Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Opens in Kansas

On October 17, Abengoa opened up the second commercial scale plant in the country to produce ethanol from cellulosic materials. After decades of technology development, this new milestone offers hope for renewable transportation from non-food crops.

The plant is located in Hugoton in southwest Kansas and will use corn stover, stalk and leaf residues from cropping. The plant will use 1,000 tons of biomass per day to make 25 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year, providing a projected $17 million to local farmers. The plant uses enzymatic hydrolysis technology that also produces heat and power from residual biomass.

The Hugoton plant had been selected as a “project area” by the USDA Farm Services Agency under the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). A project area is a designated region around a biomass conversion facility where incentives for the crops apply. In this case, that includes six counties around Abengoa, one in the Oklahoma panhandle.

The project had been intended to purchase from farmers perennial native grasses such as switchgrass, big bluestem, and indiangrass. These crops offer the potential for reduced water consumption and, also, streamside buffers to reduce runoff to surface waters. They encountered difficulty competing with corn production so plans to use prairie grasses appear to be on hold for now.

The plant also qualifies for “matching payments” under BCAP, for matching payments for eligible materials. Any materials or crops paid for under the BCAP program must be harvested in accordance with a conservation plan that addresses soil and water conservation.

Cellulosic ethanol technology has been under development for decades and new commercial-scale production plants have begun to emerge. More details here.




Biomass Magazine: USDA REAP sinks $3.4 billion into rural economies

Though the USDA Rural Energy for America Program has been hugely successful since it was first implemented in the 2002 Farm Bill, numerous changes have been implemented over the years in order to maximize program value.

To date, the program has put over $3.4 billion into rural economies, according to Anthony Crooks, USDA energy specialist.

During a webinar sponsored by the Biomass Thermal Energy Council, Crooks provided an overview of REAP, identified program changes for 2014 and 2015, and emphasized the significant benefits the program has had on ag producers, small rural businesses and the bioenergy supply chain.

REAP is currently funded with $50 million in mandatory funding annually, Crooks said, to provide grants, guaranteed loans and combination grant/guaranteed loans. “If funds are not exhausted for a respective year, they roll over to the next,” he said,  adding that annual funds are divvied up between 47 state offices, and dollars that are not used up in each respective state are pooled and used for one final round of funding.

Though REAP has specific program funding windows, applications are accepted year-round, and funding is awarded on a competitive bases. “[REAP] will not pay for anything you’ve done prior to submitting an application,” Crooks advised.

REAP grants and guarantees may be used individually or in combination to finance up to 75 percent of a project’s total cost. Grants cannot finance more than 25 percent of a project or $500,000, whichever is less. Loan guarantees must be a minimum of $5,000, not to exceed $25 million.

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First Round of 2014 REAP Funding Announced

May 5, 2014  – Today the USDA announced funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). REAP provides grants and loan guarantees to farmer, ranchers and rural small businesses for a wide range of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. You can download the Notice of Funding Availability here

Today’s funding announcement is the first of two rounds of funding to be announced this year. The available funds are from the 2014 Congressional appropriation of $3.5 million and include an additional $24.

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Farm Energy Success Stories, 2014 Edition


A new report from the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) highlights clean energy projects made possible with grants and loan guarantees from the Farm Bill’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). You can read these stories in a variety of ways:

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Apply now for 2014 Rural Energy for America Funding

Farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses can apply now for grants and loan guarantees for clean energy projects under the Rural Energy for America Program – or REAP. REAP was renewed in the 2014 Farm Bill and supports a wide range of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, including wind, solar, biogas, biomass, small hydroelectric, geothermal, tidal, wave, and hydroelectric technologies.

Interest in solar is growing with REAP!

The USDA accepts applications year round and people can apply now use existing application forms. Grants cover up to 25% of project costs. The loan guarantees facilitate lending by providing a guarantee of a portion of the principal to the lender. You can find more background information on REAP here.

An official notice of funding availability is expected in early April, with an application

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2014 Farm Bill’s Energy Title Provisions

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