North Dakota is an agricultural state and much of our land area is in working farms and ranches. There are many opportunities in the area of agriculture-related energy production on the horizon. The federal Oak Ridge National Laboratory ranks North Dakota first in the nation in the potential to produce perennial energy crops. Utilizing biomass for energy production may have many benefits, including improved national security, increased economic growth and broad-based environmental benefits.
Biomass is simply all plant and animal matter on the Earth’s surface. Harvested biomass may be used to generate various forms of energy, such as heat, electricity, biofuels and other biobased products. Examples of biomass include wood waste, energy crops, crop residues and other forms of organic waste.
North Dakota State University estimates a direct economic impact of more than $180 million annually from a 50-million gallon biorefinery that is converting wheat straw to ethanol. Researchers at NDSU and UND’s Energy & Environmental Research Center are actively engaged in biomass research.
Dakota Spirit AgEnergy broke ground in 2013 on a 65 million gallon per year biorefinery next to Great River Energy’s Spiritwood Station power plant. Dakota Spirit AgEnergy Phase I will produce ethanol, corn oil and distillers grain from corn. The implementation of Phase II will see a “bolt-on” facility producing cellolosic, isobutanol or other emerging biofuel technologies.