3 November 2004

Specialist discusses grass pellets as alternative source of energy

Countries in Europe are developing a process to use fields of grass to provide heat that now comes from fossil fuels

STAMFORD — Jerry Cherney, a forage crop specialist from Cornell University in Ithaca, discussed an effort he is involved in to bring similar technology to the United States. He spoke at the annual meeting of the Stamford Farmers’ Cooperative held Wednesday at the Stamford Golf Club. Nearly 40 people attended.

The process that burns pellets made from a variety of grasses to produce heat is expected to undergo an important test before winter, he said.

The pellets are being produced in Canada because there are no manufacturers in this country, he said.

Cooperative general manager Allen Rybicky said the group was interested in the subject because eventually “we may be able to market the product when it gets off the ground.”

“With farmers growing hay and needing to heat, it seemed like a natural,” he said.

Cherney said that more work has to be done on the project before it is ready for the market.

The hardest part has been getting state and local governments interested enough in the process to make the kind of investment being made in ethanol and other alternative fuels, he said.

Currently, government is interested in fuels that can be turned into liquids to aid transportation, he said. But the pellet process is designed to be used within a 50-mile radius of where the grass is grown, he said.

If an industry could get started, it would only be part of an energy solution, he said.

Even with the amount of land available for growing various grasses, he said, it would not be enough to provide all the energy that is needed.

The grass needs to be made into pellets to reduce its bulk, he said.

Other problems that need to be addressed include public concerns about the inconvenience of emptying the ash from pellet stoves, he said.

The pellet stoves do not have emissions that would pollute the environment, he said.

The cooperative is made up of about 184 members, Rybicky said. It supplies seeds and other items to members and nonmembers, he said.

Source: The Daily Star Oct. 28, 2004.

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