LuminAID Wins Clean Energy Challenge

Joanna Schroeder

Solar-powered inflatable light maker LuminAID Lab has been named the early-stage winner of the 2013 Clean Energy Challenge organized by the Clean Energy Trust. Bearing Analytics of Purdue University won the Student Challenge. Both companies received a $100,000 grant prize sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Inspired by the 2011 earthquake in Japan, LuminAID Lab’s founders designed a lightweight, ship-flat solar-powered light to provide light in natural disaster situations. The company has sold more than 30,000 units so far and is working on a next generation version, according to LuminAID co-founder Andrea Sreshta.

Bearing Analytics, of Purdue University, offers a patent-protected temperature and vibration sensing solution to the industrial bearing market. This technology allows users to predict bearing failure before it happens, helping to alleviate safety concerns, prevent costly gearbox failures in wind turbines, extend product lifetimes and Luminaid solar lightincrease energy efficiency. Bearing Analytics will go on to compete at the 2013 National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition in Washington, D.C. this summer.

Additional prizes were awarded to SmarterShade, SkySpecs, Amplified Wind Solutions and Ornicept. SmarterShade, an Indiana-based company that makes an innovative film system to instantly darken windows, received the $50,000 Chicago Lakeside Prize, sponsored by McCaffery Interests.

SkySpecs, a University of Michigan-based firm that uses an unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, to monitor wind turbines, bridges and other infrastructure, won the $10,000 Invenergy Renewable Ideas prize.

Nicole Zmij, CEO of Amplified Wind Solutions out of Cleveland State University, was awarded the ComEd and Clean Energy Trust-sponsored Breaking Barriers in Cleantech award for her role as an outstanding female entrepreneur. Amplified Wind Solutions harnesses wind energy to self-power cell towers, particularly in remote locations.

“The Challenge is designed to uncover the very best in clean energy technology startups and kickstart their development,” said Amy Francetic, Clean Energy Trust executive director. “This year’s teams inspired us beyond expectation. The judging was very competitive. We are grateful for the support of our sponsors, board and judges for their help in creating more prizes for these creative entrepreneurs.”

Alternative energy, Clean Energy, Solar, Wind

Industry Comments on 2013 RFS Proposed Volumes

Joanna Schroeder

DontMessWithRFS P1The renewable fuels industry is responding to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) notice of proposed rulemaking regarding 2013 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) required volumes. EPA proposes to set ethanol gallons at 14 million but where the real debate has lain is around the requirement for cellulosic gallons.

The Renewable Fuel Association (RFA) submitted comments with four key points:

1. EPA should revise its proposed 2013 cellulosic biofuel standard to better correspond with current expectations of actual 2013 cellulosic biofuel production volumes.

2. EPA should partially reduce the 2013 advanced biofuel standard, as sugarcane ethanol imports are unlikely to be available in sufficient volumes to meet the requirement.

3. Because there are legal and economical options available for surmounting the “blend wall”, the E10 saturation point should not be a factor in EPA’s decision-making process for 2013 RVO levels.

4. EPA should propose 2014 RFS standards as expeditiously as possible and ensure the 2014 RVOs are established no later than Nov. 30, 2013.

“To ensure the RFS continues to be implemented in the most effective way,” said Bob Dinneen, RFA CEO & president, Read More

advance biofuels, Biodiesel, Ethanol, RFS

Around the World on E15 – Twice

Cindy Zimmerman

In the past month, residents of Baxter, Iowa have driven the equivalent of more than two trips around the world on 15% ethanol fuel (E15).

baxterThe Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) today reported that statistic since Baxter fuel retailer Kountry Korner began offering E15 as a registered fuel for 2001 and newer vehicles on March 8, 2013.

“Since offering E15 as a registered fuel, I’ve seen more and more use of the fuel every day,” stated Kountry Korner Owner Bryan DeJong. “E15 has brought in many new customers to my store who are in search of lower-cost, more homegrown fueling options. The consumer response to the fuel has been very positive and I anticipate our E15 sales to continue to grow in the coming weeks.”

“E15 has been priced at an average of almost 20 cents cheaper than regular gasoline and the response in Baxter has been quite positive,” said IRFA Managing Director Lucy Norton. “Retailers around the state should take notice that there is a real demand for cleaner, more homegrown E15, and consumers wishing to have access to this less expensive option should ask their local fuel retailers to offer E15.”

IRFA notes that retailers interested in installing a blender pump to offer E15, E85, and other ethanol blends can apply for a grant from the Iowa Department of Agriculture.

In case you are wondering – assuming 20 miles per gallon fuel economy and about 49,800 miles around the world twice – that’s approximately 2500 gallons of E15 for the little town of Baxter (pop. 1,093) in 30 days.

E15, Ethanol, Ethanol News, Iowa RFA

Spanish Study Finds Microalgae for Biodiesel

John Davis

BiodieselMicroalgae1There might be a variety of microalgae previously overlooked for biodiesel that is back in the renewable energy game. This article from Biofuels International says scientists from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) in Spain have identified dinoflagellate microalgae as an ‘easy and profitable way’ of creating biodiesel:

‘If we make simple adjustments to completely optimize the process, biodiesel obtained by cultivating these marine microalgae could be an option for energy supplies to towns near the sea,’ Sergio Rossi, a researcher at the UAB, was quoted as saying.

The article goes on to say that some of the possible adjustments could include reusing leftover organic pulp, the use of air pumps and more efficient cultivation materials.

Biodiesel, International, Research

Industry Supports Reconsidering Cellulosic Target

Cindy Zimmerman

A coalition of biofuel producer organizations the reconsideration of the 2011 cellulosic obligation under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

In January 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider the 2012 Renewable Fuel Standard obligation for cellulosic biofuels. EPA has implemented the Court’s order and is now voluntarily reconsidering the 2011 obligation for cellulosic biofuels, which is the subject of a separate lawsuit before the Court.

In a joint statement, organizations that make up the Biofuel Producers Coordinating Council, noted that the “RFS was established to open the U.S. transportation fuel market to renewable fuels, and it ensures that the market remains open as cellulosic biofuel production starts up. The program has worked. Advanced biofuel companies across the United States have invested in technology development and construction of first-of-a-kind commercial scale refineries for cellulosic and other advanced biofuels. EPA’s implementation of the Court order does not impact the industry’s progress in developing technologies that reduce dependence on foreign oil and contribute to a cleaner environment.

The industry remains focused on starting up production this year and increasing it in years to come. We look forward to working with EPA to establish 2013 targets that are consistent with expected production volumes this year from the facilities that have already been built.”

Intervenors in the case included the Advanced Biofuels Association (ABFA), Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC), American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), Growth Energy, and Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

ACE, advance biofuels, BIO, Cellulosic, Ethanol, Ethanol News, Growth Energy, RFA

Solar Homes to Test Microgrid System

John Davis

MST solar house1Research at Missouri University of Science and Technology will use four solar homes to test a microgrid renewable energy management and and storage system. This university news release says the homes were built by students at the school, along with support from utility company representatives the Army Corps of Engineers and several Missouri businesses, at the university’s Solar Village.

“Distributed power generation is one of the key elements of a microgrid. In our case, we’re using solar panels,” says Dr. Mehdi Ferdowsi, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Missouri S&T. “It’s called a microgrid because it’s less dependent on the utility power grid. The idea is that if there is a blackout, it can operate in what we call ‘islanded mode,’ and convert to using stored solar energy.

“Utility companies are interested to see if this could be a viable business model for the future,” he says. “For example, they could rent out renewable energy generators to subdivisions, creating a new paradigm for selling electricity.”

Ferdowsi says that Missouri S&T’s Solar Village is an ideal place to test microgrid technology. “The four houses were built in a 10-year span of time and each was designed individually, but converting them to the technology is not complicated,” he says.

Students actually live in the solar houses and monitor the results. School officials hope this demonstrates the practical application of the small-scale grid system with renewable energy.

Research, Solar

AgFanatics Talk Ethanol & RINs

John Davis

agfanaticsA podcast we’ve talked about on our sister website, AgWired.com is the AgFanaticsAgriVisor Account Manager Cory Winstead and AgriVisor Risk Management Specialist Nick Klump, who talk ag issues on a regular basis. No surprise that ethanol and Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) made it onto their radar, as it is a topic pretty important in ag circles.

In this episode of the AgFanatics podcast, the guys try to bring a little more knowledge to the the discussion of about of ethanol production and blending. Recently, they talked to Tim Abel, GROWMARKS Refined Fuels Supply and Trading Manager to clear up some of the issues on the topic.

Check ’em out!

Ethanol, GROWMARK, News, RINS

February Biodiesel Production Hits Nearly 78 Mil Gallons

John Davis

epa-logoGovernment numbers show the biodiesel production pace for the year at just under a billion gallons. Biofuels Journal reports the EPA announced February’s production today at 77.6 million gallons of biodiesel:

The numbers show a total of more than 80.4 million gallons of Biomass-based Diesel for February, but that total also includes renewable diesel production.

With the February numbers, year-to-date biodiesel production stands at just under 150 million gallons.

Made from an increasingly diverse mix of resources such as recycled cooking oil, soybean oil and animal fats, biodiesel is the first and only EPA-designated Advanced Biofuel that’s produced on a commercial scale across the U.S.

Last year, biodiesel production topped just more than 1 billion gallons and supported more than 60,000 jobs in the U.S.

Biodiesel, Government

IRS Extends Biodiesel, Alt Fuels Deadlines

John Davis

IRSlogo3Want to feel good about Internal Revenue Service this time of year? Well, maybe you won’t be doing the wave for tax collectors, but the IRS is helping out those filing tax credit claims for biodiesel mixtures and alternative fuels sold or used in 2012. Biodiesel Magazine explains that several fuel tax credits, including the cellulosic biofuel producer credit, the biodiesel mixture credit, the alternative fuels credit and the alternative fuel mixtures credit, expired at the end of 2011. But with the passage of the deal on January 2 this year that extended those 2012 credits retroactively, if eligible, you’ll have until July 1 to file for them:

The deadline for filing claims for certain refundable excise tax credit payments had already passed before the [American Taxpayer Relief Act] was enacted. Such claims generally are due by the end of the first quarter following the earliest quarter of the claimant’s income tax year included in the claim. For example, a calendar-year taxpayer’s claim for biodiesel mixtures sold in June and July 2012 ordinarily would have been due by Sept. 30, 2012 (the end of the third quarter, which is the first quarter following the earliest quarter included in the claim). Earlier this year, the IRS released FAQs on its website that explained the procedural requirements for claiming the income tax and excise tax credits in light of ATRA. The FAQs did not extend the filing deadlines for claiming the refundable excise tax credits.

More information is available in IRS issued Notice 2013-26.

Biodiesel, Cellulosic, Government

Virginia Tech Finds Way to Get Hydrogen from Plants

John Davis

ZhangResearchers at Virginia Tech have found a way to extract hydrogen from any plant, a breakthrough touted as possibly bringing a low-cost, environmentally friendly fuel source to the world.

“Our new process could help end our dependence on fossil fuels,” said Y.H. Percival Zhang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering. “Hydrogen is one of the most important biofuels of the future.”

Zhang and his team have succeeded in using xylose, the most abundant simple plant sugar, to produce a large quantity of hydrogen that previously was attainable only in theory. Zhang’s method can be performed using any source of biomass.

This new environmentally friendly method of producing hydrogen utilizes renewable natural resources, releases almost no greenhouse gasses, and does not require costly or heavy metals. Previous methods to produce hydrogen are expensive and create greenhouse gases.

Zhang’s process could hit markets within three years, a marketplace that could be at least $1 trillion just in the United States.

You can read more about it in the journal Angewandte Chemie, International Edition.

Hydrogen, Research