USDA announces funding for advanced biofuel projects

AGRICULTURE Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Oct. 21 the availability of $181 million to develop commercial-scale biorefineries or retrofit existing facilities with appropriate technology to develop advanced biofuels.

The funding is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Biorefinery Assistance Program, which was created under the 2008 farm bill and is administered by USDA Rural Development. The program provides loan guarantees to viable commercial-scale facilities to develop new and emerging technologies for advanced biofuels.

Eligible entities include Indian tribes, state or local governments, corporations, farmer co-ops, agricultural producer associations, institutions of higher education, rural electric co-ops, public power companies or consortiums of any of the above.

"This financing will expand the number of commercial biorefineries in operation in the U.S. that are producing advanced biofuels from non-food sources," Vilsack said. "USDA's Biorefinery Assistance Program is yet another way USDA is helping to carry out the Obama Administration's 'all-of-the-above' energy strategy to develop every possible source of American-made energy. But the benefits go beyond reducing our dependence on foreign oil. These biorefineries are also creating lasting job opportunities in rural America and are boosting the rural economy as well."

As an example of a project already enrolled in the program, USDA issued a $12.8 million loan guarantee to Fremont Community Digester in 2011 for construction of an anaerobic digester in Fremont, Mich.

The digester, which began commercial operations late last year, is the largest commercial-scale anaerobic digester in the U.S. It has the capacity to process more than 100,000 tons of food waste annually to produce biogas and electricity.

Biogas from the digester runs generators that total 2.85 megawatts in capacity. The electricity produced is sold to a local utility and is providing power for about 1,500 homes.

Applications for biorefinery assistance are due by Jan. 30, 2014. More information about how to apply is available in the Oct. 2 Federal Register announcement or by contacting the USDA Rural Development national office.

Volume:85 Issue:44

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