New Plant for Storey County: Converting Trash to Gas
Carlo Luri is a biofuels expert. The general manager of Minden's Bently Biofuels told us, "Any organic material can be used to make ethanol. Of course there's interest in using something other than corn to make ethanol."
How about what you put in your trash can? In 3 years, a plant slated for the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center will be converting our garbage into millions of gallons of ethanol. Up to now ethanol's been made with corn, but that has to be grown. Trash, is dirt cheap and everywhere.
The new plant's owners, Fulcrum BioEnergy of California, have a 20-year deal with Waste Management to get all the garbage they need. The trash-to-gas concept has been tried on a smaller scale in other parts of the country. But this is definitely large scale: once this plant is running, they expect to process 147,000 tons of garbage into 10 million gallons of ethanol every year.
They also got a $105 million federal loan guarantee, announced Monday by the Obama Administration. With the election coming, there's skepticism about the timing. The USDA's Rural Development Nevada State Director says that's coincidence. Sarah Adler told us, "I'm glad you asked that question. I've actually been working intensively on this project for 3 years."
And now, Carlo Luri says, this idea's time has come. He told us, "Biofuels fell by the wayside because of the low cost of oil, and as we see oil prices going up again because of scarcity and all, we'll get a lot of interest in biofuels."
As for that loan guarantee, Fulcrum BioEnergy already has a bank loan. This federal guarantee is to back that up...to assure the bank. The USDA loans have been doing this for 7 other bioenergy plants in other states that use everything from farm waste to algae. Fulcrum president and CEO James Macias told us, "You can do the same thing with wood, farm waste, crops...you can make ethanol out of all that."
For the new plant in Storey County, they project 430 construction jobs and 53 permanent jobs after it's finished in 3 years. Macias assured us that at least most of those jobs will be locally hired. He told us, "Yes, in fact the work we've already done, the grading on the site was done by local contractors...local, local labor."
Local biofuels, local jobs and less trash for the landfill. If this all works out, a win-win-win.
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