Hawaii Home to Another Solar Project

Hawaii is home to another completed solar project. Chevron Energy Solutions, Oceanic Time Warner Cable and Tioga Energy have officially unveiled the 865-kilowatt solar system located at Oceanic’s Mililani Tech Park. With the completion of the project, it marks the state’s largest solar parking canopy project. The project was designed, engineered and constructed by Chevron Energy Solutions, a division of Chevron Corporation. The solar project includes solar photovoltaic panels on two buildings and parking canopies. The project was financed by Tioga Energy who also owns and will now operated the project under a 20-year solar power purchase agreement. The energy produced will be sold back to Oceanic at “predicable rates less than those of the local utility.”

“We are proud of our collaboration with Chevron Energy Solutions and Tioga Energy to help us incorporate sustainability in our business,” said Norman Santos, vice president of operations for Oceanic Time Warner Cable. “This project helps to provide budget predictability for our energy costs and the opportunity to use renewable power.”

Jim Davis, president of Chevron Energy Solutions added, “Oceanic Time Warner Cable is demonstrating how it can be a good business practice for companies to help the State of Hawaii meet its clean energy goals. We are pleased we had the opportunity to work with Oceanic Time Warner Cable and Tioga Energy to make this project a reality.”

Under the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, the state has a goal of generating 70 percent of its power from clean energy sources by 2030. This project is estimated to reduce CO2 emissions equal to that of the amount sequestered per year by 225 trees. Following in the footsteps of other corporations integrating renewable energy into their building, Oceanic is seeking LEED Gold certification.

“In offering affordable renewable energy options, Tioga Energy and Chevron Energy Solutions are helping organizations to alleviate budgetary stress while simultaneously meeting their sustainability goals,” concluded Paul Detering, CEO of Tioga Energy. “We commend Oceanic Time Warner Cable for its commitment to sustainable business practices and anticipate a successful relationship for years to come.”

Ethanol Production, Ethanol & DDG Exports Remain Steady

Ethanol production for April remains fairly steady with the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reporting daily ethanol production falling slightly to 898,000 barrels per day (b/d) or 37.7 million gallons per day for the week ending April 8, 2011. The four-week average for ethanol production at the time of the report was 904,000 b/d, with the annualized rate equating to 13.85 billion gallons. Stocks of ethanol have also remained virtually steady ending at 20.5 million barrels.

As part of the ethanol production process, several co-products are produced including distillers grains. For the week ending April 8, ethanol producers consumed 13.62 million bushels of corn daily to produce ethanol and 101,346 metric tons of livestock feed of which 89,484 metric tons were distillers grains (DDGs). Ethanol producers were also supplying 3.88 million pounds of corn oil which can be utilized in the feed or biodiesel markets.

The U.S. ethanol exports and DDG market report was also released and Renewable Fuel Association (RFA) VP of Research and Analysis, Geoff Cooper analyzed the information.

U.S. ethanol exports totaled 59.7 million gallons in February, up 4 percent from January. Exports of undenatured (non-beverage) ethanol increased to 21.8 million gallons in February, nearly double the amount shipped in January. Meanwhile denatured ethanol exports were 37.9 million gallons, down from 45.4 million in January. Because this ethanol is not blended with gasoline prior to exportation, it does not qualify for the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC), also known as the blender’s credit. Through the first two months of the year, ethanol exports stand at 116.9 million gallons. If the current pace is maintained all year, exports for 2011 could total more than 700 million gallons (compared to 400 million in 2010).

The number one exporter of U.S. denatured ethanol was Canada at nearly 15 million gallons followed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), United Kingdom, and Brazil. In regards to undenatured ethanol, more than 11 million gallons went to the Netherlands in February. The second- and third-leading destinations for undenatured ethanol were the OPEC nations of UAE and Nigeria.

Distillers grains exports for February totaled 619,744 metric tons, down 13 percent compared to January, but slightly above February 2010 totals. China was the leading importer of U.S. DDGs with 110,976 metric tons. Exports to China were down 14 percent from January and less than half of the amount shipped as recently as October 2010. According to Cooper, erosion of exports to China is likely the result of the nation’s ongoing anti-dumping investigation against U.S. DDGs. Mexico was the second-leading destination, receiving 102,450 metric tons in February. This was less than half of the 223,000 metric tons shipped to Mexico in January. Canada, Spain and Vietnam rounded out the top five.

USDA Tours ICM Cellulosic Ethanol Plant

USDA Administrator Judith Canales tours the ICM R&D Lab. *Photo Credit St. Joseph News Press

USDA Administrator for Rural Business Cooperative Services Judith Canales is on a tour of Kansas and Missouri to promote the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) along with the development of renewable energy technologies. She was joined by several USDA state directors, and along the tour they stopped in St. Joseph, Missouri to tour ICM’s cellulosic ethanol pilot plant Lifeline Foods. The project received a $25 million federal grant to assist ICM in testing biomass feedstocks including corn fiber, switchgrass and sorghum and ultimately to help transition cellulosic technology from pilot scale to commercial scale.

As reported by the St. Joseph News-Press, the USDA, led by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who is expected to be in Iowa this week to tour other advanced biofuel projects, Canales said that her team was visiting the Lifeline Foods campus on behalf of President Obama and Vilsack who are working together to deploy Obama’s plan of fueling the country with domestically produced renewable energy.

She also noted that they are reviewing delivery systems and meeting with key stakeholders to learn about the “new form of ethanol.”

“We are wanting to see the delivery system expand for this purpose,” she told the ICM representatives. “We have been on a campaign to promote the infrastructure development for alternative fuel. We see the answers in the Midwest.”

The Lifeline Foods plant currently produces corn-based ethanol and Canales stressed that corn is not the only answer but one component of a diverse feedstock mix.

Greg Krissek, the director of government affairs for ICM, believes cellulosic ethanol is about five years away. “We’ve built the first span of the bridge with starch-based ethanol,” he said. “The structure of our company is we build for other companies.”

As the next generation technologies evolve, ICM will be there to help the biofuels industry evolve with the new advancements.

“We’ve approached it somewhat cautiously,” said Krissek. “There has to be a comfort level of where this will go. We can’t predict the future totally … Going forward, energy is still a public need. Frankly, our goal is to replace OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) oil.”

Recovering Biodiesel Plant Faces New Foe: Tax Man

Since we’re rapidly approaching tax deadline day, it seems only appropriate to talk about taxes and biodiesel. A Maryland biodiesel plant recovering from a devastating explosion that killed a worker in 2008 and the struggles the biodiesel industry in general has faced in the past couple of years is now facing a new foe: the tax man.

This story from delmarvanow.com says officials with the Greenlight Biofuels plant in Princess Anne, MD have asked Somerset County Commissioners to waive a portion of a personal property tax bill to help get the facility fully operational by the end of the year:

“We are really trying hard with this plant,” James Kingdon, president of Greenlight Biofuels, said during a meeting Tuesday.

The company owed a $50,000 bill for 2010-11 but was successful in having it reduced by 50 percent in an appeal to the Department of Assessments and Taxation, Kingdon said.

It also owes $58,000 plus $10,000 interest on its 2009-10 tax bill but missed the deadline for an appeal, so company officials are appealing it to the county in hope of an abatement.

In fairness to the commissioners, they’re not sure if the law would even allow them to grant the waiver. County codes say tax credits can be awarded only to manufacturers with 10 or more employees; Greenlight has just seven right now.

Don’t Miss Out On The Process Optimization Seminar

You only have two days left to attend the Process Optimization Seminar at the early bird rate. This year’s event is being held on April 27-29th in Houston, Texas and marks the first year where the seminar will couple classroom style learning with hands on activities executed in a refinery and lab. To learn more about the event, I caught up with Jack Rogers via Skype. He is the Bioenergy Marketing Manager for Novozymes, one of the four industry leading companies that are sponsoring the event. The other sponsors include Phibro Ethanol Performance Group, Fermentis and Fremont Industries, and these groups have teamed up together for the past four seminars as well.

“For the industry, reaching that next level of process optimization is really the key for ongoing success,” said Rogers. “And what we wanted to do for this seminar is put together some leading suppliers for the industry and really offer our knowledge and expertise and have the opportunity to interact with our customers to holistically look at the process and give some techniques, tips and training that will help our customers to optimize their plants and become more profitable.”

In terms of the biofuels industry, Novozymes has been a leader for many years in developing enzymes to help optimize the production process for both first generation and next generation biofuels. Rogers said Novozymes has been able to innovate and bring out a lot of new products that have been able to really advance the process. For example, their most recent enzyme launched last year increases the conversion of the starch. By being more efficient in the conversion of starch to sugars, you see a much more efficient process than what was previously possible. As a result, the plants are getting better yields and at the end of the day, this means better profits.

Rogers notes that not only do you need a great product, but also process support and the understanding of how to apply the product or process. “Understanding how to use it optimally, is really the key to gaining those small extra percents of improvement,” said Rogers. “Even half a percent of improvement can be hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in additional profit for a plant.”

This is just one example of the products and technologies that will be discussed and how to integrate them most effectively into your process for higher efficiency and higher profits.

Learn more about the Process Optimization Seminar in my interview with Jack Rogers: Jack Rogers Discusses Process Optimization

Registration is limited and the early bird registration deadline is April 15th. Visit the Process Optimization Seminar website for more information and for online registration.

Study: Algae Could Replace 17% of Oil Imports by 2022

In a new study released by the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (NPPL), algal fuels could replace 17 percent of the United States’ imported oil by 2020. The paper was published in the journal of Water Resources Research but warned that biofuels production, including algal fuels, can require a lot of water so the study cautioned that being smart about where the algae is grown can reduce the water needed. Researchers concluded that water use could be drastically reduced if the algae is grown in the sunniest and most humid climates including the Gulf Coast, the Southeastern Seaboard and the Great Lakes.

“Algae has been a hot topic of biofuel discussions recently, but no one has taken such a detailed look at how much America could make – and how much water and land it would require — until now,” said Mark Wigmosta, lead author and a PNNL hydrologist. “This research provides the groundwork and initial estimates needed to better inform renewable energy decisions.”

The research team’s goal was to provide the first in-depth assessment of algal biofuels potential based on the amount of available land and water. The study also factored in how much water would need to be replaced due to evaporation over 30 years. The research analyzed previously published data to determine how much algae could be grown in outdoor, fresh water ponds when using current technologies. The study did not factor in algae grown in salt water and covered ponds.

When taking into account various factors, the research team determined that 21 billion gallons of algal oil, the amount equal to the advanced biofuels category of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2), could be produced by algae by 2022.

The researchers found that 21 billion gallons of algal oil, equal to the 2022 advanced biofuels goal set out by the Energy Independence and Security Act, can be produced from American-grown algae. This amount equates to 17 percent of the oil that the U.S. imported in 2008 for transportation fuels. To achieve this amount, the researchers estimate that the amount of land needed to produce this number would be approximately the size of the state of South Carolina. They also found that it would take 350 gallons of water per gallon of oil — or a quarter of what the country currently uses for irrigated agriculture — to produce 21 billion gallons of algal biofuel.

The study also concluded that up to 48 percent of the current transportation oil imports could be replaced with algae, but this higher production level would require significantly more water and land. Therefore the authors focused their research on the U.S. regions that would use less water to grow algae. Continue reading

4-H Announces ‘Wired for Wind’ Youth Science Event

The National 4-H program, along with the National 4-H Council, have announced that their 2011 youth science event will focus on the possibilities of wind energy. The 2011 National Science Experiment, Wired for Wind, will invite youth from across the country to complete a single, innovative experiment around wind energy, on 4-H Youth Science Day, being held on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011.

The program was designed by the University of Nebraska – Lincoln Extension in partnership with KidWind. The experiment is set up in a way that will demonstrate how implementing alternatives to traditional energy production can have a positive impact on ecosystems and communities. The 4-H youth who participate in the program will enhance their engineering skills by designing, building and testing two different wind turbine models. Wired for Wind will also help youth relate their scientific experiences back to their own lives as they determine the best location for a wind farm in their state or local area by calculating wind power and studying wind data and maps.

“4-H National Youth Science Day is a great opportunity for young people across the country to have a hands-on experience about a current science topic. Introducing science and technology innovation to youth is why 4-H started more than 100 years ago,” said Lisa Lauxman, director of 4-H National Headquarters. “In the Wired for Wind experiment, youth will explore the science and engineering of wind energy technology, which may be the spark that encourages them to learn more about wind and other alternative energy sources and discuss the implications for the communities where they live.”

Now in it’s fourth year, the National Youth Science Day is a way for students to have hands-on scientific experience. Each year, Cooperative Extension System faculty and staff from the nation’s 109 land-grant colleges and universities are invited to submit proposals outlining and detailing an innovative experiment for youth to conduct during 4 H National Youth Science Day.

“We created this year’s experiment to help young people understand the important link between energy, the environment and their community,” said F. John Hay, Associate Extension Educator in Biological Systems Engineering at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln Extension, who developed the National Science Experiment. “Ultimately, we hope that this experiment will inspire young people to continue their interest in science and engineering throughout their secondary education, into college and on into career opportunities.”

New UNT Stadium To Be Powered By Wind

The University of North Texas (UNT) football stadium will be powered by wind energy for the 2012 football season and beyond. UNT was awarded a $2 million grant from the State Energy Conservation Office to install three 100 kilowatt wind turbines that will feed the electrical grid that powers the football stadium along with several other buildings on the west side of Interstate 35E coined the “Mean Green Village.” The new stadium will open in September and will be the first collegiate stadium to use onsite renewable energy.

“The effort by the staff of the UNT System and the university to meet the requirements of the Department of Energy and the State Energy Conservation Office to win the grant for these new turbines underscores our commitment to creating a carbon-neutral campus,” said V. Lane Rawlins, president of UNT. “Our university has a 50-year legacy of environmental research and sustainability and we’re proud to be the first university in Texas to install wind turbines on campus.“

This community scale wind project will be monitored through a web-based monitoring system and provide details on energy production, carbon reduction statistics and empirical data that can be used for educational and research purposed. The UNT System will also be seeking LEED Gold or Platinum certification. If the project is awarded LEED Platinum, it will be the first of its type to achieve this rating in the country.

“The construction of wind turbines at UNT will be an invaluable asset to the university and surrounding communities,” said Richard Escalante, vice chancellor for administrative services. “The reduction in carbon emissions from the use of fossil fuels will be a collective benefit for the entire North Texas region. Sustainable initiatives, such as the use of renewable energy technologies, ensure that future generations of the UNT and Denton communities are equipped with the necessary tools to continue economic expansion while simultaneously protecting the environment and human health.”

Farmers Need To Set Example

Our last ZimmPoll asked the question, ” How should farmers respond to critical documentaries such as Food Inc.?” It’s not an easy question to answer really. Here’s what our poll results show. 45% said to Let their own actions shape their reputation, 43% said Promote ag through social media, 8% said Be informed but don’t initiate discussion and 3% said Ignore it, it will go away. Well, we know it’s not going away. What else can be done when faced with these types of attacks?

Our new ZimmPoll is now live and asks the question, “What causes higher food prices?” Let us know what you think and thanks your your participation.

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.

Solar3D Completes Key Piece in Solar Cell Design

California-based Solar3D has announced completion of a key component of its new solar cell.

This company press release
says it has finished the design of the Light Collector section, part of its 3-dimensional solar cells:

“Our innovative solar cell design has two main sections: a Light Collector section coupled with a Micro-Photovoltaic section. The completion of the Light Collector design is the key to expediting the entire project,” commented Jim Nelson, President and CEO of Solar3D. “The structure of every other element of the cell is dictated by the Light Collector and flows from its design. While the design element is complete now, we expect minor modifications to further fabricate a prototype.”

With the completion of the Light Collector design, the company’s research and development team believes that they can soon calculate the increase in efficiency that the overall 3-demensional solar cell can achieve.

“The Light Collector was the first giant step. We will now be able to know how much of the light will come through to the absorbing structure,” continued Nelson “With that understanding, we will soon know what the increase in efficiency will be with our new cell relative to current technology.”

Solar3D officials hope to have a working prototype by the end of this year.