Advertise in Print | Subscriptions
Published August 31, 2010, 08:01 AM

‘Energy beet’ project funding source shifts

WEST FARGO, N.D. — Energy beet plots are showing some good potential for a new ethanol industry in North Dakota, but promoters of the idea are shifting toward state and local funding for a pilot/demonstration-scale project.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

WEST FARGO, N.D. — Energy beet plots are showing some good potential for a new ethanol industry in North Dakota, but promoters of the idea are shifting toward state and local funding for a pilot/demonstration-scale project.

Maynard Helgaas, president of Green Vision Group, which is promoting the idea, says groups had hoped to build a first full-scale plant in 2012, but the plan now is to develop a 10 million-gallon-per-year pilot plant.

A demonstration plant would be run for about a year to prove technologies and efficiencies that have been demonstrated in a lab setting, Helgaas says. This probably would be the first sugar beet demonstration pilot plant in the United States. The group is working on a website, Helgaas says.

Fed vs. local

The funding shift is because of tightening of federal budgets. Some funds for bio-based energy projects have been diverted to other purposes, Helgaas says. The U.S. Senate started with $6 billion for these kinds of bio-energy stimulus projects, but it took out $2 billion last year and recently took out $1.5 billion for 2010, drawing the total account to $2.5 billion.

Energy beet promoters held a series of three tours — Aug. 17 in Oakes, N.D., Aug. 18 in Hannaford, N.D., and Aug. 19 in Turtle Lake, N.D. The events were hosted by Green Vision Group, Syngenta Seeds, Beta Seeds and North Dakota State University research centers.

“We had about 100” attendees, says Heelgaas, president of the Green Vision Group. “I think the growers in all of the areas were shocked at the quality and the quantity of the beets — energy beets in the plots. The beets in the plots, on irrigated ground would go 40-plus tons per acre by harvest. Currently, they were around 25-ton. We pulled one beet that weighs 10 pounds at Carrington.”

Little difference

The plots are in the five areas — Oakes, Hannaford (dryland and irrigated), Carrington, Turtle Lake and Williston — designed to demonstrate to farmers that energy beets can be grown in many areas.

There was a little difference in yield potential between nonirrigated and irrigated results in Hannaford, but not much. There was a little bigger difference in Carrington, but they had 14 inches of rain there and 17 in Hannaford at this time, Helgaas says.

In Carrington, the nonirrigated beets still are expected to yield a minimum of 25 tons, even with less moisture.

In Turtle Lake the seeding wasn’t done until May. According to Syngenta, they should come in the area of 33 tons per acre. Normally, growers could expect a 3-ton-per-week yield increase in the fall of the year from September to October, so the researchers are expecting another put 10 to 12 tons by harvest time. Currently, the beets in late August were at about 30 tons.

Tags: