Jun 20, 2011

Ohio.com - Ohio farmers to get U.S. funds to plant type of Asian grass (miscanthus giganteus) that converts to fuel

File:Miscanthus giganteus.jpg
Published on Thursday, Jun 16, 2011
Beacon Journal staff report

Federal officials on Wednesday approved a plan for eligible farmers in Northeast Ohio to grow an Asian grass as a biomass fuel.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack approved plans to grow the grass, miscanthus giganteus, in Ashtabula, Geauga, Trumbull and Lake counties plus three adjoining Pennsylvania counties.

The grass will be harvested and converted into fuel pellets, a clean-burning renewable fuel, at an existing facility in Conneaut by Aloterra Energy LLC.

The grasses might be burned at an old FirstEnergy Corp. power plant in Ashtabula. Johnson Controls and the Ashtabula County Port Authority have been investigating such an operation.

Farmers in the seven counties will be eligible for $5.7 million in federal funds, said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.Under the federal program, farmers are eligible for federal money to establish, produce and deliver biomass fuels.

The federal program is targeting 5,344 acres in the seven counties.

Producers are eligible for reimbursements of up to 75 percent of the cost of establishing a perennial bioenergy crop.

Under the federal Biomass Crop Assistance Program, farmers will derive income from tonnage payments, plus carbon credits and profit sharing from the conversion facility.

Farmers will also earn rent payments on the acres planted and the federal program will pay $45 a ton harvested for two years.

The project is expected to create 1,210 new jobs.

Yields for biomass from miscanthus giganteus are expected to range from 10 to 12 tons of dry matter per acre and might be as high as 15 tons per acre, officials said.

It can produce nearly as much energy as some coals, officials said.

It is a sterile hybrid warm-season grass, and farmers must plant stems called rhizomes underground every spring.

The biomass proposal including acreage in Arkansas and Missouri was developed by Aloterra and MTA Oil Biomass LLC.

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