US Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager recently helped Genera Energy leadership break ground on Tennessee’s Biomass Innovation Park, a one-of-a-kind campus that integrates and optimizes the entire biomass supply chain.
The Biomass Innovation Park will provide harvesting, handling, storage, densification, pre-processing and transportation for multiple feedstocks including switchgrass. Located adjacent to the Genera/DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol demonstration-scale biorefinery in Vonore, Tenn., on 21 acres, the campus will serve as the foundation for all biomass feedstock used to create biofuels, biochemicals, bioproducts, biomaterials, biopower and bioenergy.
The campus is being designed by Michael Brady Architects of Knoxville, Tenn., and constructed by J&S Construction of Cookeville, Tenn.
“This facility will integrate biomass receiving, storage, separation, preprocessing and compaction. It will initially process up to 50,000 tons of switchgrass but is designed to handle a wide range of energy crops and other biomass feedstocks,” said Genera President and CEO Kelly Tiller. “We will also have energy crop R&D demonstration plots on-site, as well as some demonstration scale novel conversion processes and technology.
Genera currently has more than 6,000 acres of switchgrass growing in nine counties within 50 miles of the Vonore biorefinery. Switchgrass is being grown by farmers under contract with Genera to produce the crop for cellulosic ethanol. This switchgrass will be processed at the Biomass Innovation Park.
“The Biomass Innovation Park will be a unique and valuable asset in answering many of the questions farmers, biorefineries, and the entire bioenergy industry are asking about sufficient, sustainable, scalable, cost effective supply chains for energy crops;” Tiller said.
USDA’s Tonsager was joined at the ground breaking by University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture Chancellor and Genera board member Joseph DiPietro; DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol Feedstock Development Director Kyle Althoff; and Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation President Lacy Upchurch. Additional Genera board members participating included: DeRoyal Industries CEO Pete DeBusk; University of Tennessee Executive Vice President David Millhorn; and former Tennessee Agriculture Commissioner Dan Wheeler.
The Biomass Innovation Park will also be the site for a $5 million U.S. DOE-funded high-tonnage switchgrass bulk handling system and will provide strategic partnership opportunities and serve as a template for regional biomass depots.
The first phase of construction is scheduled for completion by the end of 2010, in time to store and process switchgrass following the fall harvest. The Biomass Innovation Park is designed to accommodate future expansion and introduce new technologies and equipment for processing biomass to meet the specifications of biorefineries and other downstream conversion processes.
The Biomass Innovation Park will include two storage silos; an equipment shed; bale storage; office buildings; truck scales for feedstock receiving; pre-engineered biomass processing buildings; and energy crop demonstration plots for switchgrass and other crops grown for bioenergy.