Kern ‘center of excellence’ attracts another renewable fuels project

A Southern California company plans to open a renewable diesel plant in Bakersfield that would employ at least 70 people helping turn 5,300 barrels per day of dirty cooking oil and other low-grade feedstock into relatively clean fuel for powering heavy-duty trucks. UrbanX Renewables Group, a decade-old biodiesel refiner based in Long Beach, announced earlier this month that South Korea’s Hyundai Engineering Co. Ltd. has agreed to complete the project’s front-end engineering design contract. The plant is expected to open within 18 months; its location, cost and potential subsidies have not been disclosed.

As the first project in California proposing to use low-carbon refining technology co-developed by San Ramon-based Chevron Corp., the plant would add to Kern’s emerging profile as a proving ground for renewable fuels that state policymakers consider important to achieving the state’s climate goals and transitioning the county away from oil and gas production. UrbanX Vice President and CTO Addison Stark said by phone Bakersfield was deemed a good location because of industrial expertise within the local workforce and the area’s existing renewable diesel projects. “We’re excited to see this new industry being built in Bakersfield,” he said. “It’s become a center of excellence on this. … A good place to be is where other people are building (similar) projects.”

UrbanX owns an exclusive, West Coast license to technology developed by Chevron Lummus Global LLC, which is a joint venture between Chevron and Texas-based Lummus Technology. The technology is touted as producing a low-carbon fuel indistinguishable from petroleum-based diesel. It can be substituted gallon-for-gallon without need for engine or fueling-infrastructure modifications, and unlike most biodiesels, it does not need to be blended with other fuels.

Using a process CLG calls isoconversion, the plant would take in various grades of grease, including used cooking oils containing salts and other impurities, as well as rendered animal fats and potentially other waste that normally ends up in landfills. Then it would use chemical catalysts as part of conventional refining reactions to produce a homogenous fuel of consistent quality. Stark said the process’s flexibility in converting various feedstocks is a primary emphasis. He added the company currently operates a refinery in Long Beach that produces 400 barrels per day of biodiesel.

Several renewable fuels projects exist in Kern and others have been proposed, including one by a Torrance-based company that expects by January to produce 15,000 barrels per day at the former Big West refinery on Rosedale Highway. Although some environmental groups oppose renewable fuels because they produce emissions, such activity has been embraced by the administration of Gov. Gavin Newsom as part of its push to reach carbon neutrality in California by 2045. Accordingly, the state has granted millions of taxpayer dollars to support development of renewable fuel projects.

The biodiesel industry estimates California’s use of biodiesel and renewable fuels has increased during the past decade from 15 million gallons per year to almost 900 million. Kern County business, government and community leaders are also pushing to expand such activity locally as part of the economic diversification and job-creation initiative called Better Bakersfield & Boundless Kern, or B3K. The county’s chief administrative officer, Ryan Alsop, said by email B3K has identified renewable fuel production as one of several sectors in which Kern will focus strategies for attracting and supporting businesses and new ventures such as that of UrbanX.

https://www.bakersfield.com/news/kern-center-of-excellence-attracts-another-renewable-fuels-project/article_c5966d7a-c888-11eb-ab31-1bcafc161163.html

Around Kings County: ‘Wall to Wall’ solar plants on the way

This month the Kings County Planning Commission approved three huge but modified solar projects that will sprawl over the westside of the county, flanking Highway 41 and the Avenal Cutoff — all part of the huge Westlands Solar Park project.

Westlands Solar Park (WSP) is a master-planned solar complex covering 21,000 acres in west-central Kings County — that featureless landscape that looks like it was an ancient lakebed — because it was. The developers are covering this flat land with a sea of solar panels that will soon stretch ‘wall to wall’ along both sides of the Avenal Cutoff for miles between NAS Lemoore and I-5. The 2018 Westlands Solar Park master plan calls for a total of 12 solar power generating facilities to be developed in a period of 12 years. The installed capacity of each solar farm near the Fresno/Kings county lines is planned to be up to 250MW. Already, six of the 12 projects have, or are in the process of being permitted- clustered near each other connected to the grid by a new tie-in line (Gates Gen-Tie). The 250MW WSP project called Aquamarine is expected to go on line this fall.

Westlands Grape Solar — a 250 megawatt alternating current solar farm that includes construction of an electrical substation and a large battery energy storage facility. Located on the northside of Nevada Avenue, the new solar farm is planned to be constructed over a 14-month period, starting in mid-2022, with completion scheduled for mid-2023. The facility will include approximately 250 battery storage units, larger than other WSP projects in the past.

The other two projects are already approved but are increasing the number of battery storage units as the state calls for more of the units to spread the impact of solar generation to the grid into the evening hours.

2. Westlands Chestnut Solar — The applicant is proposing to amend a previously approved Conditional Use Permit to allow for an increase in the area covered by battery storage units from approximately 2 acres to 6 acres and a central microwave communication tower up to 175 feet tall. The number of battery storage units will go from 44 to 150. The site is 24998 Nevada Avenue.

3. Westlands Blue Solar -The applicant is proposing to amend a previously approved Conditional use Permit and increase the permitted battery storage units from 84 units to 250 units covering 9 acres instead of 3 acres. The location is 25959 Laurel Avenue, Lemoore.

The Westlands Aquamarine project will sell 50MW to Valley Clean Energy Alliance, which executed a contract with WSP in early 2020. Valley Clean Energy is a locally-governed electricity provider for the California cities of Davis, Woodland, Winters and unincorporated portions of Yolo County. “We believe Westlands Solar Park is ideally positioned to be a leader in California’s program to reduce the state’s carbon footprint and meet its Renewable Portfolio Standards targets. With Aquamarine advancing to full operation before year-end, we are realizing our vision for Westlands Solar Park to become a major clean energy provider as well as meeting a significant commitment in our company’s ongoing sustainability program,” said Avi Shemesh, co-founder and principal, CIM Group. “With Aquamarine and the future phases of Westlands Solar Park, we also are bringing clean energy jobs to the region and generating revenue for the local government and area businesses. “With the imminent completion of Aquamarine, we are in active discussions with numerous entities to supply the clean energy that is critical to meeting the short- and long-term goals for renewable energy — vital to improving communities,” Shemesh said.

Aquamarine recently entered into a 75-MW power purchase agreement (PPA) with Santa Clara, joining other off-takers Anaheim Public Utility, and is currently negotiating additional PPAs with other potential counter parties. WSP has the capacity to grow to more than 2,700 MW of renewable energy at full buildout and the potential to provide clean energy to more than 1,200,000 homes.

https://hanfordsentinel.com/news/local/around-kings-county-wall-to-wall-solar-plants-on-the-way/article_ba7d14c1-4c90-51be-afaa-c3d71c351471.html

AgLand Renewables Receives California Competes Tax Credit

AgLand Renewables LLC (AgLand), the California subsidiary of Maryland-based CleanBay Renewables Inc., has been selected by the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) to receive $1.7 million in tax credit from the highly competitive California Competes Tax Credit (CCTC) program. With this support from the Governor’s office, AgLand can begin development of multiple bioconversion facilities in California that will directly support the state’s economic and environmental goals. “Attracting a company like AgLand Renewables to California is exactly why the CalCompetes program was created,” said Dee Dee Myers, Senior Advisor to the Governor and Director of GO-Biz. “Not only will AgLand Renewables create well-paying jobs and economic opportunity across the Central Valley, but its solution will help us reach California’s greenhouse gas reduction goals while simultaneously supporting the Governor’s healthy soils initiative.”

AgLand will deploy at least two facilities in the Central Valley, home of California’s vast poultry production industry, over the next five years. The facilities will use anerobic digestion and fertilizer formation technology to sustainably convert poultry litter into renewable natural gas (RNG) and organic, controlled-release fertilizers. “These state-of-the-art facilities will help grow California’s leadership in climate smart agriculture, scale-up healthy soils, recycle important nutrients in agriculture, and invest hundreds of millions within hard hit agricultural communities,” said Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. “More than half a million tons of poultry litter is produced in the Central Valley each year, which, if uncontrolled, can release significant greenhouse gases and other emissions that negatively affect the local air, soil and water quality,” said Thomas Spangler, CleanBay Renewables Inc.’s Executive Chairman. “Our sustainable alternative use for poultry litter provides an immediate opportunity to enhance the economic value of the Central Valley’s agricultural industry while simultaneously helping the state meet its low carbon fuel standards and emissions reduction goals.”

By converting more than 150,000 tons of chicken litter annually, each facility can generate more than 750,000 MMBtus of renewable natural gas, 100,000 tons of organic, controlled-release fertilizer, and an estimated 500,000 tons of CO2 equivalent emission abatement that will be available for purchase in carbon markets. “The projects will provide a long-term, sustainable source of renewable transportation fuels and organic fertilizers that will provide a substantial reduction in climate pollutants and improve soil health in California,” said Donal Buckley, CleanBay Renewables Inc.’s CEO. “Further, our direct investment of over $1 billion will provide much needed economic benefits to the Central Valley, creating dozens of new well-paying full-time jobs and hundreds of indirect jobs through construction and supply-chain needs.”

The proposed site locations in Kings and Merced Counties, were identified with support from the GO-Biz Business Investment Services team. Both facilities are projected to be fully operational by 2024. AgLand is exploring other measures to further reduce its carbon footprint, including co-located solar power fields and microgrid technologies as well as the production of alternative fuels such as green hydrogen.

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20210621005452/en/AgLand-Renewables-Receives-California-Competes-Tax-Credit/?feedref=JjAwJuNHiystnCoBq_hl-Ypx8OuIA-qqxXAfOC1go22PU1fv-fCAtwybrddq94az7dI9_69nqXXndEkzoNy31peBvhKXN8xoKDPrCnMXhC58cMd5Jhr97vTYoLZQbGkSFja_QkRbjKVqSkUPuEMBEw==

Investing in the Port of Stockton, Building a natural American Soda Ash Terminal

Denmar U.S. is proposing to build and operate a new, state-of-the-art export facility for American natural soda ash at the Port of Stockton, California. This facility will represent a robust and lasting investment in Stockton and San Joaquin County, helping the Port grow the local economy while ensuring Denmar can help meet the global demand for a domestically-produced, naturally occurring product.

Soda ash is an essential raw material used most frequently in the manufacturing of glass, as well as detergents, electric car batteries, and other household products. Used in manufacturing for more than 5,000 years, Denmar’s American natural soda ash is derived from Green River, WY in the largest natural deposit of soda ash in the world.

Our goal is to build a modern, safe and reliable export facility to help meet the growing global demand for American natural soda ash. Ideally located to reach global markets, the Port of Stockton offers existing infrastructure that will allow us to operate a facility with enough capacity to meet the demand for this important domestic commodity. To ensure the project moves forward supporting local jobs, Denmar U.S. entered into a Letter-Of-Intent with the San Joaquin Building Trades Council for construction and will hire locally from Stockton’s strong workforce.

https://denmarus.com/

SOLAR FIRM SELECTS SOUTH VALLEY FOR 300,000 SQUARE-FOOT WAREHOUSE

The Visalia Industrial Park snagged another high profile company this week as residential solar installer Sunrun agreed to lease a 300,000 square-foot industrial building on Riggin Avenue, across from Amazon. The building is one of two twin, tilt-up buildings recently completed by Visalia contractor BJ Perch and are ready for occupancy.

The buildings are owned by YS Buildings, LLC of Los Angeles. Agent for the company Freddie Molina says he has a signed agreement with the solar firm, which wants to start moving into the building right away. Molina continues to be active in building “spec buildings” — constructed before a tenant commits — in the Visalia Industrial park and plans more.

Molina says Sunrun will distribute solar panels and battery storage units used on homes across California. As for the number of jobs, no number has been confirmed. At least for now, Sunrun is not returning phone calls seeking more information. Both Fresno and Visalia brag they are strategically located mid-state to reach the Western US market in 2/3 days by ground transportation and one day to reach both the Bay Area and Southland. But Visalia had the availability of a large distribution building ready to lease — unlike Fresno, where supply is said to be limited.

Bay Area-based Sunrun is one of the nation’s top solar companies and the residential installation leader said to control about 25% of the market, according to Barron’s. Besides rooftop panels, the company now sells its rechargeable solar battery system, Brightbox, as of last year. Another recent development: In late 2020 the company announced the purchase of former rival Vivint Solar. Sunrun recently said it has more than 550,000 customers and an 18% year over year improvement including Vivint Solar. Besides installation of these energy units, SunRun is the largest provider of third-party-system finance for solar in the US.

Sunrun argues home owners will be better off with solar. “In December, PG&E, the largest utility in California, announced that customers will be hit with an average rate increase of 8%. Just this month many homeowners in Texas have been surprised with skyrocketing bills, many over $10,000. Utility rates have been increasing across the country, with retail rates in our markets increasing 3% per year on average for the last 15 year.”

In their most recent financial report, Sunrun raised its installed growth rate estimate to 25-30% for the year, and said that “the strong momentum that we saw in the fourth quarter has continued into 2021.” Sunrun maintained its position as the largest residential solar installer in the U.S. in the last quarter of 2019.

https://thebusinessjournal.com/solar-firm-selects-south-valley-for-300000-square-foot-warehouse/

Turlock-based solar company expanding quickly to meet demand

One of the nation’s fastest-growing solar energy companies has helped thousands across five different states make the switch to solar since it was founded in 2017, and its home office is right here in Turlock. Solar Energy Partners was first started four years ago by brothers Alex and Clint Williams along with Dave Madrid, who each had decades of experience in the solar industry already. The company offers a “white glove” service in researching, comparing, selecting and installing residential solar panels for customers, saving homeowners nearly $118 million since they first began.

SEP grew at an astounding rate of 500% during the pandemic, most recently announcing a merger with another solar company, The Standard — a move which will allow the company to expand its footprint into several other states in addition to those where they are already established, including California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Texas.  Though their corporate office is located in Turlock, SEP installs solar panels on homes whose owners are mainly Pacific Gas and Electric customers, Alex Williams said, as Turlock Irrigation District bills its customers for solar differently. TID customers with solar panels are billed according to a self-generation rate, which include time-of-use energy charges, whereas PG&E customers are able to see unused energy “rollover” to the next month.

In 2014, TID set a 5% cap for installed net metering meaning that once the limit was hit, new solar installations no longer qualified for the previous net metering program, which includes the opportunity to aggregate multiple solar systems or being netted on an annual basis.  “In Turlock, there are two groups of people who have solar,” Williams said. “They’re either in that original 5%, or they’re someone who wasn’t as worried about the economics of it and wanted solar so that they could be a part of the solution. Or, they’re just tech-savvy and want the latest solar technology. “Solar isn’t just the smarter way to do power financially for a lot of people, it’s the smarter way to do it period.”

As a result of the merger with The Standard, SEP now has 500 contractors throughout the five states where they operate, including California offices in Santa Rosa, San Jose, Stockton, Sacramento, Fresno, Bakersfield, Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego in addition to Turlock. Recent figures released by NASA show that 2020 came in close second to 2016 for the hottest year in recorded history, pushing 2019 to third place. With the increased heat has come increased solar popularity, both for energy cost savings as well as environmental purposes, Williams said.

The company is also constantly recruiting employees for its rapidly expanding business, with most making up to $100,000 per year according to Williams. Projections from Allied Market Research predict that the solar industry should reach $223.3 billion by 2026, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 20.5% from 2019 to 2026.

While most looking to switch to solar energy are hoping for quick savings, Williams encouraged them to look at the long-term picture. “If you switch to solar because you want your bill to be lower next month you might be disappointed, but if you look at it on a longer scale the savings are there,” Williams said, noting most solar panels last up to 30 years. “Of course, on the 30-year scale there’s still a huge economic benefit to it, but the reality is that going solar is just the right thing to do. “If everybody just did the right thing, what kind of world would we live in?”

https://www.turlockjournal.com/news/local/turlock-based-solar-company-expanding-quickly-meet-demand/

How a Central California winery uses worms in wine production

Worms are helping a Valley winery on its path to becoming more green. Olympic-sized swimming pools at O’Neill Winery are actually beds filled with worms helping the company become greener. “Our technology at BioFiltro, what it is is the star of the show is the worm. Ultimately, the worms are known as an ecosystem or environmental engineers,” said Mai Ann Healy, BioFiltro spokesperson.

BioFiltro, an international company, was able to go through Fresno State’s Valley Ventures program that focuses on water, engineering and technology businesses. The worms are known for converting waste or organic matter. Water is spread across the worm beds and goes through levels of wood chips, river rocks, drainage cells and exit pipes. “So within four hours, our worms are getting fed, getting full and also producing more microbes and bacteria that’s furthering helping us reduce and convert waste into beneficial byproducts,” Healy said.

The technology allows the company to take about 80 million gallons of processed water and clean it. O’Neill Winery is the seventh-largest winery in California. They produce wines and spirits sold around the United States. “So what we are trying to do is provide a sustainable process so that we can have a facility that is environmentally stewards, that is reducing our carbon footprint, reducing/minimizing our waste,” said Phil Castro, senior director of winery operations. O’Neill said they’ve taken steps to be more green with solar energy and the BioFilitro system.

They’re able to save water and use that for crop irrigation and reduce the amount of water they use. “So we can ensure for generations to come that there’s water available to continue the great process of agriculture,” Castro said. A sustainable process and technology thriving here in the Valley.

https://abc30.com/wine-worms-wastewater-water-filtration/10540942/

Renewable diesel revives refinery on Rosedale

A major industrial property that has sat idle for years in the heart of Bakersfield is coming back to life to refine used cooking oil, rendered animal fats and a canola-related grain called camelina. Torrance-based biofuels company Global Clean Energy Holdings Inc. is refurbishing equipment and ramping up hiring so by the end of this year it can fire up part of the former Big West refinery on Rosedale Highway.

The plan is to start at 15,000 barrels per day — more than 25,000 gallons per hour — of renewable diesel. As a petroleum refinery it processed almost three times that volume until it was shut down about eight years ago by a former owner, Dallas-based Alon USA Energy Inc. Not including contractors or vendors, about 115 employees are expected to work on the site once preparations are complete. That’s roughly half what the refinery employed previously. Also, most of the new activity will be limited to the southernmost portion of the complex. But the new owner, having paid $40 million for the complex last year after securing $365 million in financing for the project, hopes to boost production even as it expects to demolish or sell off some 85 percent of the refinery’s equipment.

A senior executive said the company’s also looking at the feasibility of covering part of the more than 400-acre property with photovoltaic solar panels that would help reduce the operation’s carbon footprint. Local observers say Global Clean Energy’s efforts point to a bright future for Kern County’s economic diversification and transition to greater production of bioenergy serving California’s climate goals. “This is exactly what we need, basically retooling these facilities to expand our capabilities in renewable fuels,” said Nick Ortiz, president and CEO of the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce.

https://www.bakersfield.com/news/renewable-diesel-revives-refinery-on-rosedale/article_fe82b3a8-9eeb-11eb-aae1-db8e795f2868.html

Arvin potato plant orders Kern’s first microgrid to boost energy resiliency, efficiency

Microgrid technology promising greater energy flexibility and independence arrived in Kern Wednesday with the start of construction on an integrated power generation and storage system at an 1,100-employee ag facility in Arvin. The 5-megawatt solar, natural gas and battery installation Concentric Power Inc. is building at Tasteful Selections’ specialty potato plant will use advanced computer systems to increase efficiency and allow the operation to continue during external disruptions to its power.

Touted as the first such system in the county, the $12 million project kicked off engineering almost a year and a half ago. Solar panels went up between November and January, and the installation is expected to become fully operational by fall, cutting the plant’s power bill by an estimated 40 percent. Microgrids have become more popular in recent years as wider adoption of photovoltaic solar panels and batteries has increased demand for systems that can effectively coordinate them. The idea is to improve energy resilience while also integrating demand for energy with on-site production, shifting resources when necessary to meet real-time needs for electricity.

Senior executives at Tasteful Selections said the project will keep the lights on and refrigerators running when power goes out around the plant, which they said has happened in the past for three or more hours at a time. Losing electricity for even four hours can cause product degradation, they said, and an outage lasting days could cost millions of dollars in damage to the miniature potatoes it washes, stores and packages for shipment. “We always knew we needed to add something” to ensure energy resiliency, said the company’s chief operating officer, Nathan Bender. His father, CEO Bob Bender, said the company expects to pay off the microgrid’s cost within four to five years. Nathan noted the inclusion of natural gas as “firm power” adds a backup source while also producing heat that can be incorporated into the plant’s refrigeration units, thereby offsetting cooling costs.

At a ceremonial gathering Wednesday of dignitaries and employees of both companies, Concentric’s founder and CEO, Brian Curtis, said his Salinas-based organization will be responsible for not only designing and building the microgrid but that it will also maintain and service it for the installation’s lifetime of 25-plus years. It is the company’s first such project in the Central Valley. Its other installations are in the Salinas and Silicon valleys, Curtis said, adding that the biggest of its projects is a 5.3-megawatt microgrid in the Monterey area.

Concentric’s software and controls choose which energy source to use in real time, he explained. Such decisions are based on an understanding of the plant’s critical, essential and non-essential functions, he said: Certain compressors and fans may be turned on or off as needed, with respect for their operational tolerances. Curtis said Concentric hopes to build additional microgrids serving industrial ag processors in the Central Valley. The company expects to open an office in or near Bakersfield, possibly near Meadows Field Airport, within three to six months. “We’ve got a lot of good traction here and we’re excited to be coming to Kern,” Curtis said. The Central Valley “is just a huge market for what we’re doing.” The company works on large scales and doesn’t expect to serve residential needs, he said, adding, “This isn’t the kind of thing you’d put on your house.”

Tasteful Selections at 13003 Di Giorgio Road has expanded physically three times since starting in 2010. The Benders said the company now supplies half the U.S. market for small, specialty potatoes and is now the biggest such company in the country, if not the world.

https://www.bakersfield.com/news/arvin-potato-plant-orders-kerns-first-microgrid-to-boost-energy-resiliency-efficiency/article_428fd7e6-8cdc-11eb-97b9-b73ab67b6853.html

City leaders say Fresno’s first solar farm with benefit residents environmentally and economically

The city of Fresno is partnering with Fresno Community Solar Developers LLC to build Fresno’s first solar farm. “This is exactly the kind of project that is used across the country as an example of what a green economy can look like,” said Fresno City Councilmember Miguel Arias.

The solar farm will be located on 158 acres of city-owned land near Jensen and Polk avenues, pending final approval from the California Public Utilities Commission. “We have successfully attracted the support of PG&E, and we expect that the California Public Utilities Commission will follow through and also support the project, making it completely operational within a year,” said Arias. The construction of the solar farm and the next 40 years of operation is funded by $20 million of private investment money.

Arias said the plan is one year in the making, and will benefit the city in multiple ways, like reducing pollution and providing 20 years of energy savings for local families with eligible incomes. “It is expected to be part of the Disadvantaged Community Green Tariff Program. That simply means that people that live in this area, there will be hundreds of people, who are able to save 20% on their energy bill,” said Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer. “Every year, over a million dollars passed on to people who live in many of these disadvantaged neighborhoods.” Arias said the solar farm will also bring much-needed job opportunities to the city of Fresno. “We’re also purposely and intentionally going to recruit and train 50 residents in west Fresno to build the solar farm, operate the solar farm,” said Arias, “which will give them the skill set to go to other green economy jobs in the area.”

https://www.yourcentralvalley.com/news/city-leaders-say-fresnos-first-solar-farm-with-benefit-residents-environmentally-and-economically/