|Guests and dignitaries cut the ribbon during the grand opening of the Cellulosic Ethanol Biorefinery in Vonore, Tennessee.|
Leaders from DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol LLC (DDCE), University of Tennessee, and Genera Energy have cut the ribbon on one of the world’s first cellulosic ethanol demonstration facilities, located in Vonore, Tennessee. The 74,000-square-foot plant has started producing ethanol and will deliver low-cost, fully-integrated technology for commercial production of ethanol from agricultural residue and bioenergy crops, including corncobs and switchgrass.
“The world should be watching Tennessee,” said DDCE President and CEO Joe Skurla. “Here in Vonore, DDCE and Genera Energy are well ahead of the curve as we develop the entire value chain, from feedstock to production. We delivered on our promise to investors, customers and the industry by initiating start-up at the end of last year and are on track to provide the industry with investment-grade packages that meet demands for low-cost, scalability and sustainability.”
U.S. Representatives John J. Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.) and Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.) joined state officials, leaders from DDCE, DuPont, Danisco, Genera Energy, the University of Tennessee, and more than 300 guests to commemorate the plant’s completion and production startup. It is a major achievement for DDCE, Tennessee’s Biofuels Initiative, and for the cellulosic ethanol industry, which is under federal mandate to deliver 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022, of which 16 billion gallons must come from cellulosic sources.
The University of Tennessee’s Biofuels Initiative, championed by Govenor Phil Bredesen, established a bioenergy crop research and production basis for the burgeoning industry and attracted second generation biofuels leader DDCE to participate as an industrial partner in the development of the cellulosic ethanol biorefinery. The University of Tennessee Biofuels Initiative (UTBI), with the support of Genera Energy, is establishing a supply chain for the development of fuel.
“The Tennessee Biofuels Initiative already is creating new jobs and opportunities, and I believe the Vonore facility is going to be a real catalyst for additional economic activity in Tennessee,” said the governor, who could not attend the event due to weather concerns. “I’m pleased with the progress of this partnership and believe this marks an important step forward in our state’s efforts to develop clean energy technology.”
The state-of-the-art facility in Vonore has capacity to produce 250,000 gallons of ethanol annually, though its focus is on optimizing technologies for large-scale production. It represents an investment of more than $50 million, including funding from UTBI and DDCE. The project also integrates about a $100 million investment in proprietary research by DuPont and Danisco, highly valuable intellectual property platforms and talent pools from both companies and DDCE’s commitment to pay operating costs not covered under UTBI. The Vonore facility currently has a full-time staff of about 20.
Kelly Tiller, CEO of Genera Energy and director of external operations for the UT Office of Bioenergy Programs, said, “The University of Tennessee Biofuels Initiative is the only fully integrated program that is working with farmers and agricultural industry to reliably supply the necessary feedstock so biorefineries can produce plentiful, affordable, renewable and sustainable fuels.” She said plans are for Tennessee farmers to place an additional 4,000 acres of switchgrass into production this spring, bringing the total production in the state to nearly 7,000 acres of the dedicated energy crop.
DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol LLC (DDCE), based in Itasca, Illinois, is dedicated to the development and deployment of reliable, low-cost comprehensive solutions for cellulosic ethanol production, thereby contributing to energy independence, rural and national economic development, and a low-carbon transportation sector.
Genera Energy is a for-profit limited liability company wholly owned by the University of Tennessee Research Foundation. Genera provides a vehicle to leverage state and federal funding with private research and development investments, strategic partnerships and collaborations to further the research, economic development, and clean energy objectives of the state and the University of Tennessee. Genera focuses on developing integrated biomass supply chain solutions and strategic partnerships to support the bioenergy industry in Tennessee. Genera’s portfolio of public-private clean energy projects includes biomass, biofuels, and solar solutions.
The University of Tennessee is the state of Tennessee’s land-grant research institution, encompassing campuses at Knoxville, Chattanooga, and Martin; the Health Science Center in Memphis; the Space Institute at Tullahoma; the statewide Institute of Agriculture; and the Institute for Public Service. With a statewide enrollment of more than 48,000, the University of Tennessee’s strategic role and mission is student access and success, research, and outreach. UT campuses produce about 9,000 graduates each year, and UT has more than 300,000 alumni living throughout the U.S. and the world.
The University of Tennessee Biofuels Initiative (UTBI) is Tennessee’s answer to the global challenge of securing sustainable, renewable, affordable energy while advancing the local economy and protecting the environment. A farm-to-fuel business plan developed by UT Institute of Agriculture researchers, the Initiative is simultaneously addressing the issues of feedstock production, transportation logistics, processing, and co-products. The ultimate goal is to establish a new, commercial biofuels industry across the state. A far-sighted and unparalleled $70.5 million commitment from the State of Tennessee has allowed UTBI, through Genera Energy LLC, to advance the new industry model. The unique partnership of state government, the University, and private industry has propelled Tennessee to be a leader in all aspects of cellulosic ethanol production.
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