Boosted in part by $500,000 from Clemson University, a public-private consortium will build a pilot plant to research the use of switchgrass as a biofuel.
The facility will be built at the Clemson University Restoration Institute in North Charleston, the group announced Thursday at a conference about switchgrass that was being held in Florence.
“This project will provide our state with unique facilities to scale up new biofuel technology being developed by the research institutions,” said Nick Rigas, director of renewable energy at the Clemson institute and the S.C. Institute on Energy Studies. “Biofuels produced here will utilize locally available feedstocks that do not compete with food supplies. Without such a facility, commercialization of this new technology is very difficult.”
Backers of the plant other than Clemson include the Savannah River National Laboratory, South Carolina State University and SC Bio. They have formed the South Carolina Bioenergy Research Collaborative.
Other potential sources of cellulosic ethanol include trees and sorghum.
Also in the effort are Fagen Inc., a designer and builder of ethanol plants; Dyadic International, which develops enzymes for breaking down cellulose; and Spinx Corp, which distributes biofuels.
Clemson established a $500,000 matching fund for the project as well as providing a building and laboratory facilities. The university is also creating 10 faculty positions for research into biomass conversion.
According to the consortium, Spinx has committed funding to the project. The amount was not disclosed. Fagen and Dyadic will contributed a variety of resources for the plant.