SPOKANE, WA - Avista Corp. has begun testing the use of biodiesel on four service trucks in an ongoing effort to "green its fleet" by being more energy-and fuel-efficient. A new partnership with Inland Empire Oilseeds (IEO) and Whitley Fuel has made the fuel available locally, and results so far show the clean-burning alternative fuel may be a successful long-term solution for Avista and others.

Avista began testing the use of the B-20 blend of biodiesel in two flatbeds, a line truck, and a bucket truck in August, according to the company. "This project is part of Avista's culture of environmental stewardship and our ongoing efforts to reduce our own energy consumption," said Roger Woodworth, vice president of Sustainable Energy Solutions for Avista, in a statement.

Inland Empire Oilseeds in Odessa, Wash. produces the biodiesel with oil crushed from Washington-grown canola seeds. Founded in 2006 as a joint effort by Avista, Odessa Union Warehouse, Reardan Grain Growers, and Reardan Seed Company, IEO began refining biodiesel last November. With the installation of its crushing line this summer, it became the first biodiesel company in Washington to fully integrate all production steps into one, according to Avista.

Processing canola grown in its local region and shipping its biodiesel and high protein meal to customers in Washington and Oregon helps keep the company's costs low, and also reduces the carbon footprint of the product, said Stephen Starr, general manager. Starr added canola biodiesel returns 4.5 times the energy used to grow and manufacture it, making it a highly sustainable fuel.

Whitley Fuel partnered with IEO and Avista to store the biodiesel at its station on Third Avenue and Division Street in Spokane. The downtown location will provide convenient access to Avista and others as biodiesel becomes more widely used by local businesses and government agencies.

Earlier this year, Avista added two 2009 Toyota Prius models to its fleet, which were converted into plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) with extra battery capacity, allowing them to achieve up to 80 mpg. Avista has been offsetting the electricity the cars use with renewable power generated through solar panels installed on the top of the company's headquarters building in Spokane.

"Avista is committed to exploring clean, renewable energy options so we can do our part and also provide information and tools to our customers," Woodworth said.

Avista Corp. is an energy company involved in the production, transmission and distribution of energy as well as other energy-related businesses. Avista Utilities provides electric service to 353,000 homes and businesses and natural gas to 313,000 homes and businesses in three Western states, serving more than 492,000 customers.  For more information about Avista, visit www.avistacorp.com.