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Serving: IA

More New Ethanol Plants Planned for Iowa

Sites announced for New Hampton and Des Moines, and a plant to be built at Council Bluffs breaks ground.

It was announced on December 1 that a new ethanol plant is planned for New Hampton in northeast Iowa. Homeland Energy Solutions LLC plans to begin construction of a 100-million gallon per year ethanol plant in that Chickasaw County community next summer.

Fagen Inc., a company from Granite Falls, Minn., will build the plant, which will take 14 to 16 months to complete. Homeland Energy will employ about 47 people. The plant will produce 100 million gallons of ethanol from approximately 37 million bushels of corn. It will be the first ethanol plant in Chickasaw County.

Another company, VeraSun, is constructing a similar sized ethanol plant in Charles City, which is in Floyd County, a neighboring county to Chickasaw. The Charles City plant is to be completed in the summer of 2007. The two plants, when built, will be located about 20 miles apart.

Des Moines makes decision on proposed plant

Iowa currently has 25 ethanol plants in operation, some of which are expanding their capacity. Another 11 new plants are under construction, and several more are in the planning stages, says Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association.

The Des Moines area in central Iowa has moved another step closer to get an ethanol plant. The Des Moines City Council held a controversial vote last week and decided to sell some city-owned land to Vision Fuels, a group of investors and construction industry people. Vision Fuels is headquartered in the Des Moines suburb of Urbandale. They want to build a 110 million-gallon per year plant in southeast Des Moines. Construction is slated to begin in the spring or early summer of 2007 with completion by the end of 2008.

For the past year, three other groups had been vying with Vision Fuels for the council's approval to build a plant in southeast Des Moines. Those other three pulled out of the running in recent months. The last one to drop out was Lincolnway Energy LLC, which has a farmer-owned plant already in operation near Nevada in Story County. Last week Lincolnway pulled its offer to build a plant in Des Moines due to delays by the city council in making a decision.

Lincolnway is owned by more than 900 farmers and other individuals—all of them are local individual investors--from all walks of life. Lincolnway's shareholders are mainly from Story, Polk and a few other counties in central Iowa. By law, they have to be Iowa residents.

Why Lincolnway pulled out of the running

Lincolnway proposed building a coal-fired plant. Vision Fuels proposed building a plant powered by natural gas and also in part by waste wood and other combustible waste products left over from construction sites. Natural gas is cleaner burning than coal, but a natural gas-fired plant costs more to operate.

A citizen's group held a petition drive against the proposed plant and several of the Des Moines City Council members opposed the Lincolnway plant. They feared a coal-fired plant in southeast Des Moines would cause air pollution and be unhealthy. Despite Lincolnway's promise it would install the latest environmental controls on the plant's smokestack to control emissions, the council voted to go with Vision Fuels instead.

It makes sense for the capital city of Iowa, which is vying to be the renewable energy capitol of the world, to have an ethanol plant, says Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie. The city has an ag-based industrial park in southeast Des Moines that it is trying to develop, so this ethanol plant would be in the right place. "You need to have a rail line, a major interstate highway, a natural gas pipeline and a good source of water supply to make a location viable for an ethanol plant. Of course, you also need an abundance of corn. Put all those together and you'll have the kind of location you need for an ethanol plant," says Cownie.

SIRE breaks ground at Council Bluffs

Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy (SIRE) began construction on its ethanol refinery near Council Bluffs on November 17. The plant will process 39 million bushels of corn into 110 million gallons of ethanol a year, and produce 353,000 tons of distillers grains annually. "This is a major addition to the southwest Iowa ethanol industry," says Shaw. "As demand for ethanol continues to grow, we're seeing more and more areas of Iowa benefit from ethanol production."

ICM Inc. of Colwich, Kansas, will oversee construction of the SIRE plant and use the ICM process design. A majority of the SIRE plant is owned by farmers and other people living in the local southwest Iowa area who are shareholders.

Iowa is the leading state in renewable fuels production. "Iowa now has 25 ethanol refineries operating with the capacity to produce 1.6 billion gallons annually," says Shaw. "There are another 14 ethanol refineries under construction or expansion that will add over 1 billion gallons of ethanol capacity. In addition, Iowa has 14 biodiesel refineries with a combined annual capacity of over 315 million gallons—either already in operation or under construction."

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