By Jessica Tuggle
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY - Indian River BioEnergy Center in Vero Beach, the nation's first waste-to-ethanol plant of its kind, recently announced that renewable power is now in production.
Yard trash could very soon power the DVD players, washing machines, microwaves and other electric items in homes from Vero Beach to the rest of the Treasure Coast.
The bioenergy center is a pilot project of INEOS Bio, a bioenergy company producing advanced biofuels and renewable power from a wide-range of low-cost carbon materials.
Construction on the facility was completed in June and since then, the 60 full-time employees have been hard at work installing and refining the technology to make the plant produce energy and biofuels.
The technology at the plant takes non-food vegetative waste materials, essentially garbage, which is then put through a gasification process. Once the gas is produced, its heat is fed into a steam turbine and used to generate renewable electricity.
That power will be used to power the entire center and once it is fully functional, there should be enough power left over to provide electricity to 1,400 Treasure Coast homes, said Dan Cummings, INEOS representative.
The center already has a customer to purchase the produced power, Florida Power & Light, Mr. Cummings said.
An exact measure of the power produced by the plant was not available at press time, but once the facility is fully operational, it is supposed to gross 6 megawatts of renewable power and 8 million gallons of bioethanol.
The excess power would be enough to provide energy for 140,000 houses.
The project received about 90 percent of its equipment from U.S. manufacturers, created more than 400 direct jobs during construction, including engineering and manufacturing jobs, and created or retained jobs in more than 10 states, a press release said.
Total capacity should be reached in late 2013, Mr. Cummings said.
In the aftermath of the general election, there has been renewed interest in greenhouse gas savings, he said.
The bioenergy center has a high ratio of greenhouse gas savings, making it the next generation of technology.
The center is unique in the world and already people are interested in visiting and learning more about the technology.
"The center will be a center of teaching, too," Mr. Cummins said.