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Sheffield dairy farm rakes in the cheddar from selling power generated from cows' methane

The Berkshire Eagle | Posted on July 19, 2017

The Aragi family's dairy farm — the largest in the state — is special because it still exists and it isn't losing money.
Pine Island Farm is actually making money, not just by selling milk, but by selling power it generates from methane thrown off by cow manure. Nary a penny lands on the farm's electric bill, and the Aragis' sell the excess power to some local off-takers — like Ward's Nursery — at a discount through a state program called net metering.
It is for this reason and more that Pine Island, with its roughly 1,500-plus acres of pasture, corn and hay fields for cow feed — was just awarded Outstanding Dairy Farm of the Year in Massachusetts by the Green Pastures Program at UMassAmherst. Holly Aragi, sitting in the farmhouse kitchen, never mentioned the award, but talked about the hard work of grant-writing and wading through a bureaucratic swamp to get $405,000 from the state Department of Energy Resources to upgrade National Grid's Sheffield substation, and to do line upgrades that will allow for a second generator to run the anaerobic methane digester that turns cow manure and food waste into electricity. And food waste also goes into it to help the digestion along. Excess grains and other food from local producers like Guido's Fresh Marketplace and Berkshire Mountain Distillers is fed into the digester. And even Stonybrook Farms in Vermont sends its excess whey here.
The digester separates the liquids and solids, and out comes liquid to fertilize the fields and solids to bed some of the farm's 1,500 cows, of which about 564 are milked. The farm sells milk through the Dairy Farmers of America cooperative.The cow bedding is critical, Holly said. If the generator, which runs 24/7, shuts down for maintenance or other reasons, trouble can stack up across the farm.

Harry Reid, Nevada governor push bipartisan energy effort

Pennslvania State University | Posted on July 14, 2017

Two key players in the Republican and Democratic parties in Nevada are teaming up to host a clean-energy talk as the White House abandons a worldwide agreement to curb climate change and states are moving to the forefront of the fight.  Former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday that he's bringing back a summit last headlined by President Barack Obama in 2015. This time, the co-host is a Republican — Gov. Brian Sandoval — a bipartisan move as Congress remains gridlocked on health care and other issues.However, Sandoval is no newcomer to clean energy efforts or breaking with his own party. He ushered in a world-renowned rechargeable battery factory and supported expanded access to solar, wind and geothermal energy throughout his six years in the governor's office.

Energy Department to industry: Here’s $8M, now (puleez!) innovate down the cost of algae

Biofuels Digest | Posted on July 13, 2017

In Washington, the U.S. Department of Energy, through the Bioenergy Technologies Office, announced the selection of three projects to receive up to $8 million, aimed at reducing the costs of producing algal biofuels and bioproducts. These projects will deliver high-impact tools and techniques for increasing the productivity of algae organisms and cultures. They will also deliver biology-focused breakthroughs while enabling accelerated future innovations through data sharing within the research and development community. This funding supports the development of a bioeconomy that can help create jobs, spur innovation, improve quality of life, and achieve national energy security.Algal biomass can be converted to advanced biofuels that offer promising alternatives to petroleum-based diesel and jet fuels.  Additionally, algae can be used to make a range of other valuable bioproducts, such as industrial chemicals, bio-based polymers, and proteins. However, barriers related to algae cultivation, harvesting, and conversion to fuels and products need to be overcome to achieve the Department’s target of $3 per gge for advanced algal biofuels by 2030.

Close call for Illinois solar program funding

PV magazine | Posted on July 13, 2017

The Land of Lincoln drama over operating for over two years without a budget ended on July 6, with legislative approval over a gubernatorial veto. Among the many programs threatened in Illinois were the solar programs in the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA, also known as SB 2814), which was signed into law last December and technically took effect on June 1.  While the funding under FEJA was immune from being raided or “swept” for general revenue purposes (a popular Illinois political pastime), funding critical to the start up of FEJA programs, such as Illinois Solar For All, was not. But, buttressed by bipartisan political support and a near unanimous legislative resolution, the Renewable Energy Resource Fund (RERF) was protected and FEJA solar program development will continue.

U.S. officials say Russian government hackers have penetrated energy and nuclear company business networks

The Washington Post | Posted on July 13, 2017

Russian government hackers were behind recent cyber-intrusions into the business systems of U.S. nuclear power and other energy companies in what appears to be an effort to assess their networks, according to U.S. government officials.  The U.S. officials said there is no evidence the hackers breached or disrupted the core systems controlling operations at the plants, so the public was not at risk. Rather, they said, the hackers broke into systems dealing with business and administrative tasks, such as personnel.At the end of June, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security sent a joint alert to the energy sector stating that “advanced, persistent threat actors” — a euphemism for sophisticated foreign hackers — were stealing network log-in and password information to gain a foothold in company networks. The agencies did not name Russia.The campaign marks the first time Russian government hackers are known to have wormed their way into the networks of American nuclear power companies, several U.S. and industry officials said. And the penetration could be a sign that Russia is seeking to lay the groundwork for more damaging hacks.

A Startup Wants Homeowners to Design Their Own Solar Systems

Green Tech Media | Posted on July 12, 2017

Lennie Moreno believes customer empowerment is key to unlocking the next phase of growth in residential solar, which is why he created Draw My Roof.  “I strongly believe the companies...that will win over the market in the long term will succeed because customers have full transparency,” said Moreno, CEO of the emerging solar software company Sofdesk and a former solar installer. “Once you provide full transparency and give tools to the end user, that’s when you’re building a long-term business model.”Draw My Roof is a new online platform that allows potential solar customers to design their own home solar installation, based on their own roof, and get an accurate sense of system size, cost and projected savings. With that information in hand, the customer can decide whether or not they want to take the next step and speak to a set of approved solar installers. Professionals will conduct their own site review with an enhanced set of tools -- the kind Sofdesk built its core business on -- knowing they’re already working with an engaged customer.

EEOC seeks sanctions in JBS USA discrimination case

Meat + Poultry | Posted on July 10, 2017

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a motion to impose sanctions against JBS USA, a unit of São Paulo, Brazil-based JBS SA, for losing or destroying evidence in a religious discrimination and retaliation case. In a statement, JBS USA denied any wrongdoing. “The company is confident that no documents relevant to the case have been lost or destroyed,” a spokesperson for the company said, “and its lawyers will be responding to the EEOC’s motion.”In the original lawsuit, which was filed in 2010, the EEOC claims JBS refused to allow Somali Muslim employees to pray according to their religious beliefs. The lawsuit also claims that the company retaliated against Muslim employees by disciplining them or firing them when they requested their evening break be moved so that they could break their fast and pray closer to sundown during Ramadan in 2008. Ramadan is a holy month in the Islamic faith which requires daytime fasting.Now, the agency is alleging that JBS USA lost or destroyed documents relevant to the long-running litigation.

EPA Sets 2018 Ethanol Volumes at Statutory Maximum

National Chicken Council | Posted on July 8, 2017

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday proposed once again to keep the mandated volume for conventional ethanol use for 2018 at the statutory maximum of 15 billion gallons. In proposing this level, EPA has breached the 10-percent blend wall and will continue to subsidize the over production of ethanol, far in excess of the statutory maximum, which will divert corn from America’s food and feed use to foreign energy markets. In crafting the Renewable Fuel Standard, Congress set a cap on conventional ethanol at 15 billion gallons to prevent ethanol production from artificially diverting too great a volume of corn from feed, food, and seed use to energy.  At the time Congress set this cap, ethanol exports were not envisioned. However, last year ethanol exports exceeded one billion gallons, diverting more corn away from domestic feed and food markets to foreign energy markets. “Ethanol exports add nothing to U.S. energy security and the RFS is not being administered in keeping with congressional intent,” said National Chicken Council President Mike Brown. “The RFS bureaucracy has taken on a life of its own and it is time for Congress to stop this runaway train. American chicken producers are only one drought, flood or freeze away from another crisis, while the ethanol industry is protected by federal mandates. The RFS has cost our members $60 billion more in feed costs since it was implemented. The RFS is broken. It is time for Congress to reform it.”

Iowa farmers and politicians 'disappointed' in EPA biofuel standard volume

KWQC | Posted on July 6, 2017

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today the proposed Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO) for the 2018 conventional biofuels requirement at 15 billion gallons under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).The EPA lowered the amount of biofuel that must be used in the U.S. next year. It's the first ever reduction in volumes under the program. The EPA’s proposal would cut the “advanced biofuels” category from 4.28 billion gallons required in 2018 to 4.24 billion gallons, an important category that biodiesel helps fill.Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds (R) released a statement saying, “I am disappointed biodiesel levels are not higher, but Iowa will continue working with the administration to increase marketplace opportunities for biodiesel." Governor Reynolds went on to say, “I am grateful this administration works for and with our state rather than against it.”Republican Senators Ernst and Grassley called the decision a 'mixed bag.' Senator Ernst saying, “While I am pleased the new administration has set the proposed volume requirements for conventional ethanol for 2018 at congressionally approved levels, I am disappointed that the 2019 biodiesel number was held constant, and would like to see it more accurately reflect current domestic usage and production capacity.

G20 public finance for fossil fuels 'is four times more than renewables'

The Guardian | Posted on July 6, 2017

The G20 nations provide four times more public financing to fossil fuels than to renewable energy, a report has revealed ahead of their summit in Hamburg, where Angela Merkel has said climate change will be at the heart of the agenda. The authors of the report accuse the G20 of “talking out of both sides of their mouths” and the summit faces the challenge of a sceptical US administration after Donald Trump pulled out of the global Paris agreement. The public finance comes in the form of soft loans and guarantees from governments, and, along with huge fossil fuel subsidies, makes coal, oil and gas plants cheaper and locks in carbon emissions for decades to come. But scientists calculate that to keep global warming below 2C, most fossil fuel reserves must be kept in the ground, requiring a major shift of investment to clean energy.