What is in this article?:
- Former San Joaquin Valley sugar beet growers are expected to learn next month if funding will be forthcoming for a pilot biorefinery near Mendota, Calif.
- If the pilot plant proves feasible — next step would be an ambitious plan to build biorefinery that produces 36 million gallons of ethanol annually: plus 6.3 megawatts of certified green electricity, 1.6 million cubic feet of renewable biomethane, and high-nutrient non-synthetic compost and liquid fertilizer.
Rusty Gragnani, left, vice president of the Mendota Advanced Bioenergy Beet Cooperative board, stands next to a map showing the area to be served by the beet cooperative. Bill Pucheu, Cooperative board president, holds a schematic of the plant’s many components.
Goals beyond ethanol
Pucheu, in outlining the timeline for the project to reach the ultimate goal of a massive bioenergy operation by 2016, called it a “perfect world view.”
As the project moves forward, the leadership of this effort will be asking for non-binding grower commitments for the 35,000 acres needed for the commercial plant. Board members of the fledgling cooperative have already pledged 8,000 acres.
The goals of this ambitious, one of a kind project extend far beyond simply making ethanol. It involves such issues as AB 32, the California greenhouse gas initiatives, air and water quality regulations and things like carbon credits.
Farmers are showing up more on the regulatory radar, says Diener, and that is one reason the leadership group is asking growers how much fuel they use on their farms every year. One of the goals of the Mendota plant is to supply fuel to farmers from a nearby renewable fuel bioenergy plant.
The ability to produce fuel in close proximity to where it is used on the farm “could be huge in the future,” says Diener.
Diener said air and water quality regulators are “coming to look at us. They are getting more and more interested in what we are doing on our farms,” under new and onerous air and water quality regulations. Something like the bioenergy plant would provide the compensating balances needed to stay in farming.
“We better get in the boat and start rowing with them (regulators) rather than fight them and get sunk,” says Diener.