Goodland project to produce power, ethanol, biodiesel

? Investors in northwest Kansas hope to fire up the region’s economy with a power plant and two fuel processing plants that will use some of each other’s products.

Construction of the Goodland Energy Center, about four miles west of the city, is expected to start by late summer, with production of electricity, ethanol and biodiesel fuel to begin in late 2006.

Each plant will be individually owned and operated by one of three investment groups, each with about 20 or fewer members. Altogether, the project is expected to cost $35 million to $45 million.

“This is local people trying to stimulate the local economy and help Goodland maintain a place on the map,” said former Goodland City Manager Ron Pickman, who is the chief operating officer of the project.

“I firmly believe everything involved in this project will be a tremendous benefit to northwest Kansas,” Pickman said.

First National Bank in Goodland is among the investors. Bank vice president Jerry Fairbanks said the project was attractive partly because the power plant is “co-generational.”

“There are a lot of products from each plant that can be recycled and used by the others,” Fairbanks said.

The 20- to 28-megawatt coal-fired power plant will produce electricity and steam. Steam is required to run the ethanol plant, which will produce a molasses-like substance needed to create fuel at the biodiesel plant.

“We eliminate waste, because we use it all,” Pickman said.

Biodiesel is a clean-burning alternative fuel, produced from renewable resources. Ethanol, made from fermenting and distilling the starch in corn or sorghum, also is a fuel and can be used as an additive in gasoline.

As a wholesaler, the power plant also will sell electricity to a city or company, which in turn will sell the power to residents and businesses. Fairbanks said finding customers for the three plants shouldn’t be a problem.

“I think all small towns struggle with energy and the cost of energy,” he said.