Sugar Beets Could Become Power Source in Fresno County

A proposal to build a plant to convert sugar beets to energy is likely to get an initial $1.5 million boost from a California Energy Commission grant.

The proposal by a group of farmers to revive the county's sugar beet industry and create ethanol and green energy is still a long way from reality. This Fresno Bee story by Robert Rodriguez says the project could cost $200 million and wouldn't be operational until 2014.

But, it is the kind of project that supporters say could be a natural in the central San Joaquin Valley, where unemployment is high and farm work is seasonal. This particular proposal - the Mendota Advanced Bioenergy Beet Cooperative - would create about 100 jobs and up to $100 million in annual revenue, according to the Bee story.

It also is an interesting proposal because the proposed site is near the 80-acre Covanta Energy plant, which receives wood waste diverted from landfills, wood from replanted orchards and residue created from the processing of olives, almonds, prunes, peaches and other products.

The Covanta facility processes 600 tons of biomass material into enough energy each day to power 25,000 homes, according to its Web site.
The beet site also is near a 50-acre solar park, so the region could become a mini-hub of alternative energy - and a showcase for projects that follow.
(photo of sugar beet by