Ackerly, Abengoa recognized for contributions to biomass industry

By Sue Retka Schill | March 25, 2014

Leaders in the biomass industry were recognized on the first day of the 2014 International Biomass Conference and Expo, March 25, in Orlando, Fla. John Ackerly, president of the Alliance for Green Heat, received the 2014 Excellence in Bioenergy award for advancing the biomass-to-energy industry through education and advocacy. Abengoa Bioenergy received the 2014 Groundbreaker of the Year award for its work in developing its cellulosic ethanol project soon undergoing commissioning at Hugoton, Kan.

Since founding the Alliance for Green Heat in 2005, Ackerly has been dedicated to helping residential biomass heating earn treatment parallel to other renewables, as well as recognition of biomass being an economical and efficient means of heating homes in the country. "One out of 12 American homes are heated with wood," Ackerly said in accepting the award. "We're the only renewable that's really making a difference now, and we're doing it with very few incentives."

Besides advocating for wood home heating among policymakers in Washington, D.C., and at the state level, Ackerly has organized the annual Wood Stove Decathlon to challenge design teams to build better wood stoves. "We have to get stoves more efficient," he said. "It's not really rocket science that we're doing—so much of what we are doing has been done elsewhere." He mentioned the advancements coming from Austrian pellet boiler designers as one example, and added, "This country is going to be known for wood stoves."

Chris Standlee, executive vice president, accepted the Groundbreaker of the Year award on behalf of Abengoa Bioenergy. "We are particularly pleased to be chosen by Biomass Magazine for recognition. This is a huge project for Abengoa and not just an economic investment," he said, explaining that the Spain-headquartered company had a corporate desire to go beyond first generation biofuels, "to focus on new technologies and making our process as efficient and economical as possible." 

The research and development effort in cellulosic ethanol began in 2003 when Abengoa partnered with the U.S. DOE to build a pilot plant in York, Neb., to make ethanol from wheat straw. Upon successful completion of the pilot-scale work, a 1.3 MMgy demonstration plant was built in Spain. In September 2011, construction began on the first commercial-scale facility at Hugoton, Kan. It will produce 25 MMgy of ethanol plus 21 megawatts of electricity annually from agricultural residues. Feedstock purchases will exceed $417 million per year to farmers within a 50 mile radius of the facility.

In all, 750 people at Abengoa have worked on the research and development, Standlee said. "We are very pleased with project. This will show our expertise, validate our technologies and our EPC capabilities." Noting that it has taken 10 years to develop the project, Standlee added, "We thank you for the acknowledgement of that effort."