The economics and potential offsets of imported energy are analyzed. Benefits to the carbon footprint of the region are estimated. A commercial structure for the operation of such a co-operative bio-refinery is proposed. Rural and agricultural regions typically have ample production of biomass in various forms, including wood from forestry, agricultural wastes and range grasses. Certain regions also have renewable energy resources such as wind power, solar insolation and hydraulic power. Rural regions are typically seen to have a potential for renewable energy that greatly exceeds energy consumption due to human activity in the region. However, energy consumption in such areas is highly biased toward non-renewable sources, just as in more urbanized regions. This is due to the standardization of virtually all manufactured energy conversion equipment to use available processed energy sources such as electricity and natural gas and refined fuels such as diesel and gasoline. In addition, agricultural activities are highly dependent on energy-intensive petrochemicals such as fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. Energy sustainability and self-sufficiency can therefore be increased by conversion of local renewable resources into appropriate form values for existing energy conversion equipment. Solar power, wind power and hydropower are fully commercial, although more economic in some regions than in others. The production of electricity from biomass fuels via conventional steam cycles is well established, if challenging from an economic standpoint. However, conversion of biomass and other renewable resources into fuels that can be used in standard equipment, and chemicals and fertilizers for local agricultural production is both technically and economically challenging. The authors evaluate the potential for a typical rural region to offset imports of conventional non-renewable energy such as electricity, engine fuels, and fertilizers via the establishment of a regional bio-refinery financed and operated as a local co-operative. The renewable resources of the typical rural region are assumed to facilitate the analysis. The appropriate technologies, scope, product slate, production rates, capital costs and operating costs for the bio-refinery are defined.

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