Yesterday, U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new biomass assistance project involving 5,344 acres in northeast Ohio and northwest Pennsylvania. It was one of four Biomass Crop Assistance Program projects being supported to promote cultivation of crops to be processed into renewable energy.
The Ohio/Pennsylvania project targets 2011 enrollment of land in Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake, and Trumbull, Ohio, and Crawford, Erie, and Mercer counties, Pennsylvania. The sponsor for this project is Aloterra Energy, LLC. The project area surrounds the company's biomass conversion facility in Ashtabula, Ohio.
The acreage will be designated to grow giant miscanthus, a warm-season grass that can be converted into energy. "Renewable, home-grown, clean energy from American producers is vital to our country's energy future because it reduces our reliance on foreign oil and creates good-paying production jobs that cannot be exported," said Vilsack.
It is estimated that each of the four project areas and conversion facilities would earn about $50 million per year. A large number of biorefinery, agriculture and support jobs are expected to be created in each area by 2014 – 1,210 for the Ohio/Pennsylvania project, alone.
Yields for biomass from giant miscanthus are expected to range between 10 and 12 tons of dry matter per acre and up to 15 tons per acre. BCAP project areas provide financial incentives to eligible agriculture producers to establish dedicated energy crops that will be used for production of heat, power, liquid biofuels or bio-based products.
Sign-up opportunity awaits
If your farm is within the project area counties, contact your local Farm Service Agency. This agency is administering the program. Sign-up begins on Monday, June 20.
Selected producers are eligible for reimbursements of up to 75% of the cost of establishing the crop. You can receive up to five years of annual BCAP payments. BCAP Information is also available at www.fsa.usda.gov/bcap.
What's giant miscanthus?
This large perennial silver grass hybrid is native to Japan and is already used in the European Union as a commercial energy crop. It can be harvested and burned as a source of heat and electricity or converted into biofuel products such as ethanol.
A fast-growing C4 plant, it has greater photosynthetic efficiency and lower water use requirements than other kinds of plants. It also has very low nutritional requirements, making it a good "fit" for less productive soils. It's also a sterile hybrid that reproduces vegetatively via rhizomes.