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Ethanol Plant to Add Wind Turbines for Power Generation

8 December 2006

Mankato Free Press. The Corn Plus ethanol plant in Winnebago, Minnesota, will install two wind turbines that ultimately will provide about 45% of the electricity the plant requires.

The two wind turbines will produce a combined 4.2 MW of power. Corn Plus earlier installed a fluid-bed reactor to burn biomass to generate steam required to run the plant, reducing its natural gas consumption by more than half.

Dan Moore, a Blue Earth area farmer and director of project development for Renewable Energy Solutions, said he sees no reason that Corn Plus won’t be the first of many Minnesota ethanol plants to add wind energy.

“I really haven’t heard of any others doing it,” Moore said. “And I don’t know why they’re not doing it because it makes so much sense. ... It’s a renewable making a renewable.”

The project is being developed by the Corn Plus Cooperative, Renewable Energy Solutions and John Deere Wind Energy. Deere is using 2.1 MW turbines from Suzlon Energy.

December 8, 2006 in Ethanol | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)

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Excellent! Solar thermal systems for the distillation part of the process should also be considered.

Don't fight the site.
Energy in the form of Wind, Solar, Geothermal, and Hydro
should all be considered when building a plant.
Saab built its first factory in Trollhättan because there was a hydro-electric facility there.

Very wise to insulate themselves as much as possible from the fluctuating price of NG. One cold winter could put the price through the roof.

Anything that reduces fossil fuel use in the agriculture, processing and distribution of biofuels increases the EROEI, the ratio of the energy density of the fuel product to the specific fossil fuel energy invested in producing it. The measure makes sense for purely environmental considerations. For investment decisions, the TCO of the production infrastructure must be considered, rather than just operating expenses.

How much does 4.2MW wind power reduce the 77,228 BTUs of FOSSIL FUEL inputs (natural gas, gasoline, and diesel) to produce 83,961 BTUs from corn ethanol?

Even if one used wind power, it does not necessarily follow that the EROEI has increased. One must impute the energy invested from wind power. And to make it a bit more complex, one probably has to consider the energy required to manufacture and maintain the wind generators.

Is this use of wind energy a better use than just using the electricity generated to feed the grid? Perhaps. One possible advantage is there might be some flexibility as to when the plant could be run. In essence, one could be using the biofuel as a storage medium for wind energy.

Hmmm. Others have proposed using wind energy to produce hydrogen to solve the variability problem. Perhaps the same logic could be applied to biofuels.

I continue to be skeptical about corn ethanol, but perhaps these people are on to something here. It certainly sounds better than using coal to create "renewable" energy.

Using cold winter winds for fermentation/distillation of that autumn's crop is a great idea. Perhaps other industrial processes are ameanable to the wind's variability.

1. It shouldn't be that hard to meter and calculate the contribution of wind power, and on first principles we can assume that its effect on EROEI is a wash. Wind power is just displacing power derived from other sources used to drive the ethanol industrial process -- the fundamental nature of fermentation/distillation is not being change here. However, in this forum we are probably more interested in something like "EROFEI" (energy return on fossil energy invested) or even "EROFEI-CW" (entergy return of fossil energy invested -- carbon weighted, in which a BTU of coal is worse than a BTU of natural gas, because coal release more CO2 per useful end-product BTU). To figure the impact of using wind by measures such as those, it is a simple task of comparing the fuel bill of this plant at the end of the year to the fuel bill of a similarly sized plant which did not use a windmill. And perhaps also calculate the CO2 implicit in the creation, erection and maintenance of the windmill, over its useful life.

2. Why erect a windmill at the plant, rather than just erect it somewhere else, feed it into the grid, and have the plant use grid electricity? First, this is good publicity to openly link ethanol fuel to "green" power. Second, the location of the ethanol plant might happen to be a good windmill location. Winds might be strong, and the presence of an existing industrial facility might reduce any complaints the neighbors might have about the erection of a windmill. Third, locating the generator near the consumer eliminates line losses and transmission inefficiencies. Those savings might offset the fact that another potential windfarm site offers stronger winds or something.

3. I'm not so sure that ethanol production is that amenable to the variability inherent in a single-location wind generator setup, but they might have the utility connections and alternative fuel sources which allows them to keep cranking when the wind dies down, and take advantage when the wind picks up. Variability and poor timing of availablity is a pervasive challenge in the wind industry.

2.a) They already own the land at the plant.

Didn't nearly all farms at the turn of last century use wind power for irrigation and or electric?

They would use grid power to run 24/7 and payback the plant costs faster. The wind power is just a grid supplement to reduce energy bills. You are right, you would have to calculate the energy and carbon that went into making, installing and maintaining the wind mills to get a clearer picture.

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