OCTABLOG

Four Years After Fukushima, Japan Looks For Answers

Posted by Lee Drever on Mar 13, 2015 11:46:00 AM

It has been four years since Japan was hit with the most powerful earthquake in its recorded history.
Tsunami Devastation
 Octaform customers, Hayashi Trout shared this shot of the devastation in Ongawa, Japan


In March of 2011, just 45 miles east of the Oshika Peninsula of Tohoku, a 9.0 magnitude undersea megathrust earthquake triggered a wave of destruction unlike anything in Japan's recorded memory. The quake and subsequent tsunami washed over coastal ports and towns, claiming over 18,000 lives, destroying over one million buildings and triggering a nuclear meltdown.

Four years later, Japan continues to deal with the aftermath of the disaster. The almost 83,000 residents living closest to the Fukushima nuclear plant were evacuated and radiation levels have kept them from returning home. Cleanup continues and researchers and analysts have now ruled local dairy, produce and seafood to be safe. 

Trout Grow-Out Tanks Are Stocked
  Hayashi Trout stocks the Octaform tanks at their park near Fukushima.

However, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, fears persist. As Wired reports, locals are slow to return to locally grown food even in the face of positive data.

Understandably, these fears are also affecting Japan's energy infrastructure. The Fukushima plant and all 48 of the nation's nuclear facilities have remained closed since the events of 2011, leaving utilities scrambling for energy. Forced to rely heavily on fossil fuels, like coal and natural gas, leaders have worked to find cleaner sources like solar. 

Driven by political and popular will, solar use in Japan has grown dramatically in the last two years. Clean and renewable, it represents an about-face from atomic energy but as the New York Times reports, this may be too good to be true. Utilities are now rejecting solar, complaining that it can't reliably support the demands of the country.

Many argue that the solution, to reducing Japan's now high greenhouse gas emissions, is actually a return to atomic power. The long term effects of the world's worst nuclear meltdown since Chernobyl remain to be seen but the reality is that there have been no fatalities directly linked to the Fukushima accident.

Japan's struggle is a microcosm of our global struggle. 'Answers' are few and far between and, as they are learning, 'solutions' are often trade-offs. 

These issues around sustainability, unfortunately, are easily politicized. It seems tough, however, to take issue with the Portland Cement Association's basic sentiment on the topic:

"We believe the most sustainable building is the one still standing.” David Shepherd, PCA

Each year in the United States alone, more than $35 billion in direct property loss is caused by natural disasters.  States and municipalities are seeking to adopt ordinances that require “green” or “sustainable” construction, yet as the PCA points out, they are overlooking disaster-resistance construction. 

There is now a call for making enhanced resilience of a building’s structure to natural and man-made disasters the first consideration of a green building.  Increased longevity and durability, combined with improved disaster resistance, results in the need for less energy and resources. This is not only the case for repair, removal, disposal and replacement of building materials and contents due to disasters, but for routine maintenance and operations as well. 

Concrete Trout Tanks Under Construction
 Formed and protected with Octaform, Hayashi's aquaculture tanks survived the disaster unscathed.

“Integration of durability and functional resilience into sustainability codes, standards and programs is long overdue,” David Shepherd, director of sustainability for the Portland Cement Association (PCA) said. “Some say the most sustainable structure is the one that isn’t built. We believe the most sustainable building is the one still standing.”

Functionally resilient buildings place less demand on resources and allow communities to provide vital services, even after a natural disaster.  For example, resilient construction allows businesses to continue operations, providing municipalities with a consistent tax base. Emergency recovery, the PCA reminds us, costs money. These funds are often reallocated from other community economic, societal and environmental initiative. The ripples can last for generations.

The question of sustainability is complicated and rife with misinformation, trade-offs and unforseen consequences but building better, it seems, will always be the right choice.

 


 

Topics: Aquaculture, Agriculture, Sustainability, Concrete, Concrete Construction, seismic, disaster, energy, Agri-Food, Renewable Energy

CH4 Biogas Project to Help Reduce Dairy’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Posted by Lee Drever on May 1, 2012 11:58:00 AM

Synergy Biogas New York

New York’s Largest On-Farm Biogas Project Generates Renewable Energy for Nearly 1,000 Homes

COVINGTON, N.Y.- U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) joined state and local officials today at the grand opening of New York state’s largest on-farm, ‘co-digestion’ biogas power project, marking an important boost to the state’s renewable energy production and sustainability efforts. The facility is located at Synergy Dairy, a 2,000-head dairy farm in Covington, Wyoming County, southwest of Rochester.

By anaerobically digesting waste from local food processors in addition to the dairy’s cow manure, the 425 ton per day, mixed-waste facility is more cost-effective. The facility has created about a half dozen jobs while enhancing the efficiency of the 30-employee farm’s operations and sustaining area food manufacturers and haulers.CH4 Biogas LLC built, owns and operates the project under the name Synergy Biogas LLC. The Synergy Biogas LLC plant also is the state’s first biogas project specifically designed for the co-digestion, or processing, of animal and food wastes. The biogas created in the 120,000-gallon co-digester is fueling a GE Jenbacher J420 biogas engine to generate 1.4 megawatts (MW) of renewable electricity.

Free Biogas E-Book The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) is providing $1 million in incentives for the facility.

“This Synergy co-digestion biogas project is the cutting edge of energy technology and is an absolute revenue-producing game changer for our dairies and local economies. By recycling agricultural waste in biogas plants, dairies can reduces disposal costs, produce affordable renewable energy to run their operations and gain a revenue source by selling excess power to the grid. I’ve been proud to help keep this project on track to ensure it crossed the finish line,” said Senator Schumer, whose office helped coordinate federal and local funding for the project.

Schumer’s office also worked with the Wyoming County Industrial Development Agency to help Synergy Biogas LLC complete the facility and partner with Cornell University and Rochester Institute of Technology to evaluate the project’s performance.

The project is expected to reduce the dairy farm’s baselood greenhouse gas emissions by about 8,500 tons of CO2 annually, which is equivalent to the CO2 emissions of 1,700 automobiles. The facility also will produce an estimated 17,500 cubic yards of bedding material for livestock while reducing manure odors and helping the farm manage nutrients applied to cropland.

Through its partnerships with local food manufacturers, Synergy Biogas LLC already has diverted more than 1.14 million gallons of food waste from landfills and wastewater treatment facilities, highlighting another environmental benefit of the project.

“We are excited to launch our new co-digestion biogas project that will optimize the recycling of agricultural biomass waste into a valuable renewable energy resource to help reduce our operational costs,” said John Noble, president and CEO of Synergy Dairy.

National Grid is supporting the project as part of its broader strategy to help upgrade New York state’s energy infrastructure, promote further economic growth in the region and encourage the development of renewable energy resources. Under its renewable energy marketing program, the utility is purchasing the electricity generated by the biogas plant, which it states will produce approximately 10,000 megawatt-hours of renewable energy per year—enough electricity to power nearly 1,000 homes. National Grid provided a $750,000 grant through the company’s Renewable Energy and Economic Development Program to cover the cost of building the substation that connects the facility to the grid.

Outlook Promising for More N.Y. Dairy Farm Digester Projects

The Synergy Biogas LLC operation is the first of several N.Y. dairy farm digester projects that CH4 Biogas and GE Energy plan to build. Such projects illustrate how the state’s food and beverage industries can utilize their on-site waste streams to produce free fuel for power generation.

According to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, in 2011 the state had 5,300 dairy farms with more than 600,000 dairy cows. However, less than 20,000 of those cows were being utilized in energy production, through the use of 17 digesters that produce a combined 3 MW. As of 2011, an additional 17 digester systems were awaiting installation to generate a combined 6 MW.

The Synergy project illustrates how incentives offered by NYSERDA are supporting the purchase, installation and operation of more anaerobic digester gas-to-energy systems to help the state create a more sustainable agricultural sector.

In addition to NYSERDA and National Grid‘s respective financial support, the Synergy Biogas LLC project also qualified for a 30 percent investment tax credit (ITC) under the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005. As part of the 2009 federal stimulus initiative, the U.S. Treasury will pay this tax credit as an ITC cash grant for qualifying projects that began construction before the end of 2011.

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Topics: Anaerobic Digestion, CHFour, Synergy Biogas, Dairy, Renewable Energy, Co-Digestion, NYSERDA, National Grid, Sustainability, Biogas