Renewable Energy Memo

October 5, 2009

Renewable Energy Around the Web: October 5, 2009

Our weekly compilation of renewable energy news and information around the Web.

Three Cheers for Asset-Backed Securities

We covered a modest proposal from our friends at Biofuels Digest to create a publicly-funded securitization vehicle for buying participations in renewable energy loan pools.  A publicly-funded vehicle would be nice to have but would probably take Congressional action.  In the mean time, a private securitization vehicle would also work if there were enough deep pocket sponsors to get it off the ground.

Biomass Mapping Application

With funding from the DOE and others, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has developed a biomass mapping application.  Users can select a location on the map, quantify the biomass resources available within a user-defined radius, and then estimate the total thermal energy or power that could be generated by recovering a specific portion of that biomass. While the tool is useful in refining the prospecting process of site identification, it should not replace the need for an on-site biomass evaluation, according to Anelia Milbrandt, NREL senior energy resources analyst.

The tool took about a year to develop, and was made available in August. Biomass resource data are based on an assessment performed by NREL in 2005, which was updated prior to the release of the application. Infrastructure and other pertinent data were provided by the EPA, USDA and other agencies.  The tool is available here

Bio-Char Legislation

A group of senators that includes Majority Leader Harry Reid have introduced a bill that would provide loan guarantees and other incentives for the removal of bio-char from publicly-owned lands. 

The Water Efficiency via Carbon Harvest and Restoration Act of 2009 (S.B. 1713) (introduced September 24, 2009) would establish U.S. Department of Interior and USDA loan guarantee programs to develop biochar demonstration projects, including mobile and fixed biochar production units.

The purpose of the act is restore the natural hydrology of Western landscapes by removing water-intensive plant species, reduce dangerous forest and rangeland fuel loads, develope technologies to convert undesirable invasive plant species to useful materials and to develop markets for those materials, and provide technologies to land managers to continue those processes into the future.

Future Biofuels Imbalance?

Some scientists are wondering whether our supply of biofuels (biodiesel and ethanol) will outstrip demand with some researchers speculating that U.S. biofuel supply could exceed demand as early as 2015. 

Bully for Jatrodiesel

Inc. Magazine featured Jatrodiesel on its list of top performing companies in 2009.  (Coverage in Biodiesel Magazine). 

The magazine placed Jatrodiesel at the 550 slot and ranked it 22 in the energy sector. The selection is evidence that there’s still money to be made in the biodiesel industry.  

“The biodiesel plants that are not doing well basically have two problems,” said Raj Mosali, CEO of Jatrodiesel. “Either they don’t have any cash on hand, or they can’t sell their biodiesel because their price is too high. Right now, there is about 35 cent margin between a producer’s cost and the price of diesel fuel, so a plant that is using multi-feedstock technology and has a pretty lean operation should be able to make money.”

Some biodiesel plants have inefficient technologies and can’t make biodiesel at a reasonable price. In addition, they often don’t have capital to make improvements. “Our growth is coming from our ability to fix issues at existing plants, not from building turn-key operations,” Mosali says. “The plants that do have cash are putting in polishing equipment or adding distillation columns or glycerin recovery, which can really add to the bottom line.”

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