Category Archives: Biomass, Biochar & Renewables

India Looks to Battery Storage to Supplement Its Solar Boom


Image Source: Green Tech Media
Image Source: Green Tech Media








Written by: Mike Stone. Posted on: March 14, 2016

For the first time ever, India is putting out the call for energy storage developers.

The state-run Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) is seeking bids for a 750-megawatt solar park at Ananthapuramu in Andhra Pradesh. In order to supplement the massive series of projects, SECI is looking to procure 100 megawatts of storage capacity.

It’s a small step for solar storage in a country that currently has little capacity. But if batteries are regularly added to future tenders, it could add up to a large market, given India’s ambitious solar targets.

The government is planning 20 gigawatts of solar installations over the next few years and 100 gigawatts by 2020 or 2022 — amounting to a $100 billion opportunity for solar, according to Ernst & Young’s renewable energy attractiveness index.

Madhavan Nampoothiri, founder of RESolve Energy Consultants, thinks solar-plus-storage will benefit.

“The opportunity is huge in India, mainly in the rooftop/off-grid space,” he said. “Power outages are rampant in India, and energy storage can help reduce the outages. On the utility-scale projects side, grid balancing and grid integration become increasingly important in order to counter the [intermittent] nature of solar.”

Large companies are preparing to do business in the sector. General Electric recently announced that its energy consulting business was chosen by IL&FS, one of India’s leading infrastructure developers and financiers, to examine the feasibility of integrated wind, solar and energy storage projects at sites in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.

“Energy storage can be particularly helpful for integrating variable renewable generation in India since the technical infrastructure and market mechanisms available at the disposal of many other power grids are not yet available in the country,” said Sundar Venkataraman, GE Energy Consulting’s technical director. “As the costs start to come down, energy storage will become an integral part of India’s grid.”

IL&FS, also one of the biggest independent wind power producers in India, last year secured funding from the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) to look into utility-scale integration of wind, solar and storage in India. The grant is part of $2 billion in trade investment that USTDA has earmarked for renewable energy projects in India.

GE’s contribution to the research will include designing a power plant combining wind, solar, energy storage and controls. The company will then look at the costs incurred and build a business plan in order to make the project commercially viable.

At this stage, it is unclear what battery chemistries will dominate in India’s market. It will likely be lithium-ion; however, according to Madhavan Nampoothiri, there will be a place for vanadium redox flow batteries in the longer term.

For example, SunEdison ordered 1,000 vanadium storage systems from Imergy last year for use in solar-powered microgrids in rural India.

Despite its bold plans, India doesn’t have much solar to speak of yet. At the moment, its 3 gigawatts of installed solar account for only 1 percent of the country’s total generating capacity. To put that into perspective, China and Germany already have roughly 40 gigawatts each.

India’s storage sector may depend on how quickly solar scales up in the country.

Article Disclaimer: This article was published at Green Tech Media and was retrieved on March 16, 2016 and posted here at INDESEEM for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the post remains those of the author. Please cite the original source accordingly.



Researcher examines biochar use in forests

Matthew Weaver/Capital PressRockford, Wash., farmer David Gady holds biochar made from bluegrass screenings January 2014 on his farm. Researchers are looking at the use of biochar in forests.
Matthew Weaver/Capital PressRockford, Wash., farmer David Gady holds biochar made from bluegrass screenings January 2014 on his farm. Researchers are looking at the use of biochar in forests.

Reported by: Matthew Weaver

Research is underway that could lead to more uses for waste wood, a U.S. Forest Service researcher says.

Instead of thinning stands to boost productivity and burning the resulting slashpiles, researchers believe turning it into biochar — a supplement made of charred biological matter — would be better for long-term carbon storage and boosting soil’s nutrient- and moisture-holding capacities.

“We’re hoping we can make a change in forest management,” said Deborah Page-Dumroese, research soil scientist with the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station in Moscow, Idaho. “Instead of making slashpiles, we can actually use that waste wood for a benefit.”

Textured soils with little organic matter content responded better than soils with higher organic content. Agricultural soils typically show better response to biochar because they’re lower in organic matter, Page-Dumroese said.

Biochar is applied differently on forest soils. It is added to the surface instead of being incorporated into farm land. It takes several years for biochar to move into forest soils.

As more areas experience drought, an increase in water-holding capacity extends the growing season, Page-Dumroese said. Organic matter also acts as a sponge during flooding, retaining more moisture.

Page-Dumroese plans to continue her research. The biggest benefit of biochar is carbon sequestration, she said.

Researchers primarily focus on matching biochar to the proper site. Some forest sites do show an increase in the growth of overstory trees.

“We see small changes, but we still see above-ground growth changes,” Page-Dumroese said.

The sites most likely to require biochar include mine land sites, overgrazed areas and highly compacted forest sites with organic matter removed due to fire.

Page-Dumroese said some mine sites are showing an increase in plant survival.

She uses a mixed conifer feedstock or a mix of pinyon pine and juniper for biochar.

Page-Dumroese said roughly 30 percent of materials used to make biochar on an acre should be returned to that particular acre, but the rest could be sold for use on gardens or farms. She advised potential customers to consider the source of the biochar and its pH levels.

Howard Boyte, CEO of Walking Point Farms, a veteran-owned agritech business in Tigard, Ore., said the forest service approached him several years about commercializing biochar. The company plans to market a commercial product.

Page-Dumroese’s lab is the lead on researching the project with Oregon State University, Boyte said.

Biochar is expensive right now, Boyte said. The government would need to require biochar use for food it purchases for prisons, military and USDA food programs for it to gain traction with farmers, he said.

Article Disclaimer: This article was published at Capital Press and was retrieved on March 9, 2016 and posted here for educational and information purposes only. The views, findings and contents of the article remains those of the author. Please cite the original source accordingly.




New study highlights environmental, economic shortcomings of federal biofuel laws

New UT study highlights environmental, economic shortcomings of federal biofuel laws

A new study released by researchers with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture concludes that the nation’s Renewable Fuels Standard is too reliant on corn ethanol as opposed to advanced biofuels. Photo depicts a corn harvest at the UT AgResearch and Education Center in Milan, Tenn. Credit: Photo courtesy UTIA.

Provided by: University of Tennessee at KnoxvillePublished on on Oct. 15, 2015


The federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and its overreliance on corn ethanol has created additional environmental problems in its 10-year history, resulting in unmet targets for cutting air pollution, water contamination and soil erosion, concludes a new study released by University of Tennessee researchers.
In fact, the authors – Drs. Daniel G. De La Torre Ugarte and Burton C. English of the UT Institute of Agriculture – find that from an environmental and energy security perspective, the subsidies and mandates for corn ethanol would have been better and more effectively directed towards advanced biofuels.
“The anniversary offers an opportunity to thoroughly review this policy’s legacy, both in terms of its impacts on the broader economy as well as the environment,” said Dr. De La Torre Ugarte. “Our analysis shows that the RFS has created more problems than solutions, particularly with regard to hampering advancements in biofuels. Corn ethanol was presented as a ‘bridge’ to advanced biofuels and a means of reducing GHG emissions. However, the reality is clear that this policy has been a bridge to nowhere.”

“Due to the RFS’s inherent and structural limitations, we remain too reliant on corn ethanol,” said Dr. English. “As our research demonstrates, corn ethanol along with decreased demand of transportation fuels has restricted the growth and maturation of the advanced biofuel industry, resulting in fewer environmental and economic benefits.”

The authors also determined that the corn ethanol industry has received almost $50 billion in cumulative taxpayer and market subsidies since 2005, providing evidence that the industry “cannot survive in any real commercial sense without mandated fuel volume requirements and RIN markets.”

Moreover, according to the researchers, the RFS – in its current form – focuses almost exclusively on a single crop from a concentrated region of the country. Conversely, advanced biofuels represent a significantly more diverse portfolio of fuel feedstocks that can be sourced from a variety of regions and environments around the country.

“The RFS’s overemphasis on corn must be revisited, and more stable solutions that encourage – rather than discourage – biofuel diversification should be pursued in order to advance the policy’s original objectives,” said Dr. De La Torre Ugarte.

The researchers provide policy recommendations for improving the RFS to help make the transition to advanced biofuels possible. As the report notes, for advanced biofuels to enter the market, an investment-based mechanism is necessary to overcome capital intensity and technology risk.

“After 10 years of missed objectives, it’s time to rethink the structure and practical implementation of the RFS and examine other policy designs aimed at promoting the production and consumption of advanced biofuels,” added Dr. English.

The report finds that because the RFS’s framework continues to limit a transition from corn ethanol to advanced biofuels, the policy’s projected benefits – including improved air quality and broader based economic gains – have not materialized to the extent promised. The report notes there is evidence in the literature that “the production and use of  may actually increase smog levels and greenhouse gas emissions.”

More information: To view the full report, visit the UT Bio-Based Energy Analysis Group website:

Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the and retrieved on 10/18/2015 and posted here for educational and information purposes only. The views and thoughts expressed in the article are those of the authors only. Please cite the original source of this article accordingly.


Atmosphere of Hope: Searching for Solutions to the Climate Crisis


Tim Flannery’s new book Atmosphere of Hope highlights innovative solutions to the world’s climate crisis

By Tim Flannery. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., 245 pp, hardcover

Runaway climate change has all the characteristics of a disaster movie.

Under the worst-case scenarios, rising sea levels will eventually swallow up coastal cities and island nations. Monstrous storms will transform parts of the North American heartland to rubble. And human beings will congregate closer to the poles to escape blistering heat waves and an onslaught of hellish wildfires farther south.

It has all the earmarks of Armageddon if humanity doesn’t take far more aggressive actions to curb greenhouse-gas emissions. Political leaders will come together to try to address the issue at the UN’s upcoming COP21 climate conference later this year in Paris.

But climate change is also a problem of arithmetic and the best efforts to educate the public about this don’t shy away from the numbers.

Such is the case with Australian scientist Tim Flannery’s remarkable new book, Atmosphere of Hope.

Much of the talk around climate change revolves around keeping the average global temperature from increasing by 2°C since the dawn of the industrial revolution.

This would alleviate the likelihood of more catastrophic climate havoc caused by melting glaciers, rising sea levels, and extreme weather events. (Even an increase of that amount is predicted to be destructive.)

Flannery, on the other hand, focuses much of his book on gigatonnes of carbon dioxide—a gigatonne being a billion tonnes. Last year, human beings were responsible for the release of 40 gigatonnes.

Then Flannery, winner of the SFU’s 2015/16 Jack P. Blaney Award for Dialogue, sets about explaining in clear language what’s required to achieve substantial reductions.

“We should be focusing on reducing emissions by the gigatonne,” he writes. “Frustratingly, the objective of the political negotiations is expressed in degrees Celsius rather than gigatonnes of carbon.”

A mere 10 percent reduction, Flannery explains, would require converting all of the world’s agriculture and forestry waste—plus biomass from 100,000 square kilometres of sugar cane—into biochar. It’s a mineralized form of carbon that can be buried or placed in mines. In some instances, biochar can help agricultural production when mixed with soil.

Biochar is one of several options he puts forth in the book. Another promising approach is the cultivation of carbon-dioxide-consuming seaweed. He cites research by University of South Pacific researchers led by Antoine De Ramon N’Yeurt, who noted that seaweed farms “could be used to absorb CO2 very efficiently, and at a large scale”.

“Their analysis shows that growing seaweed could produce 12 gigatonnes of methane [a heat-trapping greenhouse gas with a shorter lifespan in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide], while storing 19 gigatonnes of CO2 that result from methane production,” Flannery writes. “A further 34 gigatonnes per year of CO2 could be captured if the methane is burned to generate electricity.”

Flannery’s two previous books, The Weather Makers and Here on Earth, put him in the top echelon of climate-change educators.

Atmosphere of Hope offers more concrete solutions than the previous two titles, in part because of all the technological advances taking place. But he doesn’t sugar-coat the magnitude of the problem. In fact, it becomes starker when reduced to the language of gigatonnes.

For instance, the book reveals how a roofing company called Derbigum has created a product with a layer of olivine, which is a mineral from deep within the Earth. It “reacts with rainwater to remove and permanently store atmospheric CO2”, Flannery reports.

Unfortunately, massive amounts of olivine are needed to sequester a gigatonne of carbon. But Flannery notes that there are many other ways to make use of olivine to help tackle the climate crisis.

“It’s even been proposed that olivine-based carbon-capture devices be installed on ships,” he writes. “Located in the exhaust of the ship’s engines, they would capture the CO2 emitted and turn it into a carbonate that, if released into the ocean, could lead to the sequestration of additional amounts of CO2 from seawater.”

Limestone can also absorb carbon, but Flannery points out that this comes at a high price: US$79-$159 per tonne. This is why he argues for government incentives for those who want to do this, not to mention the need for more research and development to lower the cost.

Atmosphere of Hope also includes some enlightening information about the storage of carbon dioxide. Enormous sums of money have been spent investigating land-based carbon-capture technology, but perhaps the greatest potential lies in the ocean crust.

Flannery emphasizes that if carbon dioxide is stored below 3,000 metres of water, it is converted into stable hydrates. This results in it being permanently locked into the rock.

But steep topography must be avoided, he cautions, because of the risk of underwater landslides, which could cause tsunamis.

“Although not all regions of the oceans deeper than 3,000 metres are suitable for the storage of CO2, the potential scale of this approach is large,” he writes.

The book also reports on the growing use of solar energy, the challenges posed by nuclear power, and how citizens concerned about climate change are putting politicians on the defensive. Even though some of the information is highly technical, Flannery conveys it in a readable form that’s hard to put down.

There are even a couple of nuggets about B.C. included within Atmosphere of Hope. One section explores how the Haida First Nation tried fertilizing the ocean with iron to stimulate the growth of plankton to revive failing salmon stocks.

Flannery acknowledges that this violated the Convention on Biological Diversity while still offering a nuanced view of the experiment.

He also reveals in his book that then B.C. premier Gordon Campbell told him that the provincial carbon tax was introduced after Campbell had read Flannery’s The Weather Makers.

It remains to be seen whether Atmosphere of Hope will have a similar impact on the current premier, Christy Clark. Judging by her government’s eagerness to promote the fracking of natural gas, we probably shouldn’t be holding our breath in anticipation of any miracles.

Tim Flannery will discuss global climate issues at the Vancouver Playhouse on Wednesday (October 14). Tickets are available through Tickets Tonight for $20 and $15 for seniors, youths, and students.

This article was published by and was retrieved on 10/14/2015 and posted here for information and educational purposes.

Research Points to Bright Future for Biomass

A forester provides context for the size of slash piles, which contain forest residues. Part of the Waste to Wisdom project is looking at ways to process...
Humboldt State University

A forester provides context for the size of slash piles, which contain forest residues. Part of the Waste to Wisdom project is looking at ways to process residues on site.

Photo Credit: Humboldt State University

Oct 08, 2015

Newswise — A potential revolution is unfolding on out-of-the-way logging roads. Foresters and researchers are innovating unique ways to make use of forest residues—low quality trees, tree tops, limbs, and chunks that formerly would have been left in slash piles and burned, or worse, left to rot.

Last year, HSU and 15 regional partners began the Waste to Wisdom project after receiving a $5.88 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to dramatically expand biomass research. The grant is part of the Biomass Research and Development Initiative, a collaborative effort between the Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Now, initial research from that project is beginning to show promising results.

Researchers have long known forest residues—also referred to as woody biomass—have the potential to be used in energy production, but logistics have stood in the way. “Due to the high cost of collection and transportation, woody biomass is a promising but widely untapped source of renewable energy,” says Arne Jacobson, one of the principal investigators on the Waste to Wisdom project who is focusing on developing new biomass-to-energy conversion technologies.

“Our approach is different. We’re adapting our operations to take advantage of the opportunity the waste materials present,” says Han-Sup Han, HSU forestry professor, and one of the project’s lead researchers. “Processes such as briquetting and torrefaction of wood chips at or near the forestry sites add value to existing bio-products.”

According to researchers, the innovations center on improving collection of forest residues and reducing transportation costs. For example, gathering forest residues into dense bails improves the economics of handling, storing, and transporting the raw materials. Beyond analyzing logistics, researchers hope to also to better understand the environmental impacts of processing forest residues on site, and how the forest products market will receive the new products.

Utilizing forestry residues with these new methods has the potential to sequester carbon, speed up the replanting process at cut sites, and boost the economy in rural communities—all while reducing the nation’s overall dependence on fossil-based energy.
In June, the research team and partners demonstrated new collection and transportation techniques to community members and stakeholders at a meeting in Humboldt County. The demonstration, one of the largest of its kind, guided participants through every step of the forest residue’s journey, from slash pile to finished briquettes and biochar wood chips. The reception was unanimously supportive. “Our partners are very excited about this project,” says Han.

A New Approach
In today’s forestry practices, it’s the sawlog that generates profit. A sawlog is a tree that’s been felled, stripped of its branches, and topped so it can be milled into lumber.

What’s left over—forest residues—are lumped into slash piles, and for many reasons forest land managers often aren’t able to process the heaps of branches and stumps. Burn permits can be hard to obtain, and weather often causes delays. The piles end up sitting, attracting pests, increasing the risk of wildfire, and delaying foresters from reseeding cut sites.

Chipping and transporting the slash to a processing site is often economically unfeasible. In today’s market, forest residues processed this way are worth about $40 to $50 per bone dry ton.

The new methods being developed by the Waste to Wisdom group will make a range of bio-products worth from $150 to as much as $2,000 a ton. Bio-products include a charcoal-like product called biochar— torrefied wood chips that have been heated to drive off moisture—and briquettes made from compressed biomass that can be used directly for energy production.

Recent research has highlighted the effectiveness of biochar as a soil amendment in helping to achieve higher levels of carbon sequestration in agriculture and forestry. The project will directly affect the development of new policies and strategies in minimizing greenhouse gas emissions through the substitution of fossil fuels and petroleum-based fuels.

Researchers will also evaluate the economic feasibility, along with the social and environmental impacts, of biomass conversion technologies. A life cycle analysis will be performed to identify tradeoffs between uses from both an economic and environmental perspective. And a final component of the project will analyze the environmental and economic impacts of bioenergy and biobased products.

To learn more, visit the Waste to Wisdom website.

This article was published online at Newswire and was retrieved on 10/13/2015 and posted here for educational and information purposes with the aim of creating awareness globally.



Stubborn Soils Resist Composting and Biochar Treatments

The researchers did not find any increase in Mycorrhizas numbers, even in highly micorrhizal plants such as sorghum (pictured). The researchers did not find any increase in Mycorrhizas numbers, even in highly micorrhizal plants such as sorghum (pictured).Image: Cyndy Sims Parr
Written by 
  • Esperance soil trials falter on long-term soil fertility influence
  • Research to test results from previous research into boosting root length (mycorrhiza activity)
  • Vietnam crops thrived on nutrient-rich biochar

SOILS on WA’s south-east coast, notorious for their non-wetting properties and low nutrient levels, continue to stump agricultural scientists despite being involved in a biochar and composting trial designed to improve their productivity.

With millions of hectares of this stubborn soil type dominating the south coastal farming regions, solutions to soil infertility could be valuable to local farmers by significantly improving the economic value of WA’s commercial crops.

Biochar (charcoal produced from plant matter) and compost were added to the soils over four years to determine if these organic additions could alter the productivity of the soils.

However, despite short-term crop yield gains, the organic amendments did not appear to have a long-term influence on soil fertility, and the solution remains a puzzle to scientists.

Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA) scientist David Hall, who ran the trials near Esperance, says the research was initiated to test previous studies showing organic amendments could increase mycorrhiza activity.

Mycorrhizas are symbiotic organisms essential in increasing a plant’s root length, allowing them to scavenge more nutrients and water, a function particularly important for crops in sandplain soils.

Mr Hall says similar trials were also being run on sandplain soils in south-central Vietnam as part of an Australian Centre of International Research project, but the results from both trials had been remarkably different.

Department of Agriculture and Food Senior Research Scientist David Hall, Dr Hoang Tam, Dr Brad Keenan and Professor Richard Bell at one of the biochar trial sites in Vietnam.


“When colleagues started looking at the benefits of biochar in Vietnam, one of the biggest issues was that the soils there were highly potassium, sulphur and micronutrient deficient, and so there were big responses to the nutrient-rich biochar,” he says.

“In Australia we have a better fertiliser history, and while the soils in our local trials had low potassium levels, they were not as deficient as in Vietnam.”

Mr Hall says while yield gains averaging 13 per cent were achieved in the first two years after the additions of biochar and compost, any yield gains after that date could not be attributed to the soil amendments.

“Nutrients flow through sandplain soils very quickly, particularly nitrogen, and we wanted to see if these organic amendments had benefits in terms of retaining nutrients in the longer term with the aim of increasing crop yields,” he says.

“We found that any yield increases could only be attributed to the direct nutrient additions from the organic amendments and we couldn’t find any increase in Mycorrhizas numbers, even in highly micorrhizal plants such as sorghum.”

You may also like:

WA company perfecting biochar for farms

Biochar efficacy on soil nitrogen questioned

This article was published at Science Network of Western Australia  and was retrieved on 10/07/2015 posted here for educational and information purposes only.



Biochar Efficacy on Soil Nitrogen Questioned

bio char







“In my view recent research has not been able to demonstrate an affective, valuable role for biochar in agriculture.”—Professor Gilkes. Lou Gold

A UWA study has challenged claims that biochar is more effective in minimising nitrogen leaching from soil than traditional clay amendments.

The article published by CSIRO Publishing titled “Clay and biochar amendments decreased inorganic but not dissolved organic nitrogen leaching in soil” gives a recent update on the new research.

Clay is commonly used in agriculture to ameliorate water repellence and improve water retention, however in dryer climates such as Australia, biochar has been claimed to be more useful because it has a greater water holding capacity.

Biochar, a type of charcoal, has been proposed as an alternative to clay because of its porous structure enabling it to better retain nutrients and moisture while at the same time storing carbon.

Biochar is generally alkaline and could be a useful additive in place of products such as lime to improve the quality of acidic soils (typically pH of 5-6) in regions such as the Wheatbelt of WA.

These properties are claimed to assist in improving soil fertility and increase agricultural productivity making use of biochar increasingly appealing to farmers.

However, the study found that biochar does not possess significantly better nutrient absorption qualities than clay, although both are acknowledged as beneficial in reducing nitrogen leaching.

UWA’s Soil Research Winthrop Professor Robert Gilkes says although there a number of clear benefits he still has concerns.

“The whole situation is complicated because putting biochar in soils is also claimed to be a way of stopping carbon getting into the atmosphere.

“I think the proponents of burying biochar need to be clear that it’s only slowing down the rate of carbon transfer back into the atmosphere, not preventing it.

“There are several ways in which you can catch carbon dioxide, this is just one.

“One of the downsides is that biochar production is a costly and wasteful process which doesn’t provide any benefits.

“It is no more nutrient absorbing than clay,” Professor Gilkes says.

Biochar is produced via pyrolysis, a process which actually produces energy through use of renewable sources, with the biochar (a carbon sink) retrieved as a by-product.

“The idea is that companies and countries can bury their carbon in the ground which reduces their carbon input into the atmosphere and in turn reduce their carbon liabilities,” Professor Gilkes says.

Clay is often readily available from the sub-soil and has been used for many years in some farming enterprises, so determining whether biochar offers a viable alternative needs serious consideration.

“In my view recent research has not been able to demonstrate an affective, valuable role for biochar in agriculture,” Professor Gilkes says.

This article was published at Science Network of Western Australia and retrieved on 10/07/2015 and posted here for educational and information purposes only.