Genera Energy, a for-profit company wholly owned by the University of Tennessee Research Foundation, broke ground on Tennessee’s Biomass Innovation Park, a campus that integrates and optimizes the entire biomass supply chain.

Genera Energy was formed to implement the University of Tennessee’s Biofuels Initiative, a $70.5-million state investment in developing a cellulosic biofuels industry in Tennessee, with a farm field to future fuels approach.

The Biomass Innovation Park will provide harvesting, handling, storage, densification, pre-processing, and transportation for multiple feedstocks including switchgrass. Located adjacent to the Genera/DDCE demonstration-scale biorefinery in Vonore on 21 acres, the campus will serve as the foundation for all biomass feedstock used to create biofuels, biochemicals, bioproducts, biomaterials, biopower and bioenergy.

The facility will initially process up to 50,000 tons of switchgrass, but is designed to handle a range of energy crops and other biomass feedstocks, said Dr. Kelly Tiller, Genera president and CEO.

Genera currently has more than 6,000 acres of switchgrass growing in nine counties located within 50 miles of the Vonore biorefinery. Switchgrass is being grown by farmers under contract with Genera.

The Biomass Innovation Park will also be the site for a $5 million Department of Energy-funded high-tonnage switchgrass bulk handling system and will provide strategic partnership opportunities and serve as a template for regional biomass depots. The first phase of construction is scheduled for completion by the end of 2010, in time to store and process switchgrass following the fall harvest.

The Biomass Innovation Park is designed to accommodate future expansion and introduce new technologies and equipment for processing biomass to meet the specifications of biorefineries and other downstream conversion processes. The Biomass Innovation Park will include two storage silos; an equipment shed; bale storage; office buildings; truck scales for feedstock receiving; pre-engineered biomass processing buildings; and energy crop demonstration plots for switchgrass and other crops grown for bioenergy.