DRIVE: California's Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program


Great Valley Energy, LLC Grant For the Development and Pilot Testing of Agricultural Feedstock Separation Technology

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Great Valley Energy LLC will test the feasibility of building bio-refineries to create low carbon biofuel by producing sweet sorghum in the Central Valley. This crop can yield as much ethanol per bushel as corn, while also providing food, forage and fiber co-products. It is salt-tolerant and uses one-third less water than California-grown cotton or corn, making it ideal for San Joaquin Valley farmlands that suffer from salinity and boron contamination that render them unsuitable for food crops. Growing sweet sorgum could supplement already declining cotton acreage for area farmers, and could provide both agricultural and manufacturing jobs in areas of the Valley that suffer from unemployment rates as high as 20 percent. Great Valley Energy plans to utilize all parts of the cane-like plant to produce high value co-products that could include sweeteners and syrup, cattle feed, and fiberboard, in addition to ethanol.

Great Valley Energy and its partners will install a pilot sorghum separation and testing facility in Hanford. They will also analyze the economic feasibility and market potential of high value co-products, while conducting sweet sorghum crop trials in the San Joaquin Valley. If all the feasibility and testing results are promising, the team will build smaller-scale ethanol plants distributed within the Valley so that transportation costs are minimized. By 2020, Great Valley Energy estimates it could have 15 small plants dispersed across the Valley, each capable of producing over 3 million gallons of ethanol a year. The Project will develop Best Management Practices for sweet sorghum production.

Grant Amount

$1,989,010 from the Energy Commission's Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program

Match Funding

$2,000,270 from the project's participants.

Project Benefits

Sweet sorghum-based ethanol could cut greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent per gallon when compared to gasoline, and Great Valley Energy believes its proprietary, energy-saving technology will lower the greenhouse gas footprint even further. The projected total annual production of more than 47 million gallons would, over an eight-year period, displace more than 7 million barrels of petroleum and reduce greenhouse gases by the equivalent of 1.6 million tons of CO2.

Successful completion of this project could provide the foundation for a substantial biofuels production capacity beyond Kings County, providing manufacturing and farming jobs -- each of the commercial refineries could create an additional 20 jobs. Indirect land-use impacts will be avoided because sorghum can be grown on abandoned, salt-affected farm land using lower quality irrigation water. No food crops would be displaced. The plants would optimize energy and water use and would re-use the water produced from sorghum processing.

Grant Agreement Number: ARV-10-017

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