The Big Question Day 5: What Is Your Greatest Concern for Your Industry in 2016?

Where will the industry stumble and where will it thrive? We asked executives at major renewable energy companies to talk to us about their worries, fears and concerns as we head into 2016.

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RFA Honors Iowa Governor for #Ethanol Support

nec16-branstadIowa Governor Terry Branstad has been recognized for his unwavering support of ethanol as the recipient of the RFA 2016 Industry Award. The Industry Award is bestowed annually to individuals that demonstrate great dedication and innovation within the industry.

Since the governor had a conflict and was unable to attend the National Ethanol Conference in New Orleans this week, Absolute Energy president Rick Schwarck presented his award earlier this month in Des Moines. “Governor Branstad, you have been one of the most passionate, articulate, and effective advocates for value-added agriculture, farmers, and ethanol,” said Schwarck in a video of the presentation shown at the NEC.

Gov. Branstad at first National Ethanol Conference

Gov. Branstad at first National Ethanol Conference

Gov. Branstad is the longest-serving governor in American history, and is currently serving his sixth non-consecutive term after first being elected to office in 1983. Bob Dinneen, RFA president and CEO, noted that the governor has been a stalwart champion of the Renewable Fuel Standard since its inception.

“Governor Branstad was a founding member of the Governors’ Ethanol Coalition, and throughout his career he has worked tirelessly on behalf of our nation’s ethanol producers and farmers,” said Dinneen. “I can think of no better recipient for this year’s RFA Industry Award. The people of Iowa are lucky to have a man of such vision and character leading their state.”

Dinneen noted that Gov. Branstad attended the very first National Ethanol Conference held in Des Moines in 1996, during his first stint as Iowa’s governor, and was presented with an award at that time as well.

2016 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

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Do You Have a Favorite Social Media Outlet?

New Holland ZimmPollOur latest ZimmPoll asked the question, “How many farm shows/conferences do you attend?”

We have a very wide spectrum in our results this week. It looks like most people attend around 2 to 5 farm shows or conferences each year. As you can guess, those on the AgWired Team would fit into the 5 plus category. I think a future poll should ask the impact farm shows have on making purchases or decisions on the farm.

Here are the poll results:

  • 1-2 – 17%
  • 2-5 – 30%
  • 5+ – 27%
  • None- 26%

Our new ZimmPoll is now live and asks the question, What is your favorite social media outlet for agriculture?

It is rare to find someone who isn’t using social media for personal reasons, but when I find that person I respect their reasons. However, if you aren’t using social media to market yourself, business or social issue you are missing out and getting left behind. Social media is one of the greatest places to promote our agricultural community. Do you have a favorite platform?

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High Octane Discussion at #RFANEC

nec16-panel-1With “Fueling a High Octane Future” as the theme for the 21st annual National Ethanol Conference, it was appropriate that the first panel focus on ethanol’s high octane properties and how they translate into high performance.

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper moderated a panel of experts including Brian West with Oak Ridge National Laboratory; MathPro president Dave Hirshfeld; and Tom Leone, Powertrain Research & Advanced Engineering for Ford Motor Company.

The discussion included the basics of what octane is, how octane is measured, and how ethanol fits into that equation. Listen to the panel here: NEC16 Octane/Performance Panel

2016 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

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We’ll Always Have Paris

I don’t believe we have ever started a year with so much clean energy momentum. First, we have Paris. As 2015 closed, more than 195 countries gave nods of approval to what is now being called The Paris Agreement, which calls on all countries of the world to reduce carbon emissions. The agreement won’t mean anything until 55 countries totaling at least 55 percent of global emissions agree to be legally bound by it. The first step, the signing, is expected to take place on April 22 at the UN in New York. The next occurs after countries are able to establish that they have domestic approval for joining the agreement, the timing of which will vary by country. Countries will have to turn in an "instrument of ratification, acceptance or approval" that states the country has completed all necessary steps and can now join the agreement. Once more than 55 percent of the global emissions are accounted for, the agreement will become legally binding.

 

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What Does Scalia’s Death Mean for Obama’s Clean Power Plan?

The death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Saturday raises a number of questions regarding the future of the controversial Clean Power Plan (CPP) — none of which have clear-cut answers.

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Las Vegas & Gresham OR Win Climate Protection Award

The 82nd annual United States Conference of Mayors is underway in Dallas, Texas and Las Vegas, Nevada (NV) Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Gresham, Oregon (OR) Mayor Shane Bemis were awarded the 2014 Mayors’ Climate Protection Awards. The climate protection award is an initiative sponsored by The U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) and Walmart, and recognizes mayors for innovative programs that increase energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. An independent panel of judges selected the winners from a pool of applicants.

“Mayor Goodman and Mayor Bemis are changing the energy future of their cities and the nation, showing how local innovation can offer solutions to our growing climate challenges,” said Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, president of The U.S. Conference of Mayors. “Mayoral leadership and successful local initiatives are a crucial part of our nation’s arsenal in combating climate-harming emissions.”

U.S. CONFERENCE OF MAYORS LOGOCindi Marsiglio, Walmart’s vice president of U.S. Manufacturing and Sourcing, added, “We are proud to join with the Conference in honoring these cities and their mayors for their leadership in curbing greenhouse gas emissions and improving the quality of life for their citizens,” said “These local initiatives cut energy use, clean the air, reduce emissions, and save money, all of which helps build stronger communities and a stronger economy.

Las Vegas, Nevada won for its net zero initiative in the Large City Category. The City of Las Vegas is challenging itself to become the nation’s first net-zero energy, water, and waste municipality. This net zero initiative has seen the construction of more than 1 million square feet of municipal green buildings. Additionally, more than 80 percent of the city’s 50,000 streetlights have been upgraded to LEDs. The city now has more than 5.25 Megawatts of solar photovoltaic at 30 facilities. These systems have reduced city energy consumption by approximately 15 percent, saving the city more than $1 million dollars annually. Comingled recycling at all city facilities has raised recycling rates to 55 percent, up from 20 percent five years ago. The city has reduced its municipal water consumption by 27 percent since 2008, through turf conversions, xeriscaping, and equipment installations throughout city facilities.

“We are proud of our net zero initiative and the progress we are making,” said Las Vegas Carolyn Goodman. “What is happening here in Las Vegas on energy innovation shouldn’t just stay here. All cities, as well as the nation, can benefit from net zero initiatives.”

Gresham, Oregon was honored for the city’s energy management program to reduce its top energy users in the Small City Category. The City of Gresham implemented an energy management program to aggressively reduce its top energy users as the fastest way to reach the City Council’s energy reduction goals. The wastewater treatment plant (WWTP), which was once the top electricity consumer, will produce 100 percent of its electricity need from onsite renewable power by the end of this year, making it very unique nationally. Electricity is generated through an on-site co-generator; a fats, oils, and grease (FOG) receiving station, and a solar array. All of the city’s 8000+ streetlights, the second highest consumer, are being converted to LED fixtures this year, dramatically reducing electricity use, GHG emissions, and lifecycle costs.

“Our city is honored to be recognized for its energy efforts,” said Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis. “We have ambitious goals and will continue to make big strides to achieve them because, for Gresham, saving energy ultimately means saving money. This work has been a win-win for Gresham and I am excited to continue that trend both for our environment and for our ratepayers.”

In addition to the first place winners, Honorable Mentions were awarded to mayors in five large cities and four small cities for their exceptional achievements in efforts to promote climate protection.

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Green Power Purchases 20MW Georgia Solar Project

Silicon Ranch Circle Solar FarmGreen Power EMC, the renewable energy supplier for 38 Georgia Electric Membership Corporations (EMCs), has reached an agreement to purchase the full output of a new 20 megawatt (MW) solar project planned for construction in Hazlehurst, Georgia. The solar farm will cover nearly 135 acres, and feature 87,000 ground-mounted solar modules.

Under an agreement with owner-operator Silicon Ranch Corporation, Green Power EMC will receive all the energy produced by the solar project over a 25-year period. Construction is scheduled to begin this year, and the facility will be ready to produce electricity in late 2015.

Jeff Pratt, president of Green Power EMC, said the Hazlehurst project is the result of a request for proposals issued in late 2013 to add more solar energy to Green Power EMC’s portfolio. The company already purchases the output of two solar projects, a 115 kilowatt (kW) rooftop array near Athens, Ga. and a 150 kW ground-mounted array near Warner Robins, Ga. He said the project will nearly double the total renewable capacity of Green Power EMC – from the current 32 MW to about 52 MW.

“This is a major solar power addition, not only to our portfolio but also to the state of Georgia,” said Pratt. “The project moves us further down the road to becoming a much more sustainable state.” According to Pratt, the 20 MW project will produce enough electricity to serve about 3,000 EMC households.

Matt Kisber, president of Silicon Ranch Corporation, who also owns and operates Georgia’s largest solar farm in Social Circle, Georgia, said, “We are excited about the opportunity to partner with Green Power EMC and their members in deploying their first, large-scale solar array. I commend the leadership and membership of Green Power EMC for creating this initiative to provide competitively priced, renewable power solar generation to their Georgia membership.”

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New England Coast Offshore Wind Leases Available

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Acting Director Walter Cruickshank joined Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to announce more than 742,000 acres offshore Massachusetts will be available for commercial wind energy leasing. The proposed area is the largest in federal waters and will nearly double the federal offshore acreage available for commercial-scale wind energy projects.

“Massachusetts is leading the way toward building a clean and sustainable energy future that creates jobs, cuts carbon pollution and develops domestic clean energy resources,” said Secretary Jewell. “Thanks to Governor Patrick’s vision and leadership, the competitive lease sale in Massachusetts will reflect the extensive and productive input from a number of important stakeholders. This includes interests such as commercial fishing, shipping, cultural, historical, environmental, and local communities to minimize conflicts and bring clarity and certainty to potential wind energy developers.”

Mass Wind Energy AreaThe Massachusetts Wind Energy Area is located approximately 12 miles offshore Massachusetts – from its northern boundary, the area extends 33 nautical miles southward and has an east/west extent of approximately 47 nautical miles. BOEM proposes to auction the Wind Energy Area as four leases.

“Today’s announcement is a momentous occasion and the culmination of years of cooperation and hard work between the Commonwealth and federal officials,” said Governor Patrick. “Through our investments and proactive planning, Massachusetts is poised to lead the charge in offshore wind energy development, with the economic and environmental benefits that come with it.”

The Interior’s is working to develop a sustainable offshore wind program through its ‘Smart from the Start’ wind energy initiative for the Atlantic Coast. To date, BOEM has awarded five commercial wind energy leases off the Atlantic coast: two non-competitive leases (Cape Wind in Nantucket Sound off Massachusetts and an area off Delaware) and three competitive leases (two offshore Massachusetts-Rhode Island and another offshore Virginia). The competitive lease sales have generated about $5.4 million in high bids for about 277,550 acres in federal waters. BOEM is expected to hold additional competitive auctions for Wind Energy Areas offshore Maryland and New Jersey later this year.

“The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has been working hand in hand with BOEM to foster responsible commercial wind development in federal waters off Massachusetts,” said BOEM Acting Director Cruickshank. “Members of the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Task Force have been great partners in our planning process for the Wind Energy Area and the Proposed Sale Notice.”

In response to the announcement, Conservation Law Foundation, who is working to advance responsibly sited offshore wind energy, said, “This is a meaningful leap forward for New England and the nation to seize the unparalleled renewable energy opportunity of offshore wind,” said Sue Reid, Vice President of Conservation Law Foundation and Director, CLF Massachusetts. “Because of the sheer scale of offshore wind energy’s potential, it has unmatched ability to displace the dirtiest and costliest energy generation on the grid. It is an essential building block of our clean energy future—one that can deliver wide-ranging environmental and public health benefits while boosting our regional economy.”

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Renewables Provide 88 Percent of New US Electrical Generating Capacity in May 2014

According to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Projects, wind, solar, biomass, and hydropower provided 88.2 percent of new installed U.S. electrical generating capacity for the month of May. Two new “units” of wind provided 203 MW, five units of solar provided 156 MW, 1 unit of biomass provided 5 MW, and 1 unit of hydropower provided 0.2 MW.

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