March 27, 2006 | General

BioCycle World

BioCycle March 2006, Vol. 47, No. 3, p. 6

Horticultural researchers at Illinois State University, University of Illinois and Texas State University evaluated 10 markets “that have the greatest potential interest in compost.” The focus of their research was to determine and evaluate potential paying markets for compost using Illinois as a model by mailing 2,275 surveys to horticultural trade association members.
Questions included type of business, current compost use, and whether it was thought that the company had an organic waste problem. Questions were also asked regarding economics of making and using compost, and perceived benefits.
A 33.7 percent response rate was achieved, with substantial numbers of respondents involved in commercial nursery, golf course and lawn care. Most interest in composting was shown by commercial tree growers, nurseries and greenhouses, landscape contractors and lawn care operations. Of respondents who have used compost or are currently using it, most were satisfied with results; Primary reasons were related to soil tilth, building humus content and increased plant growth.
The conclusions listed were: Potential market for compost in Illinois greatly exceeds production; Greenhouses, sport turf operations and landscape contracts are most likely purchasers; While reported compost production in Illinois increased nine percent in the five year period from 1998 to 2003, only one-third of respondents currently use compost. “Educational efforts must focus on the economic value of using compost as well as its environmental benefits. Coordinated statewide efforts should focus on local compost workshops involving interactive panel discussions between compost end users and compost producers. Compost producers must be informed regarding the requirements of the individual markets located within their geographical area.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently awarded more than $18 million in Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants, which included funding for biodiesel projects. The primary objectives of the SBIR program are to stimulate technological innovations in the private sector and to strengthen the role of small businesses in meeting federal research and development needs.
The SBIR grants that deal with renewable energy total more than $1.2 million, and the biodiesel projects are as follows:
“A New Process for Biodiesel Production Based on Waste Cooking Oils and Heterogeneous Catalysts,” United Environment & Energy, LLC, Orchard Park, New York;
“Improved Quality Soy-Oil Based Biodiesel Fuel,” Bioplastic Polymers & Composites, LLC, Midland, Michigan;
“Camelina sativa: A Multiuse Oil Crop for Biofuel, Omega-3 Cooking Oil, and Protein/Oil Source for Animal Feed,” Great Northern Growers Cooperative, Sunburst, Montana; and
“High Yield, High Efficiency Bio-Refining,” Advanced Materials and Processes, San Marcos, Texas.
According to a report in the newsletter, Japan for Sustainability, convenience stores in that country are selling produce grown from their own food residuals compost. Circle K Sunkus Co., a large Japanese food convenience store chain, has been conducting a series of tests on making compost from food waste to comply with a Food Recycling Law, which became effective in May 2001. The law obligates food businesses to raise their recycling rates for food residuals to more than 20 percent by fiscal 2006.
In related actions, the Study Group on Environmentally Friendly Products and Management Strategy released a report to promote future ecoproducts. The research was commissioned by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. And, since October 2005, some restaurants in Takamatsu City in western Japan have been offering free coffee refills and a free dish to customers who use their own reusable chopsticks instead of disposable wooden ones provided to customers for free at most restaurants in Japan.
The Winter 2006 issue of Compost Science & Utilization (CS&U) includes a report on how microorganisms in compost tea accelerated degradation of sugarcane trash mat. Little feedstock preparation was necessary prior to mixing, report Louisiana State University (LSU) researchers, after the fresh sugarcane was processed through a Brush Bandit chipping machine to produce an adequate particle size for composting. The feedstock mix consisted of aquaculture pond sediment, ground sugarcane, chipped wood, bagasse and corn silage/cottonseed blend. Porosity was important for maintaining aerobic properties in the feedstock mix during composting. “Moisture was also important for microbiological activity, providing a medium for microbiological movement, enzyme activity and contact with organic matter, and dispersion of metabolites and mineralized nutrients maintained near 50 percent during composting by manual addition of water as needed,” write the authors – Steven Hall, David Schellinger and William Carney of LSU.
The feedstock mix was composted over 120 days in a turned windrow configuration. Windrow was turned three times weekly for 60 days and twice weekly thereafter with a Wildcat turner. Three buckets were partially filled with equal masses of compost, based on the water absorbency of the compost used to generate the tea, and filled to a 30 cm depth with water. Contents from the buckets were then filtered through grain sacks and a strainer.
Note the authors: “Practical application of custom designed compost teas would apparently require at least 60 days of lead time based upon results, but will require further study. Nevertheless, there does appear to be promise with this method to dramatically reduce air pollution by not burning and potentially improve water or soil quality as well.”
To get the latest issue of CS&U along with a full year’s subscription for $99, call (610) 967-4135 ext. 21, or e-mail with your subscription order.
In another paper on compost tea in the Winter 2006 issue of Compost Science & Utilization, staff at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in British Columbia examined residual pathogenic strains of E. coli in compost teas. They explained that “since microbial density in teas is assumed to reflect tea quality, teas are supplemented with additional nutrients to promote growth of compost microbes.” However, they concluded, these nutrients are not selective and are also accessible to undesirable microorganisms that may be present in the compost due to inadequate composting or improper handling. They also note that “addition of carrot juice to teas significantly reduce growth of E. coli under aerobic and anaerobic conditions.” Researchers at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada are Tissa Kannangara, Tom Forge and Betty Dang.
For General Electric’s Energy Financial Services, renewable energy projects already account for $1 billion of the unit’s $11 billion portfolio and are its fastest growing niche. “I hope it will account for 20 or 30 percent of our investments in five years,” says the unit’s president J. Alex Urquhart. Lorraine Bolsinger who directs G.E.’s Ecomagination program is running “financial projects through the scorecard process” to see which ones should be included in G.E.’s list of green products. Writes Claudia Deutsch of The New York Times (2/15/06) in an article, “Investors Are Tilting Toward Windmills”: “General Electric’s Energy Financial Services division recently bought a wind farm in Germany and is installing new turbines there at a rapid pace. It has invested in solar energy farms in California and is in the end stage of negotiations for a large solar project in Europe.”
GE Energy Financial Services has been taking tentative steps toward biomass generation. It has a small investment in plants that burn woodchips for fuel. It is also seeking advice about potential biofuel investments from Jenbacher, an Austrian company that G.E. bought in 2003 that makes generators that run on methane gas emitted from landfills. And G.E. is also checking in Washington about what kind of rulemaking is “evolving around the biofuel idea.”
According to Deutsch, other financial institutions are investing in the U.S. renewable energy industry which for 2005 had $250 million targeting biofuels (like ethanol), biomass at $100 million, solar thermal-electric at $100 million, and wind power at $200 million. In November, Goldman Sachs committed to investing $1 billion in renewable energy; J.P. Morgan Chase will invest more than $250 million in wind energy projects. Overall, predicts the president of the nonprofit American Council on Renewable Energy, the $7 billion invested in renewable energy projects last year should increase by 25 percent a year over the next few years.
A new consortium has been launched to standardize evaluations of system performance used by livestock producers for biogas production and utilization. The information was provided by Joseph Visalli, Director of Energy Resources, Environmental Research and Renewable Portfolio Standard at the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority based in Albany.
Each of the state organizations that are cofunding the evaluation project – New York, California, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, North Carolina, Mississippi, Washington and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District – are members of ASERTTI – the Association of State Energy Research and Technology Transfer Institutions. Each of the states has contracted with ASERTTI for cofunding purposes. U.S. EPA is a cofounder and USDA will participate. “We are also talking to Quebec about joining the consortium,” adds Visalli.
Many livestock producers are reluctant to invest in anaerobic digesters due to uncertainty about process performance and recovering the capital invested. The primary source of uncertainty appears to be conflicting data about process performance due to lack of generally accepted methodology… Anecdotal information suggests that commercial lending institutions are also reluctant, so the potential for renewable energy is being unnecessarily constrained. ASERTTI members agreed that a generally accepted protocol for performance is a critical need. With the establishment of standard methods for quantifying performance of manurial biogas systems, questions about the validity of data in a national database would be addressed.
The first project task was preparation by Hall Associates of performance assessments, with new design strategies. The second focused on assessing system performance stability and reliability over several years. Appropriate parameters were proposed to quantify performance assessments with regard to biogas production, waste stabilization and biogas utilization. Procedures for economic analysis included estimated rate of return to invested capital after O&M costs. Workshops were planned to develop the data, and drafts were reviewed. The final report of the project will be presented at the AgSTAR National Conference in spring 2006. Dr. Visalli of NYSERDA can be contacted at
In his State of the Union address in January, President Bush called for new research into alternative energy to help get the nation off its petroleum dependency. But the next day, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado announced that a $28 million budget cut would force layoff of researchers of ethanol and wind technology, two areas cited in his address “as full of promise.”
The attitude shifted when Mr. Bush visited the Laboratory in February and the Energy Department announced it would transfer $5 million back into the Laboratory budget and 32 employees would be reinstated. However, none of the employees were back at work in time for the president’s visit. And the Lab still faced a $23 million shortage for its 2006 fiscal year.
Mr. Bush’s visit to the Lab came at the end of a three-state tour to help focus more attention on the alternative energy methods cited in the State of the Union address. Members of both parties generally praised the proposals, as reported in a New York Times article, although Democrats called them inadequate to change to nation’s dependence on oil and Republicans were skeptical about the practicality of alternative fuels like ethanol made from biomass.
When the director of the Renewable Energy Laboratory talked about a new form of ethanol made from wood fiber, Mr. Bush interrupted: “I think what he’s saying is one of these days, we’re going to take woodchips, put them through the factory, and it’s going to be fuel you can put in your car.” When the Lab Director agreed, the president responded: “That’s the difference between a Ph.D. and a C student,” referring to his well-known grade average in college.
The Compost User Forum in the January 2006 issue, “Using Compost To Treat Wastewater Effluent,” incorrectly identified the management agency for the treated wastewater recycling project in State College, Pennsylvania. The 516-acre Land Application Site is managed by the Wastewater Treatment Facility at Penn State. (The article had noted that the University Area Joint Authority was the management agency.) We apologize for any confusion caused by this incorrect attribution.

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