FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 1, 2013
DeWitt, AR – The state’s first community-based biodiesel production facility opened its doors on Tuesday, October 29, with a pledge of $50,000 in assistance from Delta Regional Authority (DRA) Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill and more commitments from farmers in the region to plant camelina, a winter energy crop new to the region.
Approximately 200 growers, business owners and policy makers participated in events presented by the Arkansas Advanced Energy Foundation (AAEF) to launch the unique, economic development project designed by alt.Consulting and based on biodiesel production from locally produced camelina and vegetable waste oil..
The project is known as “Farm to Fuel”. AAEF launched a public education campaign this week to promote the economic value of home-grown renewable energy, including a five-minute film that validates the multiple business opportunities within the project. The film can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38QA73o-Wp8.
Speaking during the luncheon on Tuesday, Masingill told participants that the Farm to Fuel Project is a high priority for the DRA. The project demonstrates what a community in the Delta can do to generate economic development through local investment and entrepreneurship. He pledged $50,000 of federal funds from the DRA to go towards the purchase of a micro-biorefinery next Spring.
On becoming the first community to field a mini-biorefinery, DeWitt Mayor Ralph Relyea said it was in keeping with his town’s aggressive pursuit of new technologies that will add wealth and new jobs to the economy. The city was chosen as the pilot site for the farm to fuel strategy because it committed to purchasing all biodiesel produced at the new facility.
School district vehicle fleets, municipal and farm vehicles, and some private consumers will be among the customers for entrepreneur Johnny Davis, who will operate the new business, DeWitt Bioenergy. The business already has a new employee trained locally at Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas (PCCUA).
In addition, DeWitt will be the hub for a 10-county waste vegetable oil collection district to supplement Camelina oil as a feedstock for biodiesel production.
The farm to fuel strategy aims to replicate the DeWitt model in 25 “Communities of Innovation” throughout the Arkansas Delta to create a minimum of 100 new jobs and generate new income for farmers, according to Ines Polonius, Executive Director of alt.Consulting.
Camelina was selected as the ideal energy crop for local biodiesel production after years of study by researchers at Arkansas State University (ASU) and PCCUA. It can be grown in the winter and doesn’t compete with existing crop rotations in the Delta. Camelina is a hardy plant that produces a high yield, oil-rich seed. Early estimates are that the energy crop will have an expected yield of 1,000 pounds per acre and farmers can expect to earn about $130 per acre.
A micro-biorefinery designed and built at Mid-South Community College will ultimately be manufactured in the Delta and positioned at several communities for regional consumption. The refinery can produce up to 1 million gallons of biodiesel per year.
The purpose of implementing the farm to fuel strategy is to advance and commercialize technologies within the Arkansas Delta and establish the biodiesel sector as a new economic driver for the region.
“For too long, the Arkansas Delta has been recognized by neighboring states as an extraction zone of raw materials,” said Ron Bell, Chairman of AAEF. “It is time for Arkansas to better utilize our natural resources and compete with our neighbors for all of the economic benefits that these resources allow.”
Arkansas Advanced Energy Association is a business group dedicated to growing Arkansas’s economy by expanding our energy workforce and manufacturing base through the increased development, manufacture, and utilization of advanced energy technologies. www.arkansasadvancedenergy.com
The Arkansas Advanced Energy Foundation is the educational affiliate of the AAEA. The Foundation promotes greater public understanding of advanced energy in Arkansas through research, public education programs and economic and workforce development. The Foundation is dedicated to informing the energy policy debate with well-researched, fact-based data on the advanced energy economy in Arkansas and by providing a public forum where state leaders can address Arkansas’s energy challenges for the future. www.arkansasadvancedenergyfoundation.org
alt.Consulting is a non-profit organization with a unique approach to delivering small business services. Since opening the first office in 1998 in the Delta, alt.Consulting has helped thousands of small businesses grow, offer jobs, and create new wealth in their communities. Today, alt.Consulting is also a Community Development Financial Institution making working capital loans up to $50,000 to small businesses throughout the Delta.
Report Shows Global Economic Impacts of Advanced Energy
A report released in January 2013 by Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) shows that advanced energy was a $1.1 trillion global market in 2011, larger than pharmaceutical manufacturing worldwide. Read the full report here: http://arkansasadvancedenergyfoundation.org/files/dmfile/AEEIEconomicImpactofAdvancedEnergy-Final.pdf
Follow Arkansas Advanced Energy on Twitter @ArkAdvEnergy and like “Arkansas Advanced Energy Association” on Facebook.
Follow the Farm to Fuel work and alt.Consulting on our website and blog at altconsulting.org, on Twitter @altConsultants and like “altConsulting” on Facebook.