In Tennessee, Governor Bill Haslam and U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander are promoting switchgrass for ethanol production, as a DuPont venture gets ready to begin production next year. Switchgrass is widely grown in East Tennessee and can offer several benefits to the region and country including reducing the strain on corn production, which creates higher prices.
"Researchers at the University of Georgia may be close to finding it. A report by Susan Mittleman on Georgia Public Broadcasting and transcribed on the Public Broadcasting Atlanta website (pba.org) describes a promising new process for making ethanol and other biofuels from vegetation common to this area, such as switchgrass and pine or poplar trees.
The idea of making fuel from biomass is not new. But like corn-based ethanol, fuel synthesized from biomass has so far been too expensive to make it practical."
Biofuel from Biomass Got One Step Closer to Reality Thanks to UGA Discovery to Manipulate 'Hot' Microbes
"The single most important barrier to the use of lignocellulosic biomass such as switchgrass, populous, sorghum and miscanthus for production of biofuels is the resistant nature of the biomass itself. The problem lies in the conversion or degradation of complex biomass to make products of interest.
New research from scientists at the University of Georgia who are members of Department of Energy’s BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) provides a genetic method for manipulating a group of organisms, called Caldicellulosiruptor, that have the ability to use biomass directly at temperatures over 160 Fahrenheit. The ability to modify the microbes to make the needed fuel products is a required first step for modern industrial fermentations. This allows researchers to combine the natural ability to consume renewable plant materials with an altered improved ability to make what is needed."
"The U.S. Department of Energy today announced it would fund its three Bioenergy Research Centers for an additional five-year period, subject to continued congressional appropriations. The three Centers —including the BioEnergy Research Center (BESC) led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison in partnership with Michigan State University, and the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory—were established by the Department’s Office of Science in 2007 as an innovative program to accelerate fundamental research breakthroughs toward the development of advanced, next-generation biofuels."
"When Li Tan approached his colleagues at the University of Georgia with some unusual data he had collected, they initially seemed convinced that his experiment had become contaminated; what he was seeing simply didn’t make any sense.
Tan was examining some of the sugars, proteins and polymers that make up plant cell walls, which provide the structural support and protection that allow plants to grow. Yet his samples contained a mixture of sugars that should not be present in the same structure."
Switchgrass — Growing a New Cash Crop: East Tennessee Farmers' First Switchgrass Harvest Ready to Turn into Biofuel
"When Blount County farmer John Davis decided to enter the switchgrass business, he did so with some trepidation.
"I'm a cautious individual," said Davis, who last year planted the native grass on less than an eighth of his family farm through a contract with Genera Energy, which is working with more than 60 East Tennessee farmers to grow the up-and-coming bioenergy crop. He also wasn't sure he could part ways with the beef cattle business he'd been in all his life, even though, with today's production costs, the farm was barely breaking even."
In Tennessee, Genera Energy has planted several plots of switchgrass along interstate corridors in Tennessee in conjunction with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT). The test plots are designed to see if switchgrass can help reduce maintenance costs by reducing the need for mowing and may also have the added benefit of producing biomass for energy and reducing erosion at highway interchanges.
"Energy crops and agricultural residue, like corncobs and stover, are becoming part of rural America’s energy future. Unlike the more common biofuel derived from corn, these are non-food/feed based cellulosic feedstocks, and the energy content of the biomass makes it ideal for converting to sustainable fuel.
Last January in Vonore, Tenn., DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol (DDCE) opened a new biorefinery with the goal of producing at large-scale biofuel from cellulosic feedstock, beginning with corncobs and stover and moving to switchgrass.
DDCE, along with partners University of Tennessee Biofuels Initiative, Genera Energy and the state of Tennessee are working to establish a several-thousand-acre switchgrass crop for the biorefinery."Read More