July 25, 2005 | General

BioCycle World

BioCycle July 2005, Vol. 46, No. 7, p. 6

From tours of a Wisconsin dairy showcasing aboveground tanks and improved generators, a new 40-million gallon/year ethanol facility and a landfill biogas-to-electricity plant that includes a composting project … plus 50 technical sessions on advanced biomass conversion and marketing or renewables, the September 12-14, 2005 Fifth Annual Renewable Energy Conference will be special. By attending this Conference, you will discover what’s working best, how the economics look, and steps to implement renewable energy methods.
As described on pages 15-16-17 of this issue, the “Renewable Energy from Organics Recycling” Conference will be held in Madison, Wisconsin. Biomass conversion will be explored in a wide variety of ways – from how utilities can be a driving force for change to what it takes to rev up conversion sites for maximum power. Overviews of digestion technologies at landfills and wastewater facilities will be provided, as will topics showing the compatibility between digestion and composting. Marketing methods will be explained and illustrated, as well as identifying best sources of biomass feedstocks. The complete agenda (pages 16 and 17) lists topics and speakers, and there will also be an opportunity to gain knowledge about commercial systems from exhibitors and presentations during the field tours.
Top venture capital firms in the San Francisco, California region are reported to show serious interest in the alternative energy sector, hoping to capitalize on the growing worldwide demand for energy – driven in part by high oil prices, climate change and dwindling natural resources. “This is an area where we’ve been seeing a lot of quiet investing going on,” says Mark Heesen, president of the National Venture Capital Association in The New York Times. (6/22/05). “When you’re talking about energy, when you’re talking about water, you’re talking about the largest markets in the world,” adds Ira Ehrenpreis of Technology Partners in Palo Alto, California. These days in Silicon Valley, more venture capitalists are allocating dollars to this sector because they think it will deliver attractive returns. “It’s not because we want to do great things for the environment or great things for the world,” explains Ehrenpreis, who also cochairs the Cleantech Venture Network.
“We’ve seen a real change in terms and interest level and an understanding of this area,” notes Andrew Beebe, president of Energy Innovations. The field is “starting to get big and grow rapidly,” observes Sunil Paul (founder of Brightmail), who has used his personal fortune to help finance three alternative energy companies. (He was an early investor in Nanosolar, an energy firm, along with the founders of Google.)
The attention now given by some of Silicon Valley’s highest-profile investors is great news for Nancy Floyd, a founding partner of Nth Power, a San Francisco-based venture firm that specializes in clean-tech investments. “Energy had always had a very small core audience among venture capitalists,” she points out in the Times. “It’s only the last six months to a year we’re seeing some of the generalist firms form teams around this and write checks in this area.”
According to the Times’ account, clean-tech represented a 1.2 percent share of the total dollar amount of venture capital invested in 2000. In 2004, the $520 million that venture capitalists invested accounted for a 2.6 percent share of the overall venture pie.
The federal government and states are taking far different paths when it comes to supporting renewable energy development. While the national role continues to favor corporate fossil power and scaled back investments in renewable technologies, states are reported to be “playing an increasingly important role,” declares Ron Pernick, cofounder of the consulting group Clean Edge. As noted in BioCycle, nearly 20 states have set goals for the percentage of our energy sources that must come from renewables. Pernick also notes that some states, including California and Connecticut, are allocating funds to be invested in promising alternative energy companies.
Using a website from Britain’s Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), potential purchasers of recycled wood products can access a wide range of product information. The website – – links buyers and sellers of such products as landscaping surface materials, animal bedding and equestrian surfacing supplies. The site includes a description, uses and “live examples” of products in action with video case studies. In addition, a new search function allows users to locate recycled wood products by type and location. Observes Trelawney Dampney, managing director of Eco Composting: “We’re delighted that our products will be featured on the new-look website. Our work with WRAP has already increased sales of recycled wood mulch four-fold this year, and this site can only further serve to increase the reputation and availability of recycled wood products.”
David McKeever of the USDA Forest Products Laboratory will discuss current inventories of woody residues and solid wood waste in the U.S. at the Renewable Energy from Organics Recycling Conference in Madison, Wisconsin, September 12-14. Explains McKeever: “Residues and wastes were generated during extraction of timber from the nation’s forests, from forestry cultural operations, in conversion of forest land to nonforest uses, in the initial processing of roundwood timber into usable products, in the construction and demolition of building and structures – and in the manufacture, use and disposal of solid wood products. Much of this material is indeed waste, but increasingly large shares are becoming valuable resources.”
“Major sources of waste wood are timber harvesting and processing residues, which include woody forest residues and primary timber processing mill residues, and urban wood waste, such as C&D waste and municipal solid waste (MSW). Each type of waste wood differs in recoverability and recyclability. Timber harvesting and processing generates approximately three times the amount of woody residues than urban waste wood in the MSW and C&D waste streams.”
In a recent issue of the Asphalt Rubber Technology Service published by Clemson University (www.ces.clemson. edu/arts), a report by Dale Hawkins provides this information on rubber mulch:
Rubber mulch has two primary markets – landscaping and loose fill playground surfaces. Since mulch is usually viewed from a distance, many grinds sell well, but the main objection is that rubber mulch “still looks like a tire” – i.e., sidewall lettering is still visible. Continues Hawkins: “It is imperative that fines and fiber be removed so that the consumer receives a clean usable product and the processor can color the product safely and cost effectively.”
Playground rubber mulch has two specifications: It must meet the fall height safety requirements through ASTM, and second, in some situations, the material must be wheelchair accessible according to ADA guidelines. It must be 100 percent steel free as well.
Dow Bioproducts Ltd. operates a strawboard manufacturing plant near Elie, Manitoba, Canada – each year generating 6,000 metric tons of a feedstock that is excessively wet. According to a report in Compost Science & Utilization by University of Manitoba and Alberta researchers Scott Chapman and Daryl McCartney, there are 60,000 wet tons of unusable straw stored on-site in rectangular bales. The manufacturing process also produces 5,000 wet tons/year of fine process residuals (unders), and a test was set up to determine composting these residuals. The goal of the research was to find out how particle size impacts straw composting, especially rate, degradation and volume reduction. Specific objectives were to quantify effects of adding water and/or nitrogen; and evaluate effects of particle size.
Based on analysis of the data, Chapman and McCartney concluded: Degradation of volatile solids and lignocelluloses was most rapid with a recipe of 67 percent shredded straw and 33 percent unshredded straw; Volume reduction reached approximately 90 percent for recipes containing either unshredded straw only or a mix of unshredded and shredded straw; and It’s not necessary to shred all material, thereby cutting costs at full-scale facilities.
BioCycle readers can get this complete report as well as all other composting reports in this Spring 2005 issue of Compost Science & Utilization. Visit to subscribe on line or call 610-967-4135 ext. 21.
In addition to the research study results on composting straw at optimum rates reported in the above item, the Spring 2005 issue of Compost Science and Utilization also features these special research results:
Difference in a Composted Animal Waste and Straw Mixture as a Function of Three Compost Methods: Researchers at the University of California, Davis, compare impacts of different composting systems – static passively aerated, turned windows – covered and uncovered. Results show temperature criteria, pathogen destruction, nitrogen content, microbial communities … and much more.
Phytosanitary Risk Assessment of Composts: What happens to pathogens that survive the heating phase of composting? Members of the biological Farming Systems Group at a Netherlands University report such key factors as the proportion of biomass relative to biowaste total quantity; Proportion of host biomass infected with a pathogen; Density of infected host material; Threshold density of a pathogen in soil above which host disease is expected to develop. Recommendations are given for testing the composting process for phytohygienic safety.
Effects of a Food Waste-Based Soil Conditioner On Soil Properties and Plant Growth: Scientists at the University of Missouri evaluate effects of food residuals compost on soil microbial activity, nutrient levels and crop yields. Inoculants were found to alleviate formation of offensive odors; Effective Microorganisms (EM) consist of about 80 naturally-occurring microorganisms including phosphorous-solubilizing bacteria, lactic acid bacteria, yeasts, celluloltic bacteria and actinomycetes.
Which Is Better for Plant Growth? Seaweed Compost or Biosolids Compost?: University of Florida scientists examine response rates to different types of compost products.
Chemical Amendmets and Process Controls Reduce Ammonia Volatilization During In-House Composting: When composting inside high-rise, caged layer facilities produced atmospheric ammonia concentrations exceeding standards for human and poultry health, experts at Washington State and Utah State Universities devised control measures. Study objectives were to evaluate various amendments and process controls and select the right control measures. Ten amendments were tried along with four process controls. Answers are reported.
Suitability of Composts as Potting Media for Organic Vegetable Transplants: As more U.S. growers transition to organic production practices, the challenge is to find consistent and economically viable sources of potting media. Researchers at a Kentucky College and a USDA center turn to locally composted organic residuals for the right answer. Feedstocks turned out to be preconsumer food residuals mixed with yard trimmings as a bulking agent.
All this and more in the latest issue of Compost Science and Utilization. To get your copy – along with a full year’s subscription for $99 (special reduced rate from the $129 price) – simply call 610.967.4135 ext. 22 or e-mail with your subscription order (We’ll bill you later).
The U.S. Senate Finance Committee has approved a recycling tax credit bill that would provide businesses with 15 percent tax credits to buy equipment used in processing and sorting recyclables. The proposal by Jim Jeffords of Vermont now moves to the full Senate. The provision got support from the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA). “While we believe there is more to be done to encourage recycling and product stewardship, your legislation makes a great step in the right direction,” John Skinner, SWANA executive director, wrote in a letter to Jeffords.

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