Switchgrass as fuel touted for energy, cost benefits

Thursday, July 17, 2008

From an article by Anita Weier in The Capital Times:

Switchgrass grown on marginal farm acreage could be an efficient renewable fuel source while also protecting wildlife habitat and water quality, according to "Growing Wisconsin Energy," a study by Agrecol Corp.

Switchgrass is a perennial grass native to Wisconsin.

The study produced by the Madison-based seed company with a grant from the state Department of Agriculture found that converting native grasses into renewable fuel could be a profitable enterprise for farmers and a relatively inexpensive fuel source for businesses and schools.

Businesses in the study reduced fuel costs an average of 42 percent by switching from traditional fuel sources to pellets made from switchgrass, the study found.

Agrecol, a seed company that specializes in native prairie grasses and produces biomass pellets for heat, is also developing a pellet stove for residential and commercial heating. Its study focused on the feasibility of developing a native grass pellet bioheat industry in Wisconsin.

Renewable "biomass" includes corn stalks, straw and other agriculture crop residue as well as wood chips and wood residue.

"Grass-based biomass can reduce carbon dioxide and global warming pollution, promote farmer-grown energy crops, expand local rural economies and reduce reliance on fossil fuels," the study said.