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    Mongabay, a leading resource for news and perspectives on environmental and conservation issues related to the tropics, has launched Tropical Conservation Science - a new, open access academic e-journal. It will cover a wide variety of scientific and social studies on tropical ecosystems, their biodiversity and the threats posed to them. Tropical Conservation Science - March 8, 2008.

    At the 148th Meeting of the OPEC Conference, the oil exporting cartel decided to leave its production level unchanged, sending crude prices spiralling to new records (above $104). OPEC "observed that the market is well-supplied, with current commercial oil stocks standing above their five-year average. The Conference further noted, with concern, that the current price environment does not reflect market fundamentals, as crude oil prices are being strongly influenced by the weakness in the US dollar, rising inflation and significant flow of funds into the commodities market." OPEC - March 5, 2008.

    Kyushu University (Japan) is establishing what it says will be the world’s first graduate program in hydrogen energy technologies. The new master’s program for hydrogen engineering is to be offered at the university’s new Ito campus in Fukuoka Prefecture. Lectures will cover such topics as hydrogen energy and developing the fuel cells needed to convert hydrogen into heat or electricity. Of all the renewable pathways to produce hydrogen, bio-hydrogen based on the gasification of biomass is by far both the most efficient, cost-effective and cleanest. Fuel Cell Works - March 3, 2008.

    An entrepreneur in Ivory Coast has developed a project to establish a network of Miscanthus giganteus farms aimed at producing biomass for use in power generation. In a first phase, the goal is to grow the crop on 200 hectares, after which expansion will start. The project is in an advanced stage, but the entrepreneur still seeks partners and investors. The plantation is to be located in an agro-ecological zone qualified as highly suitable for the grass species. Contact us - March 3, 2008.

    A 7.1MW biomass power plant to be built on the Haiwaiian island of Kaua‘i has received approval from the local Planning Commission. The plant, owned and operated by Green Energy Hawaii, will use albizia trees, a hardy species that grows in poor soil on rainfall alone. The renewable power plant will meet 10 percent of the island's energy needs. Kauai World - February 27, 2008.

    Tasmania's first specialty biodiesel plant has been approved, to start operating as early as July. The Macquarie Oil Company will spend half a million dollars on a specially designed facility in Cressy, in Tasmania's Northern Midlands. The plant will produce more than five million litres of fuel each year for the transport and marine industries. A unique blend of feed stock, including poppy seed, is expected to make it more viable than most operations. ABC Rural - February 25, 2008.

    The 16th European Biomass Conference & Exhibition - From Research to Industry and Markets - will be held from 2nd to 6th June 2008, at the Convention and Exhibition Centre of FeriaValencia, Spain. Early bird fee registration ends 18th April 2008. European Biomass Conference & Exhibition - February 22, 2008.

    'Obesity Facts' – a new multidisciplinary journal for research and therapy published by Karger – was launched today as the official journal of the European Association for the Study of Obesity. The journal publishes articles covering all aspects of obesity, in particular epidemiology, etiology and pathogenesis, treatment, and the prevention of adiposity. As obesity is related to many disease processes, the journal is also dedicated to all topics pertaining to comorbidity and covers psychological and sociocultural aspects as well as influences of nutrition and exercise on body weight. Obesity is one of the world's most pressing health issues, expected to affect 700 million people by 2015. AlphaGalileo - February 21, 2008.

    A bioethanol plant with a capacity of 150 thousand tons per annum is to be constructed in Kuybishev, in the Novosibirsk region. Construction is to begin in 2009 with investments into the project estimated at €200 million. A 'wet' method of production will be used to make, in addition to bioethanol, gluten, fodder yeast and carbon dioxide for industrial use. The complex was developed by the Solev consulting company. FIS: Siberia - February 19, 2008.

    Sarnia-Lambton lands a $15million federal grant for biofuel innovation at the Western Ontario Research and Development Park. The funds come on top of a $10 million provincial grant. The "Bioindustrial Innovation Centre" project competed successfully against 110 other proposals for new research money. London Free Press - February 18, 2008.

    An organisation that has established a large Pongamia pinnata plantation on barren land owned by small & marginal farmers in Andhra Pradesh, India is looking for a biogas and CHP consultant to help research the use of de-oiled cake for the production of biogas. The organisation plans to set up a biogas plant of 20,000 cubic meter capacity and wants to use it for power generation. Contact us - February 15, 2008.

    The Andersons, Inc. and Marathon Oil Corporation today jointly announced ethanol production has begun at their 110-million gallon ethanol plant located in Greenville, Ohio. Along with the 110 million gallons of ethanol, the plant annually will produce 350,000 tons of distillers dried grains, an animal feed ingredient. Marathon Oil - February 14, 2008.

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Austria opens first cooperative biomass service station

The Austrian state of Carinthia, in the south of the country, has opened its first cooperatively managed service station for biomass. 7000 small farmers are members of the energy cooperative, which collects residual wood and turns it into finished products ready for combustion in large biomass power stations and small heating units. Biomass users come to "tank" at the station. The collection point is located in Feistritz/Drau and offers technical assistance as well as machines to the farmers. By cooperating, the farmers achieve scale, a stable supply, and a new market which allows them to increase incomes by an estimated 15 percent.

The idea behind the energy cooperative is simple: hundreds of small farmers team up to supply wood to the station, which turns it into dry wood chips that are bought by several big customers. The initiative emerged out of the idea to make sustainable exploitation of local forest and woodland resources more attractive again.

Many farmers had lost interest for years, because there was no market. The emerging bioenergy sector signaled a change. But individual farmers did not see much opportunity as single suppliers: investing in heavy equipment, drying and storage facilities when you only have a limited raw material resource base does not make sense. Last autumn, an existing farmers' cooperative therefor launched the idea of a collectively supplied "biomass station" that takes away the investment risk by distributing it over many farmers. And it became a success: hundreds now participate as suppliers.

The cooperative had a bit of luck too. A heavy storm caused severe damage to woodlands in the region, which prompted the local authorities to draw on private resources to clean up the wood. The cooperative stepped in, and more farmers joined. Now the Feistritz service point guarantees a secure, year round biomass supply, which is a precondition for any large power generator to use the resource.
The simple farmer cannot compete with his small quantities. But with our organization we offer scale and thus we can help him get access to a much larger market. This guarantees his survival. - Josef Steiner, Maschinenring
Biomass is seen as an attractive energy source, because not only is it renewable, it has become the least costly of all fuels. But biomass is more than wood. Biomass fuels consist of raw wood that has undergone a simple transformation process: it is collected, dried, stored and turned into chips or pellets. It is this seemingly insignificant transformation that makes all the difference to the farmers. It adds value and opens the market. Individual farmers often don't have a large enough wood supply to warrant investment in the machines needed to carry out these processes.
The farmers now have the possibility to create value with the machines offered by the cooperative. They do no merely sell wood, they supply a true fuel for energy, namely wood chips with a high heating value. - Christoph Aste, managing director of the cooperative
The cooperative rents out heavy equipment to farmers who use it to haul fallen trees and branches out of their forests and woodlands. A specialised team of four men comes with the machinery.

The biomass fuel station is located at the site of a sawmill that was redesigned for its new function. This means the necessary logistical infrastructure is in place. The station now supplies fuel to both large and small customers. It covers the yearly heating needs of 4,000 households as well as the biomass supplies of several large district heating plants:
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After observing the operation at the biomass fuel station for three months, the city of Villach was impressed and decided to become the first big customer. Its large thermal plant, operated by the Kärntner Restmüllverwertungs GmbH, uses the biomass energy to feed its long-distance district heating grid, which supplies hot water and heat to households in the city.
In Villach we successfully created a hybrid system that combines biomass, natural gas and waste heat to heat the city. The transition of parts of the city's energy supplies to biomass is a meaningful alternative to its reliance on natural gas. This combination is possible in other cities in Carinthia. - Christoph Aste
The cooperative itself operates several heating systems and now hopes to double its fuel output over the next two years. Farmers who are members and supply raw wood can then expect an estimated 15 percent increase in their incomes.

But to meet this goal, the biomass cooperative must actively create a new regional market for bioenergy. It hopes to do this by convincing municipalities, businesses, and public organisations with large energy needs, such as schools, to heat with wood chips. The robust supply chain, the participation of hundreds of local farmers, and the fuel's competitive edge might make this possible.

Hat tip to Günther!

Kaernten ORF: Erste Biomasse-Tankstelle in Kärnten - February 10, 2008.

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