Day: August 29, 2011

The Benefits of Biochar

Read the full story in Biorefining Magazine.

Logistics have proven to be a challenge for the biorefining industry. In many cases, bulky feedstocks can be difficult and prohibitively expensive to transport and store. One solution that’s been discussed for years is distributed collection and preprocessing locations modeled after the network of grain elevators that dot the landscape of rural America. Rather than storing grain, however, locations that serve as drop-off points for biomass feedstocks would feature pyrolysis systems to process those feedstocks into bio-oil that could more easily be transported to biorefineries for conversion into biobased fuels and chemicals. Biochar produced as a byproduct of the pyrolysis process could then be used to help rehabilitate degraded soils.

A research project as South Dakota State University is focused on determining the specific impact that various types of biochar can have on degraded soils. The project, which was recently awarded a five-year $1 million grant through the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, is being led by SDSU professor Tom Schumacher. Together with a team of colleagues, Schumacher will produce biochar and bio-oil via a microwave fast pyrolysis process. The resulting biochar will be introduced to degraded soils in the university greenhouse for evaluation. The team will test biochar resulting from three different feedstocks: corn stover, switchgrass and woody biomass.

Could we use sewage to power our cars?

Read the full post at SmartPlanet.

We’re pretty good about recycling our trash: our soda cans, paper, and plastic, can all be re-purposed and reused down the road. But what if we could make use of another kind of waste: our sewage?

A Southern California waste treatment plant is doing just that. The Department of Transportation recently commissioned the world’s first tri-generation fuel cell and hydrogen energy station, using biogas to produce electricity, heat, and hydrogen. It’s location? The Orange County Sanitation District’s wastewater treatment plant, in Fountain Valley, C.A.

University of Washington leads nation’s 118 greenest schools

Read the full post at SmartPlanet.

If your teenager is about to be a senior and has any sort of green sensibilities, you might want to direct him or her to the fifth annual “Coolest Schools” ranking of the nation’s greenest and most sustainable colleges and universities by the Sierra Club. But be prepared: he or she might have to head west or north to fulfill that aspect of their college wish-list criteria.

Marcellus Shale fail – estimates of natural gas reserves were inflated

Read the full post at SmartPlanet.

A new report by the United States Geological Survey has found that reserves of recoverable natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation fall dramatically short of previous estimates, raising questions about the energy industry’s influence over government.

The findings are likely to rebalance the equation on recoverable gas versus cost, the availability of water, and other environmental issues. The USGS estimates that there is 84 trillion cubic feet of natural gas available for extraction, conflicting sharply with the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) figure of 410 trillion cubic feet.

Electric vehicle powers house

Watch the video at Smart Planet.

Nissan Motor has developed a system that enables its Leaf to provide household electricity. The company says the product will help reduce demand on the power grid during peak periods and provide backup electricity in the event of a power outage. The same system can also charge the EV.

A smart, swapping site for kids clothes, toys, books

Watch the video at Smart Planet.

Say goodbye to thrift stores, garage sales, and flea markets. Thred UP, a new online swapping platform, allows parents to swap kids clothing, toys, and books using the Internet and U.S. mail service. SmartPlanet talks to the company’s founder, James Reinhart, about the service and why he decided to create a business targeting the way kids items are bought and sold.

Los Angeles Times advertising supplement on sustainable packaging

The August 13th edition of the LA Times included an insert that focused on sustainable packaging. It includes interviews with William McDonough and Bob Lilienfeld (Use Less Stuff Report).

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