North Carolina's Growing Strengths: The Solar Center's Clean Transportation Projects

Celebrating 25 years at N.C. State University, the N.C. Solar Center continues its commitment to outreach, demonstration, and deployment of technology and policy solutions for a sustainable energy future. One  project led by the Clean Transportation team aims to enhance the distribution and use of biodiesel and E85, an 85-percent ethanol blend, to reduce transportation-related emissions in the 24 North Carolina counties that do not meet national air-quality standards. With $6.2 million in funding from the N.C. Department of Transportation, the third phase of the Clean Fuel Advanced Technology (CFAT) project will include grant opportunities for biodiesel and E85 infrastructure. Past funding has supported E85 dispensers at retail and government locations, as well as biodiesel-blending equipment at a petroleum terminal and the expansion of B100 at biodiesel co-ops. A call for applications for a new round of projects is anticipated before the end of 2013.

Another exciting endeavor is the Alternative Fuel Implementation Team (AFIT) project, a collaborative effort between the N.C. Solar Center, North Carolina’s three Clean Cities Coalitions, and coalitions in Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. With support from the U.S. Department of Energy, the two-year project will lead the development of an alternative fuel-implementation toolkit for fleet managers, which will include chapters on biodiesel and E85. To that end, the coalition in Asheville organized a biodiesel charrette, also sponsored by the Biofuels Center of North Carolina and attended by 29 stakeholders, which identified actions to be undertaken by the AFIT team to expand biodiesel use. These barrier-buster activities include establishing a workgroup to review educational materials and a partnership between local biodiesel producers, vehicle technicians, and auto dealers to help dispel persistent myths about biodiesel’s performance and use. On 19 November 2013, the Solar Center will host a half-day charrette in Raleigh to identify specific actions that support E85 use. The Solar Center will also host the Southeast Alternative Fuels Conference and Expo at the Raleigh Convention Center on 22-24 October 2014.

To learn more, visit www.cleantransportation.org.

State committee’s ruling on Switchgrass advances biofuels in NC

In late May the state’s interagency group charged with providing guidance for North Carolina’s animal waste management rules, otherwise known as the 1217 Committee, issued a recommendation that will allow for the increased planting of Switchgrass as a biofuels feedstock crop. The 1217 Committee’s decision increased the interim agronomic rates for the planting of Switchgrass, which will allow swine farmers in eastern North Carolina the option of planting Switchgrass on land currently utilized for animal waste management.

The 1217 Committee—comprised of representatives from N.C. State University, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources—has worked over the last two years to facilitate the introduction of new energy crops onto animal waste sprayfields, while at the same time ensuring environmental compliance.

Switchgrass is a high-yielding, perennial grass native to the Southeast that can be used as a pasture, forage, or biomass crop. Switchgrass has been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a biofuels feedstock and will serve as an important crop in the biofuels supply chain as the industry grows in North Carolina.

North Carolina's Growing Strengths: The Biofuels Center's Statewide Woody Biomass Project

The Biofuels Center of North Carolina has completed its statewide woody biomass assessment—the first report of its kind. The Center coordinated with Raleigh-based Gelbert, Fullbright & Randolph (GFR) Forestry Consultants and the state’s seven economic development regions in 2011 to undertake the now-complete, three-part analysis of the state’s wood resources as foundation for large biofuels production.

North Carolina has approximately 17.6 million forested acres, more than half its land mass, and 90 percent is privately owned. With abundant wood markets and diminished manufacturing productivity, especially in North Carolina’s rural counties, the state has significant opportunities to harness its renewable, natural resources and develop new, economically sustainable economies.

For each of the state’s seven economic development regions, and in partnership with them, the Statewide Woody Biomass Project report details the three-part analysis, which:

  1. Quantifies wood resources in every county of the state to include price points for both softwoods and hardwoods, past and projected land use changes, and regional competition for the wood;
  2. Determines the best location for biofuels industrial sites based on the Phase 1 quantifications, and assesses the infrastructure for their appropriateness for biofuels production; and
  3. Refines further the wood resources to support bankable data for each location, appropriate for project financing that quantifies the sustainable annual feedstock available for biofuels production.

 “This has never been done by any state to our knowledge, certainly not on this scale, and it is unheard of in the forest management industry,” said Terry Godwin, harvest forester with GFR Forestry Consultants, the lead developer for the analysis. “With this assessment, the Biofuels Center will bring an incredible advantage to North Carolina when competing for biofuels companies.”

Biofuels Center president and CEO Steven Burke emphasized the significance of assessing statewide wood resources for biofuels production. “North Carolina’s wood resources are key to our successfully gaining large biofuels capacity,” said Burke. “This study quantifies and makes real our ability to support wood-to-fuels technology companies—and gives us large competitive advantage to bring them here over many years.”

Regional wood information and details about locations for biofuels industrial sites can be accessed here.



North Carolina's Growing Strengths: Triangle Biofuels Industries

Based in Wilson, Triangle Biofuels Industries produces biodiesel derived primarily from waste vegetable oils (WVO) obtained from local sources. Its target markets are agricultural, marine, residential, governmental, and commercial diesel consumers looking for cleaner diesel alternatives to fossil fuels. Triangle Biofuels’ production facility became fully operational in April 2008, produced approximately 1.25 million gallons of 100-percent, ASTM-certified biodiesel in 2012, and has the potential to produce 3 million gallons per year. The company expects to produce around 2 million gallons in 2013.

As one of the few biodiesel plants operating in eastern North Carolina, Triangle Biofuels invests significant effort in outreach to agricultural and off-road diesel customers educating them about the health and performance benefits of biodiesel. TBI collects WVO from numerous municipal and county schools, solid waste facilities, and wastewater treatment plants in a cooperative agreement to encourage recycling and help reduce buildup of fats, oils, and greases (FOG) in municipal sewers. Not only does this collection process produce biofuels, it helps turn waste streams into sustainable, highly efficient systems.

Triangle Biofuels also operates a B100 and B20 retail pump at the plant to make biodiesel more readily available to the local community and motoring public. Additionally, Triangle Biofuels encourages biodiesel use by leading by example: The company incorporated biodiesel into all of its fleet vehicles, and many employees drive B100-fueled vehicles.  

TBI has recently undertaken the process of becoming BQ-9000 certified. Recent upgrades to equipment and the facility have improved both production capacity and consistency in quality control.

For more information on Triangle Biofuels Industries, visit www.trianglebiofuels.com.

North Carolina's Growing Strengths: BlackGold Biofuels of Charlotte

BlackGold Biofuels of Charlotte, located in Charlotte, N.C., specializes in resource recovery from wastewater streams, focusing on the recycling of fat, oil, and grease-laden wastewaters from commercial kitchens and food processors. BlackGold uses the best available technologies to recover the highest economic and environmental value from these waste streams.

This innovative recycling facility in Charlotte receives grease trap waste that is generated in commercial kitchens during dishwashing and food preparation from local wastewater haulers. BlackGold removes trash and food particles from this wastewater and then extracts and purifies the recovered animal and vegetable fats, oils, and grease. The recovered oils are utilized in the production of biofuels, which offsets the use of petroleum-based fuels and strengthens regional energy security and domestic energy independence. The operating facility is fully permitted by state and local agencies.

The BlackGold facility reduces the burden on the region’s wastewater treatment plants by cleaning the water after it has been discharged from the commercial restaurants and before it reaches the local wastewater treatment plant. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency names blockages from this grease as a top culprit in sewer overflows nationwide, and a 2011 report from the Biofuels Center of North Carolina in conjunction with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities estimates this grease is responsible for more than 50 percent of Charlotte-area overflows. Currently in the U.S., grease trap waste is often landfilled or spread on fields.

BlackGold Biofuels, the developer behind BlackGold Biofuels of Charlotte, is based in Philadelphia where the company is building a network of these recycling facilities throughout the Southeast and mid-Atlantic regions. Additional North Carolina facilities are under development in Winston-Salem and Raleigh.

To find out more about BlackGold Biofuels, visit www.blackgoldbiofuels.com.