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POET’s Project LIBERTY Field Day

By Staff | Nov 5, 2009

POET’s Project LIBERTY?Field Day showcased new equipment. Crowds gathered at the edge of the field to watch new equipment harvest corn cobs and residue. --Dan Voigt photo

Solutions to the challenge of harvesting cobs were on display at Emmetsburg Tuesday. Sixteen companies showcased equipment at POET’s Project LIBERTY Field Day.

“The potential for production of renewable fuels is a tremendous opportunity for agriculture,” said POET CEO Jeff Broin. He outlined the potential for biomass base for ag residue and the potential for ethanol to replace gasoline.

“The opportunity is there,” said Broin. “We can create renewable energy from the land. The process is reality and we are very competitive with grain based ethanol.”

Broin encouraged farmers to participate in the program saying, “You are an integral part of the process. Let your voices be heard.”

The end of September, POET received a $6.85 million funding increase to an existing grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. This is the first of two funding increases form the Department of Energy (DOE) to help establish a market for corn cobs. The second, expected next year, is estimated to provide an additional $13.15 million.

“This process is ready,” Broin said. “We’re making cellulosic ethanol today, and we’re making it in a manner that we know is going to be profitable.”

Iowa Lt. Gov. Patty Clark commended POET’s commitment to Iowa and its commitment to the United States with alternative energy. She recalled in the early 1990s the new product was called “gasohol,” and she knew the power of agriculture would be a wave of the future.

“We’ve worked hard to get to this day,” said Lt. Gov. Judge. “Cellulosic ethanol is here. This project is helping keep Iowa on the cutting edge of renewable energy.”

Judge talked about the $20 million state investment, helping provide good jobs in Northwest Iowa. She also placed E-15 as high priority.

“Project LIBERTY is revolutionizing biofuel,” said Judge. “We will build a stronger and more energy efficient Iowa.”

General Wesley Clark, co-chairman of Growth Energy, views growth of ethanol in terms of national security.

“I am a strong believer in ethanol,” said the retired four-star general. “It’s here, it’s green and it’s made in America. If we go to E-15, we can save one million imported barrels of oil per day. It’s about national security. It’s about not being dependent on foreign oil.”

Clark pointed out that corn based ethanol has 60-percent less greenhouse gases than fossil fuels. Currently the United States is building up greenhouse gases, adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

“Ethanol is big business and now you’ve got the first commercial scale cellulosic ethanol plant in the world,” the general said. He complimented Jeff Broin for his work.

“We can significantly reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources,” said Clark. “We need some help. We can’t do it alone. Your role is to be part of the biofuels industry. If you believe energy independence is important, you need to make your voice heard. Tell the powers in Washington, D.C. Use common sense. We need this biofuel.”

Cob contracts, new for the industry, were outlined by Scott Weishaar, POET’s vice president for commercial development.

“We ask farmers to collect cobs and we need to give them a safety net,” said Weishaar. “There’s not really a market for cobs. We will buy them. That will give them the assurance to put the cob collection process into place. We will buy cobs from them. There are three, four and five year programs to best fit the farmers needs.”

Weishaar added, “Biomass and ag residue collection is rapidly growing. But the farmer has got a lot of expenses in a first time venture.”

Biomass Crop Assistance Program is also a part of the equation, Weishaar pointed out. There are incentives for farmers to get started through the Department of Energy, coupled with the BCAP program.

“Those two programs will mitigate some of the risk concerns and significantly offset the risks and costs associated with this generation of equipment. That also gets the equipment into the market.”

Cob-harvesting equipment is now entering the market, with more machines coming soon. Agriculture equipment manufacturers are working to ramp up production so that every farmer in the Emmetsburg area has the opportunity to participate.

Project LIBERTY is POET’s planned 25 million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant in Emmetsburg. POET’s pilot-scale plant in Scotsland, SD, is already producing cellulosic ethanol at a rate of approximately 20,000 gallons per year. To see a documentary about POET’s pilot cellulosic ethanol plant visit www.poet.com/cellulosedocumentary.htm.