June 26, 2006 | General

Editorial: The Town of 533 That Could

BioCycle June 2006, Vol. 47, No. 6, p. 4
Jerome Goldstein

Reynolds, Indiana in White County is starting a one-town rebellion to have homegrown local energy production with independence from foreign oil; solutions to its waste management issues; and the potential for a cleaner environment and revitalized economic development. Its biorenewable power resources will convert animal and human waste to biogas and electrical energy. “We do have a vision to create the first biorenewable community in the United States,” declares this town of 533 using flex-fuel vehicles powered by ethanol and biodiesel.
Set in a rural county, there are more than 150,000 hogs within a 15-mile radius of Reynolds, as well as several other sources of organic waste streams, making it an ideal location for an anaerobic digester, manure gasifier and biodiesel refinery able to convert biomass into energy and soil conditioner. The new BioTown will work closely with the Indiana Department of Agriculture, State Office of Energy, Soybean Board, Corn Growers Association, Central Indiana Clean Cities Coalition and White County Industrial Foundation. “In a way,” writes one national reporter, “the passion that has emerged seems to be as much about helping to save this town as it is about walking away from the reliance on traditional energy sources.” A major goal for the town’s selection as BioTown by Governor Mitch Daniels is to turn animal waste, municipal refuse, agricultural crop residues and other feedstocks into renewable power and electricity.
A report edited by Mark Jenner, titled The BioTown, USA, Sourcebook of Biomass Energy, contains this information: Biomass feedstocks of plant-based carbon material in Reynolds include sewage, manure, dedicated energy crops, corn, soybeans, used vegetable oil and grease, and MSW. Corn has bioenergy uses in ethanol and dried distillers grains, with corn stover showing promise as a biomass feedstock in energy production. Five-year soybean production in the county averaged 5.5 million bushels; soybean oil can be converted into biodiesel and glycerin.
As livestock farms have become more specialized and larger, there are more opportunities to utilize manure. In terms of used vegetable oil and yellow grease, there are 55 restaurants within 10 miles of Reynolds, 354 within 25 miles. “It appears that BioTown may support a used food-grade oil to biodiesel project, but may need to expand beyond the immediate area to site a commercial-scale plant,” notes the report. About MSW, percentage data show that paper is 35.2, yard trimmings 12.1, food residuals 11.7 and wood 5.8. White County would generate 19,500 tons of MSW per year – translating to 12,700 tons of biomass.
Included in the BioTown discussion are detailed descriptions of operations with anaerobic digester systems, including flow diagrams showing recaptured heat and hot water as well as electricity; conversion of feedstocks into ethanol; dry-mill ethanol facilities; and the rapid growth of biodiesel production capable of increasing U.S. capacity by 278 million gallons of biodiesel fuel.
Looking ahead to the companies that will be implementing the renewable energy technologies, an article in The New York Times (June 4, 2006) reports that Jody Snodgrass, a principal at Rose Energy Discovery, Inc. – managing investor for the technologies – said that the project was drawing investors, and that construction on the plant would start this fall. Concludes a member of the Reynolds Town Council: “This is as real as it gets.” Project groundbreaking is November 2006.
Biotown USA is a concept whose time has come, ready to serve as vital stepping stones to subsequent bioeconomic rural development opportunities across Indiana and the nation. And that speaks much for “the town of 533 that could … and will do.”

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