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New Fact Sheet Series on Demand Response

November 18, 2014 in Electricity Author: Dane McFarlane

We are pleased to announce the release of a new fact sheet series focused on demand response. As we’ve written about in previous posts, technologies enabling demand response (DR) are an important component of a clean energy system, and we currently have an underutilized DR asset in the Midwest. DR involves reducing or shifting customer energy usage when the system is stressed. This could be during periods of high energy demand with not enough supply like on a hot summer day, or periods of low demand with too much supply, like during a night when the wind is blowing strongly. Continue reading »

Positive Developments in the Search for the Holy Grail of Renewable Energy

November 17, 2014 in Electricity Author: Steve Dahlke

Industry and ProjectsKing Arthur and his loyal knights embark on an arduous, difficult quest to find the Holy Grail. Many perish along the way. After a multitude of trials and tribulations, they find the Grail is hidden in the Castle of “Aaargh!” That is at least how the story goes in the popular 1970’s British satire Monty Python and the Holy Grail (see here for the “Aaargh!” scene). Continue reading »

Environmental Sector Comments on MISO’s Proposed AGC Market Enhancements for Fast-Ramping Resources

November 12, 2014 in Reports & Whitepapers

The MISO Environmental Sector supports MISO’s proposed market enhancement to create a separate category for fast-ramping resources to be dispatched prior to slow-ramping resources. This is consistent with the intentions of FERC Order 755 and will improve the overall performance of regulation resources in MISO. MISO’s AGC enhancement proposal should be prioritized as a near-term market enhancement. To date compliance with Order 755 compliance has not resulted in a significant shift to increased use of fast-ramping resources in the MISO markets. As part of this effort we should also evaluate other barriers to entry for fast-ramping resources in the MISO markets. Continue reading »

Patching Up the Seams: Reducing Regional Obstacles in Electricity

November 5, 2014 in Electricity Author: Steve Dahlke

Power LinesChanges in federal law at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in the last decade have spurred evolution of the electricity sector away from local power systems and towards increasingly efficient regional interconnections. Expanding the market in this way has been beneficial – it allows the industry to take advantage of economies of scale while adapting to emerging technologies and environmental policies. Continue reading »

Germany’s Energiewende Requires New Electric Infrastructure

October 10, 2014 in Electricity Author: Steve Dahlke

Industry and ProjectsEnergiewende. This German word has been getting lots of attention in recent years. It translates to “Energy Transition,” and represents the country’s commitment to dramatically ramping up renewable energy and energy efficiency while phasing out nuclear power over the next few decades. The target is 80% electricity production from renewables by 2050. Being the world’s fourth largest economy, the rest of the world has taken notice – other nations are watching the German experiment closely as they also contemplate how to decarbonize their energy sectors. Continue reading »

Cellulosic Fuel Production Surges in August, But Not From Ethanol

October 3, 2014 in Transportation & Fuels Author: Amanda Bilek

According to data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the month of August recorded the highest amounts EVER for cellulosic units of fuel under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). What might surprise many is the units of cellulosic fuel were not from liquid biofuels like cellulosic ethanol or renewable gasoline but from….drumroll please……renewable compressed natural gas (CNG) and renewable liquefied natural gas (LNG) or biogas that has been cleaned and compressed for use as a transportation fuel. Continue reading »

A Visionary Model for Biogas Projects

September 23, 2014 in Transportation & Fuels Author: Amanda Bilek

Biogas advocates and project developers have been abuzz since mid-July, when the Environmental Protection Agency released a final rule for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) that allows eligible biogas transportation fuel pathways to generate cellulosic Renewable Information Numbers (RINs). Prior to the July rule, biogas transportation projects were eligible to generate advanced biofuel RINs. The cellulosic fuel pool within the RFS is much larger than the advanced biofuel pool. Statutory renewable fuel obligations by 2022 are 16 billion gallons of cellulosic biofuel and 4 billion gallons of advanced biofuel. The EPA is responsible for determining an annual renewable fuel volume obligation for the different fuel pools. Each year the EPA has significantly reduced the annual cellulosic fuel volume obligation from statutory requirements because fuel production expectations have fallen short.

Allowing biogas transportation fuel pathways to generate RFS cellulosic credits represents an amazing opportunity for biogas project development. There is an incredible amount of organic waste feedstocks that could be processed in biogas energy systems. Biogas energy systems also present an opportunity to establish perennial feedstocks. I wrote about the topic in my January column, but would like look at what this could mean for the biogas industry by looking at a proposed project with a visionary model.

Readers of Biomass Magazine might already be familiar with a project in Northern Missouri developed and constructed by Roeslein Alternative Energy (RAE). The project has an ambitious vison to produce 50 million diesel gallon equivalents by the end of the decade using biogas from hog manure and energy crops. The diesel fuel replacement goal is only one part of a grand vision. In addition to producing a large volume of low-carbon transportation fuel from cleaned and compressed biogas, the project also aims to restore 30 million acres of highly erodible land to native grasslands over the next 30 years. The grasses and other perennial species would be a feedstock input for biogas energy systems. *This post has been modified to include the video below, which describes the proposed Northern Missouri project.*

Achieving this vision will require a multi-phase plan. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Rudi Roeslein, CEO of Roeslein Alternative Energy, about their planned approach. The first phase of the project is already underway. RAE and their project partner, Murphy-Brown of Missouri, announced the commencement of the installation of impermeable covers on 88 existing hog manure lagoons.  The next phase of the project will implement biogas cleaning and conditioning equipment to produce a source of renewable natural gas (RNG) and establish a network of distribution centers to provide RNG to vehicle fleets. The third phase will establish a demonstration project using above ground anaerobic digestion systems to process hog manure and perennial feedstocks.

Murphy Brown in cooperation with the Missouri Prairie Foundation, the Missouri Department of Conservation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Natural Resources Conservation Serviceplanted 400 acres in prairie plantings that could now be used as part of the testing program.  In addition, Roeslein Northern Missouri Real Estate has been replanting and restoring native grassland and prairie on their 1650 acre farm located within the project area for the past 5 years and has adequate feedstock to test in the demonstration project. The University of Minnesota has been engaged by Roeslein Alternative Energy in the testing of various feedstock to evaluate the potential methane yield and help evaluate ecological services such feedstock would provide.

The Roeslein project vision and all of the potential economic and environmental benefits is exciting and inspiring. This type of model could be replicated throughout the Midwest, the US and even globally.  This project can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by capturing methane from hog manure, sequestrating carbon in perennial grasslands, and displacing diesel fuel with RNG. The project will also result in improved water quality and establish habitat for wildlife. There are also economic benefits in the form of job creation, local economic activity for construction and operations, and increased farm income from energy crop purchases.

The EPA’s recent action expanding biogas transportation fuel pathways to generate cellulosic RINs represents an enormous opportunity for project scale-up all across the US. Biogas proponents should feel inspired by the Roeslein Alternative Energy project model in Northern Missouri.

2014 will be the year that we see commercial scale production of cellulosic ethanol using corn stover as a feedstock. These first-of-a-kind liquid renewable fuel projects need an enormous amount of feedstock to begin operation. Biogas energy projects could play a role in helping to establish energy crops for future projects. Biogas energy projects do not require as much feedstock volume as liquid renewable fuel projects, but could immediately provide a market for producers willing to establish grassland and native perennials on a portion of their land.  So many different opportunities are possible for the biogas industry; we just need to reach out and grab them.

*This post first appeared in Biomass Magazine.*

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