The Central Lakes College Agricultural and Energy Center at Staples will receive a $193,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to continue biofuels research. The Center is one of nine bioenergy grant recipients announced by Dave Frederickson, state commissioner of agriculture. The $2.4 million award is based on recommendations from the Next Generation Energy Board. The new grant to Central Lakes College will support the continuation of a previously funded project in which various oilseed crops, such as canola, camelina (shown), or sunflowers, are being grown and converted to biodiesel using small-scale processing technology. Feed trials will be conducted using the meal products created from oil extraction.
The initial 2008 NextGen grant that stimulated energy crop investigation at the Center resulted in two conclusive findings. One finding was that cold strain miscanthus thrives in Minnesota and far surpasses its nearest competitor in sheer tonnage produced per acre. The other finding was that after growing the oilseed crop camelina, harvesting it, processing it with a mechanical press, and utilizing the oil as fuel in CLC’s diesel engines, small-scale fuel production is feasible.
The energy crop production project has two goals: 1. Establish one of the first commercial fields of miscanthus in Minnesota and bring it to market, and 2. Develop a small-scale biofuels program that will be competitive with or less cost than current diesel fuel prices.
The Central Lakes College Agricultural and Energy Center is located at the Staples campus, where Robert Schafer is the director. The center uses 350 irrigated acres and has 25 acres of non-irrigated farmland, with approximately 150 acres available from collaborating farmers.