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Raleigh seeks power from flowers

Sunflowers planted near the city's wastewater treatment plant could produce biofuel to help power equipment at the plant.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A patch of yellow near the Neuse River southeast of Raleigh could make the city more green.

The city spent about $12,000 to plant sunflowers on 50 acres near its wastewater treatment plant, with plans to produce biofuel from the oil of the seeds they will produce this summer.

"We felt the pinch in the budget this year (as) fuel prices skyrocketed. We felt that pain just like anyone else. We're looking for ways that we can reduce the impact," said Tim Woody, of Raleigh's Public Utilities Department. "Sunflowers is another crop that can produce a biofuel that we can use it for our equipment."

The city likely will sell the sunflower seeds to a company to make the biofuel and then would buy some of the fuel to power equipment at the wastewater plant, Woody said. Each acre of sunflowers could produce up to 100 gallons of fuel, he said.

"It's a great opportunity for us to use something that we grow out here to help power our facility," he said.

Raleigh also grows corn and other vegetables on land near the wastewater plant. The city sells much of that produce to farmers for animal feed.

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