Agriculture Sec. Vilsack lists gains in expanding renewable energy production

By Agri-Pulse Staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 20 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Thursday that biofuels and biomass energy projects across America have been selected for funding to continue the administration's support for the development of renewable fuels. Vilsack highlighted the various investments USDA made since he laid out a broad vision to spur rural revitalization through renewable energy production in a speech at the National Press Club last October.

Building an active biofuels and biomass industry in every region of the country will help to create jobs and provide economic opportunity for people who live in rural communities,” Vilsack said. “The Obama administration knows these investments will benefit all of America because renewable energy provides the opportunity for a cleaner environment and greater energy security for our country.”

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The Biorefinery Assistance Program (Section 9003 of the 2008 Farm Bill) provides loan guarantees to entrepreneurs eager to take advantage of the growing opportunities in renewable energy provided by advanced biofuels. Thursday's announcement included three projects totaling $405 million in guarantee loans.

In rural western Alabama, Coskata, Inc. has received a letter of intent for a $250 million loan guarantee to construct and operate a cellulosic ethanol biorefinery facility. This 55-million gallon-per-year renewable biofuel project will use woody biomass to produce ethanol. In Pontotoc, Miss., Enerkem Corporation has been selected to receive an $80 million loan guarantee to build and operate a biorefinery capable of producing 10 million gallons of advanced biofuel (cellulosic ethanol) per year by refining some 100,000 metric tons of dried and post-sorted municipal solid waste through a thermo-chemical cellulosic process. In Vero Beach, Fla., the INEOS New Planet BioEnergy, LLC. has been selected to receive a $75 million loan guarantee to construct and operate a biorefinery capable of producing 8 million gallons-per-year of cellulosic ethanol and gross electricity production capacity of 6 MW. The feedstock for the process will include primarily vegetative waste (citrus and agricultural wastes), yard wastes, wood waste, and municipal solid waste.

Each company has specified conditions that they must meet in order to complete the loan.

In separate energy releases, Vilsack announced payments made to eligible producers under the Advanced Biofuels Payment Program (section 9005 of the 2008 Farm Bill) to support and ensure an expanding production of advanced biofuels and $1.6 million in grant funding for 68 feasibility studies under the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) (section 9007 of the 2008 Farm Bill).

For example, in Hale County, Texas Select Milk Producers, Inc. was selected to receive a $17,500 feasibility study grant to analyze all aspects of a proposed anaerobic digester project, including evaluating the conversion of biogas to electricity, compressed natural gas for injection into natural gas pipelines, and compressed natural gas for use as a diesel fuel replacement.

In New York, the Cayuga County Public Utility Service Agency has been selected to receive a $40,000 renewable energy feasibility study grant to examine a proposal to connect up to 20 Cayuga County farms to a collector pipeline that will deliver farm-produced biogas to produce renewable heat and power for sale to business customers. Across the country in Fresno County, Calif., J & D Wilson and Sons Dairy has been selected to receive an $8,250 grant for a feasibility study to evaluate the viability of installing a biomethane recovery and a liquefied natural gas liquefaction plant at the grantee's dairy.

These anaerobic digesters also play an important part in an effort's between USDA and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy to implement key strategies to increase the availability of anaerobic digesters on U.S. dairy farms. This effort is part of an historic agreement signed in Copenhagen in December 2009. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) calls for cutting greenhouse emissions by 25 percent by 2020.

As part of USDA's commitment to reduce America's dependence on imported oil by developing alternative, renewable energy sources, USDA will soon issue new rules for the Biorefinery Assistance Program, Section 9003; Repowering Assistance Program, Section 9004; and Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels Payments To Advanced Biofuel Producers, Section 9005. The new rules will provide additional opportunities for development of advanced biofuels projects. Vilsack also noted that on the same date the rule for Section 9005 is published, a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for FY 2010 funds will also be published.

For details on USDA funding announced Jan. 20 for 68 study grants focused on renewable energy projects in 27 states and the Western Pacific, click HERE.

To read about new advanced biofuels funding announced Jan. 20 for 33 states, click HERE.

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