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Archive for May 2009

Utilities meeting the solar challenge?

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solar-panels-in-fieldThe Solar Electric Power Association thinks so. The association issued a report Thursday identifying the top 10 U.S. utilities that have the most significant amounts of solar electricity integrated into their portfolios.

SEPA’s report, “2008 Top Ten Utility Solar Integration Rankings” also records the increasing collaboration of the U.S. electric utility and solar energy industries.

More than 550 utilities and solar industry companies are SEPA members, with about 110 of them utilities. “The utility segment is making a major investment to increase the amount of solar energy in power portfolios, with many utilities doubling the amount of solar power in their portfolio in just one year,” an association press release said.

The total installed solar capacity of the top 10 ranked utilities increased to 882 megawatts from 711 megawatts last year, a 25 percent jump.

The Top 10 utilities in cumulative megawatts installed last year were:

1.  Southern California Edison (EIX) – CA (441.4MW)
2.  Pacific Gas & Electric (PCG) – CA (229.5)
3.  NV Energy – NV (77.9)
4.  San Diego Gas & Electric (SRE) – CA (49.3)
5.  Public Service of Colorado (Xcel Energy – XEL) – CO (28.5)6 LA Department of Water & Power – CA (13.6)
7.  Public Service Electric & Gas Co. – NJ (13.2)
8.  Arizona Public Service Co. – AZ (10.6)
9.  Sacramento Municipal Utility District – CA (10.2)
10.  Long Island Power Authority – NY (7.7)

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Written by William DiBenedetto

May 29, 2009 at 11:22 am

Think Plastiki

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plastikiI posted a version of this on Triple Pundit this week and wanted to put it on this site for my faithful readers, whoever and wherever you are.

Waste can be a resource according to David de Rothschild, the handsome, 30-year-old heir to the famed European banking fortune. He’s the guiding light behind the Adventure Ecology eco-community and the star/host of the Sundance Channel’s aptly named Eco-Trip show, which features a mostly bemused, angry or surprised de Rothschild confronting various ecological topics and absurdities on a weekly basis.

The thing that is getting him the most publicity right now is his Plastiki Expedition. It’s a project with a dual purpose: To design and build an entirely recyclable and eco-friendly 60-foot catamaran “yacht” made of thousands of reclaimed plastic bottles, and to sail this revolutionary and surprisingly high-tech craft to the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch as a demonstration both of what humans are doing to the oceans and a think-different message of what is possible to make out of the trash we make and dump.

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Written by William DiBenedetto

May 28, 2009 at 8:31 am

Solar site competition heats up

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suntechmonocrystallinepanelsChina’s SunTech Power Holdings, a major manufacturer of solar energy products, has announced plans to open manufacturing operations in the U.S., and Oregon is high on the list of potential site locations.

According to the Portland Business Journal, a SunTech executive says that Oregon was the most aggressive suitor for the site, with state representatives traveling several times to China.

“They’ve been pursuing us long before we even made a commitment internally to even build a plant in the U.S.,” said Steve Chadima, vice president of external affairs in the publicly-traded company’s U.S. operations unit, in the BizJournal report. Oregon is “pretty much at the top of the list in terms of their aggressiveness.”

SunTech is the world’s largest manufacturer of crystalline silicon photovoltaic modules with $3.3 billion in total assets. The company did not disclose the other potential U.S. plant sites under consideration. It also has not disclosed the scope of its potential investments in the U.S.

Oregon is becoming a center for solar manufacturing. Germany’s SolarWorld AG last year opened a 480,000-square-foot solar cell facility in Hillsboro, just outside of Portland, that is North America’s largest. The company is expanding the facility by an additional 210,000 square feet.

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Written by William DiBenedetto

May 26, 2009 at 10:32 am

Plasma gasification, climate change and best places to work in government?

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We’ll end the week on a high note with items from here on the left coast and one from the “other” Washington.

PlasmaArcTechnologyA new joint venture announced yesterday, called S4 Energy Solutions LLC, will develop, operate and market plasma gasification facilities for renewable energy generation from waste byproducts.

S4 Energy was formed by Waste Management Inc., based in Houston, and by InEnTec, which is based in Bend, OR. InEnTec has developed and trademarked its Plasma Enhanced Melter (PEM) technology.

The joint venture “is expected to process waste from the country’s increasingly segmented commercial and industrial waste streams to produce a range of renewable energy and environmentally beneficial fuels and industrial products as well as to generate electricity,” the companies said in a joint press release.

The initial focus for S4 will be to process medical and other segregated commercial and industrial waste streams. Future commercialization plans could include the processing of municipal solid waste once the technology has been demonstrated to be economical and scalable for such use.

“We see waste as a resource to be recovered, and this joint venture with the PEM system will help Waste Management’s commercial and industrial customers maximize high energy value waste streams to generate valuable renewable energy products based on their unique environmental and logistical considerations,” said Joe Vaillancourt, managing director at Waste Management.

Under the plasma gasification process, waste materials are fed into a closed chamber where they are superheated to temperatures of between 10,000 and 20,000 degrees Fahrenheit using an electricity-conducting gas called plasma. The intense heat of the PEM™ rearranges the molecular structure of the waste, transforming organic (carbon-based) materials into an ultra-clean, synthesis gas (syngas).

The syngas could be converted to transportation fuels such as ethanol and diesel, industrial products like hydrogen and methanol or used as a substitute for natural gas for heating or electricity generation.

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Written by William DiBenedetto

May 22, 2009 at 11:37 am

MO shows for Saline Green biorefinery

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marshallmoAlternative energy company Saline Green Project this week chose Marshall, MO, as the site for a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol bio-refinery facility, producing renewable fuels, chemical products and electricity.

According to a report in The Sedalia Democrat the company has had an interest in opening a plant in Marshall for more than a year. Frank Imo, Saline Green CEO, said that local support for the project was encouraging and was a big factor in making the project possible.

Saline Green will provide start-up funds for the project, and will seek investors as it nears completion.

Saline Green spokesman Donte Tamprateep was quoted as saying that his company has been working with a group of scientists who helped develop the technology required to efficiently convert cellulosic biomass to its simple sugar state.

Cellulosic ethanol is a biofuel produced from wood, grasses and inedible plant parts. Tamprateep said the biggest challenge the company faced was finding a way to break down cellulose in a cost-effective manner.

The company apparently has hooked up with Pure Energy Corporation, which has invested more than $30 million over the last 15 years in an effort to develop the next generation of cellulosic ethanol technology.

“The Saline Green Project will serve as both a world-class sustainable energy production facility and also a showcase of cutting edge technology in the cellulosic ethanol, chemical and green electricity fields,” said Irshad Ahmed, president and CEO of New Jersey-based Pure Energy.

So why Marshall? One reason becomes apparent by looking at a map. The town of more than 12,000 is located in the middle of the country with excellent access to road and rail routes. From a supply chain distribution viewpoint, it’s a good choice.

Written by William DiBenedetto

May 21, 2009 at 9:13 am

Pacific Ethanol units go under

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newsLate yesterday Pacific Ethanol Inc., the West Coast’s largest ethanol producer, announced that several of its producing subsidiaries in California, Oregon and Idaho filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

PEIX joins a growing roster of at least 10 other ethanol producers that have gone belly up recently, victims of the poor economy and poor conditions in the ethanol market.

For more on this check out the excellent coverage from MarketWatch and the Los Angeles Times’ Greenspace.

Written by William DiBenedetto

May 19, 2009 at 9:13 am

Cruise ship pollution grows

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cruiseshippollution4Cruising is a big deal here in Seattle, bringing lots of tourists, their vacation dollars and economic development into the Emerald City. But those dramatic white behemoths also have a dark side – mainly in the pollution they pour into the world’s oceans and into the air.

The international ocean environmental group Oceana reports that pollution from cruise ships is a growing problem. Now there’s an understatement.

One example: Except for California and Alaska, “lax state and federal anti-pollution laws allow cruise ships to dump untreated sewage from sinks and showers and inadequately treated sewage from toilets into state waters,” the organization says.

Once ships are three miles from shore, they can dump untreated sewage from toilets. “This puts our coastal environment at risk from the threats of bacteria, pathogens and heavy metals generated in these waste streams.”

Some hard, dark numbers produced by Oceana:

Each day, cruise ships generate an astonishing amount of pollution:

  • 25,000 gallons of sewage from toilets
  • 143,000 gallons of sewage from sinks, galleys and showers
  • Seven tons of garbage and solid waste
  • 15 gallons of toxic chemicals
  • 7,000 gallons of oily bilge water

And without adequate regulation and attention, the problem will worsen because the cruise industry itself is growing, along with new cruise ships, cruise terminals and added destinations.

The cruise industry enjoys some sweet pollution exemptions. Under the Clean Water Act, cities and industries are required to obtain a permit to treat and discharge wastes. These permits ensure that sewage treatment systems are effective, and that both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and that the public know how much pollution is actually being discharged.

“Yet cruise ships are not required to have discharge permits,” Oceana reports. “They can dump sewage into the oceans without monitoring or reporting what they release. As a result, neither the government nor the public know how much pollution is released, and there are no means for citizen enforcement.”

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Written by William DiBenedetto

May 18, 2009 at 12:30 pm

Renewable yin and yang

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newsThe news on renewable energy is  mixed this week, what with the carbon emissions “cap and trade” (aka the latest market swindle) debate now fully controlled by well-heeled lobbyists and the algae producer GreenFuel Technologies shuttering its doors, a victim of the economy and a lack of cash.

But a couple of items crossing the desk, er computer screen, are heartening and one is positive and somewhat startling, given the parlous state of the economy and global credit markets..

Environment News and REN21 (see links next door) report that for the first time, more renewable energy than conventional power capacity was added in the European Union and the United States last year.

That demonstrated a “fundamental transition” of the world’s energy markets towards renewable energy, according to a report released May 13 by REN21, the global renewable energy policy network based in Paris.

It’s the fourth such exercise from REN21 and comes in the midst of an “historic and global economic crisis,” says Mohamed El-Ashry, chairman of REN21. Although the future is unclear, he continues, “there is much in the report for optimism.”

Global power capacity from new renewable energy sources (excluding large hydro) reached 280,000 megawatts (MW) in 2008 – a 16 percent rise from the 240,000 MW in 2007 and nearly three times the capacity of the United States nuclear sector.

Solar heating capacity increased by 15 percent to 145 gigawatts-thermal (GWth), while biodiesel and ethanol production both increased by 34 percent. More renewable energy than conventional power capacity was added in both the European Union and United States for the first time ever.

“The recent growth of the sector has surpassed all predictions, even those made by the industry itself,” says El-Ashry, adding that much of this growth was due to more favourable policies amidst increasing concerns about climate change and energy security.

Companies are devoting an increasing amount of capital to renewables. By August 2008, at least 160 publicly traded renewable energy companies worldwide had a market capitalization greater than $100 million, the report says.

During 2008, a number of governments enacted new policies, and many countries set ambitious targets, it continues. Today, at least 73 countries have renewable energy policy targets, up from 66 at the end of 2007. In response to the financial crisis, several governments have directed economic stimulus funding towards the new green jobs the renewable energy sector can provide, including the U.S. package that will invest $150 billion over ten years in renewable energy.

Developing countries – particularly China and India – are increasingly playing major roles in both the manufacture and installation of renewable energy. For example, China’s total wind power capacity doubled in 2008 for the fourth year running.

Access the 32-page report here.

EPA gives it up for PNW clean air projects

More positive news from my neck of the woods, namely the Pacific Northwest, from the EPA. The agency honored three PNW organizations for their innovative projects to improve air quality in the region.

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency in Seattle, WA, Renaissance Fireplaces of Bellevue, WA, and the Nez Perce Tribe in Meridian, Idaho are winners of EPA’s Clean Air Excellence Award for air quality improvement programs. Nationwide 15 entities received the award.

At the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency a climate education program known as the Cool School Challenge engages students and teachers in practical strategies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions school-wide. The program also encourages student leadership and empowerment, fostering a new generation of air quality advocates, EPA says.

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and partners Puget Sound Energy and Northwest Clean Air Agency built the program around an idea created by environmental science teacher Mike Town and the students of Redmond High School.

Student teams conduct energy audits of classrooms assessing the greenhouse gas emissions of electricity use, waste and recycling practices, transportation, and heating. Classrooms then pledge to shrink their carbon footprint through simple but effective behavior changes, such as turning off one panel of lights, using durable coffee tumblers instead of disposable cups, or carpooling instead of driving alone. The Web-based program is designed for grades 7-12 and includes a Web site, a Challenge toolkit, classroom carbon calculator, classroom activities, and supplemental resources.

Now that is cool.

From cool to hot but still cool, in nearby Bellevue, Renaissance Fireplaces has produced the world’s first certified clean burning open fireplace. First introduced to the fireplace industry at the Hearth Patio and BBQ Association trade show in February 2008, the Renaissance Rumford 1,000 has been specifically developed to surpass the low emissions performance requirements of the new ASTM low mass fireplace standard. It incorporates a positive sealing outside air intake, a gasketed guillotine style glass door, and utilizes an insulated chimney to prevent uncontrolled cold air leakage from the chimney system. In addition to surpassing the national standards for woodstove emissions, the Renaissance Rumford fireplace surpasses the most stringent state standard of 4.5 g/hr set by the State of Washington.

Finally for this section of today’s program, EPA calls the Nez Perce Tribe Environmental Restoration and Waste Management Division’s Air Quality Program is “a model program that has developed and implemented a number of significant innovative air quality programs that go beyond applicable laws and regulations.” An example of this leadership is the Nez Perce Tribe’s smoke management program, which promotes community awareness of air quality concerns in connection with agricultural, open, and forestry burning.

The Tribe’s smoke management program, which has been in place since 2002 in a voluntary capacity, has achieved compliance through collaboration. The policies implemented by the program provide flexibility to the regulated community by allowing input, ownership, and responsibility to them as the affected public. There are also collaborative meetings with the EPA, states, and tribes in the region to amend the program’s policies and procedures.

The voluntary nature of the program allowed the agricultural community to prepare for the Federal Air Rules for Reservations (FARR) implementation in 2005. The agricultural community, which initially resisted the new FARR rules, now supports the program and is encouraging the State of Idaho to parallel the Nez Perce Tribe’s smoke management program.

The yang part, or is it the yin?

Almost done for today. I know it’s a lot of reading, but it is free.

On the downside, CNET News’ Green Tech blog reports that GreenFuel Technologies, one of the first companies to enter the algae biofuels business, is shutting down after running out of money.

The blog’s Martin LaMonica wrote that investor Duncan McIntyre of Polaris Venture Partners confirmed GreenFuel Technologies’ demise, saying that the company is a “victim of the economy.” He said investors, who have raised more than $70 million for GreenFuel Technologies since 2001, are exploring ways to sell the company’s intellectual property and assets.

The financial situation at GreenFuel Technologies had been degrading since last year, despite the fact that the company had landed a $92 million deal to sell algae-growing greenhouses to a cement maker in Spain, LaMonica says.

In January of this year, the company laid off about half its staff, bringing the number of employees to 19.

At last the end is in sight dear reader, at least for today, but not anytime soon for cap and trade apparently.  See this item in today’s Triple Pundit, which some of you may know I contribute to on occasion (but not this piece):

PR Battle Over Cap-and-Trade Reaches a Fevered Pitch

Written by William DiBenedetto

May 14, 2009 at 11:02 am

Biofuels activity gives Verenium hope

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vereniumVerenium Corp., which develops next-generation cellulosic ethanol and high performance specialty enzymes, reported a “strong start” for the year, with a dramatic improvement in the net bottom line.

While the Cambridge, MA company posted a net first quarter loss of $286,000 that was a huge improvement compared to its first quarter 2008 loss of $23.1 million.

The story was not quite the same regarding its operating losses – revenue minus operating expenses – because they continue to mount. Its operating loss increased 7 percent over the last year’s first quarter to $18.4 million.

Verenium says it has made significant progress so far this year, especially in the biofuels segment of its business. Earlier this year it entered into a 50-50 joint venture with BP to develop, own and operate cellulosic ethanol facilities using non-food feedstocks with a total commitment of $45 million in funding and assets from the two partners.

It also identified Highlands County, FL as the location for a first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol facility. This facility will be developed as part of the joint venture with BP and is expected to provide the region with approximately 140 full-time jobs once commercial operations begin. The project was awarded a $7.0 million grant as part of Florida’s “Farm to Fuel” initiative. The joint venture also submitted a loan guarantee application to the Department of Energy during the quarter.

Also in the first quarter, Verenium began the “optimization phase” of its 1.4 million gallon/year demonstration-scale plant in Jennings, LA.  In a corporate move, it consolidated its R&D organization to include the Jennings pilot plant and demonstration-scale biofuels facilities under Greg Powers, EVP of Research and Development.

Verenium has also appointed James E. Levine, an energy banking and finance executive from Goldman Sachs, as EVP/CFO to support efforts to rebuild its capital structure and secure financing for commercial projects.

During the quarter it implemented “aggressive expense management initiatives” to decrease operating expenses. Operating expenses in the first quarter increased slightly, however, by $321,000, to $32.7 million.

On the balance sheet, Verenium reported that its cash position – including cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments – had more than doubled since Dec. 31 to $15.8 million.

Carlos A. Riva, president and CEO, commented in the company’s financial release: “As we look toward commercial operations, we continue to be very encouraged by the political climate and support for alternative energy and, specifically, biofuels.”

Written by William DiBenedetto

May 12, 2009 at 10:17 am

AGTI, Dinosaur Securities hook up for acquisitions

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Alternative Green Technologies, a public company traded on the Pinksheets, last week engaged the New York investment banker Dinosaur Securities as its investment bank.

AGTI, based in Uniondale, NY, said their union is intended to help “source potential acquisitions in addition to acting as placement agent for potential future capital raises.”  The level of finding contemplated was not disclosed.

Mitchel AGTI’s president, said in a statement, “I feel that the Dinosaur Group is a firm that can help us achieve synergistic acquisitions in addition to opening the door for potential institutional investments.”

His statement plays directly into company’s stated raison d’etre, a focus “on the commitment to reduce the carbon footprint in the world by acquiring and building companies that help the environment in reducing carbon emissions in addition to reducing worldwide energy costs and waste.”

Beyond that corporate-speak, the link with Dinosaur will also boost AGTI’s subsidiary, Reddiform Worldwide, Inc., in the green building marketplace. Reddiform has the exclusive worldwide license “to market, manufacture and sell ReddiForm Insulated Concrete Forms (“ICFs”), a green patented building product that allows for reduced energy costs while providing more economies and efficiencies in the construction process for homes, industrial and commercial buildings.”

The Dinosaur Group has headquarters in New York and London. It’s an institutional broker of equities, bonds, structured products, financial products, financial futures, commodities and foreign exchange. dinosaurs

Written by William DiBenedetto

May 11, 2009 at 8:54 am

Posted in alternative energy

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