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Project Liberty Planning Field Day Next Month

By Staff | Oct 23, 2008

In the time since the announcement and selection of Emmetsburg as the location for its Project Liberty program, officials of POET Biorefining have been busy paving the way for one of the most exciting endeavors in agriculture. Through the cooperative efforts of the United States Department of Energy and the Iowa Power Fund, POET and Project Liberty are right track to begin the physical construction of the new cellulosic ethanol facility.

As part of that process, local area producers are being invited to Project Liberty Field Day at the POET biorefinery in Emmetsburg to see what equipment manufacturers are doing in conjunction with the project.

Jim Sturdevant, Project Manager for Project Liberty, was in Emmetsburg on Monday to meet with local POET officials and to announce the field day. “Everyone at POET is tremendously excited about Project Liberty, and I’m really encouraged by how many equipment manufacturers are getting on board the project by designing equipment to be used in the cob harvesting project.”

According to Sturdevant, the field day will allow local area producers a chance to watch the various types of equipment in action, actually harvesting cobs during the corn harvest. Representatives of the manufacturers, such as John Deere, Case-IH, Vermeer, Demco and Claas will be on hand during the day to explain what their equipment does and what role it can play in the cob harvesting process.

“We’re hosting this Field Day to allow the public to come and see this process for themselves,” Sturdevant noted. “I think the farmers are very curious, but skeptical by nature. This opportunity will be very exciting for everyone involved.”

The Field Day, set for Thursday, November 6, will begin at 10 a.m. at the POET facility southeast of Emmetsburg. Demonstrations of cob harvesting and equipment will run from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. and lunch will be served from 11:30 to 1 p.m. A brief program will follow from 1 to 1:30 p.m. and more demonstrations of cob harvesting and equipment will follow from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. More details on the event will be made available in future issues of The Democrat and The Reporter.

“The biggest issue we face in the world today is that the world will run out of oil,” Sturdevant said. “We need something that is sustainable to replace it, and that sustainable fuel is ethanol. A key part of energy in the future will be ethanol made from biomass, no matter whether it’s made from crop residue, switch grass, garbage or whatever. The big thing is no one else is doing this.”

In August of this year, POET officials announced they would receive $76.3 million from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to commercialize cellulosic ethanol production technology through POET’s Project Liberty. A renewable, homegrown energy alternative, cellulosic ethanol produced from plants materials such as corn cobs or switch grass has the potential to cut life cycle greenhouse gas emissions by up to 86 percent relative to gasoline.

“We were very pleased to learn that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made the determination that there would be no significant impact on the environment from Project Liberty,” Sturdevant noted, “That was the key finding for us to actually receive the $76.3 million from the DOE. That grant allows us be able to complete the final design, construction and start up for Project Liberty here in Emmetsburg.”

At the same time the federal government has been working with POET, the state of Iowa has also been involved in the mix. as the Iowa Power Fund committed funding to Project Liberty. Through grants from the Iowa Power Fund, the Enterprise Zone Program, Community College Job Training Funds and VAAPPFA funds, POET and Project Liberty received another $5.2 million in Economic Development funds to Project Liberty, making the total amount of funds from the State of Iowa $20 million.

Emmetsburg’s POET facility was selected as the home of Project Liberty not only because of Iowa’s support of renewable energy, but for another reason, according to Sturdevant.

“Our biorefining plants are located in a sea of cobs,” Sturdevant said simply. “Our plants make ethanol from the corn, and we’ll use the cobs from that same corn to make the cellulosic ethanol product. We’ll use the cobs from about a 30 mile radius of Emmetsburg for our needs and we’ve come up with a little saying, ‘No cob left behind.’