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USDA Guarantees $97 Million in Loans for Biomass Projects

August 29, 2007


Photo with tank rail cars in the foreground, on a track that winds leads to an ethanol plant in the background. The ethanol plant features two large storage bins, four storage tanks in front of a building, a small steam plume, and indistinct industrial equipment connecting it all together.

The USDA funding will help to finance North Carolina's first ethanol plant, which should look much like this facility in Indiana.
Credit: Warren Gretz

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on August 21st that four biomass energy and biofuel projects in three states have been approved for loan guarantees totaling $97 million. The loan guarantees originate from two separate USDA programs and will support the construction of new facilities in Georgia, Illinois, and North Carolina. Specifically, the USDA will guarantee loans of $19.5 million for a wood pellet plant in Savannah, Georgia, that will produce 130,000 metric tons of wood pellets per year; loans of $27.5 million and $15 million, respectively, for biodiesel facilities in Freeport, Illinois, and Jasper County, Illinois, that will each produce 30 million gallons per year of biodiesel; and loans of $35 million for an ethanol plant in Hoke County, North Carolina, that will produce 60 million gallons of ethanol per year. According to the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), the North Carolina ethanol plant will be the first in that state. See the USDA press release and the RFA's map of ethanol plants (PDF 231 KB). Download Adobe Reader.

Hawaii is also slated to receive its first ethanol plant, which will draw on an unconventional feedstock for the United States: sugar. Kauai sugar producer Gay & Robinson Inc. is teaming up with Pacific West Energy LLC to produce 12 million gallons of ethanol per year from sugar juice and molasses. Gay & Robinson sees the plant as essential to continue its sugar operations and preserve jobs for 230 of its employees. See the Pacific West Energy press release (PDF 84 KB).

Speaking of the RFA, its education and research arm, the Renewable Fuels Foundation (RFF), is now offering its first grants. The RFF seeks to provide funding to U.S. universities and non-profit organizations for research projects and policy studies related to ethanol production. The RFF intends to award one grant for $150,000, spread over two years. See the announcement on the RFF Web site.