Switchgrass Week: Ceres Raises $75M For Energy Crops


Not everyone’s feeling the biofuel backlash, especially when it comes to cellulosic ethanol — biofuels made from non-food crops and plants. This morning, Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based energy crop company Ceres announced it has raised $75 million through a late-stage financing round led by private equity firm Warburg Pincus. The company says the funds will be spent on R&D for high-yield energy crops such as one of its first seed products, switchgrass cultivar, which is currently scheduled for commercial launch in 2009.

It must be switchgrass week — the energy crop also made the cover of Wired Magazine’s latest issue. Despite some of the more recent concerns over sustainable biofuel production, the magazine optimistically dubbed it “the plant that will save America.” Wired’s enthusiasm is supported by data points like: “Cellulosic ethanol yields roughly 80 percent more energy than is required to grow and convert it.” And, “We can sustainably grow more than 1 billion tons of such biomass on available farm land, using minimal fertilizer.”

Companies like Ceres are raising money to finally bring cellulosic ethanol to market. The Department of Energy is giving $385 million to six companies working on cellulosic ethanol: Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass, ALICO, BlueFire Ethanol, The Broin Companies, Iogen Biorefinery Partners, and Range Fuels. Universities across the country are also hard at work on cracking the cellulosic code.

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