Genera has been working exclusively in the biomass business since 2008, with a proven track record, experienced management team, and a solid reputation as a leader in biomass supply and logistics.
In 2007, the State of Tennessee and the University of Tennessee made an unprecedented and unparalleled commitment to invest in a comprehensive and integrated switchgrass-to-ethanol initiative. This Biofuels Initiative grew from the University’s Institute of Agriculture and their history of work in developing bioenergy crops and supply systems. When the State of Tennessee committed $70.5 million to demonstrate an integrated bioeconomy, Genera Energy LLC was created as an innovative business model to attract private partners to the effort, and to facilitate the business-like approach that was necessary for the execution of the ambitious program.
Since 2008, Genera has not only been successful in executing the objectives of the Tennessee Biofuels Initiative, but has laid a foundation to launch a commercial biomass-based industry, particularly one tailored to the Southeast. Genera has taken a highly focused and targeted approach to demonstrating, optimizing, and building up the infrastructure necessary to launch a self-sustaining, viable, commercial biofuels industry that includes:
- Working with more than 60 farmers within 50 miles of Vonore, Tennessee to produce more than 5,000 acres of switchgrass as an energy crop for ethanol production.
- Working with researchers and local Extension agents to improve energy crop varieties, management practices, establishment rates, and productivity.
- Developing integrated logistics systems to harvest, transport, stage, store, and manage more than 40,000 tons of switchgrass.
- Partnering with DuPont Dansico Cellulosic Ethanol LLC (DDCE) to design, construct, and operate a demonstration scale biorefinery that started operations January 2010, converting ag residues (corn cob and stover) and energy crops (switchgrass) to cellulosic ethanol.
- Partnering with DDCE to integrate the biomass production and supply chain with biorefinery processing to generate the data and learnings to commercialize large scale energy crop production and cellulosic biorefining technology.
- Designing and constructing the Biomass Innovation Park (BIP), a unique 22-acre research campus devoted to scaling up and optimizing biomass handling, storage, milling, densification and transportation.
The Genera Energy LLC model is exemplary of how innovative university research programs and public sector investments can be effectively leveraged with private partners to deliver long-term, sustainable benefits for all stakeholders.
By 2011, it was clear that the entire integrated energy crops to cellulosic biofuels value chain demonstrated in East Tennessee was demonstrating the technical, agronomic, and economic feasibility of a cellulosic ethanol industry. On track to meet all of its milestones and objectives by the fifth and final year of the state-funded program, Genera and its partners were building the foundation to support full commercial scale-up. Leveraging the public investment in the Biofuels Initiative, Genera focused its efforts primarily upstream of its biorefinery partner, gaining unparalleled experience and expertise in energy crop production and supply chains.
As the wind-down of the state-funded program neared, Genera and its University stakeholders recognized an unmet industry need for biomass supply. Genera’s five-member management team worked with the UT Research Foundation and The University of Tennessee to launch Genera Energy Inc. in March 2012 to pursue commercial biomass supply business opportunities.
The Genera Energy LLC model remains intact, renamed TennEra LLC. TennEra continues to own the demonstration scale biorefinery, operated exclusively by DuPont Cellulosic Ethanol, and the Biomass Innovation Park facilities, operated exclusively by Genera Energy Inc. Going forward, TennEra is evaluating opportunities to leverage the successful “Genera model” and identify new technologies and programs within the University that are ready for pre-commercial demonstration. TennEra provides a conduit to take those new ideas to the next level, focusing on specific business opportunities and attracting commercialization partners.