Clemson receives grant to research crops for energy use

June 6, 2015 |

In South Carolina, Abengoa Energy Crops has committed more than $1 million annually to support a three-year research project in South Carolina on the use of different trees and grass-like species to produce sustainable biomass for energy.

A new public-private partnership led by Clemson University and a worldwide biomass and bioenergy producer will research the use of crops that can both open new markets for South Carolina landowners and support the growing global demand for renewable energy.

The alliance will focus on five primary research and education areas: sustainability of feedstock production; genetic development of new tree feedstocks; silviculture trials to analyze forest health; analysis of the management, harvest and storage of grass-type feedstocks; and landowner and public education programs.

Alliance partners include Honda of South Carolina Manufacturing Inc., which is leasing land to Clemson to conduct agricultural research; ArborGen Inc., which is providing trees for testing; and NexSteppe Inc., which will collaborate on the development of new biomass sorghum hybrids for the region.

Led by Clemson professor James Frederick, researchers will evaluate switchgrass and biomass sorghum at the Pee Dee Research and Education Center. The project also will include test plots to analyze different varieties of cottonwood, sweetgum and other hardwood species, as well as selected conifer trees, as sources of bioenergy. It will provide insight into how energy crops could affect soil health, air and water quality, and biodiversity. Crops and trees will be studied for potential combustion as an alternative to coal and for conversion to liquid biofuels, such as ethanol.

“The more crop and tree options we are able to combine for biomass production, the more productive and sustainable it will be,” said Fabian Capdevielle, research and development manager for Abengoa Energy Crops. “Field research is needed to evaluate where both limitations and opportunities exist for these new crops.”

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