Genera Energy and the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture (UTIA) were awarded a $5 million grant in 2009 from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), to research and develop economical systems for bulk-handling and processing of chopped switchgrass and reduce the costs of baling in the field and subsequent bale grinding. Genera has announced that the research supported by the grant has been completed.
Funds from the grant were used by Genera Energy to add a bulk-format handling and research equipment to its existing Biomass Innovation Park facility, implementing new technology best engineered to supply processed switchgrass within specification at the lowest cost. Genera’s added capabilities are unique in that they allow it to receive, convey, store, reclaim, discharge, and compact bulk-format switchgrass automatically with an effective, integrated system.
“Through this grant and by collaborating with Genera Energy, we’ve been able to evaluate existing switchgrass supply logistics and to develop ground-breaking systems that offer better and more cost-effective methods for handling, processing, and storing chopped switchgrass,” said Al Womac, Ph.D., professor of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science with UTIA and the project leader. “The funding began in 2009 and in that time we have been able to create and produce a fully-replicable system that saves money and time and which is logistically superior to traditional baling.”
Using scientific data collected during the research phases UTIA and Genera were able to develop innovative systems that were based on detailed analysis of switchgrass harvest and handling equipment and logistical efficiencies as well as material characteristics such as weight, particle size, bulk density, moisture content and other factors. Software was also developed to calculate effective field capacity, field efficiency, machine utilization and system limiting factors.
“Our collaboration with the University of Tennessee in the development of new feedstock logistics systems using chopped switchgrass has culminated in a first-of-its-kind system,” added Genera Energy President and CEO Kelly Tiller, Ph.D. “By working with our partners over the last several years, we’ve developed a fully-functioning and innovative biomass feedstock bulk supply chain. And in the process we are creating sustainable biomass feedstock systems that can be replicated on a larger scale, something we only imagined when Genera was first envisioned.”