The California Energy Commission awarded $4,998,399 to Mendota Bioenergy, LLC.  

The award will support the design, construction and operation of an advanced biorefinery demonstration plant in the Mendota area (Fresno County), where sugar beets will be used to create advanced biofuel ethanol.

“This award supporting the development of an advanced biorefinery will help to keep California as the leader in alternative fuel innovation,” said Energy Commission Chair Robert B. Weisenmiller. “Developing advanced fuels is essential to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to protect the environment and public health, and to meet the state’s climate change policies.”

The project is slated to use advanced enzyme and microbial techniques to convert 10,000 tons of sugar beets harvested throughout the year into 285,000 gallons of advanced biofuel ethanol. A demonstration plant will be built in Five Points, in the Mendota area. This project also supports the design and development of a future commercial-scale biorefinery center in Mendota, a town of less than 12,000 in western Fresno County. Eventually, the facility could produce 40 million gallons of biofuel annually.

The demonstration project is expected to create about 50 jobs, during construction and operation. The commercial biorefinery is expected to create approximately 250 direct and 50 indirect construction jobs, along with 100 long-term jobs, and 160 agricultural jobs.

The project provides an innovative use for an established local crop. Sugar beets have been grown in the area for more than 100 years, and were processed at a local Spreckels Sugar plant until it closed in 2008.

“This could be an excellent re-establishment of an old crop to a new end – to make advanced biofuels,” said Jim Tischer, project manager with Mendota Bioenergy. Tischer refers to the beets as “energy beets.”