The Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) ruling that allows producers to continue to receive payments for growing biomass crops reinforces the work being done in eastern Tennessee, says Kelly Tiller, Genera Energy president and CEO.

“This ruling comes at the perfect time for biomass producers,” says Tiller. “It means there is potential to bring additional acres of switchgrass into energy crop production to support commercial scale projects. BCAP can help farmers manage their risk and commit their land, resources, and efforts to a new energy crop farming enterprise that will in turn help the nation reach its national renewable energy objectives in a sustainable manner.”

For the past three years, farmers in East Tennessee have been growing and harvesting switchgrass for biomass production. More than 60 farmers located within 50 miles of Genera’s demonstration-scale cellulosic ethanol biorefinery are participating in the Switchgrass Farmer Incentive Program (part of the University of Tennessee’s Biofuels Initiative). Genera’s partner farms should just be beginning to harvest their 2010 switchgrass crops this month (November). This is the third year for harvesting since the program’s inception. Crops planted in 2008 now yield 8 tons/acre of biomass at harvest, and that number is expected to continue to increase this year.

“Tennessee remains well positioned to be a national leader in bio-based energy research and development of commercial-scale projects,” says Tiller. “This ruling will give us additional resources to develop biomass for the growing bioeconomy.”

The BCAP ruling was approved in late October. Under it, USDA will resume making payments to eligible biomass producers that may help offset crop establishment, crop maintenance, and/or biomass collection, storage, and transport costs.

Genera Energy, in partnership with the State of Tennessee, the University of Tennessee, and DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol, opened a biorefinery in Vonore, TN, in early 2010. The pilot-scale facility is capable of producing up to 250,000 gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year from feedstocks such as switchgrass. In July 2010, Genera broke ground on a 21-acre Biomass Innovation Park adjacent to the biorefinery. The Biomass Innovation Park is a state-of-the art campus for the pre-processing, storage and densification of switchgrass. Slated to be operational in late spring of next year, the Biomass Innovation Park will process, store, and handle Genera’s switchgrass production.