county commission

Renewable energy plant gets the green light

Commission approves permit for $700 million biofuel plant featuring negative carbon impact

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In the afternoon session of its Jan. 27 meeting, Kingsbury County Commissioners turned their attention to a conditional use permit for a new renewable energy plant.

Gevo, Inc. had requested a conditional use permit for the purpose of constructing a jet fuel plant a mile and a half east of Lake Preston on the north side of Highway 14. The proposed plant could be a $700-800 million investment in Kingsbury County and would start operations with the need for 30 million bushels of corn.

Once the hearing was underway, executives with Gevo, Inc. shared with the county commissioners the history of their company, its purpose, the concept behind the proposed Net Zero Plant and the impact the plant would have on the economy locally, as well as the impact the plant’s need would have on nearby farmers. The presentation was similar to the public event Gevo, Inc. held Aug. 30 in Lake Preston’s High School Gym.

After the presentation, the commissioners opened the hearing to any proponents for the proposed plant. Dana Felderman, Superintendent of the Lake Preston School District, voiced his support for the proposed plant. The plant would increase the student population when completed, and the added tax revenues from the plant were a few of the reasons for support.

Lake Preston Mayor Andy Wienk and Lake Preston Development Corporation board member Joan Wollschlager both spoke in favor of the plant and the economic impact the plant would have on Lake Preston and the surrounding areas.

Commissioners then opened the floor to any opponents of the conditional use permit for Gevo, Inc. Just as in the morning session with the Juhl Energy, Inc. request, there were no opponents willing to voice any concerns.

Commissioners then asked a few questions of their own about the plant and operations. The Gevo, Inc. executive team answered all questions to the satisfaction of all the commissioners present.

A vote was then held on allowing the conditional use permit. All commissioners present and online voted in favor of the permit, and the measure passed 4-0. One commissioner was absent. With the vote being cast, the board adjourned the afternoon session at 2:41, after convening since 1 p.m.

WHO IS GEVO, INC.?

Gevo, Inc. was founded in 2005 by Dr. Patrick Gruber. They are headquartered in the Denver Metropolitan Area but deal on a global basis. The focus of the company is on renewable energy and sustainability regarding fuels, producing alternatives to fossil-based fuels and decreasing the greenhouse gases emitted.

Gevo’s research shows they can develop energy-dense liquid hydrocarbons, a jet fuel replacement, using specific agricultural practices, and the entire process would have a negative carbon impact. This would make corn-based fuel a high demand commodity in a global world that is working on reducing carbon footprints in all our energy needs.

Gevo, Inc. will now be building its first Net-Zero 1 plant just outside of Lake Preston on the east side, along Highway 14. This location allows easy access to highways, railroads and utilities necessary for the plant’s operation. The plant will mainly produce corn-based jet fuel, derived from corn purchased from nearby farmers. Once the plant is in full operation, it will be able to produce 46 million gallons of jet fuel in a year.

Gevo, Inc. has another plant in Luverne, Minn., that recently put into production a proof-of-concept process at one-tenth the scale of the new Net Zero 1 Plant in Lake Preston. Its success will herald in the process for the new jet fuel plant.

WHAT IS NET ZERO?

Net Zero is a term to describe the jet fuel plant where a corn-based jet fuel will be produced. The process will be specific, from wind turbines supplying the electrical needs of the plant to agriculture practices. All the processes will be designed to reduce the greenhouse gases footprint in producing jet fuel. The lower the carbon footprint in producing jet fuel, the more value the fuel will have, especially with airlines that are facing limits to carbon-based fuels in Europe.

During the production of the energy dense liquid hydrocarbon, many byproducts are created. As the corn is broken down, high-value protein will be used in the manufacturing of pet foods. Corn oil will also be a byproduct that has a market. During the fermentation stage, biogases will be collected and used throughout the plant to replace its use of natural gas.

Gevo, Inc. has already partnered with South Dakota State University on developing and implementing low-carbon farming practices. The partnership will be beneficial to farmers wanting to supply the Gevo Plant with corn. The more low-carbon processes used, the more valuable the corn will be to the new plant.

The current goal for the completion of the Gevo, Inc. Plant is mid-2024. For more information on Gevo, Inc. and their future corn-based jet fuel plant near Lake Preston visit the link: https://bit.ly/corn2fuel

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