Cellulosic ethanol production from switchgrass and field refuse such as corncobs will be ramping up at the Vonore, TN, demonstration facility. Leaders from DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol (DDCE), University of Tennessee, Genera Energy and Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen will cut the ribbon this afternoon, Jan. 29, at the scheduled open house celebration.

"The world should be watching Tennessee," says Skurla. "Here in Vonore, DDCE and Genera Energy are well ahead of the curve as we develop the entire value chain, from feedstock to production. We delivered on our promise to investors, customers and the industry by initiating startup at the end of last year and are on track to provide the industry with investment-grade packages that meet demands for low-cost, scalability and sustainability."

The state-of-the-art facility in Vonore has capacity to produce 250,000 gallons of ethanol annually, although its focus is on optimizing technologies for large-scale production. It represents an investment of more than $50 million, including funding from the University of Tennessee's Biofuels Initiative (UTBI) and DDCE. The project also integrates about $100 million investment in proprietary research by DuPont and Danisco, highly valuable intellectual property platforms and talent pools from both companies and DDCE's commitment to pay operating costs not covered under UTBI. The Vonore facility currently has a full-time staff of about 20.

"The University of Tennessee Biofuels Initiative is the only fully integrated program that is working with farmers and the agricultural industry to reliably supply the necessary feedstock so biorefineries can produce plentiful, affordable, renewable and sustainable fuels," says Kelly Tiller, CEO of Genera Energy and director of external operations for the UT Office of Bioenergy Programs. She says plans are for Tennessee farmers to place an additional 4,000 acres of switchgrass into production this spring, bringing the total production in the state to nearly 7,000 acres of the dedicated energy crop.

The cellulosic ethanol industry is under federal mandate to deliver 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022, of which 16 billion gallons must come from cellulosic sources.

For more on the Tennessee project, see the January issue of Hay & Forage Grower or visit A Market For Switchgrass and What It's Like To Bale 9'-Tall Switchgrass.