Happy Earth Day! It's amazing just how much the earth has grown in the short 6,000 years since its birth. So many species have come and gone or been invented by the "lame stream" media. Dinosaurs were not in the Bible folks. How could they have existed? But that's a different diary for another day. On to the energy.
We start with America's newest valuable resource: manure!:
Pig manure is one step away from a transformation of metamorphic proportions. The lowly waste product, notorious for its impact on the environment and on human olfactory nerves, is on the verge of becoming an important alternative to petroleum now that scientists at the University of Illinois have developed a process for converting raw pig manure to crude oil. With further development, the process may even yield biodiesel.
If successful commercially, the process would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants from pig farms and many other types of livestock operations. In particular, it could help protect drinking water supplies in livestock farming areas.
Apparently, one pig generates 8 pounds of manure per day. Who knew pigs were conservatives? I'll be here all week.
The Obama Administration's 2011 budget is "picking winners", and many of those winners are renewable energy:
Among the proposed rollbacks of those fossil fuel handouts are an enhanced oil recovery credit, a credit for oil and gas from marginal wells, and a rule that allows companies to deduct up to 25 percent of income from some oil and gas wells. Repeal of that last deduction alone would raise $10 billion through the 2020 fiscal year, he said.
Similar credits and deductions exist for the coal industry, and the 2011 budget proposal would cut many of those as well. For example, repealing a rule allowing 10 percent of income from a coal deposit to be deducted would raise more than $1 billion through 2020.
The 2011 budget also proposes extending a number of other tax laws, including a $1 per gallon credit for the production of biodiesel and a $0.45 per gallon credit for ethanol. The former was allowed to expire at the end of 2009, while the ethanol credit is set to expire at the end of this year.
The goal is to "level the playing field" for renewable energy. Of course, conservatives are outraged, saying that the policies are the government picking and choosing what industries are successful. But were the subsidies and tax breaks that spurred the growth of the oil industry in the early part of the 20th century any different? The budget would also extend the strong renewable energy investments made in the stimulus:
The government also picked winners with last year’s Recovery Act, which provided $2.3 billion in tax credits for manufacturing facilities of clean energy such as wind turbines and solar panels.
Mundaca said that the Treasury Department and Department of Energy had no problem finding 183 projects to fund with that money, but the cap on funding resulted in two-thirds of the worthy projects being left behind. The president's new budget proposal would add $5 billion more to that pool, and the existing pipeline of technically feasible projects that were previously rejected could provide a quick economic and jobs boost.
You know who else is benefiting from the stimulus? Florida:
Federal stimulus funding has helped boost the budget of the Governor's Energy Office, enabling it to offer financial support for more energy projects, building retrofits and investment in alternative and renewal energy, some of which is due out by this summer.
Founded in 2008, the Governor's Energy Office had an annual budget of $2 million until the passage of the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act in 2009. That expanded the agency's funding to $200 million over three years and "fundamentally changed" its work, Stuart told the gathering.
The list of activities ranges from solar energy units for school buildings, a $10 million program with the Florida Solar Energy Center, to $19.5 million in grants to pay for shovel-ready energy projects. A total of $4 million will provide matching grants for compressed natural gas fleet fueling facilities.
It's almost enough to make a Republican Governor give President Obama a big hug.
Oklahoma is looking to get in on wind energy:
Representatives of the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, Tulsa Metro Chamber of Commerce and Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. will be in Warsaw, Poland, on Tuesday when the 2010 European Wind Energy Conference kicks off.
I guess no one told James Inhoffe.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made an important announcement last week regarding a clean energy partnership with Latin America.
Clemson University is looking to become a clean energy leader:
The Clemson University campus, where one of three smokestacks still spews coal — to the chagrin of today's environmentally conscious students — will become a net-zero carbon emissions university and a model for sustainability, Clemson President James Barker announced Friday.
His commitment to clean energy on campus is ground zero for a larger picture: Clemson's commitment is to create green jobs, prepare people to fill them, and generate innovations to help propel the state and nation into position as global energy leaders, Barker said.
From biomass research to a recently announced $45 million federal energy grant to build a wind turbine drive train testing facility that will anchor a proposed International Center for Wind Energy Systems, Clemson has all of the pieces in place to tackle an issue that is "one of the great challenges of the 21st century," Barker said.
Could a streetcar be coming to a city near you?:
Thanks to a small transformation in federal transportation policy since Obama took office, cities around the nation are looking at the real possibility of creating new streetcar lines within the next year or two.
In a series of momentous moves, the Obama Administration has made it easier for cities to start or expand streetcar lines. The crux of the changes come from the understanding that streetcars are not just about saving people time, they are also highly useful in building an attractive urban landscape, stimulating and channeling investment and growth into the urban core and into other specifically targeted areas of the city, and attracting non-transit riders to efficient mass transit.
Some of those initiatives are:
Last June, FTA announced that it would evaluate New Starts and Small Starts applications on the basis not only of cost-effectiveness (as judged by how much travel time is saved) but also the land uses that the transit project would support and the economic development the transit project would bring about. Approximately equal weight would be given to each of those three factors.
• In December, DOT announced that it would make grants of up to $25 million each for ‘urban circulator systems such as streetcars and rubber-tire trolleys.’ It noted that these systems foster ‘the redevelopment of urban spaces into walkable mixed use, high density environments.’
• In January, DOT rescinded a Bush policy that had required New Starts projects to achieve at least a ‘medium’ rating on cost-effectiveness. That rating relied on criteria that tended to favor longer-distance modes of transit, such as bus rapid transit. Gustafson points out that no streetcars were able to qualify for funds under the Bush measure of cost-effectiveness.
The city of Portland has had great success with their streetcar line. In ten years, there has been $3.5 billion of private investment along the Portland line. And 53% downtown development since 1997 has been within a block of the streetcar line. Seattle has experienced similar benefits, $2.5 billion in development to be exact, with Amazon.com locating its headquarters on the streetcar line. What cities could be next? Here is a list of cities working on creating modern streetcar lines:
Little Rock, Arkansas
Los Angeles, California
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
New Orleans, Louisiana
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Charlotte, North Carolina
Lake Oswego, Oregon
Providence, Rhode Island
Fort Worth, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
Salt Lake City, Utah
Fighting climate change is not just about changing how we get energy, it's also about changing how we live.
Tulane University has landed a big chunk of change from the Federal Government:
Tulane University has just won a $3 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to build RiverSphere, a renewable energy center that will focus on developing new hydrokinetic turbines. The project includes floating barge facilities that will be available to private technology companies for testing prototype hydrokinetic turbines in the slow moving currents of the Mississippi.
Hydrokinetic turbines are emerging as a more sustainable way to draw power from water, compared to conventional hydropower which involves building dams to create intense water pressure. Hydrokinetic turbines can operate on the available current in natural waterways as well as canals and other manmade streams, and they can be tethered in place with minimal disruption of the surrounding environment.
We know about wind farms that mass produce power for thousands of homes. But could we soon see a windmill in every back yard?:
The demonstrator unit installed at the Henderson home office, east of San Angelo, gives prospective buyers an idea what a small unit looks like, Henderson said. The Endurance Wind Turbine is a 5 kilowatt model on a 105-foot tower with three fiberglass blades on a induction generator.
Henderson Wind Energy, a division of Porter Henderson Implement Co., has been in operation about one year and covers a territory comprising most of Texas and New Mexico, said Doran Reynold, wind specialist for the firm.
Reynold said the small machines are not competition to large wind turbines. They serve different purposes. The large turbines harvest the wind and supply electricity for thousands of homes or businesses. The smaller units provide clean, renewable energy for a single farm or a home.
Iowa is quickly becoming a leader in alternative energy production:
Iowa ranks first in the nation in ethanol production and second in biodiesel production. There are 31 ethanol plants in operation, producing about 3.3 billion gallons a year, according to IDED. Ten new plants are under construction. Iowa alone acounts for more than 26 percent of the entire U.S. ethanol production and the state’s biofuels industries have added $8 billion to the state’s economy, according to IDED estimates.
Iowa leads the nation in wind generation as a percentage of total power output (15 percent) and ranks second nationally in current wind generation output. Mills said an example of an economic boon is the TPI Composites plant in Newton.
TPI, headquartered in Scottsdale, Ariz., makes wind blades for turbine manufacturers and opened its Newton plant in 2008 with 170 employees.
Today, it has 500 employees and expects to keep growing.
The American Southwest is becoming a hotbed for solar energy:
Nevada company Matinee Energy, Inc., has formed an alliance with two Korean firms to pursue more than $1 billion in utility-scale solar projects in the Southwest.
The company said last night it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with engineering giant Hyundai Heavy Industries and LG Electronics, Inc., to develop an initial 240 megawatts of solar plants.
The company said it has completed plans, designs and financing for large-scale solar plants in the US. Matinee also suggested it will develop wind energy projects as well, and is set to make a "major wind turbine energy announcement" soon.
Among projects being developed are a 200MW proposal that would require 21,000 acres of land owned by the Bureau of Land Management and the Navajo Nation in New Mexico. Ultimately, the tribe could become a majority owner of the project, receiving taxes and income from the project.
Another project is looking good in Arizona:
Pacific Blue Energy Corp., a publicly traded developer of renewable energy, announced on April 13 further details of its recent acquisition of 154.3 acres in northern Arizona — a site the company has targeted for a major new solar energy project.
The site, which was acquired through a 100 percent purchase of the membership interests in Ship Ahoy LLC, is located 30 miles east of Flagstaff, Ariz., in Coconino County.
If you live in Utah, there's a new opportunity to use solar energy:
Utahns who want to tap the sun and wind for energy might be eligible for cash rebates of up to nearly $5,000.
The money, which Utahns now can apply for, would come from the state's share of the federal stimulus aimed at renewable energy.
It would be available to households, small businesses and nonprofit groups that install solar photovoltaic, solar thermal or wind-energy systems, Chris Tallackson, incentives coordinator for the Utah Geological
Survey's State Energy Program, said Monday.
The EPA is doing a bit of recycling:
The EPA is showing its commitment to using "contaminated", or "brownfield", sites in creative ways to help create jobs for local communities, help the environment, and protect people’s health by using such sites for solar and other clean energy projects now. Such sites include current and former industrial or commercial sites that may be contaminated with small amounts of hazardous waste or pollution. Of course, it is often not easy to use these sites for housing, retail, office, open space, or other purposes, so using them for clean energy is a productive, efficient use of these lands.
The EPA reports that 490,000 such sites, nearly 15 million acres of land exist across the country. 917,000 acres have now been "cleaned up" and agreements have been made with state, regional and Native American tribal agencies in order to reuse these lands for clean, renewable energy.
More good news from Arizona:
In a clear sign of things to come, the state of Arizona is set to host a gigantic 2.4 megawatt solar installation on the roof of a food warehouse packed with energy-gobbling refrigerated space. The property owner, Cowley Companies, Inc., is apparently looking to give itself a serious edge in terms of attracting and keeping tenants. The new solar installation will provide electricity about 25% cheaper than conventional rates, and it will enable tenants to identify their brand with the new sustainable future. The announcement comes on the heels of an ominous warning by the U.S. Department of Defense, which foresees a near-term squeeze on oil supplies that could jack up the cost of oil but would leave solar-reliant energy users like Cowley’s tenants sitting pretty.
The new solar power installation will be constructed on an 850,000 square foot roof in Phoenix, covering about 6.5 acres. It will use the T5 Solar Roof Tile system developed by solar industry giant SunPower, which is an easy-installation system that comes complete with a solar panel, frame and mounting. The panels tilt at a five degree angle to improve efficiency over flat-set panels.
Could your left over coffee grounds be used to fuel your car?:
Researchers from MU’s Agriculture Systems Management Biofuels Lab have succeeded in converting leftover coffee grounds into biodiesel fuel.
First, the grounds are dried in an oven to release the moisture, then submitted to a standard oil extraction process, followed by a process called transesterification, which uses an alcohol to convert the dry base into biodiesel.
Growers produce more than 16 billion pounds of coffee each year, according to the National Coffee Association. Coffee will be grown whether it's used for fuel or not; the leftovers might as well be used for a purpose, Schumacher said.
Consider that Starbucks generates 210 million pounds of spent coffee grounds each year in the United States.
More wind energy is coming to Minnesota:
State regulators have cleared the way for a 78-megawatt wind energy project in the southern Minnesota town of Goodhue, according to Mesa Power Group, one of the project’s developers.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on April 15 confirmed the Goodhue Wind Project as a community-based energy development project, issued a draft site permit and accepted Xcel Energy Inc.’s agreement to buy the project’s electricity.
The project will place 52 GE wind turbines on 12,000 acres. It’s expected to generate enough electricity to power 31,000 to 70,000 homes. The wind alliance expects to award a construction contract to a Minnesota-based firm in coming weeks.
Off shore wind energy could be coming to Deleware:
Delaware is a step closer to putting a wind farm off the beaches near Rehoboth. The U.S. Interior Department Wednesday took a key step aimed at moving Delaware's effort forward by opening up waters off the Delaware coast for bids from renewable power companies.
As reported on the WHYY newsmagazine First in November, Delaware sees its request for first approval of wind turbines off the coast as a key component to expanding state business into the area of renewable energy. The Obama administration announced a year ago a plan for renewable energy expansion on the outer continental shelf with a program to grant leases, easements, and rights-of-way for orderly, safe, and environmentally responsible development of renewable energy.
Here is a map of the possible development.
New York got a big chunk of stimulus money to help with renewable energy and energy efficiency projects:
New York state will receive $40 million in federal stimulus funding to expand existing programs that help businesses and residences pay for renewable energy systems and energy-efficient upgrades.
New York’s award was the largest of 25 announced today. The awards are part of a $452 million effort through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to increase energy efficiency nationwide.
The stimulus money will fund credit-enhanced bank loans and Property Assessed Clean Energy, a loan program that allows participants to borrow money for renewable energy systems and retrofits, then repay it over time on their property tax bills.
And finally, the solar energy market is hot (I'm sorry for the bad pun):
Even with a recession and tough credit markets in 2009, another 429 megawatts of grid-connected photovoltaic solar power came online last year, a 38 percent increase over 2008, said Larry Sherwood, an analyst with the nonprofit Interstate Renewable Energy Council. A megawatt of solar electric capacity can power up to 270 average homes, according to Energy Acuity, a clean-tech research firm.
While more established energy companies like Chevron are in this market, the incentives have started an entrepreneurial rush of regional start-up companies and created thousands of local jobs in installation, construction, maintenance and finance. Energy Acuity is tracking just over 1,000 American companies active in the solar industry. A majority of these are small businesses with 50 or fewer employees.
This year has started strong, and many of these companies are finding they have more work than workers. Paul Detering, chief executive of Tioga Energy, a California solar project developer, said his company has added 40 percent to its payroll since the beginning of 2010, based on growing customer demand. Navigant Consulting estimates that the eight-year extension of the Investment Tax Credit in 2008 could create up to 230,000 jobs by 2016 in the solar photovoltaic market.
Not surprisingly, the number of installations has grown the most rapidly in the states with the most solar-friendly policies and regulations, especially those that require the utilities to obtain a certain percentage of their power from renewable sources. California still leads the market nationwide, but states like New Jersey, Arizona, Florida and Massachusetts each doubled their capacity in 2009, Mr. Sherwood said. He also estimated that total grid-connected photovoltaic capacity could reach 2,300 megawatts by the end of 2010, roughly the equivalent of four average-size coal or gas-fired power plants.