Governor Pawlenty announces $3 million in clean energy grants

Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced Thursday the recipients for the first round of grants intended to improve clean energy policies in Minnesota. Speaking at the University of Minnesota St. Paul campus along with the members of the NextGen Energy Board, Gov. Pawlenty announced the eight recipients of $3 million in grants. The UniversityâÄôs forestry department received $100,000 to further study the sustainability of the stateâÄôs 16 million acres of forest as the demand for woody biomass increases. The Morris campus was also given $50,000 to help with their efforts to install a biomass gasifier, which would heat the campus without using as much energy as they do now. The biggest recipient of the day was the Central Minnesota Ethanol Cooperative in Little Falls , which was awarded $910,000 to fund a study that could potentially lead to the first commercial scale cellulosic, or plant-based ethanol plant in Minnesota. SunOpta BioProcess President and Chief Technology Officer Murray Burke is working with the CMEC on the feasibility study. He said the company put their own money into the first phase of the study, and that they are âÄúextremely committedâÄù to the project. âÄúWhat the state of Minnesota has done here is very, very helpful for us to move forward to the next stage,âÄù Burke said. The NextGen Energy Board was created after the signing of the Next Generation Energy Act of 2007. The boardâÄôs purpose, as outlined in the act, is to develop, monitor and advise the legislation and administration on clean energy policy. As part of the 2007 Energy Act, Minnesota has committed itself to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent within seven years, 30 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050. Pawlenty said he thinks the recipients reflect a good variety of projects and emerging technology. âÄúIt really represents glimpses into the future of energy policy and energy technology for Minnesota and for our country,âÄù Pawlenty said. Speaking after Pawlenty, Director of the Office of Energy Security Bill Glahn said he hoped the grants will help bring commercialization to âÄúsome really cutting-edge technologies in this field.âÄù NextGen Energy Board co-chairman Al Juhnke said heâÄôd like to see even more grant money be given out than there was this year. He said clean energy policies such as the ones now funded by the Energy Board are creating new jobs and new developments for the economy, and that rural areas are benefiting tremendously from them. Funding for the grants came from the Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs Finance Committee, of which Juhnke is also chairman.