New program strengthens Georgia’s reputation as Bioenergy Corridor of the U.S.
Governor Sonny Perdue announced the launch of the Energy Innovation Center (EIC), the sixth addition to Georgia’s Centers of Innovation (COI) program. The COI program targets Georgia’s strategic growth industries, including agriculture, aerospace, life sciences, logistics and manufacturing.
“The state of Georgia is quickly becoming a recognized leader in alternative energy and fuel,” said Governor Sonny Perdue. “Our goal is to develop a bioenergy industry that provides substantial economic benefit to Georgia and produces 15 percent of the state’s transportation fuels by 2020 from locally produced biofuels.”
Georgia is poised for growth in the bioenergy sector, in part due to the state’s abundance of economical feedstocks. In the last two years, more than $750 million worth of energy related projects have started up in Georgia. Building on this success, the EIC will focus on recruiting bioenergy companies to Georgia and providing direct assistance to existing and startup businesses in the state.
“The state’s commitment to the development of the alternative energy sector in Georgia will help boost our economy and create jobs,” said Ken Stewart, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development and chairman of the Centers of Innovation. “There’s no question that everyone wins with this endeavor.”
The Center will also offer its clients access to university research and development resources and to potential funding sources via research grants and other funding opportunities. The EIC will be part of the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority (GEFA), which is home to the state’s energy office and alternative fuels program.
In addition, the EIC will help clients form valuable partnerships by matching them with companies, feedstock producers or government agencies that can provide additional benefits and resources to the client. The Bioenergy One Stop Shop, a previous partnership between GEFA, the Office of the Governor and the Agriculture Innovation Center, will become part of the EIC. The Bioenergy One Stop Shop streamlines the permitting process for bioenergy manufacturing and production facilities by connecting qualified companies to key state and federal agencies.
“The EIC is an exciting opportunity to connect Georgia’s conservation efforts to the
economic growth of the state,” said Chris Clark, executive director of GEFA. “By providing necessary resources to companies in the bioenergy sector, Georgia will increase both its economic competitiveness and the quality of life of its citizens.”
Jill Stuckey, director of alternative fuels at GEFA, has been selected by Governor Perdue to serve as the EIC director. Stuckey’s significant range of knowledge, work experience, and existing industry contacts will enable her to immediately begin guiding the EIC towards its goals. David Dunagan, the Center’s renewable energy program manager, brings seven years of experience in the energy sector to the new program.
“The governor wants a complete circle when it comes to energy development and
production in Georgia,” said Stuckey. “Our goal is to grow the feedstocks, produce the fuel, and use our own energy. Designating energy as a focus of one of the Centers of Innovation allows us to harness the power of our resources under one roof.”
The primary goal of the EIC will be to increase production and use of renewable energy and biofuels in Georgia by utilizing natural resources, locally grown feedstocks, agricultural and industrial byproducts, solar energy, wind power and other renewable energy alternatives. Georgia is especially strong in the biofuels sector, thanks to the state’s abundance of economical feedstocks including 24 million acres of commercial forestland.
Among Georgia’s bioenergy assets are two ethanol production facilities and a third scheduled to begin producing corn ethanol in the fall of 2008. Two other ethanol plants are currently under construction, including Range Fuels in Treutlen County, the first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant in the nation. In addition, eight companies at present produce biodiesel in Georgia.
The Georgia Centers of Innovation program, launched by Governor Sonny Perdue in 2003, nourishes and supports the state’s strategic industry growth, encourages new companies to invest, and creates economic opportunities for Georgia’s citizens by using private and public assets, including research universities, to promote innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation. The program is operated by the Georgia Department of Economic Development.