To offset the energy-intensity of the biofuel plant in Luverne, Minnesota, Gevo has secured a partnership with wind turbine company Juhl Energy to provide renewable electricity through wind power.
Gevo To Use Wind Turbines to Further Reduce the Carbon Footprint of Isobutanol Production
By Dr. Pat Gruber, CEO, Gevo, Inc.
I’m the first to admit that one of the issues that we’ve been challenged with is that a lot of Gevo’s carbon footprint comes from the electrical power we use in production, which is coal fired electricity from the grid. We’ve always known that we need to replace this with a renewable energy solution. And one thing we have a lot of in Luverne, Minnesota, is wind. So Gevo secured a partnership with wind turbine company Juhl Energy to provide renewable electricity through wind power at our Luverne facility. At that facility, we manufacture isobutanol and ethanol, and, while more energy efficient than other biofuel production methods, it’s still an energy-intensive process.
We have a straightforward strategy to remove carbon emissions from every step of our biofuel production process. We are all about decarbonization of fuels, which means making hydrocarbon fuels like jet fuel and gasoline with a really small carbon footprint. It’s all about renewability, and we also help the farmers who are our feedstock supply partners to implement growing methods and resource management that improve the carbon sequestration of their soil.
By the same thought process, it doesn’t do any good to invest in the research and science of taking the fossil fuels out of aviation fuel, isooctane gasoline, and isobutanol if we’re just going to draw electricity off the coal-burning electrical grid to run our processes. When you’re re-charging those electrical cars, where do you think that electricity is coming from? Nobody likes a hypocrite and that’s where this latest investment comes in.
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Watch Pat Gruber discuss the Gevo-Juhl Energy windpower initiative here:
Juhl Energy—and don’t confuse it with an e-cigarette company that’s been in the news lately—is an expert at wind-development projects, putting up wind towers, and also other energy-development solutions.
We invested in Juhl Energy Assets Company. They’re the developers, so for that we get a return on our preferred stock investment. We buy the electricity from the City of Luverne, Minnesota, and it’s about the same price we were paying before, but all the renewable benefits accrue to Gevo. The transmission wire from the wind turbines will go directly to our plant, so it meets all the requirements for counting toward sustainability.
All sides are cooperating here to make it work. Juhl will sell power to Missouri River Energy Services (MRES), which is the area utility that supplies Luverne. We buy the power from Luverne, but the actual electricity comes directly to us, and we buy the renewable energy credits from Juhl directly.
With the foundation poured and the first pieces of the turbines beginning to be placed, we realistically look to having the wind turbines online the end of Q1 and should begin to see the benefit in a lower carbon intensity score around the second quarter of 2020. With that and some of the other improvements, it can make a pretty big difference.
This all works with our overall strategy of decarbonization and defossilization. Our fossil footprint of our process to produce renewable-resource-based fuels comes from the energy we use: electricity and natural gas. The next step will be work on the natural gas and we’ve got some pretty interesting ideas.