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Alternative fuel projects are recommended for state funding

BISMARCK -- Five experimental projects that would develop alternative energy businesses in North Dakota will be recommended for state funding assistance from the North Dakota Industrial Commission.

The state Renewable Energy Council on Tuesday gave favorable recommendations to:

-North Dakota State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Professor of Agribusiness Applied Economics Larry Leistritz's research into a biomaterials industry in North Dakota. The project seeks $800,000 in state funds for a project with a total cost of $1.7 million

-Blue Flint Ethanol's proposal to develop practical blending facilities for mixing E-85 fuel, which consist of 15 percent gasoline and 85 percent ethanol. Currently, part of the problem of supplying E-85 fuel to retail filling stations is the problem of mixing the two fuels together. Often the two fuels are put into a tanker truck and are trusted to become blended through "splash" action as the truck travels to the retail stations. Blue Flint, of Underwood, seeks $50,000 in state funds for a project estimated to cost $100,000 total.

-Lake Region State College's plan for a wind tower technician education program. Doug Darling of LRSC said wind power companies have brought in out-of-state technicians who don't stay because they don't want t to live in the area. The companies have also begun training people, but that can cost $30,000 each, he said. If LRSC were to provide trained technicians among North Dakotans who want to stay in the area, the companies will hire them, he said. LRSC requests $500,000 for a $3.3 million project.

-ComPAKco LLC's project to develop a technology to compact biomass for use as fuel. The request is for $72,275 for a project with a total cost of $145,000.

-A study of biomass supply for the Spiritwood Industrial Park east of Jamestown, a joint project of Great River Energy, Great Plains Institute, North Dakota Natural Resources Trust, North Dakota Farmers Union and North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives. The request is for $109,000 in state funds for a project with total costs of $534,000.

The state Industrial Commission will make final decisions on awarding funds from the state's $3 million Renewable Energy Development Fund and $3 million Biomass Incentive and Research Fund at its April 22 meeting.

A sixth project will go to the Industrial Commission with a split recommendation after three members of the council voted to deny the project and three voted to recommend it. It is a proposal by the University of North Dakota to develop jet fuel from oilseed crops. UND sought $500,000 in state funds for a $1.07 million project.

A seventh project was denied a favorable recommendation. The city of Fargo sought $500,000 to develop a second landfill methane gas recovery unit, with the gas to be burned to produce electricity. The council's technical advisers said the project is not experimental and doesn't qualify for the funds because the city landfill already has a methane recovery project and is selling the gas. State funds aren't appropriate for duplication of a proven project with a brief payback period, they said.

Janell Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Dickinson Press.