Waste Management Opens CNG Station in Chicago

Waste Management (WM) of Illinois has opened a new filling station for compressed natural gas (CNG) in Chicago. The refueling station is equipped with 40 filling bays to fuel WM’s CNG vehicles. Today, the company operates six CNG-powered vehicles in the northern suburbs of Chicago and this summer will add 10 additional CNG vehicles to its fleet. The natural gas is conveyed to the facility by pipe from a NICOR gas main nearby and is the same gas used in homes for heating and cooking.

“We congratulate Waste Management for taking another major step in demonstrating its commitment to the environment by implementing natural gas-powered refuse haulers and a natural gas refueling station at its Wheeling facility,” said Lisa Bonnett, Interim Director for the Illinois EPA who attended a kick-off event to open the station. “Clean-burning natural gas is a great way to significantly reduce emissions from heavy-duty trucks and help our state meet its air quality goals and further our energy independence.”

According to Steve Batchelor, WM’s area vice president for Illinois and Indiana, the company has embraced clean fuel technology across the country and has set a goal to lower the overall emissions by 15 percent while increasing fuel efficiency of its fleet by 15 percent each year through 2020. He also said the company is responding to requests from local government customers to use cleaner burning vehicles as they pursue sustainability initiatives.

“We have made the commitment to use more and more clean-burning CNG-powered collection trucks in the Chicago area. Our Wheeling facility will give us the direct capability to fuel our growing CNG fleet in the northern suburbs, lower our exhaust emissions, and help reduce our dependence on foreign oil. It’s a good step for our operations and a positive environmental contribution to the communities we serve,” concluded Batchelor.

Major Doubt Over USDA Corn Forecast

Well there is certainly a healthy dose of skepticism shown in our latest ZimmPoll in answer to the question, “Will USDA forecast for record 13.5 billion bushels of corn come true?” An overwhelming majority (61 percent) say NO. Only 30 percent say yes and 9 percent say maybe. In light of the weather we’ve had so far this year I don’t find this surprising at all. Do you?

Our new ZimmPoll is now live. We’re asking the question, “What is your opinion about the Farm Bill?” The political rhetoric is already heating up. Chime in with your thoughts.

And if you have any questions you want to suggest for future ZimmPolls please let us know.

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

New Wind Measurement System Available

Vaisala has released the new WTS Wind Management System that has been specifically engineered for wind resource assessment, power curve measurement and monitoring of wind farms. The system was designed to help wind farm managers better understand and manage the impact of weather on operations. Vaisala wind sensors can be found at the National Weather Service’s Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS) sites and most airport Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS) sites.

“With alternate energy sources being the need of the hour, the Wind Energy industry is receiving billions of dollars worth of investments globally. For its success, it requires economical investment grade equipment that provides accurate and reliable measurements,” said Richard Pyle, segment director, Weather Critical Energy for Vaisala. “Combining several decades of experience in weather observation, and working closely with the wind energy industry, Vaisala has designed affordable world class systems that maximize certainty and minimize risk and long term costs for investors, developers, and operators.”

There are five different configurations within the wind measurement system. They include a cold climate option and an option that employs sensors designed to last more than 20 years and are largely maintenance free. In addition, each system includes a combination of sensors that provide accuracy and quality, a data logging system, power supply and tower. The wind measurement system is now available globally and customers can choose either a lease or purchase option.

California Fuels Report Released

A new report, “Projected Outlook for Next Generation and Alternative Transportation Fuels in California 2010-2030,” has been released. The report concludes that with current investments and advances in alternative fuels over the past several years should lead to a significant displacement of petroleum-based fuels like diesel and gasoline. The report was released by Fueling California and Orange County Business Council and was authored by research experts at University of California, Irvine, the Automotive Club of Southern California and Tiax, LLC.

“Historically, California has been a trend-setter for the rest of the world in the transportation and fuel sectors,” said Mr. Sturtz. “California represents one of the largest fuel markets in the world and also houses some of the most technically innovative people, research institutions, and businesses to create an environment that incubates innovative and next-generation technologies. “These market factors coupled with a unique set of state government regulations that are creating a push for alternative fuels points to a large market that could potentially provide commercial benefits to all components of the fuel supply chain.”

While the report suggests a reduction of fossil-fuel based transportation fuels, because it takes between 10-15 years to change a fleet, by 2030 at least 75 percent of the fuels used will still remain petroleum-based. The report discusses three principal drivers for development of alternative fuels worldwide: reducing greenhouse gases, energy security, and urban air pollution. The report also discusses state policies, socio-economic factors, market forces, and business environment in California. Continue reading

Federal Fleet to Use Alternative Fuels

President Obama wants the federal fleet of more than 600,000 vehicles to use alternative fuels by 2015.

The goal of the Presidential Memorandum issued today implementing new Federal fleet management practices is “to cut oil imports by one-third by 2025 and to put one million advanced vehicles on the road by 2015.”

By December 31, 2015, all new light duty vehicles leased or purchased by agencies must be alternative fueled vehicles, such as hybrid or electric, compressed natural gas, or biofuel. Moreover, agency alternative fueled vehicles must, as soon as practicable, be located in proximity to fueling stations with available alternative fuels, and be operated on the alternative fuel for which the vehicle is designed. Where practicable, agencies should encourage development of commercial infrastructure for alternative fuel or provide flex fuel and alternative fuel pumps and charging stations at Federal fueling sites.

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, U.S. General Services Administrator Martha Johnson and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley came together to make the announcement on Tuesday and to look over alternative fuel options like the new Chevrolet VOLT electric vehicle.

The ethanol industry was pleased that the administration is interested in getting more flex-fuel vehicles. “By ordering the purchase of Flex Fuel vehicles capable of running on a range of ethanol blends, and encouraging installation of Flex Fuel pumps, this Executive Order will help us achieve the President’s energy security goal of reducing our dependence on foreign oil,” said Chris Thorne with the ethanol group Growth Energy.

National Biodiesel Board (NBB) chairman Gary Haer, vice president of Renewable Energy Group (REG), said the White House directive provides more opportunities for biodiesel growth in the federal fleet which uses more than 66 million gallons of diesel fuel and 6.5 million gallons of biodiesel each year. “Dozens of local governments, universities and other institutions already are using biodiesel to help green their fleets,” said Haer. “It’s something the federal government could do immediately, without leaving the taxpayer a big bill for new equipment.”

Sales of 85 Percent Ethanol Up in Iowa

Iowa drivers are buying 85 percent ethanol for their flex fuel vehicles.

Iowa RFAAccording to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA), E85 sales in Iowa increased by 27 percent during the first quarter of 2011 compared to the fourth quarter of 2010. The Iowa Department of Revenue reports that sales of E85 by Iowa retailers reached 2,645,038 gallons during the first three months of this year. Compared to the first quarter of 2010, E85 sales were up 64 percent in 2011.

“Consumers have increasingly sought out E85 as an affordable, homegrown alternative with gasoline prices approaching $4 per gallon,” stated IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “It was especially exciting to see E85 sales increase robustly even as the Iowa E85 retailer tax credit was cut by half on the first of January.”

Since January 1, 2006, Iowa retailers have received a tax credit for each gallon of E85 sold. Under the 2006 law, the E85 tax credit was reduced from 20 cents per gallon to 10 cents per gallon on January 1, 2011. Iowa currently has 142 retail outlets offering E85 and is the leading state in renewable fuels production, with 41 ethanol refineries capable of producing nearly 3.7 billion gallons annually and 12 biodiesel facilities with the capacity to produce 315 million gallons annually.

Biodiesel Board Webinar on Food, Fuel and Land Use

Experts on a National Biodiesel Board webinar Tuesday explained how biofuels production can lead to more efficient and environmentally friendly energy future and help feed the world’s poor.

The on-line event drew more than 100 participants, including government regulators, military personnel, scientists and students. The event was promoted among college students as part of the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel effort.

Both Dr. Stephen Kaffka of the University of California/Davis Department of Plant Sciences and Keith Kline with the Center for Bioenergy Sustainability at Oak Ridge National Laboratory talked about how the world can and should produce both food and fuel.

“Biofuel feedstocks or residue use should be considered from a cropping system’s perspective and not just as separate enterprises,” said Kaffka. “It isn’t really a food versus fuel issue but rather a more efficient and environmentally sound cropping system versus those that are less so.”

Kaffka talked about how California has been discounted by the USDA in its Road Map for Biofuels estimate of biomass production per region, but he believes that crops like safflower, which is an oilseed that has a deep root system and can recover residual nitrogen at greater soil depths, could be grown very efficiently and productively in that state. “Some of the crops that might have roles for biodiesel feedstock can have significant agronomic and environmental benefits as well,” he said.

Kline believes that bioenergy done correctly on a global scale could do much to address food insecurity and poverty. “If we can alleviate poverty, we can probably alleviate a lot of food insecurity,” he said. “Some people in Africa have looked at this and concluded that bioenergy is not only compatible with food production but it could also greatly benefit agriculture in Africa.”

Kline says farmers he has talked to in developing countries want to feed their families and have something they can sell. “If they can grow something that’s good for food, and fuel, and fodder and feed, and anything else that you can imagine, it’s all the better,” he added.

You can listen to the whole webinar here.

Nissan Installs 30 Solar EV Chargers at TN Plant

International car manufacturer Nissan North America has begun the installation of 30 solar charging stations at its Smyrna Vehicle Assembly Plant in Franklin, Tennessee. This project is one of dozens that Nissan has invested in the state totaling more than $3.5 billion over 30 years. The solar chargers are designed to charge the Nissan LEAF, an all electric vehicle (EV) that debuted globally last December. Soon, the plant will begin building the LEAF as well as assembling that batteries that power the EV in an advanced, lithium-ion battery plant that is 75 percent complete. It is expected to be operation in the Fall of 2012.

“Tennessee is Nissan’s home in the Americas region,” said Carlos Tavares, chairman, Nissan Americas. “These solar-assisted charging stations demonstrate our dedication to a zero-emissions society, and our dedication to bringing innovation to our home in Tennessee. Nissan in the coming year will expand our manufacturing presence, enhance our philanthropic efforts and make new additions to our headquarters operations, all in Tennessee.”

Interestingly, the solar charging station employs the same lithium-ion battery that also powers the LEAF. This project not only allows Nissan to study the battery’s storage capacity, but also demonstrates a second-life opportunity for lithium-ion batteries beyond their use in automotive applications.

The U.S. Department of Energy is funding the stations through a matching grant. In addition, Nissan will share the usage and technical data from the solar chargers with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Tennessee Valley Authority for further study.

UPS Begins Using Biodiesel at U.S. Hub

UPS is now using biodiesel blends at its Louisville, Kentucky hub. The company recently installed a biodiesel fuel tank and fueling station at its Worldport facility. This will enable fuel operators to blend specific percentages of biodiesel starting from a B5 blend (5% biodiesel, 95% diesel) up to B20. Biodiesel blends of up to B20 can be used in any diesel engine without any modifications.

The 30,000 gallon biodiesel tank and station at Worldport fuels nearly 200 vehicles and diesel equipment, most of which help load packages on and off the planes. Worldport is the size of 80 football fields and each day loads 100 airplanes and processes 416,000 packages an hour.

“There is a finite amount of petroleum-based fuel available from our planet so it is important that UPS and other companies invest in ways to use alternative fuels and technologies, including biodiesel,” said Scott Wicker, UPS Chief Sustainability officer. “This project helps us reduce our dependence on fossil fuels with the added benefit that it will also reduce air pollution and carbon emissions.”

Joe Jobe, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board considers UPS’s switch to biodiesel “monumental”.

“For a giant like UPS to use biodiesel is not only an outstanding vote of confidence for biodiesel, but an example of how America’s first advanced biofuel will fuel the drive towards genuine corporate sustainability,” said Jobe.

Quantum Awarded $1.37M PHEV Grant

Quantum Fuel System Technologies Worldwide has been awarded a $1.37 million grant by the California Energy Commission (CEC) for launching a new generation of plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) systems. The goal of the program is to develop technology that will accelerate the adoption of PHEVs by way of improved operational efficiencies and reduced cost. The monies will be used for product validation and to set up a pilot production line to accelerate launching of the new generation of hybrid electric products being developed at Quantum’s Advanced Technology Center located in Lake Forest, California.

“We thank CEC for their continued support of innovation in clean energy technologies that helps to increase America’s competitiveness and create jobs,” said Alan P. Niedzwiecki, the President and CEO of Quantum. “We are excited about the potential of our new generation products that have a chance to change the way we drive.”

Quantum has developed the Q-Drive™ PHEV system that powers the Fisker Karma, a high performance luxury sedan that was developed by Fisker Automotive. Fisker is a partnership between Quantum and Fisker Coachbuild.

In other news, Quantum recently launched a PHEV F150 truck that incorporates its Quantum PHEV drive called F-Drive. Although the company did not release this information about the F150, I have confirmed from a company representative that it is also a flex-fuel vehicle with the ability to use up to E85 (85% ethanol, 15% gas). To my knowledge, this would be the second PHEV – FFV available with the Chevy Volt being the first of its kind to market.