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Grinding Out Power

September 4, 2011, 9:40 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

Grinding Out Power
SIOUX FALLS, SD - The landfill may be a place to take trash, but the Sioux Falls landfill is slowly becoming a place that is pumping out power.

For the past two years the landfill has sent gas from decomposing trash to power the POET ethanol plant in Chancellor. And, now a large grinder at the Sioux Falls landfill is also grinding out power.

"This is just another one of those alternative energy sources, alternative funding sources, that we're able to use at the landfill," Sioux Falls Landfill Superintendent Dave McElroy said.

The massive grinder is being used nearly every day to grind up bales of corn stover, which is the name for the corn cobs, leaves and everything else that's leftover after the harvest.

The bales come from an ethanol plant that's under construction in Emmetsburg, Iowa. POET is building the plant to make ethanol exclusively out of this corn stover, but during construction of that plant POET officials wanted to get farmers used to the process of baling it up and hauling it in.

"While we're developing cellulosic ethanol we simultaneously have to develop that process of harvesting, transporting and storing the new material but we still needed something to do with it," Nathan Schock with POET said.

POET didn't want to leave all the bales sitting around the Emmetsburg plant so they are now trucking them up to Sioux Falls to run through a newly purchased $565,000 grinder at the landfill.

The city bought the grinder and POET is paying the city to use it for the next two years.

"It didn't make long-term financial sense for us to have that grinder on our site because we only need this for a couple years. It's in the landfill's long-term plans so it really worked out for us to work with them to kind of meet our short-term need but part of their long-term plan," Schock said.

"The agreement with POET is projected about an estimated $400,000 in revenue from that so it really offsets a lot of that purchase price," McElroy said.

And once the corn stover is ground up POET trucks it to its ethanol plant just ten miles away in Chancellor where it's burned and provides power for the plant.

"We were looking for an opportunity to have a useful source for it, and our plant in Chancellor because it has a unique boiler is able to use this to generate power for the facility," Schock said.

And the grinder is not only being used to grind up corn waste for POET's ethanol plants, but it's also being used to grind up construction debris at the landfill.

"We can use it right now for other things like grinding wood waste, and there's potential you could use it for food waste and organic material down the road as well," McElroy said.

And by grinding up the trash it will take up less space in the landfill.

"If you're able to chop things up into smaller pieces, the bulkier stuff, and reduce it down in size it allows us to compact that better into the landfill," McElroy said.

That's why the daily grind at the landfill is not only conserving space, but also providing alternative energy for a renewable fuel as researchers develop the future of ethanol.

POET is not bringing all the corn stover to Sioux Falls; they are using some to refine the process of turning it into cellulosic ethanol.

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