NEWS & INFORMATION

Wis. Focus on Energy accepting proposals to fund energy efficiency projects

The Wisconsin Focus on Energy program is currently accepting proposals to fund energy efficient agricultural projects through the Agriculture and Rural Business Program.

Participants can propose projects for up to $100,000 for an individual measure or up to $250,000 per project (multiple measures).
 
Grants will be awarded to agri-businesses for:

Innovative projects

New technologies

Complex projects


For complete guidelines and eligibility requirements, call Focus on Energy at 800.762.7077 or visit http://focusonenergy.com/rfp

Here, you can click on the heading: Agriculture and Rural Business Bidding Program
 
Maximum funds per applicant are $250,000 and maximum funds per energy efficiency measure are $100,000.

These funds may be leveraged with other state and federal grant dollars outside of the Focus on Energy Program, such as USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and others. Some limitations apply.


Better compatibility
in ag machinery electronics
is industry goal

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) is sponsoring a “Plugfest” at the Nebraska Tractor Test Lab on the Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln's East Campus, May 19-20.

The Nebraska Tractor Test Lab is in the process of becoming the North American certification facility for ISOBUS standards.

The event is not usually open to the public, but an informal special briefing for the media is scheduled for 11:00 am, Tuesday, May 19.

The event will feature engineers from a variety of agricultural equipment companies with some of their ISOBUS electronic terminals and controls.

The event is called a Plugfest because the engineers experiment by plugging their equipment into other companies’ equipment to make sure they’re compatible; the goal is to fine-tune the industry standard that assures different companies’ devices work together.

The ISOBUS is the common term for the international standard ISO 11783, which deals with communication interfaces on tractors and other ag equipment.

Manufacturers agreed to implement this standard in 2001 to assure their products would “communicate” with each other, eliminating the need for separate controls, terminals and displays.

Under ISOBUS, tractors may ultimately have one monitor instead of multiple devices to control sprayers, spreaders and other implements.

Plugfest is part of AEM’s efforts to promote wider global acceptance and use of this ISOBUS standard.

As an example, last year AEM entered into a cooperative agreement with the German Engineering Federation (VDMA) to form the international Agricultural industry Electronics Foundation (AEF).

The foundation is a manufacturer-led effort to advance global adoption of ISOBUS and electronics standards.

An industry wide, global approach for integration of complex electronic systems and software will improve machine functionality and efficiencies, for the benefit of agricultural equipment customers.


VeraSun Energy Closes
on Sale of Assets with
Valero Renewable Fuels

Texas-based refiner buys five facilities and development site

Sioux Falls, S.D. –– VeraSun Energy Corp. announced on April 1, 2009 that it closed on the sale of assets to Valero Renewable Fuels that included five ethanol production facilities and a development site.

The sale closed at 12:01 a.m. (CDT), on April 1, 2009. The facilities are located in Aurora, S.D.; Fort Dodge, Charles City, and Hartley, Iowa; and Welcome, Minn., and the development site is in Reynolds, Ind.

VeraSun Energy selected Valero Renewable Fuels as the successful bidder for seven of its ethanol production facilities and the development site on March 17, 2009 as part of an auction sale process.

Valero Renewable Fuels is a subsidiary of Valero Energy Corporation, North America’s largest petroleum refiner and marketer based in San Antonio, Texas.

Valero purchased the ethanol production facilities in Aurora, Fort Dodge, Charles City, Hartley and Welcome, in addition to the Reynolds site, for $350 million. This group of assets was part of a “stalking horse” bid submitted by Valero in early February.

Valero also successfully bid $72 million for the Albert City facility and $55 million for the Albion facility.

The purchase price also includes working capital and other certain adjustments. Closing on the Albert City and Albion facilities is expected in the coming weeks.

VeraSun also expects to close on the sale of its remaining facilities in the next several weeks.


Note: It was late Oct. 2008 when VeraSun Energy Corp. had filed for relief under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware to enhance liquidity while they reorganize.

For the full news release, go to:
VeraSun Chapter 11

For more information, please visit VeraSun Energy’s website at www.verasun.com.



Renewable Energy Grants

Madison, Wis. –– In March 2008, the Wisconsin Focus on Energy program awarded $500,000 in grants for renewable energy projects to help dairy farms become more energy independent by using anaerobic digestion.

Read more. . .



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Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) funding
boosted by U.S. Senate Appropriations Committeee

On July 7, 2009, the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations voted to boost funding for farm energy programs that will create more clean energy and new income for rural Americans.

The committee voted to increase fiscal year 2010 funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) from $60 million to $128 million. The REAP program helps farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses build their own clean energy projects.

REAP provides grant and loan guarantee assistance for a broad range of clean energy technologies including biomass, manure digesters, wind and solar power, and energy efficiency.

Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl, Chair of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, was a key supporter of the funding increase.

"Our nation faces historic challenges for our economy, our environment and our energy security," Kohl said. "Farmers in Wisconsin and across the nation have much at stake and want to be part of the solution. These funds will help lead the way toward greener energy independence."

The committee also voted to increase funding for the Biorefinery Assistance program, by $17 million. Biorefinery Assistance spurs development of next generation biofuels projects, such as cellulosic ethanol. Through this program, the USDA is the only federal agency to issue loan guarantees for cellulosic ethanol to date.

The vote was a victory for the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC), which works closely with agricultural and environmental groups to build broad support for farm energy programs and funding.

"We applaud the Senators' action; these energy programs help farmers and spur rural economic development, while helping America tackle global warming challenges," said Andy Olsen, Senior Policy Advocate with ELPC.

The Appropriations Committee's action yesterday matches President Obama's budget recommendations for these two programs. Next, the Senate will need to approve the Committee's decisions, and then reconcile the levels with the House appropriations.

For more information, go to: REAPS


USDA now accepting energy audit applications
from eligible producers and businesses

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2009 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the department is accepting funding applications from eligible entities for grants to conduct energy audits under the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).

"For the first time ever, USDA will make grant funding available this year through the Rural Energy for America Program to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses obtain audits to identify ways to improve energy efficiency," Vilsack said.

"The assistance provided by this program is in keeping with President Obama's energy conservation goals for our nation." The program is authorized in Section 9007 of the 2008 Farm Bill.

The audits are intended to help rural small businesses and agricultural producers determine where to make changes in their operations to enable them to reduce energy consumption.

Audits are required for energy efficiency projects funded through REAP that exceed $50,000. States, tribal and local governments, land grant colleges or universities, other institutions of higher learning, and electric cooperatives and public power entities are eligible to receive funds to conduct the audits. Parties seeking audits from the grantees must pay 25 percent of audit costs.

Applications for grants must be completed and submitted on paper or electronically no later than June 9. For further details about eligibility rules and application procedures, see page 10533 of the March 11 Federal Register, http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/.

SDA Rural Development intends to publish and seek public comment on a proposed regulation for the REAP program later this year.

USDA Rural Development's mission is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for rural residents. Rural Development fosters growth in homeownership, finances business development, and supports the creation of critical community and technology infrastructure.

Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA Rural Development's web site at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov.


International Renewable Energy Agency
founded in Germany

75 Nations Sign as Members in Historic Meeting

January 26, 2009 – Bonn, Germany:  The American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) attended the founding meeting of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) today in a ceremony attended by over 100 countries in the Bundestag in Bonn, Germany, leading to the signing of a compact by 75 nations.

“This is a meeting of historic importance, as 75 nations of the world have come together to make a formal commitment to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy,” said John Geesman, Co-chairman of ACORE’s Board of Directors.

Sigmar Gabriel, Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety opened the conference by saying: “It is time to launch a new and strong voice for renewable energy.  It will be an international platform for cooperation and collaborative efforts between nations.”

IRENA was formed on a proposal presented in 1990 by German renewable energy leader Hermann Scheer, who said today: “From this day forward, the world’s nations will have a mechanism for working together on the adoption of renewable energies.  The debate about whether to adopt renewable energies is over.  IRENA is now in place.  The question is now how quickly we can assure a sustainable future.”

Andris Piebalgs, Energy Commissioner for the European Commission, noted the challenge of scaling up renewable energy to meet European goals for 20% renewables, and closed by saying: “only renewable energy sources can provide for sustainable prosperity for all mankind.”

The former head of renewable energy in the European Commission, Wolfgang Palz, said in an interview: “the founding of IRENA has been a long time coming, and renewable energy has had to win out against 20 years of fierce opposition by conventional energy forces,” he said.

“It has been a struggle worth winning. Yet the real work lies ahead.  We must scale up the use of renewable energies.  This will require commitments, cooperation between nations, and learning from each other.”

The founding document was signed by 75 countries, each of which spoke or made statements in the meeting. The United States was represented by an observer from the U.S. State Department Embassy in Berlin.

The American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) also attended as an invited observer.

“We are hopeful and confident that the United States will reverse the decision of the Bush Administration not to join IRENA, and return the U.S. to world leadership on renewable energy, a matter that is a priority of the new Administration in Washington,” said Mr. Geesman.  “We urge Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to take this is up as a matter of symbolic urgency that aligns the U.S. with the rest of the world.”

Mr. Scheer sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the day before the founding meeting, thanking her for her leadership on renewable energy and expressing his hope that the U.S. will join IRENA.

ACORE has pledged its collaboration as a non-government organization with IRENA, and is urging official U.S. membership. 

“We have a new basis for leadership,” said Michael Eckhart, ACORE President.  President Obama has called for a doubling of alternative energy production in three years.   ACORE has announced support for the goal by establishing the DREAM (“Doubling Renewable Energy in America”) initiative.

The first review of DREAM Action Plans will take place at the RETECH 2009 conference and exhibition at the Las Vegas Convention Center, February 25-27, 2009.

Editor's note: Go to CONFERENCES page in this web site to find more information about RETECH 2009.

About IRENA

IRENA is an international governmental organization.  Its aim is to build a broad-based membership of large and small, industrialized and developing countries. The agency is to consist of three main organs: the Assembly, the Council and the Secretariat.

The Assembly is the supreme organ of IRENA and will be composed of all member countries.  Observer status may be granted to inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations active in the field of renewable energy sources. www.irena.org.



U.S. Department of Agriculture invites applications
for advanced biorefinery guaranteed loans

USDA seeks public input on rulemaking
to implement the Biorefinery Assistance Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. November 19, 2008 –– Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said today that applications are being accepted for loan guarantees under the Biorefinery Assistance Program (Section 9003), authorized by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, ("the farm bill").

The Biorefinery Assistance Program is designed to promote the development of new and emerging technologies for the production of advanced biofuels.

The Biorefinery Assistance Program provides loan guarantees for the development, construction and retrofitting of viable commercial-scale biorefineries producing advanced biofuels.

The maximum loan guarantee is $250 million per project subject to the availability of funds. Preference will be given to projects where first-of-a-kind technology will be deployed on a commercial scale. Advanced biofuels are defined as fuels that do not rely on corn kernel starch as the feedstock.

For example, research has shown that cellulosic ethanol production -- a key next generation biofuel -- may be produced from switch grass, corn stover, forest waste, fast-growing trees, woodchips, canola, algae and other plant material rather than from the edible part of crops such as corn.

These energy crops require further research and development but they represent a key long-term component to a sustainable biofuels industry.

To be considered for funding in the first half of Fiscal Year 2009, applications must be completed and submitted no later than December 31, 2008, to:

USDA Rural Development National Office
Energy Branch
Attention: Biorefinery Assistance Program
1400 Independence Avenue, SW, STOP 3225
Washington, D.C. 20250-3225

To be considered for funding in the second half of Fiscal Year 2009, complete applications must be submitted to the USDA Rural Development National Office between March 1, 2009, and April 30, 2009.

For further details about eligibility rules and application procedures, please see the November 20, 2008 Federal Register.

The program will create energy related jobs in rural America and encourage economic development, along with promoting resource conservation and diversifying markets for agricultural and forestry products, including agricultural waste materials.

In addition to the announcement of program funds for this year, a notice is being published to invite comments on how to administer the program in future years.

USDA Rural Development's mission is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for rural residents. Rural Development has invested more than $111 billion since 2001 for equity and technical assistance to finance and foster growth in homeownership, business development, and critical community and technology infrastructure.

More than two million jobs have been created or saved through these investments. Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA Rural Development's web site at: http://www.rurdev.usda.gov.


Wind farms generate power, revenue,
say MU Extension specialists

ROCK PORT, Mo. - The landscape in northwest Missouri is changing. Scattered across three counties, 75 turbines spin to harvest the wind.

University of Missouri Extension specialists say that there are excellent opportunities for sustainable wind power in northwest Missouri. Four wind turbines supply all the electricity for the small town of Rock Port in Atchison County. The city of just over 1,300 residents is the first in the United States to operate solely on wind power.

"That's something to be very proud of, especially in a rural area like this-that we're doing our part for the environment," said Jim Crawford, University of Missouri Extension natural resource engineer. "Anybody who is currently drawing their utility through Rock Port utilities can expect really no rate increase for the next 15 to 20 years.

Four wind turbines supply all the electricity for the small town of Rock Port in Atchison County.The city of 1,300 is the first in the United States to operate solely on wind power.
Photo: Steve Morse

There are currently 24 wind turbines in Atchison County, 24 in Nodaway County and 27 in Gentry County. MU Extension specialists say the wind farms will bring in more than $1.1 million annually in county real estate taxes, to be paid by Wind Capital Group, a wind energy developer based in St. Louis.



"This is a unique situation because in rural areas it is quite uncommon to have this increase in taxation revenues," said Jerry Baker, MU Extension community development specialist.

The alternative-energy source also benefits landowners, who can make anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 leasing part of their property for wind turbines.

Other wind energy companies are looking at possible sites in northwest Missouri, Baker said.

A map published by the U.S. Department of Energy indicates that northwest Missouri has the state's highest concentration of wind resources and contains a number of locations potentially suitable for utility-scale wind development.

"We're farming the wind, which is something that we have up here," Crawford said. "The payback on a per-acre basis is generally quite good when compared to a lot of other crops, and it's as simple as getting a cup of coffee and watching the blades spin."

"It's a savings for the community in general, savings for the rural electric companies, and it does provide electricity service over at least a 20-year time period, which is the anticipated life of these turbines," Baker said.

Baker said the wind turbines attract visitors from all over, adding tourism revenue to the list of benefits.


How New Auto Fuels Will Affect Air Quality
in an Era of Climate Change

UC DAVIS –– As millions of cars and trucks hit the road using fuels other than gasoline, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is funding a $900,000 research project at UC Davis to learn precisely what emissions those alternative-fuel vehicles produce and how climate change might affect those emissions.

The research is urgently needed to improve forecasts of how climate change will affect air quality in California, said Michael Kleeman, who is the project's lead researcher and a UC Davis professor of civil and environmental engineering.

"We know from past studies that motor vehicles are a major source of airborne particles in California and across the United States, and higher concentrations of airborne particles are associated with higher death rates. So public agencies are already working to reduce vehicle emissions to protect public health," Kleeman said.

"Now comes climate change, with shifts in patterns of air temperature and humidity levels. Those shifts will affect the particle emissions from cars and trucks and how those particles age in the atmosphere. So the net effect of climate change on vehicle emissions in the coming decades has major public health implications in California."

Wayne Nastri, the EPA's regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest, added: "Given our complex air quality challenges, we must take an integrated approach to environmental protection using new technologies, cost-effective approaches that improve energy efficiency and cleaner fuels."

Kleeman will collaborate on the four-year study with Shuhua Chen, an associate professor of atmospheric science at UC Davis with extensive experience in regional climate models, and James Schauer, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who is a leading expert in the analysis of airborne-particle chemical composition.

The researchers will take hundreds of air samples from exhaust pipes of alternative-fuel vehicles and analyze the size and chemical composition of the exhaust particles under a range of temperature and humidity conditions.

The vehicles they will sample include:

E-85 cars and light-duty trucks, also called flex-fuel or ethanol-blend vehicles;
Gasoline-electric hybrid cars, such as the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic;
Plug-in hybrid electric cars; and Heavy-duty trucks powered by biodiesel.

Based on past studies, Kleeman and Schauer expect that each exhaust particle will consist mostly of carbonaceous compounds produced when fuel and oil are burned in the engine. One of the goals of the current project is to better understand exactly which compounds are emitted under various temperature and humidity conditions.

This information will be incorporated into state-of-the-science air-pollution and regional-climate models running on hundreds of computers at UC Davis. The researchers will use the improved input data in their models to better predict how future transportation exhaust particles will age in a warmer atmosphere and what this might mean for public health.

In a related project also funded by the U.S. EPA, Kleeman and co-workers will assess how the rise in zero-emission vehicles, such as all-electric vehicles and fuel-cell hybrid vehicles (which run on hydrogen), will affect future air quality in California.

Even though these vehicles have no tailpipe emissions, there may be emissions produced when their electric or hydrogen fuels are manufactured.

About U.S. EPA's Region 9 Air Program

The U.S. EPA's Transportation and Air Quality program protects public health and the environment by regulating air pollution from motor vehicles, engines and the fuels used to operate them, and by encouraging travel choices that minimize emissions.

U.S. EPA's Region 9 Air Program guides the federal management, implementation, enforcement and technical oversight of air quality in California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, the Pacific Islands, and Tribal Nations.



About UC Davis

The University of California is one of the world's foremost research and teaching institutions, and UC Davis, which celebrates its centennial this upcoming academic year, is the UC's flagship campus for environmental studies.

UC Davis is a global leader in environmental studies relating to air and water pollution; water and land use; agricultural practices; endangered species management; invasive plants and animals; climate change; resource economics; information technology; and human society and culture. One in six of UC Davis' 1,500 faculty members specializes in an environment-related subject.