Development of biomass for energy in the southeast was also included in the USDA grants announced this week in the Pacific Northwest.
Among the grants is $15 million for research to be led by the University of Tennessee to develop sustainable feedstock production systems using switchgrass and woody biomass that will “produce low-cost, easily converted sugars for biochemical conversion to butanol, lignin byproducts and forest and mill residues, and dedicated energy crop feedstocks to produce diesel, heat and power.” Created to implement the research project is the Southeast Partnership for Integrated Biomass Supply Systems (IBSS) and one of the core partners of that group is ArborGen, a South Carolina-based company that specializes in the development and commercialization of technologies that improve the productivity of trees for wood, fiber and energy.
According to ArborGen officials, the company’s expertise will be utilized to explore the performance and cost advantages of short-rotation woody crops such as Eucalyptus, Pine and Poplar, matching the economic and environmental performance of each feedstock with a preferred conversion platform.
ArborGen’s focus in the IBSS partnership will be on optimizing wood characteristics for optimal conversion to advanced “drop in” biofuels and on developing sustainable methods for harvesting, transporting and storing purpose grown trees. ArborGen will also work closely with IBSS on ensuring that technology developed at IBSS will benefit rural economies. A key component of the IBSS partnership will be to ensure that information is developed to help land owners, rural communities and the emerging biofuels industry make decisions that promote sustainable development.