Pacific Biodiesel Technologies has planted a new sunflower crop that could yield in excess of 30,000 gallons of fuel each year. The project also helps to expand diversified agriculture by growing combine-harvested oil crops on land previously used for sugar cane production.
The initial sunflower crop project encompasses 115 acres. Based on Pacific Biodiesel’s experience growing sunflowers, the company expects an initial yield of 100-plus gallons of oil per acre per harvest, with up to three harvests per year possible.
According to Pacific Biodiesel, this is the largest biofuel crop project in the state of Hawaii; and it is the only biofuel farming operation in the state running on 100% renewable fuel, showcasing the company’s sustainable, community-based model of agriculture and renewable energy.
Pacific Biodiesel founders Bob King and Kelly King were joined on the crop site February 24 for a blessing led by Kimokeo Kapahulehua. Invited guests, including project stakeholders, local farmers, legislators and other community supporters, were joined by U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono and U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard at the event.
Pacific Biodiesel is planting sunflowers as its first biofuel crop on Maui, applying the knowledge learned from its past experience and partnership with the U.S. military as part of the Hawaii Military Biofuels Crop Program that demonstrated the planting, growing and processing of biodiesel feedstocks on Oahu and Hawaii island.
“We’re designing a sustainable, zero-waste and economically viable system to grow food, animal feed and fuel,” said Bob King. “Short-term crops that harvest in 100 days or less can be planted, harvested, crushed, and converted to biodiesel, all in Hawaii. We’re focusing on several different crops in various crop rotations and experimenting with different soil amendments such as compost and others made from by-products of the production of our biodiesel, like glycerin and potassium sulfate.”
Acres of sunflowers can provide a solution for energy security while they sequester carbon from the atmosphere, said Kelly King, Vice President and co-founder of Pacific Biodiesel and a recently inaugurated member of the Maui County Council. “Think of it as 100-plus acres of energy storage and carbon sequestration,” she said. “There are 36,000 acres of fertile sugar cane lands on Maui that ceased operation at the end of 2016. It is important for the community and the state to keep this land in agriculture to benefit Maui’s economy and environment, and to help the state increase its energy security, reduce reliance on fossil fuel, and achieve its 100 percent renewable energy mandate by 2045.”
Pacific Biodiesel is committed to continuing its collaboration with local farmers and landowners. “We are looking forward to working with our farming neighbors, Kumu Farms and Hoaloha as well as other farmers at the Maui Tropical Plantation and in the community,” Kelly King said. “Our growth and success has always been rooted in collaboration and innovation.”
With first seeds planted in February, the company looks forward to initial sunflower blooms by Earth Day, Saturday, April 22, 2017, which coincides with the first anniversary of Pacific Biodiesel becoming the world’s first biodiesel producer certified by the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance. Plans are in development for a community event to share these first sunflower blooms.
Photo courtesy Pacific Biodiesel