Fulcrum BioEnergy will be able to accelerate the development of its waste to jet fuel renewable plants after agreeing a multi-million dollar partnership with BP. The $30 million investment by BP is designed to give its Air BP business – one of the world’s largest suppliers of aviation fuel products and services – guaranteed access to Fulcrum BioEnergy’s product for the next decade. Fulcrum converts municipal solid waste (MSW) into biofuels and will use the investment to progress its plans to build waste-to-fuel plants in North America and, longer term, globally. Its first plant is already under construction.
Gasoline prices are the lowest they’ve been in a decade, and according to recent data from the Department of Energy, Americans are buying more gas than ever. While low gas prices are good for consumers, they may be troublesome to those who worry about greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, two important federal policies are pushing ahead to decrease transportation sector emissions by increasing vehicle efficiency and the use of renewable fuels: the federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards and the US Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Both policies have substantial impacts on consumers’ vehicle and fuel choices as well as on their fuel spending.
Initiative 732, the nation’s first state ballot measure to impose a carbon tax on fossil fuels, failed Tuesday on a crowded slate of statewide initiatives facing Washington voters. Initiative 732, which sought to apply a tax on energy-derived coal, oil gas garnered just 42 percent after ballot counts around the state, including an early Wednesday update in King County. King County was the lone county in Washington to support the measure.
It may sound like science fiction, but wastewater treatment plants across the United States may one day turn ordinary sewage into biocrude oil, thanks to new research. The technology, hydrothermal liquefaction, mimics the geological conditions Earth uses to create crude oil, using high pressure and temperature to achieve in minutes something that takes Mother Nature millions of years.
This year, Grassroots Solar announced partnerships with SunPower, a leading U.S. rooftop solar company, and sonnenBatterie, a German storage company, allowing Laberge to provide his customers with both solar technology and innovative battery backup — and he’s also capitalizing on a Vermont’s push for consumers to use cold-climate heat pumps and switch to electric cars. “We just did a system for a couple who only required 24 panels to cover their current needs, but [who knew they’d] eventually put in cold-climate heat pumps and electric cars,’’ Laberge said. “We put in 36 panels — more than they need now — and they are selling the excess to one of their neighbors.” This story isn’t unique to Vermont. Laberge and other entrepreneurs are part of a larger trend toward clean energy that is underway across the Northeast. That trend is largely being driven by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative(RGGI), a coalition of nine states — New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, Maryland, Delaware and Connecticut — that was established in 2005 as the nation’s first carbon trading market. RGGI member states limit carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector by auctioning off emissions allowances. The money from the auctions goes back into energy efficiency programs, consumer rebates, and clean energy projects. RGGI funds have helped Vermont set up energy efficiency rebates and incentives through the local utilities. Now, homeowners are cutting their energy usage and signing up for solar — sold by small business owners like Leberge.
Engineers at Berkeley, California start-up Alphabet Energy have developed a cutting-edge renewable energy device that taps the energy from an often over-looked source: waste heat. Now, we've definitely seen technologies before that harness energy from waste heat, but according to Berkeley Engineer, Alphabet's devices are the most efficient thermoelectric devices ever created and the company is setting their sights on major sources of waste heat -- combustion exhaust from power plants and vehicles. “Waste heat is everywhere,” said CEO Matt Scullin. “It is an absolutely huge opportunity.” Approximately two-thirds of all energy produced is lost as heat. Global energy consumption is around 104,000 terwatt hours, which means 208,000 terwatt hours are lost as heat. Scullin estimates that if even just 5 percent of that waste heat was converted into electricity at the cost of 10 cents per kWh, that's a $1 trillion a year industry. Just in the U.S., if waste heat recovery devices were used at every oil, gas and manufacturing plant, 11.4 million homes could be powered by the electricity produced and it would have the bonus benefit of offsetting the need for the same amount of energy to be produced using fossil fuels.
For the past 12 years, Iowa and MidAmerican Energy have worked to achieve their goal of 100% renewable energy across the state. Now, the largest wind energy project in the history of Iowa is underway – this revolutionary project, which will begin in 2017, is called Wind XI. “Renewable energy is going to be good for our customers, the environment, Iowa communities and our economy,” Ashton Hockman, MidAmerican Energy representative, said. Wind XI, MidAmerican Energy’s eleventh wind project, was initially approved in August 2016. Wind XI will cost $3.6 billion and will feature the construction of approximately 1,000 wind turbines around the state of Iowa. This adds up to 2,000 megawatts of wind generation – enough energy to power 800,000 homes. The wind sites will be placed into service over a three-year period, finishing in 2019. Once the project is complete, MidAmerican Energy hopes to generate energy equal to 85 percent of their annual consumer sales. “This will put us in striking distance of our vision,” Hockman said. “We will continue to evaluate opportunities to secure the remaining 15 percent needed to realize our 100 percent renewable vision.”
The rules, implemented under Act 174, allow towns to have a say in how renewable energy projects are sited, but does not give municipalities the ability to reject solar and wind developments altogether. The regulations require municipalities to participate in a local and regional planning process. While the Public Service Board will consider municipal plans, the board has the ultimate say regarding where renewable energy projects are sited. Critics have objected to Act 174 because it doesn’t give towns veto power. Jon Copans, the deputy commissioner of the Department of Public Service, says the state’s 11 regional planning commissions are currently collecting and organizing the maps and information for municipalities. “This message isn’t just for the municipalities, but also for Vermonters — they should know that advance planning is happening in all regions of the state,” Copans said. Now is a good time, Copans said, for Vermonters to get involved in the process, to review maps and data the commissions are putting together, and to learn more about how Act 174 will affect siting.
Hydraulic fracturing for natural gas and oil trapped in shale formations, commonly referred to as “fracking,” impacts agriculture in many ways. Farms in shale regions, for example, face competition from energy companies for labor, water, and transportation infrastructure—as well as an increased risk of drilling-related soil or water contamination. But farmers may also earn payments from energy companies. Whether fracking’s net effect on a farm is positive or negative depends largely on who owns the farm’s mineral rights. Shale formations often overlap with conventional oil and natural gas fields, and in these regions with historical drilling activity, landowners are likely to have sold their mineral rights in the past and are thus not compensated for energy development on their land. In contrast, farmers who own their mineral rights may receive a bonus payment for signing a lease agreement with an energy company and royalty payments when energy production begins. Income from royalties or leases associated with energy production is not uncommon—particularly in States like Oklahoma, Utah, and Kansas, where about 20 percent of farm businesses received such income in 2014. In States with active development of shale oil or gas, about 12 percent of farm businesses received, on average, $65,781 in income from energy production, compared with 6 percent and $56,162 across all States. Average lease and royalty payments in 2014 were highest in North Dakota ($157,000) and Pennsylvania ($154,000), mainly due to oil and gas drilling in the Bakken and Marcellus shales, respectively.
The Obama administration is moving forward with an optional cap-and-trade system that states could use to comply with its climate change rule for power plants. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final model trading rule went to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review, the office said Friday, despite the fact that the underlying Clean Power Plan is on hold by order of the Supreme Court. “Many states have asked EPA to move forward with our outreach and to continue providing support and developing tools related to the Clean Power Plan,” the EPA said in a statement. “We are developing these tools in a way that is consistent with the Supreme Court’s stay of the Clean Power Plan,” it said. Congressional Republicans and others opposed to the Clean Power Plan have repeatedly hounded the EPA for moving forward on initiatives related to the rule despite the Supreme Court’s order, issued in February. That includes the Clean Energy Incentive Program, which the EPA has proposed to give states credit for early compliance with the rule.