July 18 Open House Offers a Look at Renewable, Carbon-Neutral Heating with Grasses

grass and wood biomass burning heater for a green houseMarch 7, 2018

A demonstration of a waste grass-powered commercial heating system is scheduled for 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. Wednesday July 18, at the Country Arbors Nursery, 1742 County Rd. 1400 N., Urbana, IL 61802. The open house and demonstration is for those interested in the potential for heating agricultural buildings, schools, churches and other structures with grass and other biomass fuels.

For more than four years, the University of Illinois has been conducting a comprehensive study of the economical use of native grasses to produce renewable energy in Illinois. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has funded the research to use grass along state highway rights of way as an energy crop.

The work suggests a pathway to a market for grass as an energy source using EPA certified systems. A feasibility study determined that implementation by IDOT around the state could reduce annual mowing expenses by $1.9 million and generate $2.8 in revenue. A large-scale pilot is in place on a 10-acre site in Madison County at the junction of Illinois Route 255 and Wagon Wheel Road as part of the research. The Urbana demonstration is part of an educational effort to stimulate demand for the biofuel for heating.

inside a greenhouse with plantsBurning of biomass fuel is renewable and considered carbon neutral. Other partners at the University of Illinois are working to economically produce liquid fuel and other valuable products from the native grasses. Together, the projects could displace significant amounts of petroleum-based energy, and carbon emissions, especially if a biomass market is established, allowing the 100,000 acres of public property, that are important to highway safety, to be maintained with lower expense to taxpayers.

The full scope of the IDOT biofuel research at the U of I is covered in the video “New Bioways for Highways.”

Lunch will be served during the open house. Please RSVP to schandr@illinois.edu by Monday July 16.