Hanford biofuel

Biofuel & batteries bolster Golden State

Manufacturers of sorghum biofuel, electric trucks and lithium-ion battery packs are among eight to receive about $9.6 million in grants from California, reportedly producing a potential 2,500 jobs.

The money comes from the California Energy Commission's Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Transportation program and is reported to be beefed up with $11,969,855 in private funds.

Energy Commissioner Anthony Eggert said in statement the idea is to tap partnerships to rebuild California's manufacturing base. The projects, he said, "will improve California's economy and its environment by fostering green, clean advancements in transportation."

The projects include:

Great Valley Energy LLC gets about $2 million to test sweet sorghum as a biofuel crop. The salt-tolerant crop needs one-third less water than cotton or corn and can yield as much ethanol per bushel as corn. Match funding of about $2 million will help install a pilot sorghum separation and testing facility in Hanford. "If the testing is successful, the team will consider building smaller-scale ethanol plants distributed across the Valley to be close to the sorghum fields to lower transportation costs," officials said. Each of the commercial refineries could create an additional 20 jobs. By 2020, Great Valley Energy estimates it could have 15 small dispersed plants. Total annual production would be more than 47 million gallons.

TransPower, based in Escondido, Calif., gets $1 million to study the feasibility of manufacturing large electric-drive trucks in or near San Pedro by 2013. "By combining several processes and companies under one roof, the (facility) would combine the building of components like advanced converters or battery modules with their assembly into electric drive systems. These would then be installed on-site into mass-produced truck bodies made elsewhere," officials said. The private match is another million, with a goal of 2,500 trucks by 2020, creating 1,500 high-paying jobs.

San Francisco-based Mission Motor Co. gets $505,381 to help produce prototype electric vehicle components for commercial production of electric motorcycles, scooters, cars, buses and even outdoor power equipment. Match funding is $623,581. The money will help create an assembly facility in downtown San Francisco that should be capable of producing 30,000 battery packs and motor control systems each year by 2015 and creating as many as 100 jobs.

Alameda County-based Electric Leyden Energy Inc. gets $2.96 million to help it "create a production line capable assembling its lithium ion cells into 10 battery packs per month for its partner in the project, electric vehicle manufacturer Green Vehicles of Salinas," officials said. The two companies will match the funding. The project will create 11 jobs immediately, with another 500 anticipated.

The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System gets $500,000 to help speed refueling its growing fleet of compressed natural gas-powered buses with larger, higher capacity fueling compressors. The Federal Transit Administration will provide about $1.2 million.

The City of San Jose gets $1.9 million to build a new system that turns trash into natural gas for transportation fuel. Match is $4,214,624 to create a facility to produce methane at the San Jose/Santa Clara Water Pollution Control Plant. The fuel could save the city $450,000 a year by using natural gas in its vehicles. The project would create about 15 construction jobs and an undetermined number of workers needed to operate the plant.

East Bay Municipal Utility District gets $1 million to make an estimated 300,000 gallons of biodiesel each year at its wastewater treatment plant in Oakland. "The process will utilize waste fats, oils and grease, a feedstock that reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 88 percent compared to regular diesel," officials said. Match is $1,575,000.

Western States Oil Co. gets $69,233 to the to convert an 8,000-gallon retail gasoline tank into one that can dispense wholesale biodiesel. "Because the tank is immediately adjacent to the Kinder Morgan Pipeline Terminal in San Jose, delivery trucks leaving the terminal will be able to easily access the biofuel," officials said.

Photo: International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics Sorghum field.