Next time you’re in a car chase in Hoover, Alabama, the police vehicle tailing you might be powered by wood chips. The town is set to use municipal wood waste as a source for cellulosic ethanol–a feat that the town claims is a first.
Hoover’s E-86 fuel blend of 85% ethanol and 15% conventional fuel will be produced at a demonstration plant operated by Gulf Coast Energy. An initial delivery of 100 gallons is scheduled for this week, and will be used to fill five flex-fuel Chevy Tahoes for a Thursday press conference.
The town may be the first to purchase the wood chip ethanol blend, but cellulose wood-based ethanol itself isn’t new. Mascoma Corporation has been producing the fuel at a demonstration plant in Rome, NY since last month, along with ethanol from tall grasses, corn stover, and sugar cane.
But Alabama has a bigger dream: the world’s first wood chip-based ethanol commercial plant. If built, the plant could produce 10 million gallon of biofuel annually. The commercial plant is far from a sure thing, but Hoover alone generates enough wood waste to make 350,000 gallons of ethanol each year. It’s all part of the state’s plan to become the new “alternative energy belt“. First, though, it has to prove that wood-based ethanol is commercially viable.