Latest Entries »

I came across an article on how biomethane from various organic wastes is being tapped on the local scale in rural China and on the municipal scale in Beijing.

Beginning in 2000, the Agricultural Ministry of China has fostered sustainable development by promoting integrated biogas technologies with the goals of protecting ecology and the environment while also increasing farmers’ income. Full-scale projects have been implemented in over 1000 rural counties.

Construction is based on the family unit and is coupled with educational guidance on how to eliminate inefficient crop production practices, and to effectively utilize land, solar energy and biological resources. Rural methane power generation is the most significant piece of this energy-revolution program.

Structural improvements to toilets and animal sheds allow for the collection of human and animal wastes, rice straw and daily trash which serves as the raw material to generate methane. Methane ranges and cook stoves, heating and lighting fixtures powered by home-grown methane do not emit smoke and dust, thus eliminating health hazards often associated with burning raw waste materials or coal.

The liquid and solid remains after the fuel is siphoned off serves as fertilizer to enrich the soil, prevent plant diseases and control pests. Completing the natural cycle by returning materials to the earth in this way increases crop production and eliminates costs of fertilizers and pesticides. It also helps to build the rural economy.

Methane power generation has also been extended into cities in China. Methane is now being collected from the Asuwei Landfill in the Changping District of Beijing and used to generate power. This is the first city landfill methane in Northern China. Not only is it generating useful electricity, it is helping to eliminate odor problems and resolving safety concerns posed by methane emissions from decomposing organic wastes. While improving the environment in surrounding areas, this project is also providing enough electrical power to serve 17,000 families for one year in Beijing!


Two members of the U.S. House of Representatives — Scott Peters (D-CA) and Matt Salmon (R-AZ) — announced the relaunching of the Congressional Algae Caucus last week. This caucus aims to provide a forum to foster Congressional awareness of the enormous potential now being uncovered in tiny algae plant cells.

Representative Salmon commented: “In my own state we are already seeing the economic development that is possible from a thriving algae sector, from jobs to research and development. High tech jobs will help grow our economy and through this caucus, I hope to draw attention to the great economic and environmental benefits of algae production.”

Representative Peters stated, “My hope is that the Algae Caucus is a place for bipartisan discussion on how to diversify our energy policy, while also informing members of Congress about the jobs and partnerships the algae industry is creating, including at the University of California San Diego with the new California Center for Algae Biotechnology.”

Additional members of the bipartisan Congressional Algae Caucus include: Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Tom Latham (R-IA), Trey Radel (R-FL), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Tim Walz (D-MN) , Jackie Speier (D-CA), Susan Davis (D-CA), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), David Cicilline (D-RI), Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Jared Polis (D-CO) and Duncan Hunter (R-CA). Hats off to them!

The algae biofuels market is expected to reach $1.6 billion by 2015. Algae also offers additional applications in the food, green chemicals and plastics industries. Algae grows faster and requires fewer resources than other biologically based feedstocks.

My favorite application for algae is its use to clean up wastewater and then used the converted and harvested biomass as an energy source. But there are some really great new developments in algae biofuels that deserve special mention.

For example, the Green Crude Farm in New Mexico is now operational, refining algae into crude oil for transportation. Sapphire Energy raised about $300 million in public and private backing for the project.  Its Series C round was reported to be one of the largest venture capital deals in 2012.

The commercial success of its algae-based crude has enabled Sapphire to pay off the entire $54.5 million in federal loan guarantees the comapny obtained in 2009 from the Biorefinery Assistance Program, administered by the USDA Rural Development-Cooperative Service. “The investments being made in low-carbon biofuel production are paying off and moving technologies forward, which will produce savings at the pump for consumers, and spur sustainable, new-wealth creation here in the United States, and make our land more productive,” says Doug O’Brien, Acting Under Secretary for Rural Development.

Commercial airlines are also now testing and running on fuels that include Solazyme’s algae-based fuel. Solazyme is reportedly the first publicly-traded algae company (Nasdaq: SZYM). The company has signed a $120 million loan agreement with joint venture partner Bunge for a loan from the Brazilian National Development Bank. That loan will be used It will  be used to develop the first commercial-scale renewable oil production facility in Brazil.

The high yield per acre (up to 5,000 gallons of renewable oil per year on a single acre) and minimal environmental impact of algae biofuels make them one of the most viable and attractive biofuels on the market today.

More information:

REAP Grants (USDA)

The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) administers grants to rural communities that help to foster biomass projects.

The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 converted the federal Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Program into the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Similar to its predecessor, REAP promotes energy efficiency and renewable energy for agricultural producers and rural small businesses through the use of grants and loan guarantees for energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy systems, and grants for energy audits and renewable energy development assistance.

About 88% of REAP funding is devoted to competitive grants and loan guarantees for energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy systems. These incentives are available to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to purchase renewable energy systems (including systems that may be used to produce and sell electricity) and to make energy efficiency improvements.

Funding is also available to conduct relevant feasibility studies, with approximately 2% of total funding being available for feasibility studies.

Eligible renewable energy projects include wind, solar, biomass and geothermal; and hydrogen derived from biomass or water using wind, solar or geothermal energy sources.

These grants are limited to 25% of a proposed project’s cost, and a loan guarantee may not exceed $25 million. The combined amount of a grant and loan guarantee must be at least $5,000 (with the grant portion at least $1,500) and may not exceed 75% of the project’s cost.

In general, a minimum of 20% of the funds available for these incentives will be dedicated to grants of $20,000 or less.

Let’s hope that this program continues through future rounds of budget negotiations!

Contact information:

Public Information – RBS
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Rural Business – Cooperative Service
USDA/RBS, Room 5045-S, Mail Stop 3201
1400 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20250-3201
Phone: (202) 690-4730
Fax: (202) 690-4737
Web Site:

Kalispell Biomass Bonanza

News was published yesterday on a new state-of-the-art facility utilizing forest-product waste to generate steam for operations and electricity for the power grid. As reported by Ryan Murray in The Daily Inter Lake,  Stoltze Land and Lumber Company near Kalispell, Montana has invested about $22 million and 14 months on the five-story co-generation facility.

The plant itself generates steam to run Stoltze’s lumber-drying kilns, sawmill buildings and electricity-generating turbine.  Sawdust and forest fallings are blended into a mulch-like biomass fed into the boiler system.

Extensive permitting went into getting the plant up and running. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Renewable Energy were extremely helpful in the process, according to Stoltze Vice President Chuck Roady.

Flathead Electric and Bonneville Power Administration have signed seven interconnection agreements with Stoltze to put the power on the grid. The company will receive its first check from the energy cooperative in early November. The lumber company is also receiving renewable energy credits as part of the deal.

The plant has the ability to generate 2.5 megawatts of electricity every year, enough to power 2500 homes.

“[Stoltze] has always been leading in green or renewable technology,” Roady said. “So I wouldn’t say this is a new direction for us, but it’s certainly a new step. We’re hoping to pay it off in a little over 10 years.”

More information:

Packaging Materials From Ag Waste

Mushrooms and agricultural waste are being used to create styrofoam and other expanded plastics in a new process developed by a company called Ecovative. The company was founded by Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre with encouragement from their faculty mentor Burt Swensey at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. In a class called Inventor’s Studio, they formulated a new process for binding together insulating materials using mycelium from mushrooms as a resin. A mycologist named Sue Van Hook from Skidmore College provided expertise to grow the fungi needed for the process.

The company won small grants from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) which funded the initial samples. Proof of their concept enabled the company to win bigger grants from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to further develop its products. Ecovative is now working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to produce materials for buoys. It currently supplies packaging materials to a number of Fortune 500 companies. This summer, Ecovative is cllaborating with the company Sealed Air to build a manufacturing plant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The primary process was described by Eben Bayer in a New Scientist interview published on June 17, 2013: “The strength of our products comes from the mycelium, which consists of millions of tiny fibres. The fibres bond with chitin – a natural plastic produced by mushrooms, similar to what crab shells are made of. Together, these act like a glue fusing agricultural waste such as seed husks into solid forms. Our materials basically self-assemble; the organism is doing most of the work.”

These products are biodegradable and the processing being used and developed eliminate the consumption of petrochemicals from oil and natural gas in plastics production.

For more information, please visit the following sites.


Hey, I’m back after a bout with a nasty virus. Sorry for the delay – thanks for your patience!

Will respond to my readers’ questions and get back on board with my reporting here ASAP!

~Cowpatty Patty

Algae power from muni waste!

Wanted to tell you all about a great company called Algae Systems.

Here’s a little summary from their website:

Algae Systems takes sewage from cities and feeds it to living algae, creating fuels, fertilizers and clean water, while removing CO2 from the atmosphere in the process. In just three years, our fuels will be cost competitive with oil. At scale, our fuels could replace fossil fuels within a generation.


This company;s containment systems for treated municipal wastewater are stationed out at sea, so they don’t take up valuable land. The algae consumes the biomass using CO2 from the air or from point sources.   Not only do these systems consume greenhouse gasses, they produce aviation and cargo fuels, as well as biochar (a charcoal product used for soil improvement), and leave clean water behind.

That’s a win-win-win! Check it out!

Biodiesel from waste oils

Biodiesel has been billed as America’s first renewable advanced biofuel. It is biodegradable as well as renewable!  It also burns cleaner than hydrocarbon diesel – that’s good news for those of us who hate the smell of hydrocarbon diesel!

In 2011, the U.S. produced 1.07 billion gallons of biodiesel.

What particularly interests people like me is that waste oils and greases can be used to generate biodiesel!

Used oils and greases generally cost less than virgin feedstocks. Lower feedstock prices are extremely important to the biodiesel industry, where feedstock prices typically comprise some 75 to 80% of total production costs.

Research and development of technologies continues to foster generation of biodiesel from diverse sources of waste oils and greases such as agricultural wastes, restaurant and food processing wastes.

As US EPA Region 9 reports:

“Although both virgin oils and used cooking oils are used to make biodiesel, used cooking oil diverts waste from landfills and sewer pipes and converts it into an energy source. In metropolitan areas where restaurants, cafés, and cafeterias are abundant, waste cooking oil can be harvested from restaurants as an “urban crop” instead of using virgin soybean oil.

How much waste cooking oil is out there?

Large amounts! Hotels and restaurants in the United States generate 3 billion gallons of waste cooking oil per year. This amount could fill tanker trucks arranged bumper-to-bumper from San Francisco to Washington D.C. and back!”

Any diesel vehicle can be run on biodiesel!

This is a vast potential energy source, and developing this alternate energy source will help us all get rid of waste oil and grease problems, as well! That’s a win-win situation!

For more information, you might visit the website at:

Tragic waste!

Foul play was ruled out on Thursday in the deaths of a farm worker and his two sons who ended up buried deep in manure at a 2-million gallon waste pit on a Maryland dairy farm.

What could be worse?

ABC: Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012

March 2, 2011
American Biogas Council Supports Clean Energy Standard

Legislation will accelerate biogas industry growth at no cost to tax payers

WASHINGTON— Today, the American Biogas Council applauded the introduction of the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012 (CES). The CES uses a market based approach to encourage a wide variety of electricity-generating technologies including renewable, baseload power from biogas. Biogas is produced from organic waste using a natural process called anaerobic digestion.
Biogas can be used to make renewable electricity and is a renewable substitute for natural gas.
Beginning in 2015, the CES would set a standard for clean energy on the largest utilities. These
utilities would need to sell a percentage of their electricity from clean energy sources, and each
year would need to sell a slightly greater amount of clean energy.
Since biogas, made from waste like food scraps, wastewater and animal manure creates clean
energy, the CES provides a stable, long-term market opportunity for the biogas industry to help
utilities to meet the CES goals. It will create American jobs in the biogas industry, enhance
national security and fuel diversity, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“Today, over 2,200 sites in the U.S. produce renewable biogas from organic waste. And more
than 11,000 future urban and rural sites have been identified to produce biogas,” said Patrick
Serfass, Executive Director of the American Biogas Council. “The Clean Energy Standard
recognizes the biogas industry’s significant role in using local resources to create clean energy
from biogas. We thank Senator Bingaman for his determined leadership on clean energy and
for introducing this bill.”
About the American Biogas Council
The non-profit American Biogas Council represents over 140 companies dedicated to
maximizing the production and use of biogas from organic waste. Members include anaerobic
digester designers, multi-national engine manufacturers, farmers, waste management
companies, municipalities, natural gas providers, engineering and law firms, non profits,
universities and other organizations covering the entire biogas supply chain.

For more on the CES:

Powered by WordPress | Theme: Motion by 85ideas.