Tuesday, March 20, 2012

BioEnergy Symposium Wrap-up: Fuel Me Up!

One of the best things about attending a conference on renewable energy is the buzz. Regardless of size, there is an energy that you won’t find next door at the garden trade show. With the industry still in its development stage, there is an eagerness to share ideas and make connections.

Such was the case at the Second Annual BioEnergy Symposium in Charlotte last week. Hosted by UNC Charlotte’s IDEAS Center, the conference focused on transportation biofuels this year. Bringing together academics, industry professionals and government officials, the symposium also attracted a number of representatives from various nonprofits in the Southeast.

The Tar Heel state did not have a forum for the exchange of ideas until UNC Charlotte established one two years ago. With many in Charlotte looking to bring renewable energy projects to the city, the two-day conference acts as an excellent introduction to the industry.

“Biofuel in North Carolina is in the seed stage,” Lisa Lee Morgan, whose firm Calor Energy co-hosted the two-day conference, said. “Whether or not it actually gears up into a full-fledged industry in North Carolina is still unknown for a lot reasons.”

Morgan points out that until recently, biodiesel was still more expensive than petroleum diesel. Since the price off oil has shot through the roof there has been a renewed interest in biodiesel. Representatives from Piedmont Biofuels, National Biodiesel Board, Blue Ridge Biofuels and an EcoComplex research team from Appalachian State debated the various feedstocks and technology used in creating biodiesel.

Another afternoon session focused on compressed natural gas (CNG) and the validity of it for use as a biofuel. The consensus of the group was that although the building of infrastructure was moving slowly, the potential is significant. Representatives from Piedmont Natural Gas, Charlotte Truck Center, Geosyntec Consultants and TEA illustrated that CNG can come from a variety of sources including natural gas, landfill gas and gas derived from waste through thermal conversion. We found Dave Navey’s story of how he saved $5,000 over two years by purchasing a natural gas-powered Honda Civic GX while still averaging over 70 miles per day!

Although the majority of those in attendance seemed there to learn more about biodiesel and CNG, the session on ethanol was informative and enlightening for all. We learned that Congress and the EPA has recently cleared the way for E15 (a fuel made up from 15 percent bioethanol and 85 percent gasoline) after being hung up in government limbo for more than a year. It looks like you could see the option for E15 at gas stations as early as this summer.

While the forum was specific to North Carolina issues and many of the presenters were representatives from the Tar Heel State, we really felt this was a worthwhile for anyone looking to bone up on their biofuels knowledge. We hope some of you were able to make the trip!

Were you at the 2012 BioEnergy Symposium? Please feel free to post your feedback on our blog or send us a message at betterbtu@gmail.com! 

No comments:

Post a Comment