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Biogas Contributes to a Diverse Renewable Fuel Mix

May 21, 2013 in Transportation & Fuels Author: Amanda Bilek

Biogas energy systems have typically been considered a source of renewable electricity and/or combined heat and power, but several projects across the U.S. are demonstrating the suitability of biogas as a transportation fuel. Using biogas as a supply source of lower-carbon, domestic, renewable fuel is an exciting prospect, even in the face of abundant natural gas supplies and low prices. Continue reading »

Bright Future for Biogas Energy Systems

April 2, 2013 in Transportation & Fuels Author: Amanda Bilek

I am honored to be writing my first column for Biomass Magazine focused on the U.S. biogas sector. I have worked on biogas energy systems for the past decade, and it is exciting to finally be at a point where increased interest in this valuable and underutilized technology is starting to build. But make no mistake, there is far more work to be done to fully take advantage of the enormous potential of biogas. Continue reading »

Biogas: A huge potential

March 25, 2013 in Reports & Whitepapers, Transportation & Fuels

The United States produces enough organic waste to exceed EPA’s volume requirements for advanced biofuels every year for the next decade. The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) mandates the use billions of gallons of advanced biofuel every year, from 2.75 billion in 2013 to 21 billion in 2022. The US could potentially produce as much as 29 billion equivalent gallons of biogas made from organic waste each year. This fact sheet uses data from a national assessment of renewable natural gas commissioned by the American Gas Association to document the currently untapped potential of organic waste streatms to supply reneawble energy. 

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Transmission & Wind: Lessons from the Midwest

January 31, 2013 in Electricity, Reports & Whitepapers

The Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO) efforts on transmission planning and wind integration in the last decade provide key lessons on how to expand wind generation while supporting a robust and efficient energy market. MISO now has over 12,000 megawatts (MW) of wind connected within their footprint and recently approved $5.2 billion of ‘multi- value’ transmission projects (MVP’s) that will help deliver up to 21,000 MW more wind energy and other significant benefits to the MISO system.

Some of the key lessons learned are highlighted below:

Transmission Planning

  • Transmission planning must address a range of issues and objectives, including reliability considerations, state and federal policy (e.g., state renewable energy policy), economics, off-peak delivery of energy, and capacity requirements. Renewable energy, with the majority being wind generation, is required by state legislation in the MISO region, and transmission can help bring that wind generation at the lowest cost to the consumer.
  • Transmission planning must include key stakeholders to help develop a roadmap for the future. In the Midwest, organizations such as the Midwestern Governors Association, the Organization of MISO States (OMS), MISO stakeholders and staff have worked together to develop and inform regional studies. Such studies have enabled Midwestern stakeholders to identify how to achieve state renewable policy mandates and other objectives while providing the lowest overall cost to consumers.

Procedures for Connecting to the Grid Must Favor Projects That Demonstrate Readiness

  • In the past, projects in the queue to be connected to the electric grid have been at widely differing stages of readiness, which has had the net effect of bogging down the process. Experience in the MISO footprint illustrates how procedures for projects to ‘queue’ up for connection to the electric grid need to give preference to those projects that have done the most to demonstrate that they are ready to be built, and that align best with the overall development of expected electric generation projects. This will require more cooperation through cost allocation and improved queue processes as higher cost interconnections are required in the future.

Emerging Operational and Market Practices Help Integrate Wind Generation More Economically

  • Large balancing areas ease the integration of wind. MISO’s large wind balancing area (i.e., being able to draw on wind from across a large geographic area) demonstrates how a larger area with a relatively low level of wind generation compared to the demand for electricity is more effective than numerous smaller balancing areas with high levels of wind compared to demand. To understand why this is the case, one can think of the fact that it’s generally windy somewhere if you are able to draw from a large enough geography.
  • Shorter dispatch periods reduce problems in integrating wind by reducing the error of forecasting wind generation and load. MISO has a real time energy market with a 5 minute dispatch.
  • Geographical diversity across MISO’s footprint reduces wind and load variations to improve the wind product. It also adds to the capacity credit (MW allowed for capacity rating in MISO) for wind, but more robust transmission is required to see these benefits. Geographic diversity is also an important component of distributed economic and jobs impacts to the MISO states.
  • Improved wind forecasting helps operators of the electric grid have a better understanding of exactly when to expect the wind to blow, thereby avoiding excessive wind curtailments (when operators have to force wind turbines to shut down because their electricity is not needed). It also helps avoid requiring excessive spinning reserve requirements (which is the amount of electricity that power producers must be able to deliver on a moment’s notice, say when the wind dies down). Wind forecasting is used to establish the best available information for wind generators to bid within the Dispatchable Intermittent Resources tariff that requires wind generators to submit a day ahead bid into the energy market, as other generators do. Wind energy is too large a resource and would create large errors if there were not an estimate of the wind energy in the day ahead market.
  • Ramping products are being developed to allow generation other than wind to respond to wind variations. The Ramping products supply reserve capacity that can be used to improve the ability of generation to follow the load requirements. Load and generation must match within a small error band.

High Voltage DC (HVDC) transmission may have a place in the future electric grid

  • HVDC transmission has the characteristics to produce economic benefits that would support a business case to build the lines from both energy and capacity sources.
  • HVDC transmission can improve the energy market efficiency of inter-regional markets by scheduling power flows according the market signals to reduce production costs. The benefits from the HVDC transmission would be able to pay for the transmission plus some margin. A 1.25:1 benefit to cost ratio has been suggested for FERC Order 1000. Load customers receive direct benefits from lower prices or lower production costs. The generators providing the lower cost energy receive increased revenue by supplying the energy.

Authors: Dale Osborn, Consulting Advisor, Midwest Independent System Operator; Jennifer Christensen, Energy Policy Specialist, Great Plains Institute; and Mike Gregerson, Consultant, Great Plains Institute 

Untapped Potential – Swine Manure as a Biogas Feedstock

January 20, 2013 in Transportation & Fuels

The United States has an enormous amount of untapped potential for collecting biogas from organic waste streams to produce useful forms of energy. Most of the U.S. biogas development in the last 20 years has used dairy manure as a feedstock source. Development has also occurred at wastewater treatment facilities or food processing facilities with a wastewater stream. Continue reading »

Anaerobic Digestion on Swine Farms: Assessing Current Barriers and Future Opportunities

January 20, 2013 in Reports & Whitepapers, Transportation & Fuels

The United States has an enormous amount of untapped potential for collecting biogas from organic waste streams to produce useful forms of energy. Most of the U.S. biogas development in the last 20 years has used dairy manure as a feedstock source. Development has also occurred at wastewater treatment facilities or food processing facilities with a wastewater stream.
A livestock sector that has not received much attention for anaerobic digestion implementation opportunities is swine. According to a Market Opportunities report from US EPA AgStar there are 5,596 swine farms nationwide that are candidates for AD. Currently, there are 26 operational systems in the U.S. Given the gulf between potential and operational; we could be doing much better.
This whitepaper summarizes research findings assessing the barriers and opportunities for implementing anaerobic digestion projects using swine manure as a feedstock.

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