State issues alternative energy grants

SOMERSET — A company that plans to generate electricity at unused natural gas wells will get as much as $500,000 in state assistance, Gov. Steve Beshear announced Monday.

The Somerset company, Wellhead Energy Systems LLC, has developed a self-contained generator that can be placed at isolated natural gas wells.

The unit takes in gas from the well, cleans and compresses it, then uses it to power an engine that drives a generator, producing electricity.

Dave Weddle, president of the company, said there are thousands of gas wells in rural Kentucky that are "stranded" because they don't have access to pipelines. Wellhead's generators are a way to convert that unused resource to electricity, he said.

The company is building its first six units and hopes to have the first one installed in May, possibly in Wayne County, Weddle said.

Wellhead is having the units built at a houseboat factory in Somerset, providing work in an industry that has been hit hard by recession.

Beshear also announced a grant of as much as $30,000 to Southeast Biofuels, a Montgomery County company that is developing a portable system to convert sorghum into ethanol.

The grants announced Monday are through a state fund designed to aid development of alternative fuels and renewable-energy technology.

The Kentucky New Energy Ventures Fund, created in 2007, has awarded $2.85 million to 25 companies, according to a news release from Beshear's office.