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Archive for June 2009

Rentech investments in biomass gasification

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RentechImageA5The Los Angeles biomass technology company Rentech Inc., has completed two investment agreements with biomass gasification companies: It acquired 100 percent of SilvaGas Corporation and grabbing a 25 percent stake in ClearFuels Technology Inc.

Financial details of the moves by Rentech were not disclosed. With the acquisitions Rentech has broadened its technology portfolio and the range of its biofuel processing capability while increasing its geographic scope from Hawaii to Georgia.

Rentech, based in Los Angeles, said the agreements are “major steps forward” for its strategy of offering various options for converting urban and rural biomass feedstocks into energy products such as synthetic jet fuel, diesel fuel and electric power.

The company signed a definitive agreement to acquire Atlanta-based SilvaGas and its commercial-scale biomass gasification technology, which converts urban waste feedstocks into syngas.

Rentech also completed agreements with the Aiea, Hawaii-based ClearFuels, a bio-energy gasification and project development company. ClearFuels’ technology converts rural virgin cellulosic biomass feedstocks into syngas.

In addition to the 25 percent ownership interest in ClearFuels, Rentech said it has agreed to the installation of a ClearFuels biomass gasifier at the its Product Demonstration Unit (PDU), in Commerce City, CO. That facility is designed to produce more than 400 gallons per day of ultra-clean synthetic jet fuel, aviation fuel, ultra-low sulfur diesel, and specialty waxes and chemicals and is scalable for increased output.

The deal with ClearFuels also includes multiple licensing agreements for the Rentech Process at bio-energy facilities currently under development by ClearFuels.

With the SilvaGas acquisition, Rentech is acquiring a biomass gasification technology that has operated at commercial scale and is planned for deployment at Rentech’s Rialto Renewable Energy Center under a licensing agreement with SilvaGas. The SilvaGas gasifier can handle urban waste streams that are more varied than the virgin biomass streams that the ClearFuels gasifier has been optimized to convert, the company says.

Meanwhile, ClearFuels’ technology can convert rural virgin biomass feedstocks into syngas that is cleaner and requires less conditioning, leading to highly efficient conversion into synthetic liquid fuels, it said.

Integration of these complementary gasification technologies with Rentech’s syngas conditioning and cleanup technology will enable the company to offer integrated packages for renewable fuels and power production.

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Written by William DiBenedetto

June 30, 2009 at 5:23 pm

DOI kick-starts East Coast offshore wind energy development

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The Department of the Interior last week issued five “exploratory leases” for offshore wind energy production on the Outer Continental Shelf off of New Jersey and Delaware.

The leases are the first of this type issued by the Federal Government, which is why they are called exploratory, and not breaking wind perhaps. They were developed under an interim policy from the department and authorize data gathering activities, allowing for the construction of meteorological towers on the Outer Continental Shelf from six to 18 miles offshore to collect site-specific data on wind speed, intensity, and direction.

“New Jersey’s Outer Continental Shelf is a resource that holds a great promise for our energy independence and should be considered a haven for the clean, renewable and environmentally friendly energy that wind power provides,” said New Jersey Governor Dave Corzine. “This is a major step for the state in meeting its goal of 1000 megawatts by 2013 and 3000 megawatts by 2020,” He said.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued the exploratory leases to Bluewater Wind New Jersey Energy, LLC; Fishermen’s Energy of New Jersey, LLC; Deepwater Wind, LLC; and Bluewater Wind Delaware, LLC.

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Written by William DiBenedetto

June 29, 2009 at 3:12 pm

Sunday sidetrack — William Gibson

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I’m reading Spook Country by William Gibson, one of my faves. All of his stuff is well worth exploring. A stylish writer writing about the reality we live in the cyber age. In fact I believe he coined the term ‘cyberspace’ in his early novel Neuromancer

Anyway I’m reading along in SC and there’s snippet of conversation:

“But think about blogs, how each one is actually trying to describe reality.”

“They are?’

“In theory.”


“But when you look at blogs, where you’re most likely to find the real info is in the links. It’s contextual, and not only who the blog’s linked to, but who’s linked to the blog.”

He’s perceptive and correct as usual. I have been blogging only a few months but in the blogosphere it’s more about the stacking of links and the race to pile up the most tags, rather than the content or the message. It’s as if the blog does not exist without the requisite number of links vying for attention in each post.

It makes it too easy.

Written by William DiBenedetto

June 28, 2009 at 5:11 pm

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EPA provides guidance to states on clean energy

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cleantech1The Environmental Protection Agency is providing extensive guidance to state and local environmental managers looking for the best ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions while saving money.

EPA has released what it says is a “first-of-its-kind guide” along with a load of other information, tools and resources on its website to help states adopt current best practices and available resources as they adopt clean energy programs and policies.

“States spend about 10 percent of their operating budgets on energy bills, yet these costs can be greatly reduced by implementing well-designed energy management and greenhouse gas reduction programs,” the agency said.

As an example, EPA cited New York, where a 2001 executive order directed state agencies to reduce their energy consumption by 35 percent by 2010 relative to 1990 levels. The state saved $54.4 million in energy costs through energy efficiency actions between fiscal years 2001-2002 and 2003-2004.

The agency’s 410-page “Clean Energy-Environment Guide to Action” which is part of the State Climate and Clean Energy Program, helps states identify the strategies, resources and tools best suited to their energy needs. “Each strategy has been tested and is proven to be cost effective,” EPA said.

The guide “is designed to share the experiences and lessons learned from successful state clean energy policies and to help state evaluate these options, programs and policies to determine what it most appropriate for them.”

It describes 16 clean energy policies that encompass planning, tax, grant and loan incentive structures for states, “leading by example,” energy efficiency portfolio standards, building codes for energy efficiency, state appliance efficiency standards, renewable portfolio standards, fostering green power markets and the removal of utility rate barriers to distributed generation.

Some more links to  the EPA’s clean energy programs for states and the guide’s 42-page Executive Summary.

Written by William DiBenedetto

June 24, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Solar stocks: a bubble ready to burst?

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Another by moi that’s also currently on Triple Pundit. This one is rewritten a little and shorter.

Looking at the recent performance of solar stocks, which have been very hot, could lead to the conclusion that this bubble is ready to burst.

At the very least, J. Peter Lynch, a financial analyst and contributor to RenewableEnergyWorld.com, advises extreme caution. It’s not a market for the faint of heart.

Solar stocks have gone through a couple of surges since the late 1980s, “but we’re probably only in the second inning of a baseball game with solar stocks,” Lynch says. “At the beginning of a new market there’s more volatility, with very big moves up and down as Wall Street tries to figure out this new market. Eventually there will be a lot more companies and a lot more opportunities.”

He notes that over a span of eight weeks earlier this year solar stocks grew 72 percent or essentially two years of growth in two months. “That’s unsustainable so I’d expect a correction any time now.”

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Written by William DiBenedetto

June 23, 2009 at 12:06 pm

Solar Traffic Controls: solar light for all of us

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STCSales01022009If there’s a need for flashing warning lights at school crossings, pedestrian walkways, freeway off-ramps, train and wildlife crossings here in the U.S. and now in Africa, Solar Traffic Controls LLC has it covered.

The Tempe, AZ company uses the Smart Relay technology developed by IDEC Corporation in the development and design of a host of “reliable and affordable solutions for advance traffic systems,” says Joe Wise, STC’s president.

Since its start by Wise in 2001, the company has provided solar-powered traffic control systems to city, state and federal transportation agencies; police, firefighting and public works departments; facility maintenance and plant safety industries.

Its primary products are solar-powered flashing beacon systems used for school zones and 24-hour applications. It also builds specialized flasher systems using sensors and custom communications packages. STC distributes DC LEDs to OEMs and end-users throughout the United States and Canada

Last month the company took its light show to West Africa.

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Written by William DiBenedetto

June 20, 2009 at 11:53 am

Sustainability and energy management

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sustainabilityEnergy management initiatives for corporations are becoming crucial factors for their sustainability efforts and the bottom line.

Energy management as a concept began as a cost-saving initiative, “but is now starting to become a strategic part of the company’s larger corporate social responsibility program,” says Aberdeen Group in a recent report, Energy Management, Driving Value in Industrial Environments.

The benchmark study of 230 executives conducted by Aberdeen research analysts Mehul Shah and Matthew Littlefield found that companies that are considered “best-in-class must do three things effectively:

-          Include energy management in corporate-wide sustainability initiatives;

-          Provide real-time as well as historical energy data to the appropriate employees that they can use as “actionable intelligence;”

-          Invest in automating energy management as much as possible to gain visibility in into the energy data while integrating it with existing technology investments.

By implementing those actions, the top rank companies can achieve a 15 percent or more reduction in energy consumption, an overall equipment effectiveness level of 90 percent and an impressive 14 percent increase in operating margins relative to corporate goals.

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Written by William DiBenedetto

June 17, 2009 at 1:08 pm

News: CREBs, E.ON again, climate change redux

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There’s a new case of the CREBs in California, as in clean renewable energy bonds. The state’s treasurer Bill Lockyer announced the sale of $20 million under the CREB program to install solar panels in 70 California Department of Transportation facilities.

The solar installations will save state taxpayers more than $52 million in energy costs over the 25-year life span of the equipment, Lockyer says.

“This project is a great example of how to use innovative financing to green state government, make it more cost effective for taxpayers and bolster businesses and jobs in a vital sector of our economy,” he adds.

California’s Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority (CAEATFA) sold the tax-credit bonds last week on behalf of Caltrans. They have a 1.45 percent interest rate over the 15-year term of the bonds. Total debt service costs over that span will total $22.5 million, and over that period Caltrans will save $24.7 million on its energy bills. Over the 25-year lifespan pf the photovoltaic solar panels, energy costs savings will come to $52.5 million, with $27.8 million coming after the bonds are repaid.

The deal is the authority’s first use of the CREB program, which was created by the Energy Tax Incentive Act of 2005. CAEATFA is also authorized to sell this type of bond under a similar program, called NCREB, established by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The federal deadline for NCREB applications under ARRA is August 4.

Under the program the federal government pays bondholders up to 100 percent of the interest directly in the form of a tax credit, and it allows borrowers to get financing with a minimal interest rate.

The program has a volume cap of $2.4 billion and eligible projects include wind energy, closed-loop biomass, open-loop biomass, geothermal energy, solar energy, small irrigation power, landfill gas, trash combustion, marine and hydrokinetic energy, and qualified hydropower facilities. Projects must be owned by a “public entity” such as state or local government; public power provider; tribal government; or a cooperative electric utility company.

Sounds like a great opportunity. This Friday (June 19) the California Debt and Investment Advisory Commission and the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank will host an all-day event to discuss the bond program and their interface with ARRA. Register online here.

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Written by William DiBenedetto

June 16, 2009 at 1:37 pm

Italy plans big investments in renewable energy

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italy_mainIndustrial Info Resources is reporting that Italy’s Observatory of Renewable Energy will invest nearly $60 billion between 2009 and 2020 in the country’s renewable energy sector.

Italy has set a target for the direct use of renewable fuels such as biofuels, wind and solar at 17 percent by 2020. That compares to only 5.2 percent in 2005.

It has a long way to go because it has the highest dependence on energy imports among the G8 group of nations: About 86 percent of its energy needs are met through imports.

The country traditionally has relied on hydroelectric power from dams located in the Alps, but in recent years the power generated from these sources has been equaled or surpassed by power imports from other countries. Natural gas supplies in Italy have declined, last year contributing 12 percent of the country’s total power demand, with its oil fields making up 7 percent of total demand.

Italy has the potential for several promising sources of renewable energy, notably geothermal–in which Italy is already a leader within Europe–hydroelectric, wind, solar and biomass, IIR says.

The Observatory says that wind will be the biggest winner in terms of investments, with an estimated 43 percent of investments being directed to windfarms. The Italian oil companies association, Unione Petrolifera, forecasts that wind farms could be capable of generating up to 20.5 terawatt-hours of power by 2020. Unione Petrolifera also forecasts that geothermal power, generated using steam produced from hot rocks located several kilometers underground, will reach around 7.5 TWh by 2020.

Last year, biomass-fed plants supplied almost 4 TWh of electricity. This sector is expected to receive 23 percent of the total forecast investment of $58 billion, which could supplying up to 11 TWh of power by 2020. Of the remaining renewable sources of energy, the Observatory estimates that photovoltaic and thermodynamic energy supplies will receive around 17 percent of the total investment, while hydroelectricity schemes will get 12 percent of the total investment, according to the IIR report.

Plans also are underway to add to Italy’s solar power generation. Enel SpA, based in Rome, plans to have a new solar thermal plant with a capacity of 5 MW in operation by the end of the year.

In January, Netherlands-based Econcern NV announced plans to build a 42-MW solar power plant in Puglia, located in southern Italy. The project, named Project Trullo, is expected to add 15 percent to Italy’s currently installed solar power generation capacity of 280 MW. Econcern anticipates that Italy’s installed capacity for solar power generation will grow to as much as 5,000 MW by 2020.

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Written by William DiBenedetto

June 12, 2009 at 12:22 pm

E.ON’s first solar foray

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eoneneergyGerman utility E.ON is launching its first solar farm near the southern French town of Le Lauzet, about 93 miles  north of Marseille.

The company, based in Dusseldorf, say that when all of the sections are completed  the solar facility will have a capacity of 5 megawatts and will cover an area of more than 49 acres.

At full capacity operation the plant will cut more than 4,270 tons of CO2 emission a year.

“Given its high levels of solar radiation the site in the region Alpes de Haute Provence is ideally suited for the generation of solar power,” the company says.

The plant at Le Lauzet uses various modules made by different manufacturers, including thin-film modules manufactured at E.ON’s production facility in Magdeburg, which recently opened. The idea is to test the performance and efficiency of different modules under field conditions, E.ON says.

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Written by William DiBenedetto

June 11, 2009 at 12:27 pm


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