Green Energy Components
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Clean air and clean water.
No two aspects of a state symbolize a high quality of life quite like these two essential elements. If the water is fouled or the air quality poor, then no economic, educational or social factors can overcome the perception that a polluted state is not an inviting state.
New Jersey has recognized this fact. In recent years, major initiatives on air and water quality have bolstered the state’s effort to protect these precious resources. With efforts like the Global Warming Response Act to reduce greenhouse gases and a State Energy Master Plan to draw at least 20 percent of New Jersey’s energy from renewable resources by 2020, the “Garden State” clearly aims to retain that moniker as we move into the future.
This desire to create as pristine an environment as possible in the nation’s most densely populated state is no easy task. New Jerseyans rely heavily on their motor vehicles. One look at rush-hour traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike or Garden State Parkway, Interstate 80 or the Atlantic City Expressway is all that is needed to drive home that point. With so many cars on New Jersey’s roads, not to mention commercial trucks traveling to destinations in the state (and through the state to points north and south), controlling emissions will always be among the major challenges in maintaining a clean environment.
New Jersey is a major consumer of fossil fuels, while serving as a producer of almost none of the raw materials needed to create them. In terms of gallons used per day, the state ranks: 9th in the nation for total petroleum consumption (25.6 million gallons per day); 11th in gasoline consumption (11.1 million gallons per day); 13th in distillate fuel, including that used in diesel engines (4.1 million gallons per day); and 4th nationally in jet fuel consumption (3.3 million gallons per day). (Source: Energy Information Administration)
Fortunately, New Jersey is also among the states taking the boldest steps to move away from fossil fuels. A July 2008 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council ranked New Jersey sixth among the “10 states doing the most to wean themselves from oil.”
New Jersey does have some production of the feedstocks currently used in the primary biofuels in the United States, namely grain crops such as corn and soybeans, any significant in-state production of biofuels from those feedstocks would also require importing additional sources from out of state.
While those “first-generation” biofuels should be pursued in order to keep momentum for alternative fuels moving forward, development of second- and third-generation feedstocks also must be emphasized. This effort is being aided by New Jersey’s ready supply of high-tech companies, research-oriented universities and tradition of innovative entrepreneurship embodied by the likes of Thomas Edison.
Already, New Jersey is home to a company using U.S. Department of Energy funds to research the potential for “cellulosic” ethanol, which can lead the way for such non-food crops as switchgrass and willows to be used as the basis for fuels. Other New Jersey companies are investigating the use of algae as a feedstock for ethanol or biodiesel.
In addition to Governor Corzine’s Energy Master Plan (http://nj.gov/emp/.), additional efforts have been undertaken to make alternative energy the rule rather than the exception in New Jersey. The state’s Board of Public Utilities is a recognized leader in incentivizing solar and wind energy projects through rebates to homeowners and businesses employing these methods.
Since mid-2006, a multi-agency working group has met twice monthly at the Department of Agriculture to concentrate on creating the most conducive environment for biofuels and bioenergy companies to thrive in the state. Bringing together agencies overseeing agriculture, the environment, utilities, high technology, business growth and academic research, the group is a “one-stop shop” that helps companies interested in biofuels and bioenergy avoid repeated meetings at individual agencies by bringing all the possible regulators and incubators around the same table.
The state’s agricultural base can play its greatest role in this regard by providing the raw materials needed to develop alternative fuels that help reduce vehicle emissions while also avoiding further contamination of groundwater. In addition, the state’s farmers are leading the way by integrating renewable energy like solar and wind power into their operations and investigating the potential for hosting “community solar systems,” in which a farm would host the generation equipment, bought with investment by the farmer and surrounding neighbors, with the farm and neighborhood sharing the energy generated.
As both consumers and producers of energy, and as producers of the raw materials that can be used to produce renewable fuels, New Jersey’s farmers can take an important leadership role in shaping New Jersey’s energy future.
Green Energy Components
SUN: Energy from the sun can be harnessed to create electricity or to provide heat.
Installation of solar panels for converting the sun’s energy into electricity has greatly increased in New Jersey. Programs are now available to help agricultural producers take advantage of this technology.
U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Guide to Using the NJ Clean Energy Website to Determine if Solar Energy is Cost Effective For Your Farming Operation
WIND: The power of a strong wind can be captured by a turbine (windmill), then turned into electricity.
While not all areas of the state have enough consistent wind to make an electricity-generating windmill viable, many coastal and Northwestern areas do. More efficient turbines are making this option more attractive as means of cutting energy costs on the farm. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy)
The New Jersey Wind Program Web page provides information resources for those interested in learning about terrestrial-sited wind generation and financial incentives offered through New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program. In addition, updates on the New Jersey Wind Working Group, formed to discuss and identify opportunities and barriers associated with small terrestrial wind development in the state, are available. Much of the work on this initiative, including a program to provide anemometers to gauge wind-energy viability is conducted through Rowan University. Visit www.Rowan.edu/cleanenergy.
The New Jersey Clean Energy Program small wind initiatives:
U.S.Department of Energy, National Wind Technology Center
Ethanol: Made by distilling the starch and sugar from a variety of plants, ethanol can be used as a fuel in concentrations as high as 85 percent or blended into gasoline in lower percentages to stretch the supply or help clean the air.
New Jersey’s farmers may be positioned to capitalize on the growing national movement toward ethanol-blended fuels, which use, or have the potential to use, a range of agricultural products as their base. Ethanol is blended into 40 percent of the nation’s gasoline supply. New Jersey law calls for all gasoline to contain 10 percent ethanol as an “oxygenate” to help meet federal clean-air standards. Current U.S. ethanol production capacity of 6 billion gallons per year can reduce gasoline imports by more than one-third and effectively extends gasoline supplies, according to the American Coalition for Ethanol. According to the Energy Information Administration, the 7.5 billion gallon ethanol production level minimum set in the Renewable Fuels Standard could reduce oil consumption by 80,000 barrels per day.
American Coalition for Ethanol – Promoting ethanol production in the United States
Renewable Fuels Association – A clearinghouse for biofuels information www.ethanolrfa.org
Bio-Diesel: An alternative to diesel fuel from petroleum, bio-diesel can be made from the oils of soybeans or from a variety of used cooking oils and oils from other plants, such as canola.
Bio-diesel offers an alternative to petroleum diesel, which has come under increased scrutiny for sulfur emissions. Bio-diesel blends can be used in today’s diesel engines without modification, and significantly reduces the harmful fumes produced by pure petroleum diesel. Beyond oils from food crops, researchers are advancing the use of non-food products such as algae and jatropha for the production of biodiesel.
Official site of the National Biodiesel Board
USDA energy programs and initiatives
U.S. Department of Energy Biomass Program
Biogas: Crops aren’t the only biomass from which energy can be derived. The process of "anaerobic digestion," a more complex version of your backyard compost pile, can turn a variety of wastes into methane or "biogas," which can be used as a fuel or converted into electrical power.
New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the nation, generates much waste that could be used in this process, including animal manures and food waste. Using this waste to create energy would provide the added benefit of reducing the amount of landfill space needed in the state. In addition, the process creates a byproduct of nutrient-rich fertilizer that could be used by farmers. As a result of the Biofuels Group meetings at the NJDA, Rutgers University conducted a Biomass Inventory that catalogued all the available New Jersey biomass from crops, wastes and other sources that could be turned into energy. It can be found at: http://njaes.rutgers.edu/bioenergy/njaes-biomass-assessment-finalreport.pdf
For more on Anaerobic Digestion, click here.
RUTGERS EcoComplex, RUTGERS University's Environmental Research and Extension Center
To encourage use of renewable energy sources, state and federal agencies offer the following grant programs:
New Jersey Clean Energy Program: Provides financial incentives to owners who install qualifying clean energy generation systems such as fuel cells, photovoltaics (solar electricity), small wind and sustainable biomass equipment.
Rural Energy for America Program (REAP): This program currently funds grants and loan guarantees to agricultural producers and rural small business for assistance with purchasing renewable energy systems and making energy efficiency improvements. www.rurdev.usda.gov/rbs/farmbill/index.html
Other Helpful Links
Farm Energy Website
A successful new energy independence and economic development program
USDA Energy Page
USDA's comprehensive energy strategy to help farmers and ranchers mitigate the impact of high energy costs and develop long-term solutions.
USDA Renewable Energy Investments in Rural America
United States Environmental Protection Agency - Clean Energy
Sun Grant Initiative:
A concept to solve America's energy needs and revitalize rural communities with land-grant university research, education, and extension programs on renewable energy and biobased, non-food
industries. search for renewable energy sources and the most effective ways to use them
Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas
Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Pricing
The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System® is a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. Members of the U.S. Green Building Council representing all segments of the building industry developed LEED and continue to contribute to its evolution.
The Willow School is situated in the New Jersey countryside on a 34-acre forested site. The school buildings incorporate many environmentally sensitive design features, allowing the school to seek a high level of certification from the United States Green Building Council in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.
The Willow School: www.willowschool.org/campus/environment.htm
The LEED building principles can be augmented in community planning and design through the use of the “green roof” concept. The thin layer of plants covering a roof can reduce heating and cooling costs, absorb storm runoff and help in cutting air pollution. The Silvercup Studios building in New York City, where “The Sopranos” series is shot in part, has received attention for its use of the green roof concept.