Leaders of Genera Energy yesterday broke ground on Tennessee’s Biomass Innovation Park, a one-of-a-kind campus in Vonore, TN, that will integrate the entire biomass supply chain.

The park will provide harvesting, handling, storage, densification, pre-processing and transportation for multiple feedstocks, including switchgrass. Located adjacent to the Genera/DDCE demonstration-scale biorefinery on 21 acres, the campus will serve as the foundation for all biomass feedstock used to create biofuels, biopower and other energy products.

“This facility will integrate biomass receiving, storage, separation, pre-processing and compaction, says Kelly Tiller, Genera’s president and CEO. “It will initially process up to 50,000 tons of switchgrass but is designed to handle a wide range of energy crops and other biomass feedstocks. We will also have energy-crop R&D demonstration plots onsite, as well as some demonstration-scale novel conversion processes and technology.”

Genera has more than 6,000 acres of switchgrass growing in nine counties within 50 miles of Vonore. It’s being grown by farmers under contract with the company, and will be processed into cellulosic ethanol at the biomass park.

“The Biomass Innovation Park will be a unique and valuable asset in answering many of the questions farmers, biorefineries and the entire bioenergy industry are asking about sufficient, sustainable, scalable, cost-effective supply chains for energy crops,” says Tiller.

The park will also be the site for a $5 million Department of Energy-funded high-tonnage switchgrass bulk handling system and will provide strategic partnership opportunities and serve as a template for regional biomass depots.

The first phase of construction is scheduled for completion by the end of 2010, in time to store and process switchgrass following the fall harvest. The Biomass Innovation Park is designed to accommodate future expansion and introduce new technologies and equipment for processing biomass to meet the specifications of biorefineries and other downstream conversion processes.

The park will include two storage silos, an equipment shed, bale storage, office buildings, truck scales for feedstock receiving, pre-engineered biomass processing buildings and energy-crop demonstration plots.

Dallas Tonsager, USDA undersecretary for rural development, helped with the groundbreaking. Also on hand were Joseph DiPietro, chancellor of the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture; Kyle Althoff, DuPont Danisco cellulosic ethanol feedstock development director; and Lacy Upchurch, Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation president.

Read about the Tennessee Biofuels Initiative.