An ethanol plant in western Wisconsin will be the first in the world to begin brewing ethanol from corn and sugar from biomass.
Ace Ethanol in Stanley has been brewing corn-based ethanol for years, but soon they'll be replacing some of that corn with biomass like agricultural waste and scrap wood. Ace is partnering with New York biotech firm Sweetwater Energy, which specializes in using enzymes to extract a sugar solution from leftover corn stalks and scrap wood from logging. There are many other companies brewing ethanol from waste products, but this deal will be the first to incorporate waste products into regular corn-based ethanol production. Jack Baron is the Chief Operating Officer with Sweetwater Energy. "It represents a way for the corn ethanol industry to bridge into something beyond corn, while still working with the same farmer suppliers they've been working with for years."
Ace Ethanol is capable of producing 50 million gallons of traditional ethanol per year, and Government Relations Director Bob Sather says by using the sugars from biomass they'll cut their reliance on corn by 1.5 million bushels. "We will be able to use, [in] the first year... probably eight percent of our production will be from this particular cellulose material supplied by Sweetwater."
John Reisel is an Associate Professor at UW-Milwaukee who has worked with the Center for Alternative Fuels. He says making ethanol out of waste products is a promising but expensive alternative to corn. "So, it has the potential to be a big impact but it also has to get the cost down."