Cooperative turns biomass into renewable energy

By Doug Rich

In January 2007 High Plains Journal featured a story about the Show Me Energy Cooperative in Centerview, Mo. At that time the farmer-owners of this unique cooperative were still conducting an equity drive to raise enough funds to begin their venture. Their goal was to produce an alternative energy source from renewable biomass resources in central Missouri.

Their equity drive was a success and so is their venture into alternative fuels. Today Show Me Energy Cooperative is in full production, manufacturing pellets from a wide range of biomass resources. The pellets they produce are being used by a coal-fired power plant, poultry producers in southern Missouri, and as a home heating source.

"We are still learning a lot of things, but I think the timeline was perfect for us," Steve Flick, chairman of the board at the cooperative, said. "Our mission was clear and focused."

What Show Me Energy Cooperative does is take the net energy value of the plant material and through an engineering process make a fuel pellet with an energy value around 8,100 to 8,300 BTU's per pellet. Flick said they leave 30 percent of the residue on the field and with an energy crop like a tall grass and they leave some around the fencerows for conservation benefits. Right now they are taking in a 50-50 mix of crop residue and energy crops.

"We think that will change with the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) in the farm bill that will pay producers to grow energy crops and take them to a bio-refinery like ourselves," Flick said.

BCAP is designed to support agricultural producers in producing biomass crops and collecting biomass for sale to commercial-scale facilities that commit in writing to use the biomass to produce fuel or power.

With that in mind they are beginning a new equity drive to raise funds for an expansion project at their Centerville site. Flick said they had planned to expand some time in the next two years, but now they are going to expand in the next three months. This will be a smaller equity drive than their original drive, which was used to build their current facility.

Read the rest of this piece at High Plains Journal

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