Wisconsin ethanol producers receive boost from state

By Jerry W. Kram | November 03, 2008
Wisconsin, the ninth largest ethanol producer in the United States, has continued to invest in the future of alternative energy production within its borders by recently funding new technology for ethanol production and upgrading its transportation infrastructure that would help move ethanol to market.

Gov. Jim Doyle authorized the Wisconsin Energy Independence Fund to award up to $500,000 to five to 10 communities to help them create voluntary plans to derive 25 percent of their transportation and electrical energy from renewable sources in the next 25 years. Communities can obtain an application at http://power.wisconsin.gov before the Dec. 15 deadline. The grants will allow communities to hire an energy independence coordinator to create a baseline of information on the consumption of electrical energy, liquid fuels and potential feedstocks, or renewable sources of power, for future use.

The WEIF also allocated $600,000 for ethanol research in September. C5-6 Technologies Inc. in Middleton, Wis., will receive $350,000 to develop new enzymes to increase ethanol yields at corn-based ethanol plants. The company will isolate and commercialize thermostable enzymes that will recover more starch from ground corn than current enzymes. Also, Great Lakes Ag Energy LLC in Madison, Wis., was awarded $250,000 to perfect a pretreatment process for producing cellulosic ethanol.

Several other grants from the WEIF were announced in September, as well. Grand Meadow Energies LLC in Stratford, Wis., received a $265,000 state grant to optimize ethanol production from whey wastes, using the ethanol plant's byproducts to raise algae to produce biodiesel. American Science and Technology received a $150,000 grant to research the development of biofuels and industrial chemicals from woodchips, wood waste and switchgrass. Best Energies Inc. in Madison, Wis., received a total of $1 million, half in grants and half in loans, to develop and implement technology that will allow its facility to use corn oil from ethanol plants as a feedstock for biodiesel production.

The state will also spend more than $16 million to upgrade its rail lines, in part to handle increased transportation of ethanol. Specialty Ingredients LLC in Watertown, Wis., received a $737,700 award to build a rail track and facility to more efficiently transport ethanol and other products. The funds will allow the company to construct a double-spur track with a load-out facility to serve other local companies shipping ethanol and other products. The project will reduce the number of trucks on state highways, and create savings in shipping costs for items including bentonite, ethanol, corn meal, distillers dried grains, sugar, salt and cement. In addition, River Valley Energy LLC in Beaver Dam, Wis., received a $3 million loan to construct rail yard facilities, and grain-based ethanol loading and receiving facilities at a new ethanol production facility being developed at Prairie du Chien, Wis. "Freight rail plays a critical role in Wisconsin's transportation system, moving 150 million tons of commodities every year, and driving economic growth and strengthening our agricultural economy," Doyle said. "The grants and loans will develop our freight rail capabilities, and allow great companies like Specialty Ingredients to retain jobs and grow right here in Wisconsin."