Florida encourages biofuels investment

By Kris Bevill | July 08, 2009
Report posted July 30, 2009 at 3:39 p.m. CST

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist touted his state's investment in the development of biofuels and renewable energy during his July 30 speech to attendees at the 2009 Farm to Fuel Summit, held July 29-31 in Orlando, Fla.

"Florida's success as a national leader in renewable energy technology, including ethanol and other biofuel production, benefits the state's economy and environment while reducing our dependence on foreign oil," he said. "I am committed to continuing the diversification of Florida's energy portfolio and the development of our state as a green technology business hub."

According to Crist, Florida has awarded more than $43 million in grants for renewable energy and energy efficient projects since 2006. More than $23 million of that grant money has been awarded to bioenergy projects.

During his speech, Crist emphasized the importance of second-generation biofuels as part of an integrated solution for meeting Florida's energy needs. The state is currently funding research related to the production of ethanol from feedstocks such as sorghum and citrus waste.

Several future cellulosic ethanol producers have selected Florida sites for their production facilities, including Verenium Corp, Southeast Renewable Fuels LLC and Coskata Inc.

Verenium Corp. and British Petroleum plc, which partnered last year to develop and commercialize cellulosic ethanol, formed Highlands Ethanol LLC and plan to break ground on a 36 MMgy cellulosic ethanol production facility in Highlands County, Fla. in 2010. Production is expected to begin by 2012. The joint venture recently announced Highlands Ethanol will do business under the name Vercipia Biofuels Latin for "green beginnings."

Southeast Renewable Fuels LLC has also made recent advancements related to its proposed Florida-based sweet sorghum production facilities. It recently announced a contract with local power provider Seminole Electric Cooperative to supply it with electricity generated through a combined heat and power system to be installed at the company's proposed Hendry County facility. An additional two sorghum-based production facilities are also planned for locations to be named in Florida, according to Southeast Renewable Fuels Executive President and Chief Operating Officer Donald Markley.

Wes Bolsen, chief marketing officer and vice president of business development for Coskata Inc., told EPM recently that the company is making progress in its plans to develop a 100 MMgy cellulosic ethanol production facility near Clewiston, Fla. The plant would use sugarcane bagasse as feedstock and is dependent on a land sale and use agreement with U.S. Sugar as well as a grant from the state.

According to Crist, Florida was one of the first states to begin implementing funding received via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and has received $63 million earmarked for economic development in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Money is being dispersed via the Florida Energy & Climate Commission , which was established by the state in 2008 to serve as the central office for state energy an climate change programs and policies.