New Study on Water-wise Biofuel Crops

Joanna Schroeder

A new study has shown that putting the water-use-efficient and turbo-charged photosynthesis from plants such as agave into woody biomass plants can hedge against high temperatures and low moisture. It can also enable growers to plant dedicated energy crops on marginal land.

A team of researchers including John Cushman, a biochemistry professor at the University of Nevada, Reno; Xiaohan Yang at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL); James Hartwell at the University of Liverpool, UK; and Anne Borland at Newcastle University, UK and ORNL are exploring the genetic mechanisms of crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) and drought tolerance in desert-adapted plants as a way to improve drought resistance for biofuel crops.

The study is part of a five-year, multi-institutional $14.3 million U.D. Department of Energy (DOE) grant, “Engineering CAM Photosynthetic Machinery into Bioenergy Crops for Biofuels Production in Marginal Environments.” The funds are through the DOE’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Genomic Science: Biosystems Design to Enable Next-Generation Biofuels.

The team will develop novel technologies to redesign bioenergy crops to grow on economically marginal agricultural lands and produce yields of biomass that can readily be converted to biofuels. The development of water-use efficient, fast-growing trees such as poplar for such sites will also help reduce competition with food crops for usable farmland according to the research team.

“With climate change predictions for a 7 degree Fahrenheit (3.8 degree C) increase in temperature and a decrease in reliable precipitation patterns by 2080 for much of America’s breadbasket, and with a greater need for sources of biofuels for transportation, these biodesign approaches to enhancing biomass production become very important,” Cushman, director of the project, said.

The ultimate goal of the project is to significantly improve an energy crop’s drought resistance by enabling the crop to adapt to hotter, drier climates. Read More

advance biofuels, biomass, global warming, Research, water

Blender Pump Opens in Cresco, Iowa

Joanna Schroeder

A new blender pump is opening today in Cresco, Iowa. Twenty-nine local investors applied and were approved for a Resource Enhancement and Protection grant (REAP). They group also received Iowa Infrastructure funding to aid with the costs of installation. The FAST STOP flex-fuel station is located at 22268 Highway 9 West, Cresco, Iowa.

During a grand opening event today from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, the FAST STOP station offered discounts on all ethanol blends, E15, E30 and E85. To my knowledge, this is the first station in Iowa to sell E15 after it became a legal fuel last month.  In addition to ethanol, three blends of biodiesel, B2 and B10 and off road B5 are being sold. The biodiesel is GROWMARK’S Dieselex Gold premium fuel.

Several industry representatives were on hand during the event to help celebrate with FAST STOP. Groups included GROWMARK, AgVantage FS, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association and Iowa Corn Growers Association.

Biodiesel, blends, E85, Ethanol

Iowa Groups Call for Renewal of PTC

Joanna Schroeder

Nearly 65 entities in Iowa have come together from all walks including agriculture, education, labor, business, public health, and the environment, in a call to Iowa’s congressional delegation to extend the wind production tax credit (PTC) for wind. A letter was sent to the legislators highlighting the wide reach of the wind industry from manufacturing jobs to income for farmers to the generation of taxes for rural communities.

The letter states: “The wind industry in Iowa has diversified our rural economy. Since 1992, 2,978 wind turbines have been installed on 104 utility scale and community scale wind farms. Iowa now has 4,322 MW of electric generation capacity and 450 MW are under construction. This represents nearly $5 billion funneling through Iowa’s economy. Thousands of Iowans depend on the wind industry to support their families through construction, manufacturing, operations and maintenance jobs. In addition, land owner easement payments to farmers exceed $11 million annually and are extremely important in trying economic times.”

Signers of the letter included the Iowa Wind Energy Association, the Iowa Environmental Council and Environmental Law & Policy Center. Other signers included the Iowa Farm Bureau; Iowa State Building and Construction Trades Council and all three public universities and every community college in the state; and the Iowa chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

“We often remind people that wind supports as many as 7,000 jobs in Iowa,” said Harold D. Prior, executive director of the Iowa Wind Energy Association. “This letter shows the breadth of the impact of wind, which ranges from our schools which are educating the renewable energy leaders of tomorrow, to the labor groups who are building wind in Iowa, to our farmers who benefit from the added income of land leases.”

Renewable energy, including wind, is a hot topic in the presidential campaign and in the state campaign ads are running about the importance of the industry in Iowa.

Steve Falck, senior policy analyst with the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Des Moines said, “Iowa was the first state to generate 20 percent of its electricity from wind and we could get so much further. But without renewal of the PTC we the breaks will slam on Iowa wind, all of this economic progress will be reversed, jobs will be lost, and income for farmers will dry up.”

Energy, Legislation, Wind

Indiana Tech Installs Wind Turbine on Campus

Joanna Schroeder

Universities across the country have been integrating renewable energy classes but Indiana Tech has gone one step further than most. They have installed a wind turbine on its Fort Wayne campus to help engineering students learn about alternative energy. The turbine is located next to the Zollner Engineering Center and a gift from the Steel Dynamics Foundation covered the cost of the equipment, installation and software.

The wind turbine tower is 120 feet tall and the blades have a diameter of 26.5 feet. The total height is 134 feet and is expected to generated between 700 and 1,000 kilowatt hours per month. This is approximately the amount of energy one average size household uses each month. The power produced by the wind turbine will flow back to the power grid and will be credited to Indiana Tech’s electric bill.

“This an excellent teaching tool for our students,” said Dr. John Renie, associate professor of mechanical engineering. “We’ll have real-time monitoring equipment so that students and others can see how much energy is being produced.”

Indiana Tech offers a bachelor’s degree in energy engineering, and the wind turbine on campus will allow firsthand study of wind power. The operation of the turbine also will have applications in the mechanical engineering and electrical engineering programs.

Education, Electricity, Energy, Wind

Ethanol Report on E15 After September 15

Cindy Zimmerman

Ethanol Report PodcastThe final hurdle to allow sales of 15% ethanol for 2001 and newer model year vehicles was cleared on June 15, but so far only two stations in Kansas have been able to commercially sell the fuel. That should change as summer comes to a close, according to Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Director of Market Development Robert White, who explains in this edition of “The Ethanol Report” that September 15 marks the end of EPA’s summer volatility restriction that has hindered retail sales of E15.

Listen to or download the Ethanol Report here: Ethanol Report on E15 After 9-15

Subscribe to “The Ethanol Report” with this link.

Audio, Ethanol, Ethanol News, Ethanol Report, RFA

STAR Energy Keeping Fuel Tanks Cleaner

Cindy Zimmerman

A dirty tank can make even the best of fuel less than optimum, which is why GROWMARK STAR energy was demonstrating a high efficiency fuel tank cleaning process at the 2012 Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa.

Curt Snyder with STAR Energy demonstrated the cleaner, which can run in any size tank from 500-1000 gallons. “It has a pressurized nozzle that sprays throughout the tank, scours it inside. Meanwhile, in the back, it’s sucking up the fuel and running it through our filtering system to take out all the impurities,” he explained. “We’re able to get down to even the smallest pieces of sand.”

Snyder says it’s good to go into harvest season with a clean tank. “It’s very important that we don’t get any grit from an old tank into your fuel system,” he said, noting that growers at the Farm Progress Show showed a lot of interest in the tank cleaning process that many did not even know existed. He said that more information is available from STAR Energy in Iowa or any FS fuel delivery service.

Watch Curt demo the tank cleaner in this video:

Farm Progress Show, FS Energy, Fuel Efficiency, GROWMARK, Video

More E15 Could Hit the Market Next Week

Cindy Zimmerman

More 15% ethanol could become available in more states after this weekend.

September 15 is a significant date for E15 in the market place. That date marks the end of EPA’s summer volatility restriction for gasoline, which has kept many retailers who are interested in selling E15 from doing so since the final hurdle to selling the fuel was overcome in June.

“E15 has been hamstrung this summer because of summer volatility rules, governed by the EPA,” said Robert White, Director of Market Development for the Renewable Fuels Association. This meant that a special blendstock was required for 15 percent ethanol blending which is more expensive and only available in limited areas. EPA required this E15 vapor pressure restriction from June 1 to September 15. Only one retailer in Kansas, Zarco 66, was able to secure this low Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) gasoline from a State Implementation Plan (SIP) area of Kansas City, and thus able offer E15 during the summer in Lawrence and Ottawa, KS.

“When September 15 hits, all bets are off and all gasoline is created equal and many retailers across the country will be able to sell E15 for the first time,” said White. “We know for a fact that there will be stations in South Dakota, Kansas, Iowa and Illinois that will start selling E15 for the first time to 2001 and newer vehicles in the next week.”

White says retailers interested in offering E15 can get all the information they need from the RFA’s E15 Retailer Handbook, but basically they need to submit a request to the EPA to adopt RFA’s model Misfueling Mitigation Plan, join an approved fuel survey program like RFGSA, and use the EPA’s E15 dispenser label pictured here.

Ethanol, Ethanol News, RFA

Minimum Tillage Changes Due to Drought

Melissa Sandfort

Our latest ZimmPoll asked the question, ” What tillage practice changes will you make due to drought?”

Our poll results: Thirty-one percent said No change, continue conventional till; thirty-five percent said No change, continue conservation till; fifteen percent said Will start conservation till (no-till, strip-till, other) on part of crop; and nineteen percent said Will start conservation till (no-till, strip-till, other) on all of crop.

Our new ZimmPoll is now live and asks the question, ” Do you plan to buy an iPhone 5?” It’s taller, thinner, lighter weight and has a bigger screen. Or do you just love your Android? Or not want a smartphone at all? What do you think?

ZimmPoll is sponsored by Rhea+Kaiser, a full-service advertising/public relations agency.


Ethanol Groups Retain Glover Park Group

Cindy Zimmerman

The ethanol industry has retained communications consulting firm The Glover Park Group (GPG) to help with the current situation being faced regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard.

According to a statement from the Renewable Fuels Association, “The Glover Park Group has been retained to help ensure that the job growth, environmental benefits and energy independence afforded by America’s Renewable Fuel Standard are not undermined. Stakeholders in both the traditional and advanced renewable fuel sectors are working to defend the communities, investments and innovation supported by the RFS.”

Both RFA and Growth Energy are reportedly retaining the agency together. Asked specifically about the agency during a press conference Wednesday, Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis sidestepped the issue. “As far as what we do going forward, we’ll make public announcements when we’re ready to do that,” said Buis, indicating that other groups or companies may join with them in the effort.

The Glover Park Group was instrumental in the 2008 “food versus fuel” campaign against ethanol as an agency for the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

Ethanol, Ethanol News, Growth Energy, RFA

Wind Blades By Rail

Joanna Schroeder

As you travel along major U.S. highways, it is not unusual to see semis traveling in packs of three transporting wind turbine blades. But have you ever seen them blow by on rail? Not yet but this may be a new transportation option going forward. For the first time in Europe, 55-metre long wind blades have been delivered from Germany to Denmark by rail.

“We took an innovative approach to lowering the cost of energy while at the same time reducing impact on the environment,” said Mette Heileskov Bülow, Transportation Chief Specialist at Vestas. The company coordinated the first blade-by-train transport that consisted of nine wind blades manufactured at Vestas’ production facility to the port of Esbjerg, Denmark. The trip took less than 20 hours; by road it would have taken 72 hours, nine trucks and 18 safety cars.

SNCF Geodis and Vestas are designing rail connections between Vestas’ production facilities, research centres, warehouses and erection locations throughout Europe. Vestas said changing the mode of transport for the majority of these onshore wind turbine components in Europe in the near future will reduce transportation cost. Early estimates indicate at least a 15 percent savings.

Pierre Blayau, CEO of SNCF Geodis, added, “This new transportation concept shows the beneficial strategic fit between SNCF Geodis and Vestas. Both our companies are role models for creating sustainable solutions in our respective industries.”

Energy, Environment, Video, Wind