For Immediate Release: December 1, 2010
Media Contact: Adam Gottlieb - 916-654-4989


Energy Commission Awards Nearly $6.4 Million
for Electric Vehicles, Biofuel, and More
Hundreds of Jobs Created in California's Alterative Vehicle and Transportation Fuel Sector

SACRAMENTO - The California Energy Commission has approved six grants for projects that will reduce petroleum use, cut pollution and provide California jobs by advancing the manufacture of biofuels and the use of alternative fuels and electric vehicles. The funding of $6,378,824 from the Commission's Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Transportation program will leverage $8,405,780 in private funds.

"The ingenuity that drove Silicon Valley is helping California become a leader in the creation of new renewable fuels," said Energy Commission Vice Chair James Boyd. "These awards are investments in California's future as we find ways to turn waste products into low-carbon fuel for the future. These grants will encourage new agricultural sources of fuel, and help our state become a center for the development of clean vehicles for the 21st century."

A summary of the six projects, their costs, and benefits follows:

Biofuel production - $1,499,179 to Mendota Bioenergy LLC to test the feasibility of converting sugar beets and such agricultural waste as almond orchard prunings into several kinds of transportation fuel, green electricity and other green products. If proven feasible, the project could convert 840,000 tons of sugar beets and 80,000 tons of farm biowaste each year into 33.5 million gallons of ethanol; 1.6 million standard cubic feet of biomethane for making compressed natural gas; 6.3 megawatts of certified green electricity; and high-nutrient compost and liquid fertilizer. The project could create approximately 250 direct and 50 indirect construction jobs in the Fresno County agricultural community of Mendota, along with 50 long-term jobs at the biorefinery and an additional 50 jobs for feedstock operations. Approximately 160 new laborers and agricultural workers will be needed to support additional sugar beet production on 40 area farms. The ethanol and CNG produced would replace 23 million gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel each year, cutting greenhouse gas emissions from petroleum by 45 percent for ethanol and 86 percent for CNG. Participants in the project include the University of California Davis and IR1 Group, project developers and engineering consultants. Together the project team will provide $1,553,461 in matching funds.

Biofuel production - $1,315,800 to Clean World Partners, a Sacramento-based company managing anaerobic digestion systems that diverts organic waste from landfills and converts it into clean transportation fuel and reusable by-products. The grant will fund studies for a biomethane production facility at Sacramento's Recycling and Transfer Station that is expected to produce more than 71 million standard cubic feet of compressed natural gas each year. The fuel will be used by the Yolo County Transit District's CNG bus fleet and will meet over two-thirds of its annual CNG demand. This natural gas would displace 584,000 gallons of gasoline annually and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent when compared to gasoline. Other products created by the facility will include renewable hydrogen, liquid fertilizer, compost and clean water. In addition, 36,500 tons of organic waste will be kept out of local landfills each year. The project will create 137 direct and 87 indirect jobs during the construction phase, and 16 full-time positions through 2030. Project participants will provide $1,852,100 in matching funds.

Biofuel production - $1,229,966 to G4 Insights, Inc. to test the feasibility of creating pipeline-quality natural gas from forest waste. Placer County will partner with the Canada-based company to test whether G4 Insight's promising low-temperature, thermo-chemical process can effectively convert woody biomass into biomethane that can be used for transportation and other uses. Local team partners include TSS Consultants, with offices in Rancho Cordova, CA; and WorleyParsons, an international design company with offices in Folsom, CA. The team will provide match funding of $1,232,257 for the project to determine the technical, economic and environmental feasibility of building commercial-scale plants at several rural forest sites in the state. Considering the amount of wood biomass available in California, the team estimates these facilities could produce enough compressed natural gas as a transportation fuel each year to displace 8 percent of gasoline and diesel use in the state. By 2020, the project could create 541 full time jobs running four conversion plants, with a total direct and indirect economic benefit of $707 million and tax revenues of $24 million, without considering construction jobs. G4 Insight's process is expected to create natural gas that reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent when compared to reformulated gasoline.

Electric vehicles components - $1,197,064 to Wrightspeed, Inc. a Silicon Valley company that plans to manufacture digital drive systems and retrofit kits for commercial trucks. With a digital drive system installed, class 3 to class 6 medium- to heavy-duty trucks could use plug-in electric power for the first 40 miles of operation. After that, a range-extending micro-turbine generator will kick in to charge the batteries and provide extended driving range. Wrightspeed anticipates the project will result in 100 percent fuel savings; if a diesel truck gets 10 miles per gallon, the same truck with a digital drive system would get 20 mpg. Capstone Turbine Corporation in Chatsworth, CA, will supply the micro-turbine generator engines; Wrightspeed will assemble the sophisticated integrated electronics and the software management system at a new proposed manufacturing facility in San Jose. The project team will provide $1,500,000 in matching funds to verify the manufacturing, testing and installation of the new technology. Ten mostly engineering jobs will be created now, while the company's business plan predicts adding 120 more jobs five years into the project. With high market penetration, the technology could eventually create as many as 6,000 jobs, including assembly workers, technical and service staff, and sales and administration people.

Biodiesel production - $886,815 to Santa Barbara-based Biodiesel Industries to build and test a system that enhances the operation of existing biodiesel plants. The new technology uses the waste materials and co-products of conventional biodiesel production to create nutrients and carbon dioxide for algaculture, and to generate enough renewable heat and power to run the biodiesel unit. Raw glycerin and water from an operating biofuel plant will go into an anaerobic digester; the biomethane produced will run a combined heat and power microturbine to create electricity to run the biodiesel plant. Effluent from the digester will feed tanks of algae, which will produce oil that will become feedstock for more biodiesel. The entire system will be automated, will constantly test the quality of the biodiesel produced, and will generate more energy than the process requires. The project will be carried out at the Naval Base Ventura County at Port Hueneme with partners Aerojet and the U.S. Navy. The participants will provide $1,825,962 in match funding. A full-scale production plant using this technology could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 23,000 tons of CO2 a year over a normal plant and be a net producer of energy. It could produce 3 million gallons of biodiesel, 3,000 megawatts of renewable electricity, and 47 million megajoules of renewable heat and would result in 58 permanent and 19 temporary jobs.

Biodiesel production - $250,000 to Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo to conduct a pilot-scale demonstration of a technology that produces oil-rich algae while simultaneously treating wastewater. The University's system, called Reclamation of Nutrients, Energy, and Water (RNEW™) will be installed at the City of San Luis Obispo's water reclamation facility. Experiments will be carried out to optimize algae growth, to maximize the production of oils, and to improve the quality of the wastewater. The RNEW™ process uses only untreated wastewater, not fresh water, and the full-scale system could be powered by renewable energy from an anaerobic digester using algae biomass as feedstock. Project participants will provide $442,000 in match funding. The project is supported by the US Environmental Protection Agency, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the University of Missouri-Columbia, and California's State Water Resources Control Board. Walnut Creek-based MicroBio Engineering, Inc., will also participate in the design and startup of this pilot facility. The City of Fresno has already offered its wastewater facility as the site for scaling up the RNEW™ technology.

About the California Energy Commission
The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency. It was created by the Legislature in 1974; its responsibilities include forecasting future energy needs, licensing thermal power plants, promoting energy efficiency, supporting the renewable energy market, administering the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funding through the state energy program, and more. For more information, visit

Assembly Bill 118 (Núñez, Chapter 750, Statutes of 2007) created the California Energy Commission's Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program. The statute, amended by Assembly Bill 109 (Núñez, Chapter 313, Statutes of 2008), authorizes the Energy Commission to develop and deploy alternative and renewable fuels and advanced transportation technologies to help achieve the state's climate change policies.

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