Maui environmental groups are organizing a letter-writing campaign to persuade Hawaiian Electric Co. and the state government to head off plans to import palm oil from Malaysia to be used in a test at Maui Electric Co.’s Maalaea power plant.
The international campaign was sparked by a German group, Rainforest-Rescue.org. Maui Tomorrow Foundation, Sierra Club Maui and the statewide group Life of the Land are protesting here in the islands.
They oppose a Public Utilities Commission decision to allow HECO to use palm oil at Campbell Industrial Park and to allow Maui Electric to test palm oil at Maalaea.
A spokesman for HECO said Tuesday: “We share a concern for the environment and human rights, which is why in 2007 Hawaiian Electric worked with the Natural Resources Defense Council to create a sustainable biofuels policy that we include in all contracts.”
HECO has signed what it calls a “very short” (two years) contract to supply its Campbell plant with fuel made from recovered animal waste on the Mainland. To get its new Campbell plant permitted, HECO had to promise to use renewable fuel.
For the Maalaea test, it contracted with Sime Darby to supply a million gallons of palm oil.
The Hawaii Venture Capital Association presented the 2009 Deal of the Year Award to Pacific Biodiesel Inc. at a luncheon in Honolulu recently. This award is given to the company that raises the most equity investment capital during the calendar year, an especially challenging business proposition last year because of the combination of a tough economy and cutbacks to Hawaii tax credits for investing in innovation companies. This is Pacific Biodiesel’s 12th refinery, nearly one a year since the first at the Central Maui Landfill in 1996. The latest, Big Island Biodiesel, will start production next year. The project will create over 100 jobs between building and operating the plant, growing and collecting feedstock and distributing finished product. All the investors are Hawaii residents or businesses, including the state through the Hydrogen Fund. First Hawaiian Bank lent $5 million, guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The feedstock may eventually be jatropha, a drought-resistant tree that produces oily fruit. HVCA and Pacific Biodiesel will contribute a total of $1,500 in money for prizes to be given to Career Pathways High School Business Plan Competition, a statewide competition that gives Hawaii high school students a real world opportunity.
Potential exists to turn state’s renewable-energy needs into a cash crop
Hawaiian Electric Co.’s search for long-term suppliers of biofuels derived from local feedstocks stands to ignite a new form of agriculture in Hawaii.
But major challenges lie ahead for both the utility and potential producers.
Acres of fallow pineapple and sugar fields across the state potentially could be converted to high-oil-yielding plants such as jatropha, soybean and microalgae.
The utility says it is interested in buying enough biofuels to run its power plants on Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai and the Big Island.
Clean-burning biofuels are attractive to HECO because they can be used in its existing generators, which currently run on liquid fossil fuels including bunker oil and diesel.
“We’ve talked and talked about biodiesel in Hawaii, and now we can guarantee that we’ll purchase their products down the road, so we’re looking for people to make proposals,” said HECO spokesman Peter Rosegg. “If we’re going to get to the state’s mandate of 40 percent renewables by 2030, which is just 20 years away, a chunk of that will have to come from biofuels. The best situation would be one where the feedstocks are grown here.”
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — University of Illinois researchers say that a common crop parasite called a nematode has been found in large numbers on two plants being grown to make biofuels.
They aren’t sure yet if that’s a serious problem. But they’re studying the microscopic round worms and the miscanthus and switch grass plants they were discovered on to find out.
Researchers at the university’s Energy Biosciences Institute say some of the tiny parasites they’ve found reduce biomass in plants. The amount of biomass produced by the plants being studied is one key factor in how much fuel they can produce.
Nematodes are a common crop pest. Biofuel crops where they have been found were in Illinois, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, South Dakota and Tennessee.
SAN DIEGO, Feb. 22 /PRNewswire/ — SG Biofuels, a sustainable plant oil company specializing in the development of Jatropha as a low-cost, sustainable source of oil, today announced the launch of JMax 100, a proprietary cultivar of Jatropha optimized for growing conditions in Guatemala with yields 100 percent greater than existing varieties.
JMax 100 is the first elite cultivar developed through the company’s JMax Jatropha Optimization Platform. The platform provides growers and plantation developers with access to the highest yielding and most profitable Jatropha in the world, the sequenced genome and advanced biotech and synthetic biology tools to develop cultivars specifically optimized for their unique growing conditions.
"The yields and profitability of JMax100 and the JMax platform far exceed what is currently available through existing varieties of Jatropha," said Kirk Haney, President and Chief Executive Officer of SG Biofuels. "In Guatemala, we have utilized the world’s largest library of Jatropha genetic material and our advanced genetic program to enable exponential increases in productivity and profitability, and establish Jatropha as a large-scale sustainable energy crop."
Guaranteed Loans Provided Through Recovery Act Funds Help Local Businesses and Supports the Nation’s Renewable Energy Strategy
WASHINGTON, February 16, 2010 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced $144 million in loan guarantees to assist 54 rural businesses through funding made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The funding is authorized through USDA Rural Development’s Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program. The program received $1.57 billion through the Act to help rural businesses stimulate economic development.
"A number of the Recovery Act projects announced today support the President’s comprehensive energy strategy announced earlier this month," said Vilsack. "Advancing biomass and biofuel production holds the potential to create green jobs, which is one of the many ways the Obama Administration and USDA are working to rebuild and revitalize rural America."
For example, in Hilo, Hawaii, Big Island Biodiesel, LLC, has been selected to receive a $5,000,000 loan guarantee through First Hawaiian Bank in Kahului to construct a $10 million, 2.64 million gallon per year biodiesel production plant in Keaau. The feedstock for this biodiesel plant will primarily be used cooking oil, and potentially jatropha and algae. More than one million gallons of used cooking oil and grease-trap oil will be diverted from Maui, Oahu, and Hawaii County landfills to produce the biodiesel. Hawaii has established an Alternative Fuel Standard (AFS) with the goal of providing 10 percent of highway fuel demand from alternate fuels by 2010, 15 percent by 2015, and 20 percent by 2020.