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Archive for June, 2007

Wood Pellet News

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New Wood Pellet Plant
Due to Come On-Line Soon


Irish Pellets new plant is hopefully moving towards a resolution in the not too distant future. When this plant comes on stream, it will ensure a stable and more than adequate supply of wood pellets to the Irish market. This will remove one of my major objections to going over to wood pellet heating. Hopefully, Irish Pellets will be able to offer highly competitive prices and furthermore, hopefully be able to guarantee these prices for at least one season.

If wood pellet supply and prices can be guaranteed not to fluctuate in tandem with oil and gas prices, it will give a huge boost to the use of wood pellet heating in Ireland. We will wait and see what tends to happen.

In the meantime, I am holding my breath waiting to hear from Briain Smyth MD of Irish Pellets on the latest progress of his factory.

Good luck Briain – more strength to yer elbow!!!

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Wisconsin Engineers Develop New Process
to Manufacture Fuel from Vegetable Sugar

The University of Wisconsin announced that one of their research teams have developed a process for turning biomass sugar or fructose, into 2,5-dimethylfuran (DMF), a fuel ideally suited to use in cars etc.

Through chemically altering sugars in a series of steps involving hydrochoric acid and copper catalysts, salt and using butanol as a solvent, the team of researchers created a method for manufacturing a sustainable, carbon-neutral fuel.

Dimethylfuran has 40% higher energy content than ethanol and additionally sorts out other ethanol shortcomings, such as:

  • DMF is not soluble in water and therefore cannot become contaminated by absorbing water from the atmosphere.
  • DMF is stable in storage.
  • DMF is stable in the evaporation stage of its production. It consumes only a third of the energy required to evaporate a solution of ethanol produced by fermentation for bio-fuel applications.

Sounds like another little bit of good news for a sustainable energy – carbon neutral future.

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Chinese Ethanol

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The Practical Chinese

In the manufacture of bio-ethanol China may entirely switch away from food crops to non-food materials like cassva, sorgo and cellulose, according to government sources. The country would approve no projects designed to produce ethanol fuel with food from now on. Food-based ethanol fuel will not be for China.

China has been trying to avoid the use of arable land, or the utilization of large amounts of grain in developing its renewable energies. The current four enterprises engaged in producing corn-based ethanol will be asked to switch to non-food materials.

The four companies have a combined production capacity of 1.02 million tons of corn-based ethanol per year. The country has become a big producer and consumer of ethanol fuel in the world after the United States, Brazil and European Union.

China is also working on reducing the production costs of ethanol. I wonder if they will beat Brazil in reducing costs?

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Brazil will be able to produce BioEthanol
at $1 a Gallon

Brazil’s is likely to be one of the first countries in the world to produce economically viable cellulosic ethanol.

This is because feedstock costs alone account for 75% to 80% of the cost of ethanol produced from left over material biomass, whether it comes from sugarcane, wood chips, switchgrass or corn husks. Also Brazil already has the infrastructure to collect the leftover sugarcane mass.

Brazil and the U.S. together produce over 70% of the world’s ethanol. Brazil however can do it cheaper and is the world’s lowest-cost ethanol producer and the leading ethanol exporter.

If new ethanol technologies take off, Brazil could almost double its ethanol output – set to hit over 20 billion liters in the ongoing 2007-08 season – to 36 billion liters per harvest, without expanding planted area beyond its current 6 million hectares.

Only a few years ago it cost $6 a gallon to make ethanol from residual biomass in the U.S. it has fallen to about $3 per gallon in 2007, while the cost of producing enzymes has fallen 20-fold in the past four years
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Brazil’s Bioethanol Project could by be shipping bio-ethanol at $1 a gallon.

Good on ya Brazil, not just coffee, beef, and football!

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In Ohio the Amish go Solar Electric

The ultra-conservative Christian sect known for their plain dress and avoidance of modern machinery such as cars are embracing solar power.

In Ohio where one of the world’s largest Amish communities live, an estimated 80% of families now have photovoltaic panels. They use the solar power for very basic electrical needs like home lighting, powering sewing machines, and charging batteries for lights on horse-drawn buggies.

The Amish use solar for two main reasons; safety because gas and oil lamps are a fire hazard and also because of legal requirements, the traffic codes there require electric lamps on horse-drawn buggies. Another reason they are going over to solar power is to avoid connecting to the electric grid, as they feel this would thwart their efforts to remain separated from the rest of society.

Previously, some Amish communities have occasionally used generators and windmills to provide power. Recent improvements in solar panels however have made photovoltaic power an attractive alternative.

In technology it would seem that the technically backward have become the front runners, at least in solar power.

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Yet Cheaper PhotoVoltic Cells from China
90 cent per watt!!!

Suntech Power Holdings, a Chinese manufacturer of photovoltaic cells, recently announced the first phase of the new plant, expected to start production in 2008 and achieve 50MegaWatts worth of thin film solar cell production in 2009.

The new product will use less than 2% of the silicon required to manufacture similar solar cells. Suntech currently projects that the thin film modules will have a solar conversion efficiency of 6% to 9% (this is fairly low efficiency – some companies have achieved up to 45%) and an initial production cost of approximately just $1.20 per watt (based on 6% solar conversion efficiency), this cost is forecasted to decline as production expands and conversion efficiencies increase.

That cost of $1.20 per watt or roughly 90 cent per watt would work out at €1800 for 2Kilo Watts of solar cells, or €4500 for 5 Kilo Watts of cells. Control gear etc would cost more. That is really cheap and the cost is set to drop even more.

The thin film modules will be nearly 6 square meters in size, which would make system installation costs of the Suntech cells much cheaper.

Hang-on in there – this renewable energy stuff is getting cheaper!!!

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