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Gov. Riley awards $1.1 million in alternative energy grants

MONTGOMERY – Governor Bob Riley has awarded grants totaling $1.1 million to six local governments to harness fuel and energy from renewable sources.

Governor Riley awarded grants to Bay Minette, Enterprise, Fultondale, Henry County, Lee County and Tuscaloosa. Each will collaborate with an Alabama university on projects to create biofuels or alternative energy and demonstrate technology that can be replicated by other governments to reduce fuel and energy costs or generate revenue.

“Innovative approaches are needed to make our nation energy independent and to free us from our dependence on foreign oil,” Governor Riley said. “By generating alternative energy from renewable sources, these projects will serve as an example that other governments may follow to cut energy costs and stretch taxpayer dollars.”

Bay Minette will use a $195,000 grant to turn garbage and yard clippings into biodiesel that can be used to fuel city vehicles and equipment. The city will partner with Auburn University and Cello Energy, a local biodiesel producer, for the project.

Enterprise is receiving a $200,000 grant to install and operate a facility to convert used cooking oil collected from area restaurants into biodiesel. The city will burn the fuel in its diesel equipment and sell any excess to other municipalities in the area. Auburn University’s Center for Bioenergy and Bioproducts will assist with the project.

With a $150,722 grant, Fultondale will partner with Auburn University and Alabama Power Company for a project to determine the feasibility of producing electrical power from yard waste. The project will analyze the energy content of yard waste and design a unit that can convert the waste into a gas that generates electricity. City officials say the process could eventually reduce the amount of material in the city’s landfill by 30 percent.

Henry County will use a $200,000 grant to establish a vegetable oil recycling program. The program will collect used oil from restaurants, cafeterias and catering services and convert it to biodiesel to fuel city and county government vehicles. The county will partner will Auburn University and the cities of Abbeville and Headland for the project.

A $200,000 grant will enable Lee County to install solar panels at the Lee County Justice Center. County officials estimate the panels will generate enough solar power to reduce electric power consumption by 25 percent. Auburn University’s Space Research Institute will assist with the project.

Tuscaloosa will use a $198,231 grant for a project to create methane gas from waste at the city’s wastewater treatment plant. The methane will be used to heat equipment that treats wastewater. The city will work with the University of Alabama on the project which officials estimate will save $78,080 in energy costs annually.

The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs is administering the grants awarded from the Alabama Research Alliance Trust Fund. The fund was established in 1981 with $10 million from the sale of drilling rights in state waters. Interest earned from the fund is currently used to support alternative energy research in Alabama.