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CE+P announces grower program
Imperial Valley Press - BRAWLEY – January 26, 2021 - The developer of a long-awaited ethanol plant in Imperial County said he is now seeking a reliable supply of sugarcane.
California Ethanol + Power Chief Executive Officer David Rubenstein said Monday it is seeking formal commitments from local farmers to grow the first 20,000 acres of sugarcane feedstock for Sugar Valley Energy, the new 160-acre energy campus planned within the 5,000-acre Keystone Industrial Complex near Brawley.
The complex as proposed would produce 68 million gallons of low-carbon sugarcane ethanol annually and would include a 49-megawatt biomass power generation island with related infrastructure. It would be the first facility of its kind to be built in the United States.
Rubenstein said he expects to have financing in place by the end of March with an eye toward breaking ground in the third or fourth quarter of this year. He expects the plant to begin production in 2023.
In August, CE+P announced it had agreed to terms on a letter of intent for global agricultural cooperative CHS Inc. to be the exclusive marketer and distributor of ethanol produced at Sugar Valley Energy.
Now he’s looking for suppliers.
“We are very excited to announce the launch of our Sugar Valley Growers program,” Rubenstein said. “Grown, harvested and processed right here in Imperial County, sugarcane production for this project will bring significant and sustainable benefits for our economy and our environment.”
Rubenstein said the program will eventually allow opportunities for up to 60 local farmers to produce an estimated 48,000 acres of sugarcane crop, and growing agreements will be completed in a phased approach during the two- to three-year engineering and construction process for the new campus. The non-binding agreements are long-term and provide assurances for stabilized revenues for growers from the Sugar Valley Energy team, he added.
He said the agreements present “zero risk” to growers. He said he’s had 40 to 50 growers express interest in the program so far.
According to an economic output study of the project commissioned by CE+P and performed in February 2020 by Circle Analytics, sugarcane production under the Sugar Valley Growers program will help sustain 1,200 agricultural jobs each year.
In addition, the study said, the campus overall will employ 250 full-time employees and help sustain another 1,100 non-farm jobs each year. Operations of the project will represent more than $440 million annually in economic activity and approximately $39 million in annual recurring taxes and public revenue within Imperial County.
“Imperial County Farm Bureau is excited to see this project come to fruition,” said Executive Director Brea Mohamed. “The Sugar Valley Growers program will offer an additional planting option for about 10 percent of our county’s acreage and give our farmers new opportunities. Its anticipated creation of both ag and non-ag jobs as well as contributions to our local economy will have a positive impact to our county as a whole. We look forward to seeing the growth and success of this program.”
CE+P said its growers program should contribute environmental benefits to the region, including net beneficial air quality and traffic impacts based on overall land use and operations. The sugarcane crop has a generally high CO2 sequestration factor and requires fewer harvesting cycles involving diesel farm equipment.
Unlike a large percentage of current Imperial Valley crop production, the sugarcane will be harvested and processed locally using clean fuel vehicles that will result in reductions in vehicle miles traveled and pollution, the company said. Interested landowners can reach CE+P through email@example.com.
Sugar Valley Energy would be the first in-state production facility for low-carbon ethanol. The ethanol products will be marketed under the new Essential Ethanol brand, used as a gasoline additive and numerous other industrial and household applications. The campus will also generate needed electrical power and bio-methane gas, while providing a new wastewater treatment facility to support regional infrastructure.