Hybrid grass may be ‘ideal’ green fuel source
Giant Miscanthus, a bamboo-like Japanese relative of sugar cane, is being researched as an ideal biomass fuel source.The grass, which grows up to 4 metres, has been found to have a number of advantages over fossil fuels when it comes to energy production. The perennial grass stores nitrogen in it’s roots and regrows easily after harvesting each year. The grass stalks, after the leaves fall off during the winter, can be harvested and burned in existing coal power plants, releasing the same amount of carbon dioxide that it absorbed during the growing cycle; making the fuel source carbon-neutral.
Giant Miscanthus grows in untilled soil, and requires little fertilizer or water. It outgrows weeds and resists mosts pests and diseases. The grass has a very high yield, producing up to 30 tons (dry weight) per acre annually. Miscanthus also is a very efficient fuel, because the energy ratio of input to output is less than 0.2. In contrast, the ratios exceed 0.8 for ethanol and biodiesel from canola.
Scientists at the University of Illinois estimate that if 10% of the land area of Illinois was dedicated to Miscanthus, it could provide 50% of the stateâ€™s electricity needs.
I estimate that if the state of Illinois were to implement energy conservation and efficiency measures, their consumption would drop to 50% of their current usage, making biomass sufficient for their electrical needs, all using existing power generation facilities.