Public tours UI power plant, miscanthus fields


(Clarity R. Guerra/UI Office of Strategic Communications)

Nick Fetty | August 26, 2015

The University of Iowa on Tuesday hosted a field day to allow members of the public to tour the power plant as well as plots of a renewable energy source known as miscanthus.

Tuesday’s event was the third field day the UI has hosted for its Biomass Fuel Project which “aims to assess and improve university power plant facilities, biomass feedstock, and community awareness and education in biomass energy.” The Biomass Fuel Project is one part of the UI’s 2020 Vision which outlines ways for the UI to generate 40 percent of its on-campus energy usage from renewable sources by the 2020.

U.S. Congressman Dave Loebsack spoke at Tuesday’s event and lauded the UI’s efforts on this project.

“It’s about making sure we create energy that is cleaner than what we did traditionally, and what we do to some extent today,” he said. “Economically it’s the right thing to do, and in so many other ways it’s the right thing to do.”

Loebsack also praised the UI for its effort to collaborate with Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa on the project. Emily Heaton is a professor of agronomy at ISU and she also spoke at Tuesday’s event. Heaton studies the science behind miscanthus, a perennial tall grass native to Asia, which the UI hopes to begin using to fuel the power plant. She said miscanthus offers “ecosystem services” not available with other renewable energy sources. Those services include miscanthus’ ability to pull carbon dioxide from the air and return it to the soil. Additionally, miscanthus’ deep root system helps prevent soil erosion and nutrient runoff into nearby waterways.

In addition to partnering with the other regent universities, UI has also partnered with landowners and growers in Johnson, Linn, and Muscatine counties to harvest the crop. The project started with a 16-acre plot in 2013 and today the UI maintains approximately 350 acres. Miscanthus’ height (at 10 to 12 feet) allows it to produce a higher yield per acre when compared to other similar biomass options.

Though UI officials are still in the experimental stages for using miscanthus as a fuel source, they hope that it will eventually be able to supply 10 percent of the campus’ energy usage.

VIDEO: KGAN – UI Using More Sustainable Energy

Branstad awards UI for sustainability efforts


Energy conservation measures save the University of Iowa roughly $5.1 million annually, according to UI Facilities Management. (University of Iowa)

Nick Fetty | July 10, 2015

The University of Iowa’s use of miscanthus as a fuel source has gained the attention of Governor Branstad.

On Thursday, the four-term Iowa governor announced that his office was awarding UI Facilities Management the “Governor’s Iowa Environmental Excellence Award” with emphasis on energy efficiency and renewable energy. The Governor’s Iowa Environmental Excellence Award is given annually to a handful of Iowa businesses and governmental institutions for efforts made to adopt environmentally sustainable strategies and preserve the state’s natural resources.

The UI was recognized because of its Biomass Fuel Project which utilizes miscanthus and other renewable fuel sources for the UI’s power plant which provides electricity and steam for the campus. The first miscanthus fields were planted in 2013 and today the UI maintains more than 350 acres of the Asian perennial tall grass. Through the use of miscanthus and other methods, university officials hope to achieve 40 percent renewable energy consumption by 2020.

Other award recipients include the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines and the National Wild Turkey Federation in Edgefield as well as school districts in Cedar Rapids and Guthrie Center.

Branstad will formally present the awards during a ceremony in Des Moines on August 4.

UI partners with North Carolina company for biomass project


Miscanthus is a perennial tall grass grown and burned as an eneergu source on the UI campus. (Wikimedia Commons)
Miscanthus is a perennial tall grass grown and burned as an energy source on the UI campus. (Wikimedia Commons)

Nick Fetty | March 17, 2015

Repreve Renewables, LLC has been selected to provide agricultural and business development services for the University of Iowa’s Biomass Fuel Project.

The Greensboro, North Carolina-based company will employ its Accu Yield™ System, “a proprietary, precision agricultural system, to plant and establish giant miscanthus.” This system is able to reduce the cost of establishing the plant while also increasing yields, making it a more economically-feasible renewable energy option.

“The University of Iowa is a leader in sustainability, just as Repreve Renewables is a trailblazer in biomass production and logistics,” Repreve Renewables CEO Jeff Wheeler said in a press release. “The Biomass Fuel Project provides the opportunity to achieve breakthrough renewable energy solutions. Working as a team with the local community, we can create new revenue sources for farmers and landowners, improve the soil, mitigate erosion and runoff, and increase the use of renewable energy to reduce the carbon footprint. We are honored to be a part of the University’s 2020 Vision.”

Miscanthus is a perennial tall grass that the UI Power Plant has used as a biomass fuel source in recent years as part of the 2020 Vision aimed at reducing the campus’s dependence on fossil fuels.

Repreve Renewables will now begin to procure land commitments for approximately 2,500 acres in the Iowa City area. This includes the Eastern Iowa Airport where the plant will not only be harvested as a renewable energy source but also as way of improving soil and water quality by mitigating the effects of erosion in the area.

On the Radio: Miscanthus shows promise as an Iowa biomass crop


Miscanthus shows increasing promise as a viable biomass crop in Iowa.  (Aikawa Ke/Flickr)
Miscanthus shows increasing promise as a viable biomass crop in Iowa. (Aikawa Ke/Flickr)

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at miscanthus, an Asian biomass crop with multiple environmental benefits which may produce high yields in Iowa, according to a recent report. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

 

Transcript: Miscanthus

An Asian biomass crop with multiple environmental benefits may produce high yields in Iowa, according to a recent report.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Iowa State University researchers recently found that a non-invasive hybrid of miscanthus, a tall perennial grass related to sugarcane, may have higher yield potential in Iowa than once thought. While the plants showed difficulty getting established in experimental fields, once planted most were able to withstand two Iowa winters. Miscanthus usually hits peak production in its third year.

The plant could play a major role in Iowa agriculture as a source of biomass that can be converted into energy. It can grow alongside existing crops and in sections of fields which usually produce lower yields for corn. This would not only increase field productivity but could also help reduce runoff and improve water quality.

For more information about miscanthus, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0926669014001411

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S092666901400140X

http://dailyfusion.net/2014/07/miscanthus-iowa-agriculture-30804/

Iowa farm hosting Bio-Renewables Field Day


Iowa State agronomy researcher Emily Heaton (left, red shirt) introduces congressional staffers to biomass crop miscanthus. (CenUSA Bioenergy/Flickr)
Iowa State agronomy researcher Emily Heaton (left, red shirt) introduces congressional staffers to biomass crop miscanthus. (CenUSA Bioenergy/Flickr)

A tall perennial grass called miscanthus may be the future of bioenergy in Iowa, and an upcoming event is highlighting its unique potential.

Iowa State University assistant professor of agronmy Emily Heaton and Iowa City landowner Dan Black will speak at a field day and seminar on Wednesday, September 10, to discuss their findings regarding miscanthus, which is currently being explored as a potential biomass crop in experimental fields.

The event will take place at the University of Iowa miscanthus test plot and is hosted by Iowa Learning Farms, the second in a series of four field days that will cover innovations in Iowa agriculture. The event includes a meal prepared by Johnson County Cattlemen and features Ben Anderson, power plant manager at the University of Iowa, who will talk about how miscanthus could be used in the UI power plant’s solid fuel boilers.

Researchers working with a non-invasive hybrid of miscanthus have so far observed a high success rate in surviving Iowa winters, which is necessary for it to reach peak production in its third year. This means the plant could play a major role in Iowa agriculture as a source of biomass that can be converted into energy. It can grow alongside existing crops and in sections of fields that usually produce lower yields for corn, meaning it could also help reduce runoff and preserve water quality.

RSVPs are being accepted until September 5 by calling (515) 294-8912 or by emailing ilf@iastate.edu. For more information, visit extension.iastate.edu/ilf.

Iowa State University researchers find new potential in miscanthus


Nick Fetty | July 29, 2014
A miscanthus field in Japan. Photo via Wikipedia
A miscanthus field in Japan.
Photo via Wikipedia

Researchers at Iowa State University have discovered that Iowa’s soil may help miscanthus – a perennial tall grass – to produce higher yields of biomass than once thought.

Iowa State Agronomists think that this Asian plant will not only provide a source for biomass energy but will also help to protect the environment. The study focused specifically on miscanthus x giganteus, “a sterile hybrid of the plant that cannot reproduce from seed and spreads slowly.”

The study found that this hybrid plant has a low mortality rate even in Iowa’s harsh winters. Agronomists also found that crop yields in the second year were similar to yields in the third year, which is when the plant generally hits its peak production. The full report was published in June in the journal Industrial Crops and Products and additional information about biomass production from miscanthus is also available through the ISU Department of Agronomy.

The University of Iowa has utilized the plant as part of its Biomass Fuel Project which aims to achieve 40 percent renewable energy by 2020. In 2013, 16 acres of miscanthus were planted in Muscatine County and earlier this year an additional 15 acres were planted just south of Iowa City.