February 8, 2007

Small Town with a BIG green vision

Although located near the site of two famous Bull Run battles of the Civil War, the rural community of Warrenton, Virginia is not the kind of place you would normally expect to find revolutionary figures. Yet the town's mayor, George Fitch, envisions a future of green choice and self-reliance for his community by converting local waste and crops into bioenergy - ethanol for cars and green electricity for the grid. He may be one point of light that ignites the imagination and energy of thousands with a similar vision throughout the nation - and the world.

Apparently, someone on the U.S. Senate Energy Committee decided it was a perspective that needed closer inspection. At its Transportation Biofuels Conference on February 1, this small town mayor was a featured speaker along with representatives from Ford, Chevron, MIT, and the American Corn Growers Association.

An advocate of decentralized waste diversion into energy production Fitch's message is that local communities can be a major contributor to the goal of 20 billion gallons of renewable fuel. He said he has embarked on a plan for an integrated biorefinery at a landfill site which would produce 10 million gallons of ethanol and 8MW of electricity from a wide variety of wastes and residues.

“Most of the feedstocks would come from municipal solid wastes including construction debris which now are being buried at the landfill emitting greenhouse gases. This amounts to more than 100,000 tons annually of useable waste that can be converted into energy. The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from a biorefinery using wastes would be over 50%,” Mayor Fitch commented.

“We’ve estimated there are about 10,000 tons of forest residues, 5,000 to 20,000 tons of collectible agriculture residue and another 5,000 to 7,000 tons of sewer sludge and animal manures which could be used as feedstock for the plant. “I’ve been told there are more carbons in a 10 cent bushel of manure than a $4 bushel of corn.” the Mayor said.

“We don’t expect to get much of the agriculture residue at the beginning because it will take awhile to solve the infrastructure problem of efficiently harvesting, gathering, storing and transporting the corn stover Right now, it’s trial and error. We hope to involve John Deere which has developed a machine that allows just a single pass to pick up the grain and the residue at the same time. This would reduce the cost of corn stover to the biorefinery by at least $10 per ton.

He pointed out that the technology seems to have evolved so you can use a wide variety of biomass material to co produce ethanol and electricity at an integrated biorefinery. He added, “we are looking at three different gasification technologies from three different companies for our project.”

Mayor Fitch told the committee and audience, “there are a lot of communities like Warrenton across the country, certainly hundreds if not thousands, which could be self sufficient in renewable energy. Like Warrenton, they have a variety of biomass material right in their backyard. Collectively, that represents billions of gallons of ethanol or renewable diesel – and all of it made from waste and residues.”

“That is a major contribution, which I think has been overlooked, to the goal of 20 billion gallons of renewable fuel by the 2020. The focus seems to be on creating large scale biorefineries producing 50 to 100 million gallons a year by the ADM’s and Cargill’s of the world. Communities like mine are just as valuable. Perhaps more so because we can engage the people in our community to get behind our renewable energy initiative and be a stakeholder.”

Mayor Fitch added, the economics of small scale biorefineries now work. It used to be that you needed at least 3,000 to 5,000 tons of feedstock per day to be economical. Not any more. Our model shows that 300 to 500 tons per day will be profitable; provided it produces both ethanol and electricity.”

Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina told the audience, “Mr. Mayor, you have stimulated our thinking. We need to think about small scale biorefineries across the country using different types of wastes. He added, “decentralization of renewable energy would give our country more energy security.”

For more information, you can contact Mayor Fitch directly at: (540) 347-1101. He would appreciate supportive letters to the editor to a local newspaper article written about his plan. Address the letters to the author Cheryl Chumley.

technorati , , , , , , , ,

No comments: