Verenium Company today announced plans to build its first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant, to be located in south-central Florida’s Highlands County.
Set to begin operations in 2011, the proposed $250 million (US) to $300 million facility will get its biofuel feedstock from Lykes Bros. Inc., an agribusiness that farms about 20,000 acres of land adjacent to the Verenium plant site.
The project is being supported with a $7 million grant from the state of Florida’s “Farm to Fuel” program, which promotes biofuel projects that will use Florida-grown crops or biomass.
“The message today is that Florida’s agricultural industry can produce fuel crops on a major commercial scale without sacrificing food crops,” said Charles H. Bronson, commissioner of Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services. “This is a major step forward for our ‘Farm to Fuel’ program and hopefully will serve as a catalyst for additional investment by companies interested in producing renewable energy in Florida.”
Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Verenium has tested its cellosic ethanol production process at pilot and demonstration plants in Jennings, Louisiana. The commercial facility planned for Florida is ultimately expected to produce up to 36 million gallons of ethanol each year.
Verenium’s planned site in the Sunshine State is fitting for more than its proximity to biomass-producing farmland: the company’s next-generation production process is based on technology first developed at the University of Florida.