Renergie, Inc. is receiving $1,500,483 (partial funding) in grant money from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Renewable Energy Technologies Grants Program to design and build Florida’s first sweet sorghum juice mechanical harvesting system and ethanol plant capable of producing fuel-grade ethanol solely from sweet sorghum juice.
Renergie, a corporation organized under the laws of the State of Florida, was formed in 2006 for the purpose of raising capital to develop, construct, own and operate ethanol plants in the parishes of the State of Louisiana which were devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Each ethanol plant in Louisiana has a production capacity of 5 million gallons per year of fuel-grade ethanol. Renergie plans an initial network of 10 plants with a combined production capacity of 50 million gallons. Renergie intends to replicate its Louisiana decentralized network of ethanol plants in Florida.
Renergie produces ethanol solely from sweet sorghum juice. The advantages of producing ethanol directly from sweet sorghum juice are:
High Yield. Sweet sorghum juice yields between 500 to 800 gallons of ethanol per acre;
Water Efficient Crop. Sweet sorghum requires one-half of the water required to grow corn and one third of the water required to grow sugarcane;
Ability to Grow in Marginal Soil . Sweet sorghum can grow in marginal soils, ranging from heavy clay to light sand. Sweet sorghum has been called a “camel among crops,” owing to its wide adaptability, its marked resistance to drought and saline-alkaline soils, and tolerance to high temperature and waterlogging;
Lower nitrogen use. Sweet sorghum requires the use of only 40 to 60 pounds of nitrogen per acre whereas corn growers use more than 150 pounds per acre, according to the US. Environmental Protection Agency. Less fertilizer reduces the risk of water contamination. Producing ethanol from sweet sorghum rather than increasing corn-to-ethanol production, reduces the risk of the continued formation of dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico;
Rapid Growth. Sweet sorghum takes only 4 months to reach maturity, which is short enough to allow harvesting twice a year. Sugarcane requires 14 months to reach maturity; and
Energy Efficient. The energy requirement for converting sweet sorghum juice into ethanol is less than half of that required to convert corn into ethanol. This is due to the fact that the sugars in sweet sorghum juice are fermented directly. There is no need to excessively heat the juice to breakdown starch into sugars as required for corn.
In 2007, China and India produced 1.3 billion gallons of ethanol from sweet sorghum juice. The Renergie project will be the first time that ethanol will be produced solely from sweet sorghum juice in the US, although other companies are targeting its use. (Earlier post.)
The distributed nature of a smaller ethanol production plant network reduces Renergie’s feedstock supply risk, does not burden local water supplies and provides broad-based economic development, according to the company.
Renergie is focusing its efforts on growing ethanol demand beyond the 10% blend market. Initially, Renergie will directly market E85 to fuel retailers under the brand Renergie E85. Renergie proposes blending fuel-grade ethanol with gasoline at the gas station pump. Currently, ethanol providers blend E10 and E85 at their blending terminal and transport the already blended product to retail gas stations.
Should they receive state approval, Renergie’s variable blending pumps will be able to offer the consumer a choice of E10, E20, E30 and E85. Via use of the Blender’s Tax Credit, Renergie says it will be able to ensure that gas station owners are adequately compensated for each gallon of fuel-grade ethanol that is sold via Renergie’s variable blending pumps at their gas stations.
Renergie was one of eight recipients, selected from 139 grant applicants, to share $12.5 million from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
The other projects selected for funding are:
Central Florida Regional Transit Authority (LYNX), to implement a large-scale alternative fuel research and demonstration project that provides biodiesel blending at a central fueling location. By 2010, Orange County, LYNX and Orlando Utilities Commission will have transitioned their entire diesel fleet to biodiesel blended fuel.
Exceed Corporation, to develop a profitable model for replication that will provide solutions to up-front cost barriers for renewable energy investments for Florida developers.
Florida Power and Light, to construct the first wind energy facility in Florida. As proposed, nine wind turbine generation units would be placed in St. Lucie County and are expected to have the potential capacity of 20 megawatts of electrical power.
Florida Solar Energy Research and Education Foundation, to accelerate the use of solar energy in Florida by reducing market barriers by collaborating with industry experts as well as developing marketing materials and an outreach campaign.
Orange County Government, to enable the completion of a demonstration, research and education program through the installation of the largest solar photovoltaic (PV) system in the South, a one megawatt solar PV system located at the Orange County Convention Center.
Progress Energy Florida, to evaluate inland opportunities for wind energy generation in Florida by using five wind turbines at five different locations across the state, providing more than 15,000 kilowatt hours of wind generation annually.
Vecenergy, to build and operate a biodiesel facility capable of producing 37.5 million gallons of biodiesel per year.