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New Energy Economics: Work Plans for 2009

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Cole Gustafson, NDSU Biofuels Economist Cole Gustafson, NDSU Biofuels Economist
Gustafson shares an overview of 2009 projects.

By Cole Gustafson, Biofuels Economist

NDSU Extension Service

As a faculty member at North Dakota State University, I have to develop a plan outlining all of the projects I expect to undertake in 2009. I thought it would be instructive to share an overview of what I intend to accomplish next year. In addition, I would welcome your comments and suggestions on any of these efforts. I have several proposed projects in both the biofuels and wind energy area. Let me start with biofuels.

The first biofuel project started with a grant received from the Great Plains Institute. The goal of the project is to develop a tool that producers surrounding the new Spiritwood project can use to evaluate the profitability of supplying biomass to the new combined heat and power facility. Biomass from crop residues, urban waste and agricultural waste streams all will be considered. A key task is to specify premiums and discounts for the differing qualities of biomass. Another important issue is comparing the profitability of new and existing biomass acreage with other crop and forage enterprises already on farms.

A related project seeks to develop a statewide inventory of biomass. Again, this would include crop, pasture, urban waste and agricultural processing residual materials. The cellulosic biofuel industry is expected to grow significantly in the near future following the passage of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act and recent mandates in California. I expect that North Dakota has a large inventory of biomass that would be of interest to investors conducting feasiblity studies of potential plants in the region.

My final biofuel project is a preliminary assessment of developing a sugar beet-to-biofuel industry in the state. The goal is to identify five regional production areas across the state and then determine optimal sugar beet processing and and transporting methods to reduce biofuel production costs.

Wind energy also is going to be a high priority for me in 2009. As I indicated earlier, my news articles this spring are going to focus on this topic. I also am developing a Web site that will be a wind discussion forum. People interested in wind energy topics can go to this site, post questions that they have and also review the replies that others have posted. Sections will include federal and state legislation, finance, leasing issues, dealing with neighbors, new technology and classifieds.

To help potential wind energy investors evaluate the profitablity of different lease arrangements and systems, I am developing a wind calculator. Essentially this is an Excel spreadsheet that calculates potential returns, operating expenses and investment costs associated with a new project. My goal is to embed local historical wind data so profitability is based on each investor’s own geographical location.

Finally, I am leading a six-state effort to develop a series of webcasts with national leaders in the wind energy industry. The first presentation is Feb. 13. Details will be announced in a future column. In addition, I am delivering a train-the-trainer webcast on the economics of wind energy to Extension educators and rural community developers on Feb. 27.

Again, I welcome your input and participation in any of these projects!


NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Cole Gustafson, (701) 231-7096, cole.gustafson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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