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Ethanol Cooperative Installing Biomass Energy System For On-Site Energy Needs

| Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Mar 13, 2006 The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at

Taking an important step towards making ethanol production more reliant on renewable energy, the Central Minnesota Ethanol Cooperative is nearing completion of a biomass-fueled energy system at its ethanol plant near Little Falls, MN.

Once operational in May or early June, the plant will be the first in the nation to generate the energy needed in the production of ethanol using a system fueled by wood waste. The biomass gasification system will generate both thermal energy and electricity for the plant. The cooperative will cut its need for its current supply of natural gas and about 1/4 of its electricity needs.

The developments at CMEC are welcomed and will hopefully lead to other plants taking similar steps to rely on cleaner fuels for producing ethanol. The CMEC plant is in stark contrast to several proposed ethanol plants that will use coal-based energy systems for their thermal energy needs.

The $17 million system at CMEC is expected to have a payback of under six years as a result of energy cost savings.

The system will use approximately 280 tons of waste wood per day. The biomass gasification system will produce syn-gas that will be combusted to generate steam for the ethanol plant’s thermal energy needs. Excess steam will be used to power a 1 MW steam turbine electric generator. CMEC has contracted locally for the waste wood fuel supply, and it is expected to come from within a 50 to 60 mile radius.


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About John Farrell

John Farrell directs the Energy Democracy initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and he develops tools that allow communities to take charge of their energy future, and pursue the maximum economic benefits of the transition to 100% renewable power.


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