A new facility that produces ethanol from corn cobs, leaves and husks has opened in Emmetsburg, Iowa, the Des Moines Register reported.
King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands was among the dignitaries in attendance as the cellulosic ethanol plant started production on Wednesday.
The $275 million Project Liberty plant is operated by Poet-DSM Advanced Biofuels, a joint venture between U.S.-based ethanol producer Poet and Dutch science company Royal DSM. It is believed to be the world's largest corn waste-to-ethanol facility.
Farmers will be paid $65 to $75 per dry ton of corn plant residue. The plant will use 770 tons of biomass every day.
Over the course of one year Poet-DSM will purchase 285,000 tons of biomass from farms within a 45-mile radius, at a cost of about $20 million. It will produce up to 25 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Poet founder Jeff Broin said that the plant could help the United States transform its energy supply and transition from a fossil-based economy to a renewable-fuels economy.
That sentiment was echoed by Feike Sijbesma, CEO of Royal DSM, who said: "We are witnessing the start of the shift of the fossil age we have lived in and we still live in to the bio-renewable age we're entering today."
Poet-DSM has been developing the cellulosic production technology used in the Emmetsburg facility for more than a decade. Having reached this point, it now plans to license its technology to other companies in the United States and around the world.