What a difference a year makes! The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) deserves strong praise for its 2006-2007 accomplishments as facilitators of America's emerging technologies development.
This year's Power-Gen Renewable Energy & Fuels conference in Las Vegas (March 5-8) was a "candy store" of information and networking opportunities for anyone interested in learning about emerging technologies in the renewable energy field. If this is an indication of ACORE's trajectory, anyone who reads this blog should make a point to attend next year - roughly the same time and city as this year. Not only was there greater exhibitor diversity and maturity but current events leading up to the conference imbued it with a heightened sense of importance and urgency.
Networking opportunities for the conference registrants abounded starting with tours to Hoover Dam and local desert solar arrays. Other receptions featured industry luminaries like former CIA Director James Woolsey.
I spent most of my time attending workshops and conference sessions dealing with biomass and conversion issues. Solar, wind, ocean wave, and geothermal technological development were also prominent on the agenda.
The Biomass Coordinating Council held its 2nd annual pre-conference meeting on Monday, March 5th. In comparison to last year (where attendees made brief introductions and discussed general topics in a round table configuration) this year its venerated and dynamic committee chairman, Bill Holmberg, organized a compelling string of ten joint presentations conducted by thirty of the participants. Topics included: Biomass in Developing Countries, Sustainability, Rural Development, Multifuel Engines and Biofuels, Soil Enrichment, Fast Growing Trees, Prison Industries, and Cellulosic Ethanol - the Future of BioFuels.
For my part, I co-presented - with Barbara Bramble of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and Doug Durante of the Clean Fuels Development Coalition (CFDC) - a discussion of how our Communications Working Group would foster networking, education, promotion, and feedback over the coming year.
Barbara focused on the NWF-supported BioEnergy WIKI that her organization inaugurated several months ago. It typifies the kind of innovation that will help move BCC collaborative tasks forward - online, user-written, informative, and topical. Be sure to visit it and bookmark it now. It will become the BCC/Communication Working Group's primary means of communication this year.
CFDC has been a major producer of focused publications that are used throughout Congress and industry to help foster understanding of clean fuels technologies, policy issues, and opportunities.
Navigant Consulting's extremely knowledgeable experts ran a pre-conference workshop that was worth the price of admission called "Uncovering the Full Renewable Energy Potential." Their work on the Bioenergy Action Plan for California was a key determinant leading to this year's passage of various progressive energy policies by its "action" Governor, Arnold Schwarzenneger, and the state legislature. At the conference they gave attendees their insight about: Technologies, Economics, and Markets; Biofuels Today and Tomorrow, and Renewable Energy Project Development. These experts (Richard Germain, Michele Rubino, Ryan Kotafsky, and Lisa Frantzis) are a must-see at the many events they attend around the country.
Navigant is conducting a comprehensive, multi-client study called "The (Re-) Emerging Bioenergy Economy" which will focus on the true potenital of bioenergy in the U.S. It is aimed, and priced, for strategic involvement and utilization by subscribing companies who will be introduced to the study, kept informed during development, and receive key findings in a presentation style report. Approximately eight weeks after the final meeting, NCI staff will offer one-and-one-half day follow-up meetings with a tailored presentation for each company. Subscription details are available by contacting Richard Germain.
Introduced by Jackie Jones of conference owner and producer PenWell Corporation at the keynote address, Michael Eckhart, President of ACORE, cited a Thomas Friedman quotation certain to be repeated often this year - "Green is the new Red, White, & Blue" - which identifies the patriotic fervor of the movement as well as its broad based support (among both "red" and "blue" states). He then introduced luminaries from each of the major renewable technologies represented at the conference - Alec Dreyer from Horizon Wind Energy LLC, Cameron "Mac" Moore from Germany-based Coenergy Group, Dr. Dan Arvizu from the National Renewable Energy Lab, and Dave Vander Griend from ICM, Inc. Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons also made an impassioned case for relocating businesses to Nevada - "No taxes!"
Ethanol naysayers take note - with the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) announcement of over $385 million in matching grants for 6 cellulosic ethanol plants around the country, there is little debate now about the net energy balance of ethanol. At one session on Advanced BioFuels Technologies, Michele Rubino of Navigant oversaw a panel that included two winners of the grants - Abengoa Bioenergy, and BlueFire Ethanol - and Seth Snyder of Argonne National Labs. Much of the presentation focused on a comparison of biochemical vs. thermochemical conversion processes and how they would be deployed in upcoming installations.
Jim Stewart of BRI, a third CE plant DOE grant recipient, made a presentation at the BCC workshop about BRI syngas fermentation technology - the advantages and benefits of its unique bioreactor process. He also drew attention to my BioEnergy BlogRing with a very generous testimonial. Thank you, Jim!
There was more interest expressed this year than last concerning the variety and quantity of biomass feedstock available for conversion. With the transitioning emphasis from corn to cellulosic ethanol feedstocks, there was a number of speakers who mentioned the untapped potential of woody biomass. It may be surprising to learn that the forestry and paper mill industries have been the largest producers of renewable energy in America - accounting for roughly 44% of the total. This production is generally unseen because the privat companies that produce it also use it - to avoid the expense and reliance on external, public sources of energy. The anticipated renaissance of the forestry industry will play a crucial role in our ability to meet renewable energy goals in the coming decades. It was heartening to see the wood industry sector receive some of the recognition it deserves.
One of the last presentations of the day was devoted to promotion of the 25x'25 Vision:
By 2025, America's farms, forests and ranches will provide 25 percent of the total energy consumed in the United States, while continuing to produce safe, abundant, and affordable food, feed and fiber.
National Co-chair Read Smith was joined by summit program committee member Richard Hahn to advance the goals of the organization as well as promote the upcoming 25x'25 Summit in Washington, D.C. March 20-21 at the Fairmont Hotel.
The agenda for the 25x'25 Summit is now posted on their website and it consists of a who's who of renewable energy, some who were not in attendance at the Power-Gen show including keynote speaker Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures, David Morse of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, various Senators and Congressmen, and Thomas Friedman of the N.Y. Times (invited).
PLEASE NOTE: I plan to be at both the 25x'25 Summit and the BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing from March 22-24 in Orlando, Florida. Please notify me if you will be attending - I'd love to see you there.
technorati 25x'25, biofuels, conversion, bioenergy, agriculture, feedstock, legislation, forestry