From Cheerios waste to clean energy – spending Bioenergy Day with Koda Energy

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SHAKOPEE, MINN -- When you’re stumbling out of bed, and groggily pouring yourself a bowl of Cheerios – we’re guessing the furthest thing from your mind is how that cereal was made – and even further from your thoughts – what happens to the wasted oat hulls after your cereal is processed?

Well luckily, other people do think about that, like Stacy Cook, the General Manager and VP of Operations at Koda Energy, an eight-year-old bioenergy company in Shakopee that consumes more than 500 tons of biomass fuel per day. What begins as leftover oat hulls, wood chips, barley hulls, malt byproducts, beet pulp and even ground up corn cobs at the beginning of the day, is milled into a course flour before being combusted in a boiler.

Roughly half of the power created from biomass is used to power Rahr Malting Company – a 168-year-old company that is the largest malting facility in the world. And it’s located on the same property as Koda Energy. The partnership between the two companies began about a decade ago as Rahr started researching alternative forms of energy in order to maintain a stable profit margin.

Over the course of a relatively short amount of time, Rahr has gone from using approximately 80-90 million cubic feet of natural gas per month to power its high-energy usage kilns that produce the malted barley for brewers, to 100% clean energy through its relationship with Koda Energy. While natural gas prices have plummeted over the last decade, they remain competitive with bioenergy prices, and Koda Energy’s boilers are more efficient – and even use leftover malt byproducts from Rahr. This has made the partnership between the two companies a successful operation for both.

In honor of Bioenergy day on October 18, Koda Energy opened its doors to the public for tours to help spread the word that bioenergy usage is a success story in Shakopee. Koda also used the opportunity to dispel some misconceptions – like the fact that what looks like smoke plumes billowing from its stack – is actually largely water vapor.

Bioenergy is created using 100% natural biomass material. Biomass is nature’s solar energy storage device, and consists of natural plant fibers. The plant fibers are milled into flour, and then used as boiler fuel. At Koda Energy, the biomass fuel is fired in suspension, and the chemical energy in the fuel is converted to heat energy.

Koda provides 100% of the energy consumed at Rahr Malting Company, and also provides an additional 12 MW of base load renewable energy to Xcel Energy for public use, that can be dispatched when and where it is needed.

So the next time you pour yourself a bowl of Cheerios, think about those excess oat hulls – and how another Minnesota company is using Cheerios waste to help power the largest malting company in the world – using clean and renewable energy.