Pacific Successfully Produces Sorghum Ethanol

Joanna Schroeder

Yesterday the EPA announced that grain sorghum is now an official pathway for a renewable fuel under the RFS. Currently, Pacific Ethanol has successfully produced ethanol from sorghum feedstock that was bred by Chromatin. According to Chromatin, this achievement paves the way for future opportunities to use locally grown sorghum as a versatile and resilient crop that is a more energy efficient and lower cost alternative to corn. Due to the positive results, Chromatin plans to expand its sorghum acres in 2013.

R Mussi Farms of Stockton, CA produced 40 acres of sorghum that were harvested and delivered to Pacific Ethanol’s ethanol production plant in Stockton, CA. “We were pleasantly surprised by sorghum’s flexibility. It’s a high-yielding, easy to grow crop regardless of environmental conditions, and it uses less fertilizer and less water than corn,” said Rudy Mussi co-owner of Mussi Farms.

Daphne Preuss, Chromatin’s CEO noted that growers were able to plant and produce high quality sorghum with minimal modifications to their current practices. He also commented that Pacific’s ethanol plants encountered no difficulties when substituting sorghum for corn. Additionally, he said the residue left over after the harvest of sorghum grain can be used as high quality animal feed.

Although sorghum imported from other regions has been used in California ethanol plants in the past, Chromatin’s program is the first instance of supplying locally grown grain to the Pacific Ethanol plant in Stockton, CA. Initial results show greater cost efficiency and an improved carbon footprint.

“During the third quarter, Pacific Ethanol used sorghum for approximately 30 percent of the feedstock at our Stockton plant,” added Neil Koehler, CEO of Pacific Ethanol. Blended with corn, sorghum has similar conversion properties to corn and produces even lower carbon ethanol.”

advance biofuels, Alternative energy, Ethanol, feedstocks, sorghum

Offshore Wind Within Reach Off Eastern US Shores

Joanna Schroeder

The Obama administration has announced competitive lease sales for wind energy development off the eastern coasts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Virginia. This is the first time that a portion of the outer continental shelf will be leased for renewable energy development.

There are several areas proposed for leasing: the Virginia coast could support more than 2,000 megawatts of wind generation; Massachusetts and Rhode Island could support about 2,000 megawatts of wind generation. When combined, these offshore wind farms could generate enough electricity to power an estimated 1.4 million average sized homes.

“We have enormous potential for harnessing pollution-free wind energy off our coasts, and now are closer than ever to making this vision a reality in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Virginia. We are thrilled that the Obama administration has announced another critical step forward for offshore wind development and look forward to continuing to work with state and federal leaders to see turbines spinning off our coasts soon,” said Courtney Abrams, Clean Energy Advocate for Environment America.

The organization applauded Obama for his leadership and established its support for responsibly-sited offshore wind energy projects.  Abrams said offshore wind resources are vital to ensuring a future with cleaner air and fewer extreme weather events.  She cited the statistic that along the Atlantic coast alone, reaching the Department of Energy’s goal of 54 gigawatts of offshore wind power would reduce global warming pollution by the equivalent of taking roughly 18 million cars off the road.  In addition, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, meeting this benchmark would generate $200 billion in new economic activity while creating more than 43,000 permanent, high-paying jobs in manufacturing, construction, engineering, operations, and maintenance.

Alternative energy, Carbon Dioxide, offshore wind, Renewable Energy, Wind

World Energy Trilemma Report Released at Doha

Joanna Schroeder

According to the World Energy Council (WEC), the world is far away from achieving environmentally sustainable energy systems. According to the organization’s global ranking of country energy sustainability performance, over 90 countries assessed are still far from achieving fully sustainable energy systems.

The 2012 Energy Sustainability Index, published within the WEC’s 2012 World Energy Trilemma report, “Time to get real – the case for sustainable energy policy,” finds that most countries still have not managed to balance the energy trilemma. The WEC argues that countries must balance the trade-offs between the three challenges of the trilemma: energy security, social equity, and environmental impact mitigation, if they are to provide sustainable energy systems.

The Index reveals that:

  • Environmental impact mitigation remains a universal problem;
  • Providing high-quality and affordable energy access remains a significant challenge for developing and emerging economies; and
  • Countries at various stages of development struggle with energy security.

“The message of the Energy Sustainability Index is clear: all countries are facing challenges in their transition towards more secure, environmentally friendly, and equitable energy systems,” said Pierre Gadonneix, Chairman of the World Energy Council. “What makes the difference is how they set their final goals, how they balance market economics and public policies, and how they design the smartest policies in order to promote efficiency and to optimise costs, resources and investments for the long term. If we are to have any chance of delivering sustainable energy for all and meeting the +2°C goal, we need to get real.”Read More

Alternative energy, Carbon Dioxide, Climate Change, Environment, global warming

WindMade Label Expands

Joanna Schroeder

During the COP18 climate talks in Doha, The WindMade organization announced the development of a new consumer label for companies and products made using renewable energy. The label is backed by UN Global Compact, WWF, Vestas Wind Systems and the Global Wind Energy Council. WindMade was launched in 2011 as the first global consumer label for companies powered with wind energy.

“Expanding WindMade is a natural progression, and this move follows strong demand from the market,” said Steve Sawyer, WindMade’s Chairman. “Today’s announcement will allow us to engage a wider range of interested partners and supporters for this new renewable energy label, which is built on the success of WindMade.”

The new label will recognize a wide variety of renewable energy sources, including wind, solar, and geothermal, as well as hydro power and biomass from approved certification programs. This will offer added flexibility to companies that use multiple renewable energy technologies in their energy mix.

Georg Kell, executive director of the UN Global Compact, added, “This new label continues the progress made by WindMade to successfully engage companies in addressing the impacts of climate change. It is fully aligned with the UN Global Compact’s efforts to promote greater corporate sustainability through the use renewable energy.”

A global survey of 24,000 consumers across 20 countries, conducted earlier this year, showed that 92 percent of consumers believe that renewable energy is a good solution to mitigating climate change, and that if presented with a choice, most of them would prefer products made with renewable energy, even at a premium. As a result of the survey, the new label, that will be launched in 2013, will build on the technical foundations of the WindMade standard and will be applicable to organizations, buildings, events and eventually products.

Alternative energy, Climate Change, Geothermal, Hydro, Renewable Energy, Solar, Wind

EPA Approves RFS Path for Grain Sorghum

Joanna Schroeder

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just announced it’s approval of grain sorghum as an approved pathway for a renewable fuel as part of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). According to EPA, ethanol produced from grain sorghum emits 32 percent less greenhouse gas than the baseline petroleum it replaces and uses one-third less water than some other biofuel feedstocks.

The EPA report states: “EPA’s analysis indicates that ethanol made from grain sorghum at dry mill facilities that use natural gas for process energy meets the lifecycle GHG emissions reduction threshold of 20% compared to the  baseline petroleum fuel it would replace, and therefore qualifies as a renewable fuel. It also contains our regulatory determination that  grain sorghum ethanol produced at dry mill facilities using specified forms of biogas for both process energy and most electricity production, has lifecycle GHG emission reductions of more than 50% compared to the baseline petroleum fuel it would replace, and that such grain sorghum ethanol qualifies as an advanced biofuel under the RFS program.

Bill Kubecka, chairman of the Sorghum Checkoff and a sorghum producer from Palacios, Texas said, “This is a significant step forward for the sorghum industry. This pathway for grain sorghum will make sorghum a more profitable biofuel feedstock for the renewables industry, thus increasing the value and demand for sorghum.”

The EPA’s ruling further affirms the Sorghum Checkoff’s belief that grain sorghum is a feedstock perfectly suited for starch-based ethanol production.

“We believe this new opportunity to produce advanced biofuel will increase demand for the crop and lead to greater profitability for producers across the nation,” added Sorghum Checkoff Renewables Director, John Duff. “Furthermore, it gives us great pride that these producers will play a key role in supplying homegrown advanced biofuel, and we look forward to supporting them in these efforts going forward.”

advance biofuels, Alternative energy, Ethanol, RFS, sorghum

Green Plains Sells Agribusiness Assets

Joanna Schroeder

Green Plains Renewable Energy (GPRE) has completed the sale of 12 grain elevators located in northwestern Iowa and western Tennessee to The Andersons. The sale include approximately 32.6 million bushels of GPRE’s reported agribusiness grain storage capacity and all of its agronomy and retail petroleum operations. GPRE expects to report a pre-tax gain from this sale in the fourth quarter of 2012 of around $46 million. XMS Capital Partners served as financial advisor to Green Plains in the transaction.

Agribusiness, biofuels, Company Announcement, Ethanol

EU Commissioner Encourages Geothermal Energy

Joanna Schroeder

During a speech at the European Workshop on geothermal energy focused on urban areas, European Union (EU) Commissioner for Energy Günther Oettinger said that, ”The development of geothermal energy should be encouraged.” The European geothermal energy industry came out in support of the Commissioner urging decision makers to pay more attention to the potential role of geothermal energy in heating and cooling applications.

The event was held last week in Brussels to focus on the role geothermal energy can play as part of Europe’s renewable energy mix. If properly encouraged, the geothermal energy industry says geothermal can provide continuously provide electricity, heating and cooling. Geothermal energy is also advantages because underground thermal storage systems can be developed that are well suited to the concept of a smart city.

However,  the geothermal industry, now more than ever, is in need “of a clear regulatory framework for investing in new equipment, such as drilling,” said Philippe Dumas, director at the Council of European Geothermal (EGEC – European Geothermal Energy Council).  “And that is why we are asking for new binding targets for renewable energy beyond 2020. “

Dumas also noted that “policy makers, local authorities and utilities have become more aware of the range of the geothermal resource and their possible applications.”

The EU is currently working on an internal report on renewable energy so the EGEC took the opportunity to urge the them to ensure greater transparency in relation to the costs of each energy technology. The EGEC also asked the EU to evaluate the key bottlenecks for the further development of the geothermal sector.

Alternative energy, Geothermal, International, Renewable Energy

Hydrogen Fueling Station Opens in Turkey

Joanna Schroeder

Hydrogenics Corporation has announced that a Hydrogenics electrolysis-based hydrogen fueling station has been officially opened in Turkey in the presence of Kadir Tobass, Mayor of Istanbul, as well as interested members of the public. The fueling station is located at Golden Horn, the historic inlet of the Bosphorus straight, and can fuel up to 65 kilograms per day of hydrogen at 350 bar. The station is for both land and sea transportation applications where Hydrogenics’ 8kW fuel cells can be used.

“We are very pleased to see the high level of interest shown by the Turkish government in hydrogen technology as a future fuel,” said Daryl Wilson, Hydrogenics President and CEO. “This first hydrogen fueling station in Turkey demonstrates Hydrogenics’ ability to respond to the increasing demand for hydrogen fueling stations across Europe. Our ability to deliver a complete offering addressing quality, safety and economic requirements further validates Hydrogenics as the company with the expertise to manufacture and install hydrogen fueling stations wherever needed.”

The station was financed by the International Centre for Hydrogen Energy Technologies (ICHET), a project of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). ICHET was founded in Istanbul in 2004 and is supported by the Turkish Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources. ICHET seeks to initiate projects in the developing world that establish or enhance hydrogen production.

Alternative energy, Hydrogen, Renewable Energy

Could Biofuels Be Produced from A Tobacco Tree?

Joanna Schroeder

Could biofuels be produced from the tobacco tree? With a grant from the European Union, researchers at Royal Holloway, School of Biological Sciences, will test this theory based on initial findings that the Nicotiana Glauca produces compounds that could be used to produce biodiesel or cracked to produce petroleum products.

There are some advantages of the tobacco tree: it is known to grow well in warm and arid climates; it does not require fertile ground; and it can thrive in regions that only 200mm of rainfall a year, with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius.

“This is a crucial factor,” said Dr Paul Fraser from the School of Biological Sciences. “It means that growing this crop will not be in competition for land space with food crops. Indeed, many farmers have already raised concerns about giving their land over to biofuel crops. Our discovery could potentially solve this issue.”

Initial studies have shown that the plant is able to grow in desert climatic conditions, such as those found in the United Arab Emirates, North Africa and other arid tropical regions of the world.

The European Union has awarded funding to develop this work further through the MultiBioPro project. Together with partners in industry and academia Royal Holloway has received a research grant totalling 5,770,922 euros (approximately £4.4 million). The project will look to provide new insights into biological processes and improve the use of renewable energy resources.

advance biofuels, Alternative energy, Biodiesel, feedstocks, Renewable Energy, Research

Transforming Marine Algae into a Biofuel Crop

Joanna Schroeder

Are marine algae just as good as fresh water algae in producing biofuels? Yes, according to biologists at University of California San Diego. In a research study published in Algal Research, scientists genetically engineered marine algae to produce five different kinds of industrially important enzymes. The same process, say the researchers, could be used to enhance the yield of petroleum-like compounds from salt water algae.

Researchers say this discovery is important because it expands the kinds of environments in which algae can be conceivably grown for biofuels. For example, algal biofuels could be produced in the ocean, in brackish water of tidelands, or on agricultural land where crops can no longer grow due to the high salt content of the soil.

“What our research shows is that we can achieve in marine species exactly what we’ve already done in fresh water species,” said Stephen Mayfield, a professor of biology at UC San Diego, who headed the research project. “There are about 10 million acres of land across the United States where crops can no longer be grown that could be used to produce algae for biofuels. Marine species of algae tend to tolerate a range of salt environments, but many fresh water species don’t do the reverse. They don’t tolerate any salt in the environment.”

“The algal community has worked on fresh water species of algae for 40 years,” added Mayfield, who also directs the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology. “We know how to grow them, manipulate them genetically, express recombinant proteins—all of the things required to make biofuels viable. It was always assumed that we could do the same thing in marine species, but there was always some debate in the community as to whether that could really be done.”

The timing of the research was fortuitous – in October, the National Academy of Sciences committee published a report concluding that the production of algal biofuels might be limited by fresh water. “But now we’ve done it,” said Mayfield. “What this means is that you can use ocean water to grow the algae that will be used to produce biofuels. And once you can use ocean water, you are no longer limited by the constraints associated with fresh water. Ocean water is simply not a limited resource on this planet.”

In addition to expanding this research, the scientists would like to determine whether whole algae, post-oil extraction, could be sued as a feed additive to improve animal feeds.

advance biofuels, algae, Renewable Energy, Research