Magazine article University Business

The Biomass Alternative

Magazine article University Business

The Biomass Alternative

Article excerpt

WHEN PEOPLE TALK ABOUT ALTERNATIVES TO FOSSIL FUELS, ETHANOL often tops the list. It is widely used and relatively cheap to produce, with corn being the largest source of ethanol in the United States. Unfortunately, corn is also the most common ingredient in commercial food products, and critics say that these competing uses have driven up food prices. Colleges and universities are leading the field in the study of biomass--plant and animal waste--as a clean, renewable energy source that doesn't deplete a vital food source. Here are just a few examples:

* Researchers at the University of Minnesota are experimenting with densified corn stover (the leaves and stalks of corn plants left after harvest) as a fuel for heat and power applications. They are also studying other sources of herbaceous biomass, such as straw and alfalfa. Also, the University of Minnesota, Morris has built e biomass gasification facility that will provide up to 80 percent of the campus's heating and cooling needs. The gasification plant is one step toward UMM's goal of reaching energy self-sufficiency by 2010. …

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