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Michigan Airports Lease Land For Crops

22 July 2011

US - Through collaboration with Michigan State University's Extension office, one million-plus gallons of fossil fuels could someday be produced renewably on the airport's premises.

The collaboration is part of the larger AgriEnergy Technology Demonstration project funded by a $476,000 grant given by the Michigan Energy Office of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. While the WCAA will only lease three acres of airport land to MSU, the grant money will also go to other bioenergy-specific sites that are not currently used, such as vacant urban lots or highway right-of-ways.

"WCAA has been interested in exploring the potential of developing airport-owned property around both airports for bionergy production for some time," said Genelle Allen, interim CEO of the WCAA. "If successful, this project could attract businesses to the vicinity of the airports that would produce alternative fuels for use in aircraft and other vehicles," adding that this project may not only bring economic development to Michigan, "but also protect land around our airports from further encroachment."

In total, the two airports in the project have potentially 1,700 acres suitable for planting. The energy crops that will be used in the project are canola and mustard seed, with MSU responsible for the management of the energy crop tracks, and the WCAA giving access to the land.

Dennis Pennington, MSU extension project manager, said of the grant and the project that it "provides Michigan an opportunity to transition into the green sector with the potential to reduce our dependence on foreign oil imports," and for the state of Michigan, more importantly, to "create needed jobs."

Because of the number of gallons used at the airports participating in the projects, Rich Altman, executive director for Washington D.C.-based Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative, said the project is both "prudent and practical for WCAA to explore alternative means such as biofuels."

The project will run through February 2012.

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