Is Sharon on the right track?
Getting in on the ethanol boom
By Mike Heine/The Week
(Published Nov. 30, 2006, 8:38 a.m.)
In front of a packed village hall audience, Global Renewable officially announced plans last week Friday to build one of the biggest ethanol plants in the state just outside the village on Highway 67.
The company, set up by former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, his former Ethanol Coalition head Jeffery P. Knight, businessman Tom Weickardt and Luis Carlos Correa Carvalho of Brazil, wants to gather as many kernels of corn in a 50-mile radius and process them into a renewable fuel that can perhaps reduce the United States' dependency on foreign oil.
Initial plans call for the proposed $195 million plant, expected to open in October 2008, to produce 105 to 120 million gallons of ethanol per year. Ethanol is currently used as an additive in Wisconsin gasoline and is gaining popularity in "flex-fuel" vehicles that can run on E-85, a newer blend of the ethanol and gasoline fuel
Corn sold for ethanol production typically sells for 16 cents more per bushel, Knight said.
"It's not a partisan issue," Knight said. "This has Republicans and Democrats working hand-in-hand. Ethanol is good for the country and the growth of the domestic product."
Global Renewable chose the site over at least three other options because of its proximity to necessary infrastructure. The 191-acre parcel is a little more than a mile west of the village on a wedge of agricultural land between the north side of Highway 67 and the Union Pacific railroad tracks.
The highway system offers adequate transportation for trucks to bring corn to the facility. The adjacent railroad tracks can handle the 100 rail cars expected to transport the processed ethanol to the East Coast about every 10 days. A granary is nearby to accept corn remnants that can be sold for high-protein livestock feed. Also, a major underground natural gas line is about a mile away, Knight said.
Most important is the access to a quality corn crop in the area, Knight said. The plant could use 37.8 million bushels of corn per year.
"(Ethanol production) is the best market we can find (for corn)," said Bob Oleson, executive director of the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association. "We keep increasing production 5 percent per year. We need to find a home for that 5 percent every year."
While the project's economic benefits for the area appear to be realized - 55 permanent jobs when the plant is open, 200 construction jobs to build the facility, $700,000 in taxes paid and an estimated $98 million extra dollars in the community - some residents aren't so sure they want an ethanol plant near their homes.
"That's going to be right across the street from several people," said Jessica Peterson, who with four or five other neighbors can look out their front doors at the cornfield where the plant might go. "If you want to live in the country, who is going to buy property that's right across the street from an industrial park?
Plans are still early, but the area might also be considered for inclusion in a possible Tax Incremental Finance district, Schuk said.
Thompson said ethanol plants can help ensure a small community's success
"An ethanol plant is going to do a couple major things for everybody. A.: It's going to help profits for farmers. It's going to help the family farm. We're an agriculture community and they're an agriculture company.
"Most importantly, it's going to keep young farmers in the community. Farms are starting to go by the wayside because family members don't want to stay involved.
Sharon Ethanol Facts
-- Ethanol is ethyl alcohol, the same type of alcohol in beer, wine and liquors. The production processes of beverage ethanol and fuel ethanol are similar. Both involve the fermenting of grains - such as corn - with yeast.
-- The plant will annually produce 105 million to 120 million gallons of ethanol from about 38 million bushels of corn.
-- Most of the corn will be purchased from farmers and grain operators from within a 50-mile radius of the plant.
-- The plant will use 55 full-time employees and create 200 temporary construction jobs during the 16- to 18-month build. Groundbreaking is anticipated in spring and an October 2008 opening is planned.
-- Because corn crop yields increased about 200 bushels per acre in recent years with more efficient farming techniques, the Sharon area has 80 million bushels of corn available after feed use.
-- Dried distillers grain, a by-product of ethanol production, is a protein-rich food source available for livestock.
Regional Biofuel Plants
-- Renew Energy, ethanol plant, town of Aztalan, Jefferson County.
-- United Ethanol, ethanol plant, Milton, Rock County
-- Badger State Ethanol, ethanol plant, Monroe, Green County
-- Midwest Biofuel, biodiesel plant, Clinton, Rock County
Project: Ground broke this fall, expected to start production early 2007
-- North Prairie Productions, biodiesel plant, Evansville, Rock County
Project: Construction to begin soon, with operations starting in late 2007.
Corn to Ethanol Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why is corn the most logical renewable source?
Q: Where are ethanol plants located?
Q: Will we run out of food if you convert our corn to ethanol?
• Ethanol Production and Process
Q: What is the difference between dry mill and wet mill processing?
Corn wet milling is the process of separating the corn kernel into starch, protein, germ and fiber in an aqueous medium prior to fermentation. The primary products of wet milling include starch and starch-derived products (e.g. high fructose corn syrup and ethanol), corn oil, corn gluten, and corn gluten.
Q: How long does it take for corn to become ethanol?
Q: How much corn is needed to make ethanol?
Q: How is ethanol produced?
The next phase, fermentation, involves the addition of yeast to convert the glucose to ethanol and carbon dioxide. Fermentation produces a mixture called "beer," which contains about 10 to 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent water. The "beer" is then boiled in a distillation column to separate the water, resulting in ethanol. Ethanol production from grain utilizes only the starch.
A variety of highly valued feed co-products, including gluten meal, gluten feed and dried distillers grains, are produced from the remaining protein, minerals, vitamins and fiber and are sold as high-value feed for livestock. In addition to grain, ethanol is also produced today from wood waste, cheese whey, waste sucrose, potato waste, brewery waste and food and beverage wastes. Many ethanol producers capture carbon dioxide emissions for processing and use in beverages.
• Environmental Impact
Q: Does it take more energy to produce a gallon of ethanol than the energy we get out of it?
Q: How is ethanol better for the environment than petroleum?
• Ethanol, in my car???
Q: How does ethanol affect mileage?
Q: What do the terms E-10 and E-85 mean?
Q: Can my car run on ethanol now?
Q: Does ethanol damage my car engine?
Q: Can I convert my car to run on E-85 fuel?
Q: What are flexible-fuel vehicles?
Q: Where can I buy E-85 fuel now?
(Source: National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center Web site)
National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center
Wisconsin Ethanol Coalition
American Coalition for Ethanol
Govenors' Ethanol Coalition
National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition
U.S. E-85 Fuelling Locations
Wisconsin's E-85 Fuelling Locations
Renewable Fuels Association
Wisconsin Corn Growers Association
National Corn Growers Association
Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation
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