London fuel cell taxi fleet remains operational during 2012 Olympics

London’s fleet of hydrogen fuel cell taxis is remaining operational during the Olympic Games despite problems encountered by the fleet of fuel cell buses

Because of safety concerns, hydrogen is not allowed within the Games area for the course of the competition. It means the capital’s fleet of hydrogen fuel cell buses have been taken out of action, though they will return in September on the RV1 route with three new additions. This will bring the fleet up to eight, making the RV1 route the first of its kind in Europe fully serviced by fuel cell buses.

Taxis, however, can get around the restrictions and were transported to the BOC hydrogen station in Swindon to refuel. A refuelling station will open at Heathrow soon, allowing the taxis to continue to transport dignitaries and VIPs during the Games.

Built by Air Products, the airport’s hydrogen station will be accessible to the public, dispensing hydrogen at 350 bar, with plans in place for a 700 bar capability in the future.

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EPA approves fuel blend containing 15% ethanol – ‘E15’ won’t likely be at the pump soon, since sizable hurdles remain

Fuel dispenser selection

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave final approval on Friday for a fuel blend containing 15 percent ethanol to be sold at gas stations across the country, but a series of hurdles remain that could prevent it from being available to consumers anytime soon

Until now, U.S. companies were not allowed to sell a fuel that contained more than 10 percent ethanol for use in most conventional gasoline-powered vehicles. Most gasoline sold in the United States contains the blend of 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent ethanol.

The EPA, which approved the new blend in January 2011, had to first complete a series of steps before E15 could go on sale to prevent misfueling and ensure that the fuel is properly marked and sold. The blend has been approved for use in cars and light trucks from the 2001 model year onward, but it is banned from older vehicles and light equipment.

“I think there are a number of stations, particularly in the Midwest, that will be very interested in introducing E15, and there will certainly be encouragement from the renewable fuel industry for it to be done as quickly as possible,” U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.

Vilsack said there are a limited number of flex-fuel vehicles in the U.S. that can use a fuel containing 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. And with most gasoline containing 10 percent ethanol, boosting the additive to 15 percent was one way to increase the use of the renewable fuel, he said. “Anything that paves the way for E15 is a good thing, and today we got the last hurdle removed, so we should be able to see additional biofuel use,” Vilsack added. Still, he acknowledged it will “take some time” before the E15 blend is readily available.

The EPA said while some companies may introduce E15 into the marketplace, some federal, state and local requirements, along with other issues, must still be addressed. For example, dispenser and tank compatibility with E15 must be considered by marketers of the fuel. In addition, because several states restrict the sale of some gasoline-ethanol blends, law changes might be needed before E15 can be sold in those states.

Iowa is the nation’s largest ethanol-producing state, with 41 plants that in 2011 produced about 3.7 billion of the total 13 billion gallons of ethanol produced nationwide.

Corn-based ethanol has been touted by the ethanol industry and American farmers who produce corn as a way to reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil, create jobs and boost income for rural communities. Critics counter that ethanol leads to food inflation by driving up the cost of meat and poultry.

Pat Westhoff, director of the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri, said the rollout of E15 to the marketplace could be very gradual. “I wouldn’t expect to be seeing it in gasoline stations across the country anytime real soon,” added Westhoff, noting the Midwest as one exception where the fuel could appear relatively quickly. “As of right now, there appears to be some resistance on the part of consumers because of concerns about mileage and concerns about (its impact) on their vehicle.”

In a joint statement, the Renewable Fuels Association and Growth Energy called the announcement “a victory for American consumers.”

The American Petroleum Institute, which represents 500 oil and natural gas companies, downplayed the EPA announcement. “The bottom line is that it’s premature to say that it’s ready to be sold — the obstacles remain. Even the EPA acknowledged obstacles remain,” said Bob Greco, an API director. “Our position still remains that the partial waiver of E15 was premature.”

A series of studies have promoted the money ethanol has saved consumers at the pump. Most recently, a study conducted by economic professors at the University of Wisconsin and Iowa State University and sponsored by the Renewable Fuels Association estimated ethanol reduced wholesale gasoline prices by an average of $1.09 per gallon in 2011.

A federal renewable fuel standard mandates the use of 13.2 billion gallons of alternative fuels in 2012, with most of it coming from corn. By 2022, the figure would require 36 billion gallons to be blended into transportation fuel.

Source – Petro Plaza

California and American West Top 2012 State Clean Energy Index

California is the top clean energy state in the United States for the third consecutive year, and the American West region continues to lead the national clean tech economy, according to a new ranking from industry analysts Clean Edge.

The 2012 State Clean Energy Index, the third-annual such analysis, aggregates various industry data into one scoring system. Overall scores are awarded on a 100-point scale based on three categories – installed technology (clean electricity, clean transportation, energy intelligence & green building), policy outlook (regulations & mandates, incentives), and invested capital (financial, human & intellectual).

#1 — California

California dominated the rankings with a 91.1 score, more than 10 points higher than the second-ranked state, even though it lost 4.2 points from 2011. The Golden State “has established itself as the world’s preeminent testing ground for clean technology of all kinds,” and led the country in nearly all aspects of market expansion, including new wind and solar, hybrid and electric vehicles (EV), and green building.

However, the state’s most notable achievement comes in attracting venture capital. California-based clean energy startups saw $9 billion in investment over the past three years, more than the combined total of all 49 other states.

#2 — Oregon

Oregon held onto its second-place rank, gaining 0.5 points for a 79.9 score. Clean Edge credits the state’s success to consumer-driven demand for clean tech products and services, the highest national participation rates for voluntary green pricing programs, the largest concentration of LEED-certified buildings, and one of the highest rates of hybrid-electric vehicles per-capita.

#3 — Massachusetts

Massachusetts jumped 4.3 points to retain its third-place rank with a score of 76.1. Clean Edge attributes the state’s strength to an existing base of energy efficiency measures, a $500-million infusion of venture capital investment in 2011, and the Boston metro region’s network of universities. The index considers this concentration of education and startups second only to Silicon Valley.

#4 — Washington State

Washington State, buoyed by a 9-point increase, jumped from sixth overall in 2010 to the fourth-ranked state in 2011 with a score of 69.0. This ranking was due to newly added wind capacity and strong hydropower output, which helped to generate more than 84 percent of all in-state electricity from low-carbon sources (up from 72 percent in 2010). In addition, the state’s focus on building out an EV charging network could make it an industry epicenter moving forward.

#5 — Colorado

Rounding out the top five was Colorado, which maintained the fifth-overall rank from 2010 with a five-point score increase to 65.1. Clean tech infrastructure continues to grow in the state, especially in green building, wind power, and solar photovoltaics. Interestingly, Colorado also checks in as the third most attractive destination for venture capital investment, thanks largely to the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

National trends

Clean Edge also noted four impressive national trends:

  • Six states now generate more than 10 percent of their utility-scale electricity from wind, solar, and geothermal – twice as many as 2010.
  • Nearly two million hybrid cars are now registered in the U.S., and nearly 50,000 all-electric vehicles now ride our roads.
  • The 29 states with renewable portfolio standards (along with Washington, D.C.) now represent nearly two-thirds of the total national generating capacity.
  • Clean energy patents granted to U.S. entities exceeded the 1,000 mark for the first time in history.

Remainder of top ten

The index also highlights interesting factors that helped determine the rank of the rest of the top-ten states:

  • New York State (64.9) ranked sixth, generating more GDP dollars per kilowatt-hours consumed as a result of extensive energy efficiency measures, and the upstate region is a growing hotbed of clean energy R&D.
  • Illinois (59.8) ranked seventh, reflecting rural areas of the state’s focus on agriculture and biofuels development as well as Chicago’s leadership in green building and energy efficiency.
  • New Mexico (58.1) ranked eighth, due largely to the state’s growing importance to the solar industry and importance as a key market for PV deployment and technology development.
  • Vermont (56.5) ranked ninth on the strength of an environmentally minded population, high percentage of hybrid-EV deployment, and energy efficiency measures.
  • Minnesota (54.6) ranked tenth as a notable national leader in wind energy and biofuels. The state was one of only five in 2011 to generate 10 percent of its power needs from wind, and is among the highest national ethanol producers.

Even though national support for clean energy technology may be uncertain, state-level support remains strong and the green economy continues to grow. “The state-level scene shows a diversity that crosses political boundaries and regions,” said Ron Pernick, Clean Edge managing director. “The next decade will determine which nations, states, and cites lead in clean tech.”

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/1d4mi)

Hydrogen — Tomorrow’s Biofuel?

Questions swirl around the idea of bioethanol as an alternative to gasoline for powering transport, but researchers from the University of Birmingham have started creating clean hydrogen from food waste, an idea that could revolutionise the bioenergy industry.

A look at Brazil — the world’s most intensive user of bioethanol — finds that mass-producing bioethanol from sugarcane is not as sustainable in the long-term as would be hoped. Bioethanol generates carbon dioxide as well as agricultural waste.

However, creating clean hydrogen from food waste not only uses up that waste, but provides a fuel that is emissions free and can be generated sustainably.

“Fuel cells need clean energy to run them. If you provide bacteria with a supply of sugary waste from, for example, chocolate production, the bacteria can produce hydrogen,” said Professor Lynne Macaskie, Professor of Applied Microbiology at the University of Birmingham, who presented the research at a collaborative bioenergy workshop in São Paulo on Monday. “At the moment manufacturers pay to dispose of waste but with our technique they could convert it to clean electricity instead.”

“Bioethanol is the current biofuel of choice in Brazil but our research shows the huge potential for biohydrogen to be the fuel for the future. Biohydrogen could even be made from the wastes from bioethanol production — two biofuels for the price of one. More work from focused teams, however, is needed, as agricultural wastes are tougher for bacteria to digest.”

Source: University of Birmingham

Better plants for biofuels

An article in F1000 Biology Reports argues that recent advances in knowledge mean that plant-derived biofuels could meet about 30% of the global demand for liquid transportation fuels, drastically reducing the amounts of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels, without having an impact on food production.

It is widely accepted that one of the causes of detrimental climate change is the emission of greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane in to the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels.

Consequently, in recent years, scientific studies into the development of low-carbon technologies to meet our energy needs have become increasingly popular. Chris R. Somerville, F1000 Faculty Member and Philomathia Professor of Alternative Energy at the University of California, Berkeley, and Heather Youngs, a senior analysis fellow in the Energy Biosciences Institute at UC Berkeley and Adjunct Professor of Biochemistry at Michigan Technological University, describe recent research into ways that the body of plants, rather than the seeds, can be improved for use in making next-generation biofuels, in an article published in F1000 Biology Reports: Development of feedstocks for cellulosic biofuels.

In their article, Somerville and Youngs argue that advances in the technology used to produce and extract plant biomass to be burned directly or converted to liquid fuels may allow the expansion of productivity to a scale large enough to meet the demand for an estimated 30% of all liquid transportation fuels.

The article also addresses some of the concerns associated with the development of biofuels, in particular, that land used to grow plants for biofuels, means less land for other purposes.

However, Somerville and Youngs point out that recent scientific advances raise the possibility that non-edible plants can be engineered or bred to grow on the approximately 600 million hectares of land worldwide on which agricultural production has been abandoned, and used to produce biofuels, without significant effects on food production or the ecosystem.

“Many of the concerns about the use of food crops for biofuels do not apply to the use of the inedible parts of plants that are the focus of our review”, said Chris R. Somerville said. He continued: “New dedicated energy crops are a particularly promising area of research.”

The expansion of biofuel production is a topic with complex economic, ecological, environmental and political concerns.

Many advances in our understanding of how to produce biofuels sustainably are arising from interdisciplinary research. Many more will be needed to reach the scale required to reduce the environmental impacts of transportation in an acceptable manner.

Source = BioFuels Daily

U.S. Airports are Sitting on a Biofuel Goldmine

usda report finds airports could raise biofuel crops

According to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, airports could become a significant source of biomass for biofuels. The key takeaway from the report, Airports Offer Unrealized Potential for Alternative Energy Production, is that the typical airport environment is already managed to include wide swaths of grasslands, and to preclude wildlife (think Canada geese) that compromises flight safety.

Why grow biofuel crops at airports?

One main obstacle to introducing biofuels in the mass market is the risk that a significant increase in acreage for biofuel crops will destroy habitats and impinge on land needed for food production. A sustainable national biofuel policy will have to exploit marginal lands and environments that are already built or managed, and airports fit the bill. A similar approach to sustainable wind farm siting has been studied by The Nature Conservancy, which determined that wind energy production can be increased significantly in the U.S. without necessarily threatening important wildlife habitats, simply by focusing construction on pre-developed locations.

Biofuels and rural communities

The USDA has a rural economic development mission that dovetails with biofuel production in general, and airport biofuel potential in particular. As explained by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack:

“Converting airport grasslands to biofuel, solar or wind production not only provides more environmentally-sound alternative energy sources for our country, but may also increase revenue for airports and reduce the local abundance of potentially hazardous wildlife to aircraft. Such efforts may be particularly beneficial for rural economic development, as many rural airport properties contain expansive grasslands that potentially could be converted to biofuel crops or other renewable energy sources.”

Airports as alternative energy power stations

In addition to biofuel crop potential, airports and U.S. Air Force bases  are also emerging as important sites for solar installations and for geothermal energy, too.  Recent Air Force and Army funding for solar research will help step up those…

efforts in the future. Meanwhile, the USDA is continuing its research on biofuel crop production in combination with wildlife management at airports in different regions of the U.S.

Image: Some rights reserved by Mr. Mystery

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/18RKy)