2019 Conference

October Midwest Bioenergy Day Celebration Recap

The Heat Was On for Midwest Bioenergy Day

Heating the Midwest Inc., AURI’s Minnesota Renewable Energy Roundtable, and Koda Energy LLC teamed up this year to celebrate the seventh annual national Bioenergy Day in the Midwest. The celebration was an informative and educational experience for the 400 people that attended over the course of the day. The day kicked off with tours of Koda Energy LLC and Rahr Malting Co. in Shakopee, MN, followed by lunch provided by Koda Energy at its facility as part of its annual National Bioenergy Day celebration. Attendees were also able to visit with a variety of exhibitors including the USDA Forest Products Laboratory, Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, Dem-Con, Minnesota State Energy Center of Excellence, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Messersmith Manufacturing, Inc., the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute, Rahr Malting Co. and BSG Craft Brewing.

During the open house, Koda Energy and Rahr Malting provided a combined 23 tours of their facilities.  During the tours, patrons learned about Koda and Rahr’s collective biomass operation utilizing renewable fuel to create 220,000 lbs. per hour of high-pressure steam at 900 degrees F. Koda is responsible for the majority of the self-sustained heat and power at the largest single-site malting facility in the world, replacing an average of 90 million cubic feet of natural gas consumption each month at the Rahr malt plant. Koda combusts agricultural residues including by-products from Rahr as well as other local agricultural and woody biomass sources.

Following lunch, participants of the Midwest Bioenergy Celebration departed for an offsite bus tour of three additional innovation facilities—Len Busch Roses, Environmental Wood Supply, and Ever-Green Energy St. Paul—that combust biomass for heat and/or power.

Len Busch Roses, a cut-and-potted flower greenhouse, produces over 7 million stems and potted flowers. Potted flowers rely on local wood-waste streams to heat the operation year-round. This requires 70,000 yards of wood-waste, and the saved energy allows Len Busch to remain competitive with low-cost, warm climate and foreign growers.

The second stop of the tour was Ever-Green Energy in the heart of downtown St. Paul, Minnesota. The operation delivers heating and cooling to over 200 buildings in the area.  The facility is the largest hot-water district energy system in North America utilizing predominantly local wood-waste streams. The tour group was able to stop at both the hot-water plant downtown and Environmental Wood Supply—the woodyard operation supplying and preparing woody biomass for the operation.

The celebration concluded with an evening networking reception and engaging program followed by dinner at Rahr Malting Corporation’s beautiful Bierstube. Keynote speaker Joe Sullivan, Deputy Commissioner for the Division of Energy Resources at the Minnesota Department of Commerce, highlighted Minnesota’s Statewide Energy Policy Objectives noting the state is currently at 12% for total energy from renewables. Deputy Commissioner Sullivan urged attendees to put forward their best ideas to help Minnesota meets its renewable energy goal of 25% by 2025. Following the keynote, a panel of leaders in the biomass sector participated in an engaging discussion on biomass thermal strategy. The panel included Sabina Dhungana with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Darren Winchester with Indeck Energy, Gregg Mast with Clean Energy Economy Minnesota and Stacy Cook with Koda Energy.

A common theme was the need to come together and give voice to making biomass heat and power a priority and to spur action. Heating the Midwest then honored several projects and a leader in the biomass thermal sector. Bill Cook, Michigan State University Extension Forester, was presented with a Biomass Thermal Heating Leadership award and four Outstanding Biomass Thermal Heating projects were recognized—Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa’s Sawyer Community Center Wood Chip District heating Building; Itasca Community College’s biomass project in Grand Rapids, MN; the biomass boiler project of Lonza Inc. in Cohasset, MN; and the biomass burner in a poultry operation demonstration project of Viking Company in Albany, MN.  The program wrapped up with the USDA Forest Service presenting to Stacy Cook of Koda Energy a Certificate of Appreciation for Championing Renewable Energy Production and Markets.

As Minnesota prepares for the heating season, this Midwest Bioenergy Celebration was a great opportunity to showcase innovative projects and for attendees to hear about the benefits of renewable energy, specifically biomass, for thermal processes and how commercial space heating is achievable using biomass feedstocks.  It was also an opportunity for the industry to share their ideas and needs for advancing the biomass energy sector in Minnesota. As the efficient production and use of heat and energy remains an important factor for industrial and commercial operations in the Midwest, events such as the Midwest Bioenergy Celebration are key in keeping the public informed of how biomass is usable for generating heat and energy in commercial operations.

National Bioenergy Day is an opportunity to celebrate the environmental and economic benefits of bioenergy while sharing ideas about the capabilities and opportunities for growth in the bioenergy sector.

Award Recipients
Deputy Commissioner Joe Sullivan