Tag Archives: technology

BCSE Technology Brief: States Take the Lead on Renewable Natural Gas

The policy landscape is changing for renewable natural gas, and market opportunities for the domestic, renewable, clean fuel and energy source are expanding as well. Under the leadership of one of BCSE’s partner organizations, the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas, states are advancing policies that promote the use of renewable natural gas (RNG). These policies are needed to create market certainty, which is necessary to drive greater development, deployment and utilization of RNG.

Thirty-seven states and DC have Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) programs, which can be met in part by producing renewable electricity from RNG. Many states and regions are also adopting policies that facilitate the use of RNG for transportation fuel. The Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) is the California regulation that requires a 10% reduction in transportation fuel carbon intensity by 2020. Governors of CT, DE, ME, MD, MA, NH, NJ, NY, PN, RI, and VT signed a 2009 memorandum of understanding committing to develop a regional low carbon fuel standard. Many states are considering new policies to create new markets for RNG, such as California’s Senate Bill 1440, which would establish a biomethane procurement goal for gas corporations.

As the policy landscape continues to evolve, states and the federal government should continue to support policies that promote the use of renewable natural gas, and result in longer term market certainty for this renewable energy and ultra low-carbon fuel.

RNG has many applications that make it a valuable and flexible resource. It can be blended with or substitute for conventional natural gas in vehicles as well as in commercial, industrial and residential end-use applications. RNG can be used to power your home or business’ natural gas appliances. It can also be converted to Compressed Natural Gas (R-CNG) or Liquefied Natural Gas (R-LNG) to fuel natural gas vehicles; many cities have transitioned their diesel bus fleets to natural gas engines fueled by renewable natural gas.

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is a federal program administered by the US Environmental Protection Agency requiring transportation fuel sold in the United States to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuel. Renewable Natural Gas meets the highest standards of RFS2 for lifecycle GHG emissions reduction, and currently comprises greater than 95% of all the cellulosic biofuel under the RFS program.

Many are familiar with natural gas, and with renewable resources, but what exactly is renewable natural gas?

Renewable Natural Gas (RNG, Biomethane) is an ultra-low carbon alternative to traditional natural gas. When organic waste breaks down naturally, it emits methane gas, also called biogas, a mixture of carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons. Renewable natural gas is biogas that has been upgraded to transportation fuel grade specifications or natural gas pipeline quality standards such that it may blend with, or substitute for, geologic natural gas. Large amounts of biogas (the raw, freshly emitted and untreated gas) can be collected at local landfills, wastewater treatment plants, commercial food waste facilities and agricultural digesters (dairies, etc.).

For more information on RNG, please see the RNG Coalition website at www.rngcoalition.com

 

Tech firms like Google, Amazon push power companies toward solar and wind, a blow to coal (April 22, 2018)

Tech firms like Google, Amazon push power companies toward solar and wind, a blow to coal

By: Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY
Published April 22, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO — Every time you save a photo to the cloud, buy something on Amazon, open a Google doc or stream a movie, you’re probably pulling electricity from a wind turbine in Texas or a solar farm in Virginia.
In fact, your clicks and taps may have helped build them.

Since 2008, renewable energy has gone from 9% to 18% of the U.S. energy mix, according to the Business Council for Sustainable Energy. A big part of that shift stems from tech companies’ rapid buildout of cloud storage centers and a move to burnish their public image by vowing they’ll run these centers on sources like wind and solar.

Rather than lose these deep-pocketed customers, the nation’s power companies are changing policies and crafting deals that meet increased demands for renewable energy, in some cases shifting away from traditional electricity supplies like coal and natural gas. Even in coal mining states like West Virginia.

“We have the ability to shape the market,” said Michael Terrell, head of Google Energy Policy. “If you build it, we will come.”
Last year, the top four corporate users of renewable energy in the world were Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Google announced this month that as of 2017, all its facilities and data centers were running on 100% renewable electricity.

Coal declining

A practice of insisting power companies offer wind- and solar-sourced power supplies is spreading to other sectors — Walmart, GM and Budweiser all have goals to run more of their global business off renewable energy.

This is bad news for the struggling coal industry. Coal producers have seen their share of U.S. power generation decrease since 2008, even as the Trump Administration has promised to roll back what it considers hostile environmental regulations.

The coal industry has said it now knows that at least the government is not going to discourage production, and it’s only got to deal with the marketplace.

The problem is that a growing portion of the marketplace is demanding green energy.

“There’s no federal or state law out there today that says you must do this, but there are boards of directors that say ‘We want to set a carbon footprint goal for our companies,'” said Appalachian Power President and COO Chris Beam.

In December, the Charleston, W.Va-based utility contracted with Bluff Point Wind Energy Center in Indiana to buy 120 megawatts of wind-generated electricity, green power it can now offer to companies that are making it a core requirement on where they’ll site their businesses, Beam said.

Today Appalachian Power generates 61% of its electricity by burning coal and 5% from wind and solar. By 2031, Beam says he hopes to get that mix to 51% coal and 25% wind and solar.

There’s also a trickle-down effect. Big tech companies are pushing their suppliers to go green. Apple, which said last month that 100% of the electricity it uses for its facilities and data centers comes from renewables, says nearly two dozen of its suppliers — such as manufacturers of batteries, keyboards and lenses — have also made a commitment to 100% renewable energy.

“The smart ones are seeing it as a competitive advantage,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives and former head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama Administration.
“They know they have an edge in competing for Apple’s business.”

Amazon, Microsoft in Virginia

The biggest energy companies are changing their policies to court big tech energy buyers, who can often promise 20-year contracts.

Three years ago, Amazon wanted to build a new data center in northern Virginia. Because of its commitment to 100% renewable energy, it required that center to be run on electricity generated by wind or solar.

Richmond, Va.-based Dominion Energy, the local utility, didn’t have any way for Amazon to source all its electricity from solar. So it created a special power purchase agreement that allowed the Seattle company to contract for 100% renewable electricity, something that wasn’t previously possible in Virginia.

“We thought about it, we understood their reasoning, we convinced ourselves that it was in our best interests to do it and we ended up signing,” said Greg Morgan, director of customer rates and regulations for Dominion.

Last month Microsoft announced it is contracting to buy electricity from a giant solar array in Virginia in what will be the largest ever corporate purchase of solar energy in the United States and will double the state’s solar capacity.

Other buyers are following. When it goes online in 2019, the solar array in Spotsylvania county, southwest of Washington D.C, will produce 500 megawatts of electricity, with Microsoft buying 315 megawatts. Customers are already lined up for the megawatts it won’t be using, said Microsoft. The deal will bring Microsoft’s total purchase of renewable energy globally up to 1.2 gigawatts.

A public shaming

The tech push towards renewable began in earnest in 2011, when Greenpeace released a report calling out data centers for being huge users of electricity created by non-renewable sources. It came at an opportune time. Going green fit tech’s corporate ethos. The companies were also flush with cash, making it easier for them to make choices that at least in the beginning were more expensive.

“Over the last few years, the tech companies have knowingly and willingly paid a premium for green power and they’ve been willing to do so because it advanced their self-stated goals,” said Dominion’s Morgan.

Data centers that store racks of iCloud and Google Photos servers use just 1.8% of the United States’ overall energy, according to Arman Shehabi, author of a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory 2016 report on data center energy usage.

But demand to source these from green energy has changed the mix.

Close to 50% of corporate investment in offsite renewable energy in the United States has been from tech companies, the highest of all market segments, said John Hoekstra, vice president at Schneider Electric, a Paris-based energy management and automation company.

Walmart, Budweiser

But other big corporate buyers of electricity have set similar goals. Walmart was one of the first Fortune 500 companies to make a commitment to going 100% renewable, in 2005, said Sam Kimmins at The Climate Group and head of RE100, which sets standards for companies making green energy commitments. Walmart recently said it gets 28% of its global electric needs from renewable energy and wants to hit 50% by 2025.

Last year Budweiser announced that it would be 100% powered by renewable energy by 2025. General Motors plans to get there by 2050.

It’s become such a movement that last year, U.S. corporations bought more renewable power than utilities did, said Timothy Fox, vice president at ClearView Energy Partners, an energy consulting company.

Today, corporate America is happy to throw its weight around, said Bryn Baker, the World Wildlife Fund’s deputy director of renewable energy. “Companies are coming in and saying, ‘If you want us to be here, you have to give us access to clean energy.’”

 

 

TechLink: Tap into Innovation from Defense Department Laboratories

April 16, 2018 │ Authors: Yvonne Rudman, Industry Liaison, TechLink and Lynn Abramson, President Clean Energy Business Network, an initiative of the BCSE.

Are you a clean energy business interested in learning more about energy innovations coming out of the Department of Defense? If so, you should know about a free resource called TechLink.

What is TechLink?

TechLink is the Department of Defense’s national partnership intermediary. Its mission is to help businesses large and small access new technologies developed in DoD laboratories. And with about 120 DoD labs conducting research, there’s plenty of business opportunity.

How does TechLink work with businesses?

TechLink primarily helps businesses license patented DoD technologies for development into new products and services for commercial markets. Available technologies are listed in its online database, searchable by keyword or filtered by category, e.g., energy, sensors, or medical. When a business or entrepreneur finds a technology, TechLink provides it with no-cost licensing assistance. TechLink’s staff are also experienced in helping businesses conduct mutually beneficial research with DoD laboratories. These partnerships are formed through Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs). TechLink does NOT help companies obtain DoD contracts or install projects at DoD facilities.

The best part, TechLink is funded by the DoD, meaning businesses don’t pay for its help:

  • Evaluate DoD inventions and submit license applications
  • Facilitate communications between DoD labs and companies leading to “win-win” license agreement
  • Partner with DoD labs for joint technology research and development
  • Gain access to unique, world-class DoD research facilities
  • Compete more effectively for DoD SBIR/STTR funding for new technology development

What technologies does TechLink address?

TechLink organizes the DoD’s available technologies into 10 areas: Energy, Materials, Sensors, Photonics, Software/Info Technology, Bio-Technology, Military Technology, Electronics, Communications and Environmental technologies.

For example, researchers at the Air Force’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate’s improved roll-to-roll manufacturing of perovskite thin-film solar cells technology is available to businesses for commercialization.

What is TechLink’s track record of success?

  • TechLink has facilitated 600 license agreements between DoD and companies nationwide, transferring over 1,000 DoD inventions to industry
  • TechLink has also brokered more than 1,270 technology transfer partnerships between companies and DoD labs or centers
  • Most DoD inventions have civilian and commercial applications: DoD technology licenses facilitated by TechLink have generated $1.6 billion in direct sales and $4.4 billion in total economic impact.

How can you learn more and get started?

1) If you are interested in licensing existing technologies:

First, read more about how to license technology from defense laboratories.

Search TechLink’s Technology Database and check the Technology Spotlight regularly for updates on available technologies and contact information for the related technology managers. Once you identify a technology of interest, reach out and the technology manager will help you assess suitability for your company needs, facilitate your connection with DoD, and walk you through the licensing process.

2) If you are interested in partnering with the DoD on R&D of your technology:

Read this brief overview of DOD Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs).  Then, research the TechLink Technology Database and list of DoD Research Laboratories to get a better sense of the types of innovations that may be of interest to the DoD. If you see a technology that is similar to your own, the associated laboratory may be interested in conducting research together. Contact a Technology Manager to find out more.

3) When you’re ready to reach out to TechLink:

Complete TechLink’s contact form, and the appropriate staff will get back to you about your interest. There’s also a Technology Manager listed on each technology, with phone number and email.

4) Other helpful resources:

Listen to this interview featuring Marti Elder, Senior Technology Manager at TechLink on Green Connections Radio for more information.

Before getting involved in licenses and patents, check out the CEBN’s recorded webinar, What Clean Tech Entrepreneurs Need to Know about Intellectual Property.

***

 

This post was originally published on the Clean Energy Business Network’s blog on March 30, 2018.

Developing Emerging Technologies in Clean Energy with the ‘Systems Thinker’ Method

…and how Systems Engineering will transform the clean energy movement.

At SolGreen we’re re-imagining and creating new systems in the form of products that give everyday people access to a clean energy experience. From the development of the first solar table to our current integration of software that changes the way first responders gather data during and after an emergency to save lives- our approach clean energy is that of a “systems thinker”.

As a CEO and technologist, this systems thinking approach is the foundation for how I see innovation in the clean energy space of the future- a future that serves the needs and desires of everyday people while accomplishing this sustainably and efficiently.

THE EVOLUTION OF SUSTAINABLE SYSTEMS TECHNOLOGY

Systems are all around us, and have been since the beginning of mankind. They have helped us hunt for food, travel the planet, go to the moon and live the lives we want to live. They also continue to perform the tasks that we either don’t want to do, don’t have the time to do, or simply can’t do efficiently. From computing a simple math problem in school, to the usage of GPS satellites that hover thousands of miles above the Earth’s surface and integrate with our phones software apps that navigate us to our destinations.

Today, we face an exciting and pivotal moment in history where our systems are quickly evolving to maintain and accommodate our ever-changing way of life. Sustainability and climate change are terms that people have seen debated on cable news outlets and read in countless news columns but rarely see how it can enhance their own lives. Just imagine if we moved the needle to center the conversation on how clean energy can positively affect our current systems and our way of life in a way people can see, use and understand.

Understanding the ‘systems thinking’ approach can change everyday life and make the communities we live in safer and more resilient.

CONCEPTION OF THE EVODIA SOLAR TABLE

On a sunny day in Phoenix, AZ I was writing on a laptop at a bookstore. The exterior space of the bookstore was well furnished with seating for leisure, although sunny outside, everyone sat inside on their laptops and cell phones charging to wall outlets, most wanted no parts of the outdoors because the outdoors lacked one everyday necessity they needed to stay power to charge laptops and cell phones.

Developing an emerging technology like the solar table is a complex process of (1) understanding both the problem and the simple solution, (2) planning and understanding the life cycle of your product and (3) how it will interact with the user and its environment.

In the end, the idea of a solar table went from a vision I had in a bookstore to the formation of a new company – SolGreen® Solutions – and the development of the first U.S. patented and commercialized outdoor solar table, called the Evodia Solar Table.

Evodia Solar Table (night) at Michigan State University.

The Evodia Solar Table provides people and communities with access to important everyday amenities that are typically enjoyed indoors. Outdoor spaces can now accommodate the needs of modern life with the help of clean technology. Fueled by solar power, GFE & USB device charging, Wi-Fi, streaming, LED lighting, comfortable seating and protective shade are all a part of experiencing the convenience of the Evodia Solar Table.

To date, the Evodia Solar Table has crossed the chasm of “great idea” and into a tangible, real life solution for universities, schools, government and commercial entities for access to clean power outdoors. Built around rigorous key safety requirements and manufacturing scalability the solar table has proven itself to be more than convenience but a necessity for the resiliency of our infrastructure.

In Fall 2017, our Evodia Solar Tables at Florida International University remained fully intact and operational after surviving the Category II Hurricane Irma that swept through the state. The hurricane aftermath left many areas without power on the campus, yet the solar tables gave power to students and first responders the next day. Allowing them to charge devices, contact family and connect to Wi-Fi. This event spurred interest from Puerto Rico, a place devastated by last years Hurricane Maria, who are now looking to utilize our solar tables for disaster relief, resilience and economic growth.

Evodia Solar Tables giving power to students after Hurricane Irma.

A NEW HOPE

In seeking to understand the big picture – the ‘systems thinker’ must be bold, brave, and provide epic-scale thinking to generate solutions that can positively affect the simplest yet biggest parts of our lives. Imagine solar tables in every city in the world. It can and will happen.

Through my 18 years as a systems engineer, now CEO of SolGreen®, I’ve come to understand that using ‘systems thinking’ to integrate clean technology with everyday amenities will change the way we shape the future of sustainability, give people access to clean, sustainable energy and further develop and enhance the end user experience.

These game changers are what I aim to write about in this blog series and why we must continue developing and supporting new emerging technologies that utilize renewable energy resources to benefit everyday people’s lives.

This blog post was originally published on the SolGreen Solutions website.