem’s technology is feedstock agnostic and optimizes next-generation ethanol yields using all available sugars,” began Barry Wortzman, President of G2 BioChem during the press conference. “Also, our process technology results in a low cost, per litre, which is essential to the viable commercialization of next generation ethanol.”

Listen to Barry Wortzman’s remarks during the press conference: Greenfield Ethanol Launches G2 BioChem

G2 BioChem’s research team has conducted thousands of trials and demonstrated success with various feedstocks including agricultural residues such as corn stover, corn cobs and bagasse as well as energy crops such as sorghum & miscanthus and woody biomass such as poplar.

“G2 BioChem’s advanced biofuels technology has the potential to fundamentally change the burgeoning renewable fuels and biochemical industries – while protecting our environment and boosting Ontario’s economy,” said Glen Murray, Minister, Ontario Research & Innovation. Ontario boosts the third largest biotech cluster in the world.

Listen to Glen Murray’s remarks during the press conference: Murray's Remarks during G2 BioChem Press Conference

The new collaboration was in part made possible from several industry partners including Novozymes. “As a collaborative partner, Novozymes’ goal is to enable and facilitate the realization of cellulosic ethanol production at commercial scale, as quickly as possible; and in our opinion, this technology is leading the way to accomplishing that objective,” said Cynthia Bryant, Global Business Development for Novozymes.

Listen to Cynthia Bryant’s remarks during the press conference: Bryant's Remarks during G2 BioChem Press Conference

Bertil Stromberg, VP, BioFuels for Andritz added, “Andritz is excited to be partnering on this initiative, and to contribute its expertise in process equipment technology for the commercial scale up of the process.”

Listen to Bertil Stromberg’s remarks during the press conference: Stromberg's Remarks during G2 BioChem Press Conference

Check back for audio from the announcement and click here to see photos from the 2011 BIO World Congress.

St. Louis Science Center Seeking Backyard Biofuels

The next big thing in biofuels could be right in your own backyard.

stl science centerFor the second year, the Saint Louis Science Center is collaborating with the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in a research project that “has the potential to discover algae species located within the St. Louis metro area which may be used in cutting-edge biofuels research.”

According to the center’s Life Science Gallery Lead Beth Prakash, “Backyard Biofuels” is a citizen science project. “We are looking for a species of algae that has a naturally high oil content,” she says. “So the more oil an algae species contains, the more productive it will be at producing biofuels.”

Last year, 169 algae collecting kits were returned to the Life Science Lab and from the samples they were able to isolate and test 105 individual algae strains, the results of which are posted on the Backyard Biofuels website. People can participate by picking up an algae collecting kit from the Life Science Lab at the Science Center and returning it in person, or mailing it in using special guidelines. The mail-in option is new this year and will help collect samples from a wider geographic area since the center receives visitors from all over the country.

Learn more about the program from Beth in this interview: Beth Prakash Interview

Oil Prices Drop, Gas Prices Rise

It’s Friday and that means its time to fill the gas tank. Just in time for weekend fun, it always seems like gas prices go up. Here in California, prices are hovering near the $4.40 per gallon mark. But this week, oil prices dropped 15 percent from a two-year high of $114.83 on Monday and today prices closed at $97.18. Economists are predicting gas prices at the pump will fall and we’ll see a summer national average of $3.50, although last month the EIA predicted they would be closer to $3.79. But don’t hold your breath – prices won’t drop this weekend.

I’ve held this interview with Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis because I was waiting for prices to rise even higher (which they have). When we had this discussion, we were attending the event where BioProcess Algae commissioned its Grower Harvester bioreactors, the second phase in their commercialization strategy. The site is co-located with a first generation corn ethanol plant in Shenandoah, Iowa owned and operated by Green Plains Renewable Energy. This was the perfect backdrop to have the discussion about the role of biofuels in helping to lower prices at the pump.

Buis explained that for the past 40 years, our country has been addicted to foreign oil and the costs to our country have been astronomical. Every recession since World World II has been proceeded by high gas prices. As oil prices rise, it takes time for the increased price to be reflected at the pump. Yet we have a domestic solution available now – ethanol. “I don’t know how many times we have to have these wake-up calls, let’s move forward. We know we can do it. We’re sitting here at a plant today that’s living proof that we can create our own energy here in this country.”

Listen to my interview with Tom Buis here: Ethanol, Right Here, Right Now

Today, Buis said ethanol today is saving consumers at the low end 17 cents per gallon up to 50 cents per gallon on the high end. “If we shut off ethanol today, it would have a far greater impact than the turmoil in the Middle East or North Africa because we’re a bigger source,” said Buis. “Most people don’t understand that if the American ethanol industry were a country, we would be the second largest provider to the United States of transportation fuel. Second only to Canada. That would have a huge impact.”

One last fact. We spend $1 billion dollars a day to import foreign oil. This is more than $1,000 per year for every man, woman and child in this country. That means you.

Mull this over the next time you fill up.

Kautz Joins Dresser Wayne Team

Michelle Kautz has joined Dresser Wayne as the company’s new product manager, alternative energy. She will work with Scott Negley, the director of alternative energy and will be responsible for ensuring the commercial success of the company’s global ethanol and biodiesel products with a specific focus on capturing the business incentives for biofuels equipment. In her role, she will also work to identify and prioritize market opportunities and develop strategies based on emerging customer needs, competition and market trends.

Most recently, Kautz was with Protec Fuel Management where she served as the director of development. In addition, she has more than 10 years experience working in the ethanol industry in various roles with several ethanol advocacy groups including the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition and Growth Energy.