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    Leading experts in organic solar cells say the field is being damaged by questionable reports about ever bigger efficiency claims, leading the community into an endless and dangerous tendency to outbid the last report. In reality these solar cells still show low efficiencies that will need to improve significantly before they become a success. To counter the hype, scientists call on the community to press for independent verification of claimed efficiencies. Biopact sees a similar trend in the field of biofuels from algae, in which press releases containing unrealistic yield projections and 'breakthroughs' are released almost monthly. Eurekalert - October 16, 2007.

    The Colorado Wood Utilization and Marketing Program at Colorado State University received a $65,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service to expand the use of woody biomass throughout Colorado. The purpose of the U.S. Department of Agriculture grant program is to provide financial assistance to state foresters to accelerate the adoption of woody biomass as an alternative energy source. Colorado State University - October 12, 2007.

    Indian company Naturol Bioenergy Limited announced that it will soon start production from its biodiesel facility at Kakinada, in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The facility has an annual production capacity of 100,000 tons of biodiesel and 10,000 tons of pharmaceutical grade glycerin. The primary feedstock is crude palm oil, but the facility was designed to accomodate a variety of vegetable oil feedstocks. Biofuel Review - October 11, 2007.

    Brazil's state energy company Petrobras says it will ship 9 million liters of ethanol to European clients next month in its first shipment via the northeastern port of Suape. Petrobras buys the biofuel from a pool of sugar cane processing plants in the state of Pernambuco, where the port is also located. Reuters - October 11, 2007.

    Dynamotive Energy Systems Corporation, a leader in biomass-to-biofuel technology, announces that it has completed a $10.5 million equity financing with Quercus Trust, an environmentally oriented fund, and several other private investors. Ardour Capital Inc. of New York served as financial advisor in the transaction. Business Wire - October 10, 2007.

    Cuban livestock farmers are buying distillers dried grains (DDG), the main byproduct of corn based ethanol, from biofuel producers in the U.S. During a trade mission of Iowan officials to Cuba, trade officials there said the communist state will double its purchases of the dried grains this year. DesMoines Register - October 9, 2007.

    Brasil Ecodiesel, the leading Brazilian biodiesel producer company, recorded an increase of 57.7% in sales in the third quarter of the current year, in comparison with the previous three months. Sales volume stood at 53,000 cubic metres from August until September, against 34,000 cubic metres of the biofuel between April and June. The company is also concluding negotiations to export between 1,000 to 2,000 tonnes of glycerine per month to the Asian market. ANBA - October 4, 2007.

    PolyOne Corporation, the US supplier of specialised polymer materials, has opened a new colour concentrates manufacturing plant in Kutno, Poland. Located in central Poland, the new plant will produce colour products in the first instance, although the company says the facility can be expanded to handle other products. In March, the Ohio-based firm launched a range of of liquid colourants for use in bioplastics in biodegradable applications. The concentrates are European food contact compliant and can be used in polylactic acid (PLA) or starch-based blends. Plastics & Rubber Weekly - October 2, 2007.

    A turbo-charged, spray-guided direct-injection engine running on pure ethanol (E100) can achieve very high specific output, and shows “significant potential for aggressive engine downsizing for a dedicated or dual-fuel solution”, according to engineers at Orbital Corporation. GreenCarCongress - October 2, 2007.

    UK-based NiTech Solutions receives £800,000 in private funding to commercialize a cost-saving industrial mixing system, dubbed the Continuous Oscillatory Baffled Reactor (COBR), which can lower costs by 50 per cent and reduce process time by as much as 90 per cent during the manufacture of a range of commodities including chemicals, drugs and biofuels. Scotsman - October 2, 2007.

    A group of Spanish investors is building a new bioethanol plant in the western region of Extremadura that should be producing fuel from maize in 2009. Alcoholes Biocarburantes de Extremadura (Albiex) has already started work on the site near Badajoz and expects to spend €42/$59 million on the plant in the next two years. It will produce 110 million litres a year of bioethanol and 87 million kg of grain byproduct that can be used for animal feed. Europapress - September 28, 2007.

    Portuguese fuel company Prio SA and UK based FCL Biofuels have joined forces to launch the Portuguese consumer biodiesel brand, PrioBio, in the UK. PrioBio is scheduled to be available in the UK from 1st November. By the end of this year (2007), says FCL Biofuel, the partnership’s two biodiesel refineries will have a total capacity of 200,000 tonnes which will is set to grow to 400,000 tonnes by the end of 2010. Biofuel Review - September 27, 2007.

    According to Tarja Halonen, the Finnish president, one third of the value of all of Finland's exports consists of environmentally friendly technologies. Finland has invested in climate and energy technologies, particularly in combined heat and power production from biomass, bioenergy and wind power, the president said at the UN secretary-general's high-level event on climate change. Newroom Finland - September 25, 2007.

    Spanish engineering and energy company Abengoa says it had suspended bioethanol production at the biggest of its three Spanish plants because it was unprofitable. It cited high grain prices and uncertainty about the national market for ethanol. Earlier this year, the plant, located in Salamanca, ceased production for similar reasons. To Biopact this is yet another indication that biofuel production in the EU/US does not make sense and must be relocated to the Global South, where the biofuel can be produced competitively and sustainably, without relying on food crops. Reuters - September 24, 2007.

    The Midlands Consortium, comprised of the universities of Birmingham, Loughborough and Nottingham, is chosen to host Britain's new Energy Technologies Institute, a £1 billion national organisation which will aim to develop cleaner energies. University of Nottingham - September 21, 2007.

    The EGGER group, one of the leading European manufacturers of chipboard, MDF and OSB boards has begun work on installing a 50MW biomass boiler for its production site in Rion. The new furnace will recycle 60,000 tonnes of offcuts to be used in the new combined heat and power (CHP) station as an ecological fuel. The facility will reduce consumption of natural gas by 75%. IHB Network - September 21, 2007.

    Analysts fear that record oil prices will fuel general inflation in Kenya, particularly hitting the poorest hard. They call for the development of new policies and strategies to cope with sustained high oil prices. Such policies include alternative fuels like biofuels, conservation measures, and more investments in oil and gas exploration. The poor in Kenya are hit hardest by the sharp increase, because they spend most of their budget on fuel and transport. Furthermore, in oil intensive economies like Kenya, high oil prices push up prices for food and most other basic goods. All Africa - September 20, 2007.

    Finland's Metso Power has won an order to supply Kalmar Energi Värme AB with a biomass-fired power boiler for the company’s new combined heat and power plant in Kalmar on the east coast of Sweden. Start-up for the plant is scheduled for the end of 2009. The value of the order is approximately EUR 55 million. The power boiler (90 MWth) will utilize bubbling fluidized bed technology and will burn biomass replacing old district heating boilers and reducing the consumption of oil. The delivery will also include a flue gas condensing system to increase plant's district heat production. Metso Corporation - September 19, 2007.

    Jo-Carroll Energy announced today its plan to build an 80 megawatt, biomass-fueled, renewable energy center in Illinois. The US$ 140 million plant will be fueled by various types of renewable biomass, such as clean waste wood, corn stover and switchgrass. Jo-Carroll Energy - September 18, 2007.

    Beihai Gofar Marine Biological Industry Co Ltd, in China's southern region of Guangxi, plans to build a 100,000 tonne-per-year fuel ethanol plant using cassava as feedstock. The Shanghai-listed company plans to raise about 560 million yuan ($74.5 million) in a share placement to finance the project and boost its cash flow. Reuters - September 18, 2007.

    The oil-dependent island state of Fiji has requested US company Avalor Capital, LLC, to invest in biodiesel and ethanol. The Fiji government has urged the company to move its $250million 'Fiji Biofuels Project' forward at the earliest possible date. Fiji Live - September 18, 2007.

    The Bowen Group, one of Ireland's biggest construction groups has announced a strategic move into the biomass energy sector. It is planning a €25 million investment over the next five years to fund up to 100 projects that will create electricity from biomass. Its ambition is to install up to 135 megawatts of biomass-fuelled heat from local forestry sources, which is equal to 50 million litres or about €25m worth of imported oil. Irish Examiner - September 16, 2007.

    According to Dr Niphon Poapongsakorn, dean of Economics at Thammasat University in Thailand, cassava-based ethanol is competitive when oil is above $40 per barrel. Thailand is the world's largest producer and exporter of cassava for industrial use. Bangkok Post - September 14, 2007.

    German biogas and biodiesel developer BKN BioKraftstoff Nord AG has generated gross proceeds totaling €5.5 million as part of its capital increase from authorized capital. Ad Hoc News - September 13, 2007.

    NewGen Technologies, Inc. announced that it and Titan Global Holdings, Inc. completed a definitive Biofuels Supply Agreement which will become effective upon Titan’s acquisition of Appalachian Oil Company. Given APPCO’s current distribution of over 225 million gallons of fuel products per year, the initial expected ethanol supply to APPCO should exceed 1 million gallons a month. Charlotte dBusinessNews - September 13, 2007.

    Oil prices reach record highs as the U.S. Energy Information Agency releases a report that showed crude oil inventories fell by more than seven million barrels last week. The rise comes despite a decision by the international oil cartel, OPEC, to raise its output quota by 500,000 barrels. Reuters - September 12, 2007.

    OPEC decided today to increase the volume of crude supplied to the market by Member Countries (excluding Angola and Iraq) by 500,000 b/d, effective 1 November 2007. The decision comes after oil reached near record-highs and after Saudi Aramco announced that last year's crude oil production declined by 1.7 percent, while exports declined by 3.1 percent. OPEC - September 11, 2007.

    GreenField Ethanol and Monsanto Canada launch the 'Gro-ethanol' program which invites Ontario's farmers to grow corn seed containing Monsanto traits, specifically for the ethanol market. The corn hybrids eligible for the program include Monsanto traits that produce higher yielding corn for ethanol production. MarketWire - September 11, 2007.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Britain's 'best building' made of wood, powered by biomass, renewables

The Dalby Forest visitor centre in North Yorkshire has been judged Britain's best public building of 2007 because of its uncompromising commitment to sustainability. So much so that at the end of its life it can be entirely recycled. The visitor centre - which cost £2.5 million and was officially opened in April, 2007 - has won the Prime Minister's Better Public Building Award. Commissioned from White Design by the Forestry Commission, it came top of a strong shortlist of 18 projects.

The centre is one of Yorkshire's most eco-friendly buildings. It's clad out of a renewable material - wood which is grown and milled in the forest - and has small solar panels and tiny wind turbines. Its toilets are flushed by rainwater. The reception desk incorporates recycled mobile phones, yoghurt pots and old boots. The roof cover is made from recycled tyres and inner tubes.

But it's what is behind the scenes which gives the centre its eco-edge and made it a winner: an advanced boiler which provides the hot water and general heating - the bulk of the building's energy needs - is run exclusively on renewable biomass.
That's still quite unusual in the United Kingdom - on the continent they've got a lot more wood chip boiler installations but it's becoming more and more common with the increase in the price of gas and electricity. As an alternative this is a good option. - John Bates, from the Forestry Commission

These environmental considerations are what impressed the judges when they chose the visitor centre ahead of other projects such as the King's Cross St Pancras underground station in London, the National Cold War Exhibition at the RAF Museum in Shropshire, the Bridge Arts Centre in Glasgow or the Promenade of Light in London.

It's because the construction and use of public buildings contribute at least a third of all the UK's carbon emissions:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The UK's Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), the government's advisory body on architecture, urban design and public space, sponsors the award.
Dalby Forest visitor centre is everything that we should expect from a new public building. It inspires those using and visiting it. It adds to the enjoyment of the places and spaces around us. It brings new business opportunities and it shows how great design lies at the heart of our response to climate change. - John Sorrell, chairs of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment
The Culture Secretary James Purnell said the centre shows what excellent design can bring to local communities and the environment - and sets high standards for the future:

This is especially important now, at a time when design and construction industries must respond urgently to the threat of climate change.

This is all a far cry from 40 years ago as retired forester Gordon Simpson recalls. He was charged with laying the groundwork to open up Dalby Forest to visitors. But it was no easy task: "My biggest problem was converting the oldest foresters who had this attitude of 'Keep Out'. I had to try and convert them to letting people into the forest. I felt I built a good base to start with but it was very experimental at the time."

Now, Dalby Forest attracts about 300,000 visitors a year making it one of Yorkshire's most popular outdoor attractions - and the visitor centre has added to the draw. The week after the centre's opening was the busiest in the forest's 85-year history.

CABE is the UK government’s advisor on architecture, urban design and public space. As a public body, it encourages policymakers to create places that work for people. It helps local planners apply national design policy and offer expert advice to developers and architects, shows public sector clients how to commission buildings that meet the needs of their users, and seeks to inspire the public to demand more from their buildings and spaces.

Good design has a role to play in transforming public services, especially important given the current scale of investment in public building.

In 2000 the UK's Prime Minister asked ministers and departments across government to work towards achieving high-quality design in all new public buildings. Good design in the public sector enhances the environment and the community, revitalises cities and neighbourhoods, results in buildings that work well and retain a human dimension, and makes the delivery of services easier and more efficient. Design also reflects the ambitions and spirit of the people behind it.

Since the Better Public Building initiative was launched, there have been some outstanding new schools, libraries, museums, hospitals, public spaces and transport infrastructure. The government has its own design champion - who has taken on responsibility for raising standards across every government department - and by 2006 design champions had been appointed in 70 per cent of public bodies to provide leadership and motivation and ensure a strategy for delivering good design. Good design is achievable and affordable and is worth investing in. It is the key to maximum value for money during the whole life of a building.

Although good design is now embedded in the planning process, some new public building still fails to ensure efficient delivery of public services. In 2006 the government published a set of Common Minimum Standards for construction procurement. These are comprehensive, practical and achievable, as well as cost effective, and should be universally applied in all public building. In addition, CABE has set out 10 principles that clients should follow if they are to achieve the best in public building projects.

The speed and severity of climate change present a critical challenge. Every new public building should contribute towards mitigating climate change – both in its construction and its use. This need not, however, add to costs if environmental sustainability is fully integrated into the design process from the beginning.

Better public building, published in December 2006, provides the arguments and evidence that good design makes places work better. It offers practical advice for creating new public building that is value for money, sustainable and a source of civic pride. And it sets out the steps that public bodies need to follow if they are to ensure that all those who use public services benefit from good design.

CABE: Yorkshire visitor centre named this year's best public building - October 11, 2007.

BHL: Biomass boiler makes Yorkshire building a winner - s.d. [October 15, 2007]

BBC: Best building in Britain - October 11, 2007.


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