Skip to content

Executive Director’s Column

Timing is everything. The right time — along with the right place, right idea — can ignite success.

It looks like now is the time for ag-based renewable energy.

Oil prices have reached record highs. Motorists are paying more at the gasoline pump than ever before, and home heating costs this winter are expected to hit us all in the pocketbook. Needless to say, alternative fuel interest is high, as consumers and industry look for ways to generate more economical power.

2005 has been a banner year for Minnesota renewable energy. Two biodiesel plants began operating here, triggering a mandate that requires all diesel fuel in the state to contain 2 percent biodiesel. Those plants bring Minnesota’s biodiesel capacity to more than 60 million gallons per year.

Several more corn-powered ethanol plants opened with still more production capacity being built. By early 2006, Minnesota could be producing more than 500 million gallons of ethanol each year. AURI supports these industries with technical assistance and identifying ways to use additional side streams. But this may only be the beginning.

AURI is also proud to have helped organize the successful ‘Powering the Northland’ renewable energy conference in August. This event held in Bemidji, Minn. brought together industry, agriculture, utility and academic leaders from northern Minnesota interested in advancing renewable energy. A similar event will be held November 16 in Owatonna, Minn. to explore opportunities that will keep Minnesota at the forefront of ag-based power.

The point of these events is to go beyond discussions and drive new ideas that really can make a difference. We’ve seen the results of collective intelligence in Minnesota’s 14 ethanol plants, three biodiesel plants, multiple methane digesters, hundreds of windmills and numerous biomass projects. But we’re anxious to take the next step, which could include hydrogen, cogenerating electricity using wind and biodiesel backup generators, and expanding biomass use.

Whatever form it takes, not only is the timing right for renewable energy, it is the right thing to do.