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California Energy Commission awards $5M to sugar beet ethanol biorefinery demo

The California Energy Commission has awarded $4,998,399 to Mendota Bioenergy, LLC to support the design, construction and operation of an advanced biorefinery demonstration plant in the Mendota area (Fresno County), where sugar beets will be used to create advanced biofuel ethanol.

The project is slated to use advanced enzyme and microbial techniques to convert 10,000 tons of sugar beets harvested throughout the year into 285,000 gallons of advanced biofuel ethanol.

This project also supports the design and development of a future commercial-scale biorefinery center in Mendota, a town of less than 12,000 in western Fresno County. Eventually, the facility could produce 40 million gallons of biofuel annually.

The project provides an new use for an established local crop. Sugar beets have been grown in the area for more than 100 years, and were processed at a local Spreckels Sugar plant until it closed in 2008.

This is the first energy beet project to advance to the pilot and demonstration phase in the United States, siad Jim Tischer, project manager with Mendota Bioenergy. With a year-round harvest schedule, the beet crop delivers ethanol yields that are greater per acre and have a lower carbon index than Brazilian sugar cane or North American corn.

Woody plant matter, as well as beets, will be used to produce about 15% of the ethanol at the Mendota plant. The water in the beets will be captured during processing and recycled so that little water will be used in the plant.

The award is made through the Commission’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program, created by Assembly Bill 118. For the current fiscal year, the program is slated to invest approximately $90 million to encourage the development and use of new technologies, and alternative and renewable fuels, to help the state meet its climate change goals. It is funded through vehicle and boat registration fees, as well as smog check and license plate fees.



Good about the yields and making use of local knowledge of traditional crop and not having the same crops everywhere (corn) is good, but being a pedant: how is this advanced? It's not cellulosic but sugar based. Not the by products of a food crop but a (former) food crop. I guess to get $5M you need to call it advanced.


"The project is slated to use advanced enzyme and microbial techniques..."


Edible food can be produced where sugar beets are.

Using sugar beets to produce fuel for our gas guzzlers instead of edible sugars is one more questionable decision and another questionable use of tax dollars.

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