2005 looking to be a strong year for natural power
Banner year forecast for wind power; biodiesel goes underground; EPA buys three years worth of biomass power


Hutchinson salt mine first to take biodiesel underground

HUTCHINSON, Kansas, January 4, 2005 (ENS): The Hutchinson Salt mine in Hutchinson, Kansas is the first mine of any kind in the United States to use 100 percent biodiesel fuel called B100 to power its machines underground.

Biodiesel is a renewable, alternative fuel to petroleum diesel and is made from soybeans grown in the United States as well as other fats and vegetable oils. It burns cleaner, reduces emissions like particulate matter by 47 percent and cuts carcinogens 80 to 90 percent. Biodiesel is sulfur free, non-flammable and biodegrades faster than sugar.

“We use B100 biodiesel in everything underground that runs on diesel,” said Max Liby, vice president of manufacturing for the mine. “The main benefit is we’ve cleaned up soot in the air and have cut particulates."

"Workers, particularly the operator of the loaders, like the soy biodiesel much better because they say particulates do not get in their nostrils and the air is noticeably cleaner," said Liby.

"Also, lubricity is much greater than if we used regular diesel fuel, so the injector pumps and injectors work more efficiently. The soy biodiesel actually cleans the injectors,” he said.

The Hutchinson Salt Company’s main product is highway salt for icy weather. Clients include the states of Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa and Illinois, and the city of Chicago.

The salt mine is one of more than 500 fleets using biodiesel fuel. That number is expected to continue to rise, in part due to a biodiesel tax incentive bill that became law on January 1. The tax incentive is expected to make biodiesel more accessible to the general public as it will narrow the cost gap between biodiesel and regular diesel fuel.

“Biodiesel is a great fuel for use inside mines,” said Harold Kraus, soybean farmer and a director of the National Biodiesel Board, an industry association. “It is made from a natural product, so the air mine workers breathe from B100 is also natural. Besides cutting emissions, biodiesel also has a pleasant odor when it burns,” he said.

“Soybeans are important to Kansas not only for the vegetable oil biodiesel comes from, but also for the animal industry, as Kansas is the largest producer of packed beef in the United States,” Kraus said.

“The animal industry is the largest user of soybean meal, for its feed, plus the waste fat from animals can be made into biodiesel,” he said.

Other biodiesel users include the Missouri Department of Transportation, all four branches of the military, NASA, Harvard University, the National Park Service, U.S. Postal Service, and L.L. Bean. About 300 retail filling stations make various biodiesel blends available to the public, and more than 1,000 petroleum distributors carry it nationwide.


Banner year forecast for wind power

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, December 23, 2004 (ENS): Wind power in North America will grow at a record pace next year, finds a new study released today by Emerging Energy Research (EER), a Cambridge research and advisory firm.

"Wind plants are no longer the relics of environmental activism in the 1980s," says William Ambrose, president and founder of EER. "Wind power has now become mainstream for U.S. and Canadian utilities."

While not all North American utilities have turned on to wind energy technology, a growing number are beginning to purchase substantial amounts of wind power, and others are experimenting with new projects. These and other findings are contained in "US/Canada Wind Power Markets and Strategies, 2004-2010," EER’s newest study of wind power growth.

The factors driving the growth of wind energy are many - state and provincial renewable portfolio mandates in the U.S. and Canada and the growing competitiveness of wind technology as compared to rising natural gas prices.

Failure by the U.S. Congress to renew the production tax credit, a renewable energy incentive, at the end of 2003 resulted in a complete shutdown of wind energy projects in 2004.

Passage of a bill re-authorizing the production tax credit in October restarted some of those projects but the future is still uncertain as current tax credit is due to expire at year-end 2005.

If the tax credit is not extended, the market is expected to spike in 2005, as projects are accelerated to meet the deadline, but will come crashing to a halt in 2006.

"If we can stabilize the regulatory environment," says Ambrose, "the industry would scale dramatically, creating thousands of U.S. jobs in manufacturing, engineering, and construction; reducing our dependency on foreign and polluting energy; and ultimately rendering wind power as a low cost energy source."

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), an industry group, says wind power accounts for less than one percent of the electricity generation in the United States, but it is increasingly competitive in many areas with other forms of electricity generation.

Wind power has become the fastest growing type of generation in the United States, averaging over 23 percent growth annually in the past five years, says the AWEA.

GE Wind, the only wind turbine manufacturer with full scale facilities in North America, has emerged as the dominant market leader. GE Wind has benefited from the weakness of the dollar against the euro, providing it with a decided cost advantage vis-à-vis its European competitors, according to EER.

World market leader Vestas of Denmark has recently announced plans to establish a manufacturing facility in 2005 after having abandoned similar plans in 2003 when the production tax credit was allowed to expire. Spanish wind turbine manufacturer Gamesa is in the process of selecting a site in Pennsylvania for a blade plant.

For more information, visit: www.emerging-energy.com

EPA buys three years worth of biomass power

WASHINGTON, DC, December 23, 2004 (ENS): The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has signed a three year deal to buy electricity generated by the burning of waste paper pulp. The electricity will power the agency’s facilities in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

The contract, signed November 1, but made public only Wednesday, commits the EPA to purchase 100 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of power in the form of renewable energy certificates in each of the three years.

The waste pulp is generated from the operations of the Weyerhaeuser paper mill in Port Wentworth, Georgia. The electricity was procured through Unicoi Energy Services by the Defense Energy Support Center, a branch of the military that provides the Department of Defense and other government agencies with fuel.

The largest EPA Green Power procurement to date, the amount of power covered by the 100 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy certificates is equivalent to the energy consumed by 3,680 homes each year.

The EPA defines Green Power as electric power derived from renewable resources such as wind, sun, and biomass - including burning of wood waste, plant materials and landfill gas.

Currently, the EPA annually purchases more than 220 million kWh of Green Power for 26 of its facilities, laboratories and offices, across the nation, and Green Power now accounts for 77 percent of EPA’s estimated national electricity consumption.

In announcing the new power purchase on Wednesday, the EPA mentioned that its purchases of green power were mandated by White House Executive Order 13123 "Greening the Government through Efficient Energy Management."

Signed by President Bill Clinton in 1999, the Order requires that federal agencies reduce their greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent from 1990 levels by 2010.

The Order encourages all federal agencies to expand the use of Green Power by developing renewable energy projects, supporting the development of renewable projects by others on federal land and purchasing electricity from renewable energy sources.

Green Power sources have lower emissions than fossil fuel generating plants, and generally have less adverse impact on the environment.

For more information on EPA’s Green Power program in general, go to: http://www.epa.gov/greeningepa/greenpower.htm.