In Business World


Courtesy of BioCycle Magazine

In Business and BioCycle are holding their 7th Annual Conference on Renewable Energy From Organics Recycling, October 1-3, 2007 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The conference highlights renewable energy projects that cross a range of technologies and feedstock sources. Small and large-scale anaerobic digestion projects that incorporate animal manures, as well as food processing residuals, fats/ oils/grease and other higher energy feedstocks are featured. One session looks at gasification projects fueled by C&D debris and poultry litter, as well as reviews technology advances; another gets into innovations with converting landfill gas into biofuels and combined heat and power. Presentations on ethanol production developments evaluate transportation logistics of biomass to ethanol plants, and how to generate ethanol from various residuals streams.

The 2007 Renewable Energy From Organics Recycling Conference also gets into the nitty-gritty of project development - from financing and securing fuel supplies to permitting and regulatory compliance. Managers and developers of anaerobic digestion plants will explain the necessary steps to upgrade biogas to pipeline quality renewable natural gas. Public policy discussions will review how states and regional groups are drafting and implementing incentive programs to facilitate development of a renewable energy and biofuels infrastructure. These include how to encourage utilities and natural gas pipeline companies to purchase output from renewable power and fuel projects.

The opening plenary session on October 1st includes a keynote address by Fred Mayes, Chief of the Renewable Information Team at the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration (EIA). He will present updated wood and wood waste supply estimates for biomass energy projects and also will discuss an EIA study that quantifies biogenic sources in the municipal solid waste stream.

On October 3, 2007, a field trip will tour the Greencycle yard trimmings and wood waste processing and composting facility in Indianapolis; the Fair Oaks Dairy and the Hidden View Dairy anaerobic digester installations (Fair Oaks sand-beds its dairy cows, which makes its digester project unique); and the Twin Bridges landfill gas recovery project that is capable of producing up to 6,400 kW of electricity.

Hotels are offering all kinds of green programs - because their business guests are demanding it and hotels are finding that green saves money. The National Business Travel Association has included “eco-friendly elements in hotel design and operations” for the first time at its annual summer convention. “When I'm at a hotel,” says one traveler, “I always look to see if they use compact fluorescent bulbs. Ideally, I'd be looking for a green roof and recycling facilities.” At one hotel chain, all front-desk computers run on wind power bought from a sustainable energy cooperative, and several of its golf courses are irrigated with recycled water. At another chain, heating and cooling are conducted via an energy-saving geothermal system, and water from sinks and showers will be recycled for use in toilets.
Environmental friendliness has become a high priority for business travelers. There are also financial benefits for hotels to installing light bulbs that use less energy or bathroom fixtures that limit water flow. Conservation measures are now considered smart investments.

The Ontario Biogas Systems Financial Assistance Program is a $9 million investment that will help farmers and rural businesses develop systems that produce clean energy from farm wastes. “Developing renewable energy in the agri-food and rural sectors is an important part of the government's climate change initiative,” says Leona Dombrowsky, Ontario's Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. The program has two phases - Phase 1 funding will cover up to 70 percent of the eligible costs for a feasibility study to a maximum of $35,000; Phase 2 funding will cover up to 40 percent of eligible implementation costs. Maximum total feasibility and construction cost funding is $400,000 for each biogas system. The province is also streamlining the process that farmers follow to build biodigesters.

“This is good news for the environment, for farmers and for all Ontarians,” explains Laurel Broten, Ontario's Minister of the Environment. “Biodigesters encourage renewable energy production and reduce greenhouse gases that cause climate change.” A biogas system that uses manure from 250 cows could result in 400 fewer tons of greenhouse gas emissions and 550 additional megawatt-hours of power production every year.

With green businesses contributing $228 billion to the U.S. economy, banks are seeing exciting lending opportunities for companies that build income for the environment and their bottom line. In Colorado, for example, Vectra Bank's client base includes Hammerwell Inc. which uses photovoltaic energy and other green-build products in its construction projects; Solix BioFuels which develops algae-based biofuels; a publishing company in Boulder with its Green Magazine; Four Corners Osprey Packs that is introducing a pack made primarily from recycled materials; and Polar Heat, Inc. which offers water conservation chemicals for cooling towers.

These companies will generate long-standing economic growth. The photovoltaic industry is projected to grow from $11.6 billion to $51.1 billion by 2015. Organic food sales are expected to rise 11 percent annually for the next four years. “With green business growing exponentially, investing in these innovative companies is sustainable business,” says Bruce Alexander, CEO of Vectra Bank Colorado.

Slightly better known as hairy Solomon's seal, Polygonatum pubescens makes its home in the woodlands of Staten Island, New York - and the Royal Botanical Garden in Kew, England is collecting seeds to put in a climate-controlled vessel. The project has received seeds from 100 countries and “every imaginable ecosystem,” writes The New York Times. It all goes into the Millennium Seed Bank. The headline on the story reads: “In Case of Apocalypse Later, a Plant to Ensure the Regreening of America.” Notes the article: What this means for posterity is that a hundred or a thousand years from now, should the bomb fall or the seas rise, the tellers at the Millennium Seed Bank in West Sussex, England, will be able to open the vault where the seeds are stored at minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit and 15 percent humidity, thaw out some Polygonatum pubescens, and start New York City all over again.

“We New Yorkers sometimes think we're not part of the planet,” says Adrian Benepe, the city parks commissioner. “The Seed Bank is probably the ultimate testimony to the fact that the natural areas of New York City are important, that these plants are worth preserving forever even though to the average New Yorker they may seem like a little inconsequential weed.”

“Cork stoppers that come from responsibly managed forestlands are the only choice for wineries that want to have a positive environmental impact,” says a spokesperson for Rainforest Alliance. Willamette Valley Vineyards has become the first winery in the world to use stoppers certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Use of cork protects the environment as wineries increasingly use plastic stoppers and aluminum screw caps. Cork is renewable and biodegradable, and not a single tree is cut down to harvest cork. The bark of the cork oak tree renews itself and can be stripped off every decade to extract cork without damaging the trees.

Cork oak landscapes cover about 2.7 million hectares of land in Portugal, Spain and France in the Iberian Peninsula which produces more than half the cork consumed worldwide. They are a “biodiversity hot spot,” providing income for tens of thousands.

Willamette Valley Vineyards produces 100,000 cases of principally Pinot Noir annually distributed throughout the U.S. Canada and Pacific Rim. Beginning in July 2007, the winery will use FSC-certified cork stoppers with certification seals. The stoppers will come from one of four FSC-certified forests, three of which are certified by the Rainforest Alliance.

In the foothills of the Rocky Mountains near Golden, Colorado, PureVision Technology is making lignin - a natural compound that helps provide strength in plants. In cellulosic ethanol processing lignin is burned for heat and steam for the process and is worth around $40/ton. PureVision has devised a way to make a different form of lignin - one with a molecular composition that could make it attractive for products like glues, sealants and detergents.
Ed Lehrburger, PureVision's founder, believes his lignin could sell for $300/ton or more, reports The New York Times. His company is collaborating with a wood and paper products manufacturer that would use the lignin for a bio-based glue. “Lignin will be one of the big drivers of the switch from oil-based to bio-based products,” predicts Lehrburger.
Meanwhile, Ronald Holser, at the USDA research center in Athens, Georgia, is growing laboratory prototypes for biodegradable weed barriers and sticky films that hold grass seeds on the ground long enough to germinate. They would be used for a by-product of biodiesel fuel called glycerol. That would help transform the biodiesel industry into a close resemblance of the petroleum industry where fuel is just one of many profitable products.

Organic farming can yield up to three times as much food on individual farms in developing countries as low-intensive methods on the same land, according to new findings at the University of Michigan. Researchers refute claims that organic agriculture cannot produce enough food to feed global populations. According to Michigan researchers, yields were almost equal in developed countries on organic and conventional farms. In developing countries, food production could double or triple using organic methods, explains Ivette Perfecto, professor of the University School of Natural Resources and Environment, and one of the study's principal investigators. “My hope is that we can finally put a nail in the coffin of the idea that you can't produce enough food through organic agriculture,” says Perfecto. In addition, the authors found that yields could be accomplished using existing quantities of organic fertilizers - without putting more farmland into production.

According to the Building Materials Reuse Association, firms combining deconstruction with a reuse store employ on average more full-time employees (FTE) than those with a reuse store only. Firms that conduct reclaimed wood value adding product manufacturing reported an average of l5 employees per firm. Firms combining deconstruction and a reuse store reported greater average annual revenues - about 12 percent higher per firm. Recent revenue growth by firms with combined deconstruction and reuse sales averaged 56 percent per year, while growth with reuse retail sales only averaged 32 percent.

At an ecofestival on the East River in Manhattan this summer, an aqua-blue sign spelled out: “Sign up for clean energy and drink free beer.” Those who signed up for electricity from Community Energy, which owns three wind farms in New York and Pennsylvania, received tickets for pints of free beer made by Brooklyn Lager. “It's a fun, easy incentive to switch to clean energy,” Chris Neidl of Solar One told a New York Times reporter. “And it chips away at the holier-than-thou reputation of the environmental movement.” All power for the festival came from solar panels and a biodiesel generator. And the beer was served in compostable cups!

The California Energy Commission (CEC) announced the launch of the Western Renewable Energy Generation Information System (WREGIS), a renewable energy registry and tracking system for electricity generation. The system is the largest of its kind in the world in terms of coverage and includes the western United States, western Canada, and a small portion of Mexico. It will be used to meet renewable portfolio standard requirements and other renewable energy policies for states and provinces within the Western Interconnection transmission area, which covers Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming; the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta; and the northern portion of Baja California in Mexico.

The voluntary WREGIS system was developed in response to policies set by the California legislature and the Western Governors' Association (WGA). WREGIS will track the renewable generation to help ensure the credibility of the “green” value of renewable electricity, states a CEC press release. “Using independent, verifiable and reliable data, the system will make it easier to implement renewable policies and achieve renewable energy goals.” Data in WREGIS includes megawatt-hours produced, fuel source, facility location, and all state, provincial and voluntary renewable energy program qualifications. One WREGIS certificate is issued for each megawatt-hour of renewable energy produced and deposited on the grid. To prevent double counting, each WREGIS certificate has its own unique serial number.

WREGIS will help WGA track its progress on a goal set in 2004 to develop an additional 30,000 megawatts of “clean” energy by 2015, drawing on both traditional and renewable resources. According to a progress report released in June, the Western states are well on their way to that goal, with more than 4,000 megawatts of new renewable generation added in 2005 and 2006 and 3,432 megawatts of new renewable generation projected for 2007. Wind power provided about 93 percent of that new renewable capacity, but the numbers also include 164 megawatts of new geothermal capacity, 92 megawatts of biomass power, 216 megawatts of grid-connected solar photovoltaic power, and 65 megawatts of central station solar power.

The Spring 2007 issue of Terrain has an article by Lisa Owens Viani about potential problems in earthworm tissues. Scientists have known that PPCPs - the Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products that make their way into wastewater - are not completely removed by sewage treatment plants. They also began examining whether the “pharma residue” might be present in biosolids. A U.S. Geological Survey team found that a mixture of household disinfectants, synthetics, etc. often are present in high concentrations. They then decided to collect earthworms from farm fields in the Midwest and western U.S. Notes Ed Furlong of the U.S. Geological Survey: “Earthworms aren't migratory - they're in the soil and reflect what's happening locally. We thought that if these compounds persist in the soil, the earthworm would be a good candidate to study.”

Researchers detected 31 compounds, among them household disinfectant, caffeine and Prozac in the worms' tissues in concentrations ranging from 100s to 1000s of micrograms per kilogram (parts per billion). Furlong considers these concentrations very low, but does think they need more research. “We're still coming up with questions,” he says. “This is a way for people to recognize that their choices in what they use and what we as a society reflect in the waste stream - and end up in the watershed.”

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