TCU Energy Institute Offers Certificate Programs

Joanna Schroeder

TCU Energy Institute is now offering two certificate programs for energy industry professionals and royalty owners. By receiving a certificate of completion through this one-of-a-kind program, graduates can gain the skills needed to project their career path up – to senior management. Both certificate programs will begin on September 24 and be offered in Houston, Texas and San Antonio, Texas.

“Many of our TCU graduates and corporate partners have requested the TCU Energy Institute to develop an advanced energy management certificate program,” said Ken Morgan, director of TCU Energy Institute.

As a result, two programs were created. The first is The Advanced Energy Management Certificate. This certificate is intended to cut the cycle time of development for mid-career managers and professionals who are ready to move up to the next level of responsibility.

The second program, the Royalty Owner Certificate, is endorsed by the National Association of Royalty Owners (NARO), and has been created to educate mineral owners, energy operators and other industry professionals about the basics of leasing minerals, managing mineral assets, lease negotiations and other agreements. Texas has more than one million royalty owners with the advent of new shale plays and breakthrough technologies.

Those interested must apply and TCU Energy Institute says that the program is aimed at attorneys, financial advisors, consultants, engineers, geologists and other professionals who advise and support energy organizations and initiatives. Those accepted will have the ability to network with others in the field while learning critical management skills. Upon completion, graduates will received a formal credential.

Education, Energy

Wind Power & Biodiversity

Joanna Schroeder

In June, over 40 individuals from various European public and private entities came together in Lisbon to discuss how impacts on biodiversity by wind energy projects could be decreased. The result is a series of presentations regarding, “Wind Power and Biodiversity: Tools to Measure, Avoid and Compensate Impacts.” The workshop, organized by EDP, Bio3 and the Fundacion Global Nature, demonstrated to participants practical solutions to real world wind energy problems.

As wind energy gains momentum, so have concerns about its environmental impacts. Experts explained that by following the mitigation hierarchy, environmental aspects can be measured properly and realistically taken into account. The workshop was moderated by António Sá da Costa, president of APREN (Portuguese Renewable Energy Association). Throughout the day, there were 12 presentations and three working groups for a “World Café” discussion session.

Key discussions included:

  • What instruments can be used to measure and quantify impacts on flora and fauna during operation in a cost-effective way? A site and species-specific methodology is needed.
  • How to avoid and minimize the negative effects: Selecting the best location and conducting a proper environmental impact assessment (EIA).
  • When and how can unavoidable impacts be compensated: EIA as an open process.
  • What offset measures can be applied to compensate the negative impacts? How to select target-species, how to conduct habitat management and how to manage prey populations recovery.

The workshop was just one of many initiatives of the European Business and Biodiversity Campaign.

Education, Energy, Environment, Wind

Algae Facility Partners with ReVenture Park

Joanna Schroeder

Renewed World Energies (RWE) has agreed to enter into a partnership with ReVenture Park in Charlotte, North Carolina to develop an algae-to-fuel pilot plant. The Eco-Industrial Park caters to clean energy businesses and will work with RWE to expand its technology from pilot scale to commercial scale. The company is developing different strains of algae that will be utilized to create biofuels as well as health supplements. The pilot facility is expected to be operational September 30, 2012.

There are numerous species of algae and each one has its own unique characteristics. One goal of researchers is to identify and develop strains that are best fits for certain uses, such as to produce jet fuel or for use as a replacement for oil in cosmetics, food and fertilizer. RWE’s system produces algae oil and algae cake, which can be fed as a food supplement to livestock or to make fish feed.

RWE President Richard Armstrong founded his company in South Carolina but chose North Carolina to take it to the next level. “We were attracted to the eco-industrial synergies at ReVenture Park. North Carolina also seems to be more attuned to the renewable fuels, and offers multiple benefits for showcasing new technology.”

ReVenture Park took advantage of nearly 700 acres of abandoned land that was a former textile dye-manufactured site. It is now being transformed into an Eco-Industrial Park focused on research and development of clean technology.

“We are pleased to have struck a deal to have RWE move a facility to ReVenture,” said Tom McKittrick, President Forsite Development. “RWE was attracted to the sites extensive existing infrastructure which then can utilize and there are multiple opportunities for us to collaborate.”

advance biofuels, algae, biochemicals, biomaterials, Biotech

Teen Cites Family in Winning Biodiesel Essay

John Davis

A Minnesota teenager has cited personal family ties in her winning essay on biodiesel. Morgan Dahl, a 2012 graduate of Greenbush-Middle River High School, won first place in the Reuben Youngerberg Memorial Biodiesel Essay Scholarship, an annual scholarship open to all high school seniors in Minnesota.

In her essay, Dahl talked about being raised on a family century farm and the loss of her grandmother in 2009 to Bronchial Alveolar Carcinoma. While the exact cause of her grandmother’s rare form of non-smoking cancer aren’t known, Dahl said they do know it was something in the air or environment, and she believes “that the use of biodiesel may reduce the risk of being afflicted by cancer or other devastating diseases.”

Dahl, the daughter of Donavon and Laura Dahl of Middle River, Minnesota, will receive a $1,600 check from the American Lung Association in Minnesota, which recognizes biodiesel as a “clean air choice” fuel. She plans to attend the University of North Dakota and seek a degree in Early Childhood Education, with a focus on Special Education.

“I would like to thank the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest for giving me the opportunity to receive this scholarship, and for selecting my essay as the first place winner,” Dahl said. “The scholarship will definitely help pay for my college expenses. It truly means a lot to me.”

Second-place essayist Laura Winters, a recent graduate of Schaeffer Academy in Rochester, Minn. receives a $500 award. Her compelling argument for biodiesel pointed out that too much imported petroleum comes from areas of the world that are either unstable or unfriendly to the U.S., and “it seems prudent and logical to decrease our dependence on them for a product that is vitally important to our infrastructure.”

The Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council sponsors contest, with additional contributions from the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, MEG Corp, National Biodiesel Board and the Renewable Energy Group.


“Forever Young” Switchgrass for Cellulosic Ethanol

John Davis

Scientists at the USDA might have found a way to keep switchgrass forever young and better for cellulosic ethanol. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) geneticist Sarah Hake, working with University of California-Berkeley plant geneticist George Chuck, found that taking a gene from corn called corngrass and inserting it into switchgrass keeps the grass always in a juvenile form that doesn’t flower, doesn’t produce seeds, and doesn’t have a dormant growth phase. And that means the sugars in the plant starch are more readily available for conversion into cellulosic ethanol.

The scientists observed that the leaves in the transgenic switchgrass are not nearly as stiff as leaves in switchgrass cultivars that haven’t been modified. In addition, they determined that leaf lignin is slightly different in the transgenic switchgrass than leaf lignin in other plants. This could lead to new findings on how to break down the sturdy lignin and release sugars for fermentation, a development that will be essential to the commercial production of cellulosic ethanol.

The researchers are now introducing DNA segments called genetic promoters that would “turn on” the expression of the corngrass gene just in aboveground switchgrass shoots. This could help increase root mass development that otherwise would be inhibited by the gene. Hake and Chuck also suggest that developing nonflowering switchgrass varieties would eliminate the possibility of cross-pollination between transgenic switchgrass cultivars and other switchgrass cultivars.

The work was published in 2011 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

biomass, Cellulosic, corn, Ethanol, Ethanol News, Research, Science, USDA

Renewable Energy Part of Obama Acceptance

Cindy Zimmerman

Renewable energy was part of President Obama’s acceptance speech Thursday night as the Democratic nominee for 2012.

“We have doubled our use of renewable energy, and thousands of Americans have jobs today building wind turbines and long-lasting batteries,” Obama said to applause. “In the last year alone, we cut oil imports by 1 million barrels a day, more than any administration in recent history. And today the United States of America is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in the last two decades.”

“We’re offering a better path where we — a future where we keep investing in wind and solar and clean coal, where farmers and scientists harness new biofuels to power our cars and trucks, where construction workers build homes and factories that waste less energy, where — where we develop a hundred-year supply of natural gas that’s right beneath our feet,” he continued.

The president’s acceptance speech added to comments Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack made the night before at the Democratic National Convention, noting that the Obama administration has made “smart investments in clean energy—wind, solar, biofuels as part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy that supports thousands of jobs, not in the Middle East, but in the Midwest.”

biofuels, Ethanol, Ethanol News, politics, Solar, Wind

Despite Challenges Advanced Biofuels Grow

Joanna Schroeder

Even though the past year has been tough for the biofuels industry, the “Advanced Biofuels Market Report 2012,”  from Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) says the advanced biofuels industry is still growing. Today, advanced biofuel production has exceeded 685 million gallons. Estimates are that the industry has the ability to grow to between 1.6 billion to 2.6 billion by 2015.

There are several drivers to growth including the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2). As the industry matures, costs should come down as well as carbon emissions. The policies both include reduction of carbon emissions measured by a carbon intensity score and this becomes an added incentive to commercialize advanced biofuels. The study estimates if the standards come to full fruition, somewhere between 18,407 and 47,700 new jobs could be created.

“What this report shows is that we have sufficient, proven technology to meet these new standards that will help clear our air, strengthen our economy and provide new choices in transportation fuels,” said Bob Epstein, co-founder of Environmental Entrepreneurs.

Each year Californians use about 18 billion gallons of transportation fuel and these same fuels produce nearly 40 percent of the state’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. Of the 27 new advanced biofuels facilities expected to go into production by 2015, three will be located in California. The state is home to eight advanced biofuel refineries already in production and is expected to house several additional demonstration projects in the near term.

advance biofuels, Research

Kohl’s Expands EV Charging Station Initiative

Joanna Schroeder

Kohl’s is expanding its electric vehicle (EV) charging station initiative with 36 new stations across 18 different locations in the U.S. Once the additional EV stations are complete this fall, the company will have 101 charging stations at 52 Kohl’s locations across 14 states. Customers are able to charge up at no cost while they shop.

“Since Kohl’s EV charging station initiative began in December 2011, it has received extremely positive feedback from our customers who are excited about the added convenience,” said John Worthington, Kohl’s chief administrative officer. “From our solar program to our green building efforts, Kohl’s has been pleased to be able to grow sustainability programs that make sense for our business, customers and communities – and our EV program is one more great example.”

The program is a partnership between Kohl’s, Duke Energy, ChargePoint, and ECOtality. In Indiana, the company worked with Duke Energy to install six charging stations as part of Indiana’s Project Plug-IN. The company has expanded its partnership with ECOtality to install 30 EV charging stations at 15 Kohl’s in Illinois, Texas and Wisconsin.

Drivers can activate the charging stations in several ways including radio frequency identification (RFID) cards available at Kohl’s customer service desk or via phone numbers provided on the charging stations.

Electric Vehicles, Electricity, Energy

Have You Signed up for a Solar Tour?

Joanna Schroeder

October is National Energy Awareness Month. The American Solar Energy Society (ASES) National Solar Tour is taking place beginning the first Saturday of the month with additional tours being held throughout the month. The largest grassroots solar event in the U.S., last year more than 160,000 people visited over 5,500 buildings in 3,200 communities across the country.

The national event is coordinated by ASES along with dozens of partner organizations. Here are several examples of where some of the events will be held:

  • Solar Connecticut – CT Solar Tour in All, CT on 10/06/2012
  • Solar tour in Mahomet, IL on 10/06/2012
  • Houston Solar Tour in Houston, TX on 10/20/2012
  • San Antonio Solar Tour in San Antonio, TX on 10/07/2012

Here is the tour I want to go on. There is a tour of three “Ghost Houses” in Knoxville, Tennessee that are more than 100 years old and have been rehabilitated. They were sitting abandoned for some time and thus the the Ghost Houses moniker stuck. The project was unique with the designers having to deal with zoning issues, regulations and historic preservation issues but the team was successful and as part of their eco-friendly homes added solar energy. This is just one example of a solar tour that will take place in October.

Click here to find a tour near you.  Click here if you want to list a tour in your area.

Electricity, Energy, Solar

China Dominates Renewable Energy Market

Joanna Schroeder

According to the most recent Global Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Indices Report (CAI), China will continue to dominate the global renewable energy market. The country has quadrupled its solar capacity target to 50GW by 2020. At the top of the All Renewable Index (ARI), China will have to overcome some challenges including oversupply of wind turbines and solar panels as well as solve many grid transmission issues to reach its goal.

While China’s score is on the rise, America’s score is going downward. The U.S. dropped 1.5 points to share in second position with Germany. The decline was caused by ongoing uncertainty in U.S.’s long-term energy strategy and a failure to indicate if there will be an extension to the Production Tax Credit for wind projects. The rise in Germany’s score was a result of the government’s approach to addressing barriers to offshore wind development and stability in its solar market.

“While the U.S. and Germany markets are level within the ARI, the contrast between these two markets is evident. The upcoming elections have led to an understandable slowdown in the decision making process in the US, while Germany is pushing ahead with its ambitious renewable energy agenda — including the introduction of a new solar PV tariff and compensation for offshore grid connection delays,” explained Ernst & Young’s Global Cleantech Leader, Gil Forer.

He continued, “Having made positive progress, the challenge now facing Germany is making sure that the necessary infrastructure is in place to ensure the renewable power generated in the north of the country can be shipped to customers in the south. It is important for any country not only to focus on policies that support supply, but also on those that will encourage and simulate demand.”

Next on the leaderboard is India, who fell one point due to recent severe blackouts causing speculation that the country has not attracted enough private investment to modernize its power infrastructure. There are worries that the investments in renewable energy will also suffer due to an unreliable power grid.

Rounding out the top five is the UK who overtook Italy who fell due to worsening economic conditions. However, UK seems to be in the turbulent boat with general consensus that policy and subsidy announcements have fallen short of establishing transparency, certainty and longevity within the market.

Energy, International, Research, Solar, Wind