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Q: Where in the US does grass pellet biofuel have the most potential?
A: The Northeast. For many decades the Northeastern US has been officially labeled as the “Hay & Pasture” Region of the country. Like much of Europe, the temperate humid climate is not so hot for corn, but perfect for grass. A recent published switchgrass study in the northern US by USDA-ARS personnel concluded “Western North Dakota is subject to periodic drought and wide fluctuations in precipitation that would jeopardize the capability of producers to provide a consistent supply of switchgrass biomass for biofuel purposes.” (Agron. J. 97:549. 2005). So although some northern regions are not as well suited as others, grass bioenergy has good potential all across the northern tier of states that have a high winter heating requirement.

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Why consider grasses as biofuel?

Reed canarygrass ready to harvest

It takes 70 days to grow a crop of grass pellet fuel.

It takes 70 million years to grow a crop of fossil fuel.

Grass pellets have great potential as a low-tech, small-scale, environmentally-friendly, renewable energy system that can be locally produced, locally processed and locally consumed. As the US focuses on energy security, grass bioenergy is one of the ways that rural communities can move towards energy security. New York State has about 1.5 million acres of unused or underutilized agricultural land, most of which is already growing grass.

Grass biofuel production does not need to divert any of the current agricultural productivity into the energy market; this biomass industry can be completely independent from, but complimentary to, the production of food or animal feed. It is also a very “farmer-friendly” way to get producers exposed to biofuel production. Some research and development is needed to optimize stoves and boilers for grass combustion, and to minimize emissions.

Grass Bioenergy Attributes