Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Switch grass test burn

What was the only good thing Bush said in the State of the Union speech? That's right...switchgrass.

I put an article in the paper today about a switch grass test burn that is being conducted at the Ottumwa Generating Station. It's really cool stuff.

There is a group called the Chariton Valley Biomass Project that has been conducting these tests at the power plant for the last few years. This new test is the final stage of the process, and it sounds like everything is working beautifully.

They basically take huge bales of switch grass hay and grind them into a dust. That dust is mixed with pulverized coal and burned to create some of the electricity you are using right now to read this on your computer. You can read more about it here.

In 2001, I was invited to tour the plant and see the test equipment during the first phase of the test. It's one of those news assignments that I'll never, ever forget. Truly one of the most fascinating stories I have covered in my six and a half years as a news reporter.

It's really, really promising research, and I gotta give everybody involved due credit for working hard on this project, including the folks at Alliant Energy. Of course, making switch grass work as an alternative to fossil fuels is not exactly perfect yet. But it is the research that is most important right now. And they are gathering vast amounts of information on one of the possible alternative fuels of the future.

It's also really cool to me because the Ottumwa Generating Station, and this cutting-edge research in renewable fuels, are only about six miles from my house.

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