Yet another cellulosic ethanol project launched recently, this time in Alpena, MI with Governor Jennifer Granholm on hand for the ribbon cutting. The facility will be run by American Process Incorporated (API) and will produce ethanol from waste materials produced by an adjacent hardwood plant that is run by Decorative Panels International.

The Alpena biorefinery will be a pilot facility to prove that API's process for producing fuel, sodium acetate and clean water from wood waste works. The process is designed to be integrated with the pulp production process and API claims it can produce ethanol at about $1 per gallon (where have we heard that before?). API's facility is being financed in part by an $18 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and $4 million from the State of Michigan. If everything works out, API would like to incorporate similar biorefineries with other wood processing plants around the country.

[Source: American Process Inc., Green Car Congress]


Red ribbon day for DPI

Gov. Jennifer Granholm cuts a dedication ribbon at the future site of the Alpena Prototype Biorefinery during the dedication ceremony at Decorative Panels International, Inc. Thursday. News Photo By Krista Tacey

Although there are permits that still need to be issued by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment for construction of a bio-refinery at Decorative Panel International in Alpena, it appears it may only a formality. So much so that Gov. Jennifer Granholm visited Alpena on Thursday for a special ribbon cutting for the proposed facility.

Granholm and other dignitaries celebrated another step taken toward transforming Michigan into a clean energy producing hot-bed globally. Granholm said the local pilot program and others like it in the state, could lead the charge in providing the technology to the rest of the word.

"We are here today celebrating that Alpena has become a center for clean energy excellence. This plant is not just good for Alpena, it is good because it provides great hope for the great future of waste-to-energy," Granholm said. "This perfectly duck-tails our strategy in Michigan and with what we are doing. We are extremely focused on whatever streams we can to convert to energy. Agricultural waste is a byproduct of that and the forest byproducts are a byproduct of that. It's part of the strategy to make Michigan a leader in the nation at providing clean energy solutions to the rest of the country."

Because the plant is going to be a prototype and also be available for others around the nation to visit, study and hopefully mimic. Granholm said it gives Alpena a reason to be proud. "We are so glad that not only the State of Michigan and the federal government recognized the importance of the start up programs so we can demonstrate and commercialize these startup programs here in Michigan and here in Alpena," Granholm said. "It really puts Alpena on the map."

There has been a large amount of investment made by the state and federal government to make the plant in Alpena a reality. The Department of Energy committed a grant for $18 million and the state $4 million. Granholm said the state's portion was actually from the federal government. She said it was money the state could have used to care for its own buildings, but believed it to be more prudent to invest in Michigan's future and created jobs with the funds instead.

"The state received the money because the federal government said it wanted the state's across the country to focus on clean energy and renewable energy solutions," Granholm said. "We could have chosen to take the state money and use it on state buildings toward energy efficiency, but we went to the federal government and said we could use that money for startup funds for companies that have really great projects that we could then use as demonstration projects across the county and obviously create jobs here in Michigan. "

Granholm has made it her highest priority to transform Michigan and make it a leader in waste-to-energy technology. She believes it will create new jobs in the state, but there will be a new governor in January and it is not yet known how far the new administration will continue the push toward "green" employment. Granholm said no matter who the new leader may be, they must continue to move forward with the state's new direction and said she is confident they will.

"I hope citizens remind whoever the next governor is that we can't veer off this new course of adding to new sectors to our economy, like clean energy. It is the natural sector for us to move into, and the word is going to need the products to reduce the reliance rate of fossil fuels. We can be the place where all that is made." Granholm said. "Whoever the next governor is they have to realize they can't turn back, there is no turning back, you really have to keep moving forward. Clean energy is one of the sectors that are really promising for jobs and we need to continue to take advantage of that."

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