(NASHVILLE, TN), September 1, 2011 — Tennessee Senate Finance Committee Chairman Randy McNally joined Governor Bill Haslam, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro, and other state and local officials in a tour on Tuesday of the University of Tennessee biorefinery (UTBI) operations. The cellulosic ethanol refinery is a comprehensive model, developed and implemented by the University of Tennessee, acting as stewards for the state’s investment in developing a biofuels industry in Tennessee.
The pilot-scale research project, which partners with the Oak Ridge Laboratory, utilizes switchgrass supplied by local farmers. The group toured a farm which grows the several types of switchgrass in Vonore, Tennessee.
“I was pleased with the progress we saw today,” said Senator McNally. “Switchgrass is an ideal product because it is not used for food. It moves us closer to finding a clean energy producing alternative that lessens our dependence on foreign oil.”
Switchgrass is a tall-growing, drought-resistant perennial which is planted in the spring and is harvested in November, when it is bailed into round rolls for pick up. A number of entities are collaborating in various ways in the feedstock supply chain and the biorefinery aspects of UTBI, including the University of Tennessee, University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF), UT Institute of Agriculture (UTIA), Genera Energy LLC, and DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol, LLC (DDCE). Officials from these companies were also present on the tour.
“This industry has the potential to produce new jobs in Tennessee and provides a hardy new product for many of our local farmers,” added McNally. “Tennessee is known for being on the cutting edge of energy alternatives. I look forward to continuing to see progress as the research is further developed.”