North Carolina's Growing Strengths: REPREVE Renewables

Formed in 2010, Greensboro, N.C.-based REPREVE Renewables LLC is a commercial supplier of Giant Miscanthus, an energy grass with prime potential for biofuels production. The company’s variety, Freedom Giant Miscanthus, is an energy grass developed for superior yield in the southeastern United States, a crop that grows with low inputs and on low-quality soils. With a stand life of more than 10-15 years, the grass can grow to more than 12 feet tall and can yield up to 20 tons per acre. For the southeastern U.S., it is a viable crop for liquid renewable fuels, biomass power, and as a source of renewable chemicals and plastics.

A perennial, non-invasive crop, Giant Miscanthus has long been considered a superior renewable energy crop but one that is expensive to get established. The mission of Repreve Renewables is to break down barriers to planting viable biofuel feedstocks on a commercial scale. Over the last several years, the company has developed planting systems, agronomic practices, harvesting techniques, and storage strategies to make Freedom Giant Miscanthus a truly commercial crop. By utilizing its vast agronomic, manufacturing, and engineering resources, Repreve Renewables has become the first company able to deploy non-seeded energy grasses on a large scale.

By making planting material readily available and planting techniques more efficient, Repreve has made the crop more cost-effective than ever before and, in turn, more promising for growers. As Freedom Giant Miscanthus is economically attractive, it becomes viable as a fossil-fuel replacement for fuel producers while revitalizing agricultural communities seeking profitable crops on low-value land.

In 2012, Freedom Giant Miscanthus was named one of the USDA’s two crops approved for use under the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) in North Carolina for conversion to ethanol by Chemtex International. The Chemtex facility will use several locally grown crops, but only Freedom Miscanthus and Switchgrass were eligible for special economic incentives for establishment through the USDA program.

For more information, visit www.repreverenewables.com.

Biofuels Center president to address international green energy conference in Greensboro

Biofuels Center president and CEO W. Steven Burke will present on opening day of North Carolina A&T State University's "Third Annual Conference on Green and Sustainable Technology," an international event on 15-16 November 2012 in Greensboro. The event is expected to gather more than 200 energy professionals to discuss green energy, green construction, and green technology. The conference is organized by the Center for Energy Research and Technology at N.C. A&T.

Mr. Burke will address the first session on net-zero energy and will later serve on the energy discussion panel. Sessions scheduled later in the day include net-zero water and net-zero waste.

Fitting the spirit of the two-day event, the conference will be held at the Proximity Hotel in Greensboro, the first LEED-certified platinum hotel in the country, which uses 39-percent less energy and 33-percent less water compared to conventional hotels.

For more information or to register for the event, click here.

Patterson Science Center approves demonstration plot

The Patterson Science Center, in partnership with the Patterson Foundation and the Caldwell Green Commission, recently approved the establishment of a biofuels feedstock crop demonstration plot on the Patterson Campus in Caldwell County, N.C. The Patterson Science Center is a unique STEAAM (i.e., science, technology, engineering, agriculture, art, and mathematics) initiative developed by members of the Caldwell County School System to prepare students for the 21st-century workforce.

The demonstration plot will serve as a place for Caldwell County students to participate in hands-on activities relating to biofuels crop growing, management, and production. The plot will initially take up one quarter of an acre at Patterson Science Center with possible future expansion, and it will allow students to witness how cellulosic energy crops grow in western North Carolina.

With support from the Biofuels Center, biofuels feedstock crops will be planted early next year and will include Switchgrass, Miscanthus, Giant Reed, and Eastern Cottonwood.

To learn more about the Patterson Science Center, click here.

North Carolina's Growing Strengths: The F3 Program

In western North Carolina, several businesses and organizations are partnering to implement a one-of-a-kind, closed-loop energy project that benefits both the local economy and the environment. The Field to Fryer to Fuel program, or F3, is a joint venture of AdvantageWest Economic Development Group, Blue Ridge Biofuels, Biltmore Estate, and others supported by the Biofuels Center of North Carolina. If the 12-month project is successful, this model could be established in other regions of the state.

Under the program, Blue Ridge Biofuels will produce edible oils from regionally grown oilseeds, and then essentially lease these oils to restaurant partners for their frying needs. After use and collection, Blue Ridge will convert the fryer oil into ASTM D6751-quality fuel for local fuel customers, including Biltmore Estate and others.

Progress is already under way, as Biltmore Estate recently planted nearly 50 acres of canola and will plant the remaining few acres in the next two weeks. Based on regional climate and soil type, the Estate identified four varieties that should provide quality yields for the project. Appalachian State University (ASU) and N.C. State University’s Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center will advise the feedstock crop-growing process.

On the conversion side of the F3 program, Blue Ridge Biofuels recently acquired 20 gallons of crude canola from the ASU-Catawba County Biodiesel Research Station. This crude canola is currently being refined on a lab scale to determine the most suitable refining method for producing quality fryer oils. The samples will be delivered to a lab for end-product and crude oil analysis.

For more information on the F3 program, contact AdvantageWest at #828.687.7234.

Biofuels Center convenes Western North Carolina Biofuels Advisory Council

On 14 September 2012, the Biofuels Center of North Carolina convened a group of biofuels leaders from western North Carolina at the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville. The initial meeting of the Western North Carolina Biofuels Advisory Council focused on the Biofuels Center’s grants program for 2012-2013, which will specifically target the western region of the state. The grant program will utilize a significant portion of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) settlement funds that were directed to the Center by the North Carolina General Assembly in the 2012 legislative session.

The Council included 20 participants representing a wide range of vantage points, including biofuels producers, economic developers, local governments, educational institutions, and environmental nonprofits. Council members stressed the importance of collaboration and partnership in the development of biofuels projects in western North Carolina. The Council discussed building on existing efforts—for example, the Evolve Energy partnership being led by AdvantageWest and Land of Sky Council of Governments—to develop and brand this part of North Carolina as a clean energy hub.

The Center will continue its outreach efforts to the western region of the state in the upcoming months. A full request for proposals (RFP) will be announced in late September.