BioCycle April 2013, Vol. 54, No. 4, p. 17
Emmaus, Pennsylvania: Call For Papers, 13th Annual BioCycle Renewable Energy Conference
The Call for Papers for BioCycle’s 13th Annual Conference on Renewable Energy From Organics Recycling — October 21-23, 2013 in Columbus, Ohio — opens May 1, 2013. The agenda is being expanded to include food recovery via source reduction and donation, and coordinating those initiatives with food waste recycling via anaerobic digestion and composting. Other key topics to be covered include all facets of anaerobic digestion of agricultural, municipal, industrial and commercial organic waste streams — from research, feedstock sources, siting and financing to digester management, biogas utilization and markets and digestate coproducts. Abstracts can be submitted via www.biocycleenergy.com.
BioCycle is pleased to announce that the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is the first official sponsor of its 2013 Renewable Energy From Organics Recycling Conference. The state of Ohio has been one of the leaders in the nation to promote food scraps recovery, and has provided financial and technical assistance to develop organics recycling infrastructure, including farm and stand-alone commercial digesters and composting facilities. To learn more about conference sponsorship opportunities, contact Teri Sorg-McManamon, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Toronto, Ontario: Biogas Industry Awaits Provincial Policy Decisions
Ontario’s biogas industry is marking time while the provincial government decides on future support. Comments heard at the recent Canadian Biogas Conference in London, Ontario, highlighted the situation: “There is a bit of a holding pattern,” says conference chair John McMullen. Jennifer Green, executive director of the national Biogas Association, uses the same phrase.
Most of Ontario’s 30 biogas projects use methane from anaerobic digesters to fuel electricity generators. Their total capacity is 15 megawatts (MW), or about five percent of the estimated potential. All have contracts under the government’s Feed-in Tariff (FIT) or a similar previous program that pay premium rates for power supplied to the grid from renewable energy sources. Several projects purify the digester gas into biomethane —equivalent to natural gas. Projects that generate electricity are only feasible with FIT contracts, but the FIT program’s prospects are uncertain. Bids for 49 biogas operations, totalling 15 MW, were submitted in the latest Ontario Power Authority’s (OPA) application period. Bids were open to any renewable energy project smaller than 500 kilowatts. The OPA will announce contract “winners” soon, but prospective biogas producers face tough odds. The process attracted applications with a combined capacity of 875 MW, but only 200 MW are available and waterpower projects are guaranteed 20 MW.
In addition, a new points system, which rewards projects with community, aboriginal or school involvement, favors wind and solar and “puts biogas at a disadvantage,” says Jim MacDougall of Toronto-based Compass Renewable Energy Consulting and a former senior provincial official. Community and aboriginal involvement, “doesn’t fit how biogas is developed,” Green adds. The OPA is to invite bids for larger projects. But no time has been set and, with electricity demand down and consumers balking at added costs for renewable energy, the program faces substantial change. “The era of the high-priced FITs is soon to be over,” MacDougall notes. As well, the province appears to be “moving away from open procurement,” where operators can install generation where they want subject to grid connection and, instead, will tie contracts to demand.
Meanwhile, the Ontario Energy Board curtailed biomethane when it ruled against a plan to add it to the general natural gas supply and spread the cost among all consumers. The Energy Ministry won’t challenge that decision since it “respects the (board’s) regulatory independence,” says spokesperson Kirby Dier.
The industry will push to have capacity set aside for biogas projects, Green says. “There are sound arguments for it.” But in Ontario’s current political climate, with renewable energy being attacked over costs and issues such as alleged health impacts of wind turbines, “we’d be hard-pressed to see the government take a position of one renewable energy over another. … Maybe the timing has passed for that to be possible,” she explains, adding that the “bigger story” of biogas’ benefits needs to be emphasized. “It’s a great story, and once it’s understood, there’s warm acceptance.”
London, England, United Kingdom: Almost 50 AD Plants Treating Food Waste
According to the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and National Non-Food Crops Centre (NNFCC), the number of anaerobic digestion (AD) plants treating food waste from multiple sources in the United Kingdom (UK) has reached 46, with another 12 currently in construction. The country has 106 AD plants in total that currently operate outside of the water industry — including those treating both farm and food waste. Of these, the NNFCC said that around half (46) are specifically designed to treat food waste, with a capacity of around 1.8 million metric tons/year of material and generate 5 MW of electricity. The 12 projects in construction have a combined processing capacity of 0.68 million metric tons and an electrical generating capacity of 30 MW.
The food-waste “centric” AD facilities fall into three broad categories, according to Matthew Aylott of NNFCC: Agricultural; Community food waste treatment plants, where material is collected from multiple sources like supermarkets, hospitality providers and households, to be converted into heat, power and fertilizer; and Industrial on-site plants treating waste for big food processors. “Around 15 to 20 plants, such as McCain’s potato AD plant, are in that last category,” says Aylott. “We are on target with the number of food waste plants planned or in construction to have 200 AD plants by 2020 — a target set out by the National Farmers’ Union.” He adds that the UK government had been tackling barriers to AD growth through measures such as WRAP’s £10 million AD loan fund and investment by the Green Investment Bank, which is targeting energy from waste as a priority area and recently invested in an AD plant in Dagenham, London. “The barriers to finance are easing slower probably than perhaps people had anticipated five years ago but we are heading in the right direction,” notes Aylott.
Washington, DC: FY 2013 USDA Reap Funding Announced
The Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 Notice of Funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) was posted by U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development in the Federal Register on March 29. The REAP program is designed to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses reduce energy costs and consumption and help meet the nation’s energy needs. The notice announces acceptance of applications under REAP for financial assistance as follows: grants, guaranteed loans, and combined grants and guaranteed loans for the development and construction of renewable energy systems and for energy efficiency improvement projects; and grants for conducting renewable energy system feasibility studies. The Notice also announces the availability of up to $20.8 million of FY 2013 budget authority to fund these REAP activities, which will support up to $10.4 million in grant program level and up to $43.4 million in guaranteed loan program level. Available funds for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements in FY 2013 will be up to $53.6 million. For renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement projects only, there will be an allocation of funds to each state, and the Rural Development’s national office will maintain a reserve of funds.
The amount of grant funds available for renewable energy system feasibility studies in 2013 will be up to $250,000. The balance of the funds unused for the feasibility study grants may be utilized in any of the renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement national competitions. To ensure that small projects have a fair opportunity to compete for the funding and are consistent with the priorities set forth in the statute, Rural Development will set aside up to $4.1 million to fund grants of $20,000 or less. Obligations of these funds will take place through June 30, 2013. More information available www.rurdev.usda.gov/BCP_ReapResEei_Technology.html.
Rosemont, Illinois: National Market Value Of AD Products
The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy® recently released a report, “National Market Value of Anaerobic Digester Products,” which shows that partnerships between dairy farms, food processors and retailers have the potential to solve current environmental concerns while creating a nearly $3 billion bioeconomy for food and agriculture. The report was prepared by Informa Economics for the Innovation Center. States the Executive Summary: “The purpose of this research is to identify the production possibilities and market values of the various products of a mature anaerobic digester industry based on large U.S. dairy farms. The AgSTAR project of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) analyzed the possibility of installing anaerobic digesters in confined animal (CAFO) dairy operations of 500 cows or larger, which, at the time of their analysis, amounted to 2,647 dairy operations nationwide. While the original AgSTAR report estimated the production possibilities of only electricity and included only covered lagoon digesters, the most basic and primitive type, this report updates the AgSTAR paper to include the production possibilities of mixed plug flow and complete mix digesters and analyzes a number of products in addition to electricity that can be produced and potentially marketed.”
Key findings of the national market value report are summarized below. They are separated into the “input potential” (including potential processing capacity for diverted organics) and “output and coproduct potential.”
• 2,647 dairy digesters operating on large dairy operations would have the combined capacity to manage more than 108 million tons of cow manure annually plus an estimated 19.8 million tons of food waste.
• Of the 19.8 million tons of food waste, 15 million tons are commercial food waste, and 4.8 million tons are from food processors. Diversion of food waste from landfills, plus the addition of cow manure, is estimated to avoid 13 million metric tons CO2-equivalent from being emitted.
Output and coproduct potential:
Products generated from the anaerobic digestion of 108 million tons of dairy cow manure and 19.8 million tons of food waste annually include:
• Electricity: 11.7 million megawatt hours per year at an estimated current market value of $894 million.
• Nitrogen: 331,163 tons/year at a current market value of $467 million.
• Phosphorus: 108,782 tons/year at a current market value of $324.6 million.
• Fiber: 30 million cubic yards/year at a likely market value of $217 million if sold as a peat moss replacement and on-farm bedding material.
• Renewable Energy Credits (RECs): 11.7 million RECs valued at $34.4 million. RECs are only available for electricity, which could increase the value of electrical production produced by anaerobic digesters.
A copy of “National Market Value of Anaerobic Digester Products” can be downloaded at USDairy.com/DairyPower.
Blacksburg, Virginia: Portable Biomass Gasifier
The Thomas M. Brooks Forest Products Center at Virginia Tech held demonstrations of the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials’ new portable biomass power plant in February. About the size of a Mini Cooper turned upright, the biomass power system generates electricity by burning wood chips, corncobs, manure and other agricultural residuals. In the demonstrations, Henry Quesada-Pineda, assistant professor of sustainable biomaterials in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, powered shop tools with the unit. “There is increasing interest in the community and around the world, especially in off-grid situations, to learn more about how biomass energy production can be integrated into small-scale systems,” says Quesada-Pineda.
The unit’s generator is powered by a 3-cylinder combustion engine using syngas — a combination of nitrogen, carbon monoxide and hydrogen produced by biomass reacting with steam at temperatures over 750°C. Virginia Tech’s gasifier, which produces 1 kilowatt hour for every 1.2 kilograms of biomass, can generate 10 kilowatts, enough to power 100 100-watt light bulbs. With a price tag of $18,000, the unit is not a cost-effective investment for most U.S. companies with access to electricity, Quesada-Pineda notes, but his department’s research will seek to determine the optimal use for this renewable energy source.