Energy Commission Research Funding is Spurring Innovations in Agriculture

A couple of California Energy Commission-funded research projects could help California’s more than 76,000 farms and ranches reduce energy consumption and become advanced energy communities of the future.

In June 2012, Ventura-based Biodico, Inc. received a $1.8 million grant through the Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program to develop a prototype of the world’s first biofuel refinery run entirely on renewable heat and power. The PIER program made state funds available for energy-related, public interest research, development and demonstration programs that advanced science or technology not adequately provided by competitive and regulated markets.

The refinery has been in operation for more than a year producing alternative fuels for tractors and other farm equipment. The facility combines anaerobic digestion, gasification and solar thermal generation into a single unit capable of producing up to 20 million barrels of biodiesel fuel annually from inedible crops and low-carbon feedstock.

The project is being demonstrated at the Central Valley’s Red Rock Ranch near Coalinga, a mixed farming operation that raises sheep and grows almonds, wine grapes, tomatoes, and wheat.

Red Rock is also home to another Biodico project. In June 2016, the company received a $1.2 million grant through the Energy Commission’s Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program. The EPIC program supports innovative clean energy technologies and approaches that bring clean energy ideas to market and that benefit the ratepayers of California’s three largest electric investor-owned utilities.

Biodico will develop and test a new project management application that can help agricultural communities streamline permitting, financing and other procedural requirements so famers can better decide how to use renewable energy resources like solar, wind and anaerobic digestion in daily operations.

The application will provide information on available equipment vendors and compare the cost effectiveness and reliability of renewable energy technologies. The San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District, City of Huron, City of San Joaquin, Fresno County, Fresno Council of Governments and U.S. Navy will be involved in the development and testing process.

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California Energy Commission

The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency created by the Legislature in 1974.
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