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With oil now topping $100 a barrel, it becomes even more imperative for American research to lead the way to freeing us from our addiction to foreign oil and petroleum-based products. For several years, I have been supportive of such research in our area, and now a new company is joining in our work.
On Monday of this week, Advanced Vehicle Research Center (AVRC), which is based outside of Raleigh, North Carolina, announced that it will be expanding, building a new plant for its alternative fuel research and vehicle conversion research and development. The research and design center will be constructed near the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) in Danville. In addition, AVRC will develop a closed loop on natural terrain on a 63-acre site in Southside Virginia. The track will be used to test manned and unmanned military vehicles and off-road vehicles. Future plans call for the test track to include an additional 148 acres. The operation being developed will be a $3.5-million investment, employing 30 full-time workers.
Attending the announcement ceremonies were around 200 high school science, engineering and robotics students from several of the schools in Southside. These students learned first-hand about the future that is emerging in our region and about the jobs that can provide opportunities for them when they finish their education.
Dick Dell, a former IBM executive, is the Executive Director of AVRC, and he said that AVRC chose Southside because of the significant assets that support the auto racing industry, Virginia International Raceway (VIR), Martinsville Speedway and South Boston Speedway. Also, Dell said that AVRC?s work on advanced technologies and alternative fuel vehicles will benefit from the extensive research being done at IALR, at JOUSTER (Joint Unmanned Systems Test, Experimentation, and Research) at VIR and at Virginia Tech.
AVRC?s arrival comes at a time when two other alternative energy projects are developing in Southside.
Red Birch Energy is headquartered near Bassett. This project is the first closed-loop system in the nation. Red Birch contracts with local farmers for growth of the canola feedstock, then crushes the seed for its oil and produces the product, B-100 (biodiesel) immediately beside the retail outlet and sells the product to the retail market. Red Birch?s approach is unlike the traditional model for growing, developing and marketing its renewable fuel, because it takes the usual pattern of five separate steps and converts them into one unified, vertical entity that can extract profits from all points on the value chain.
The other project involves using switchgrass as an alternative fuel source. The pilot work is being done at Windy Hills Nursery near Gretna. Its work is being done in conjunction with the renewable and sustainable fuels research going on at IALR and Virginia Tech. In addition, there is a major test planting of switchgrass in northern Halifax County that will hopefully produce a large quantity of switchgrass to supply the project.
Please keep in touch with me on issues that are important to you. You may write Congressman Virgil Goode, 70 East Court Street, Room 215, Rocky Mount, VA 24151; or fax to 1-540-484-1459; or call toll-free to the Danville office, 1-800-535-4008.