Tennessee commits toward a transformational effort to make Tennessee a model for biology-based energy production.
On Jan. 31, 2007, Gov. Phil Bredesen joined with the Tennessee General Assembly's House and Senate speakers in a commitment of $72.6 million toward what the governor called a "transformational effort" to make Tennessee a model for biology-based energy production.
In what the governor termed a "farm to market" approach, the plan calls for a partnership between the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory with a long-term goal of producing 1 billion gallons of ethanol from switchgrass, a volume that represents approximately 30 percent of the state's current gasoline consumption.
The plan contains a comprehensive, three-part strategy that includes increasing the production of agricultural commodities, overcoming the scientific and technological challenges to producing cellulosic ethanol at a competitive cost, and construction in Tennessee of the nation's largest pre-commercial demonstration plant for production of ethanol from switchgrass.
Tennessee's investment includes $24.6 million for research activities, research equipment and a new research facility dedicated to bioenergy and located on the campus of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Research at the University of Tennessee College of Agriculture will focus on increasing the current yield of switchgrass, a crop that can be grown in virtually every region of the state. The plan anticipates the need for a five-year period to subsidize the growth of switchgrass as farmers make the transition from tobacco and other crops.
The plan's most ambitious undertaking is the construction of a demonstration plant capable of producing 5 million gallons annually of ethanol. Owned by the University of Tennessee and managed by a private company, the plant will provide the critical element needed to demonstrate the commercial viability of new processes developed at ORNL for producing ethanol from cellulose in switchgrass and other crops.
The state of Tennessee's investment comes in support of a proposal by an ORNL-led consortium to host one of the Department of Energy's Bioenergy Research Centers. ORNL's proposal seeks to remove biomass recalcitrance—cellulose's natural resistance to being converted to sugar—as a barrier to cost-effective production of biofuels. Should this ambitious goal become a reality, the result could be a dramatic impact on America's consumption of transportation fuels.
Tennessee's investment is among the largest ever made in support of bioenergy. The state is betting on a return that could indeed be transformational.
Web site provided by Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Communications and External Relations