IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The University of Iowa is
experimenting with the growing of miscanthus, a grass native to Asia that has a
variety of uses, including animal bedding, liquid biofuels and combustion for
The school on May 7 planted 15 acres on a farm south of Iowa
City. The grass will be part of the school’s biomass fuel project, which aims to
achieve 40 percent renewable energy by 2020, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported.
The school will follow the progress of the perennial grass
and potentially plant an additional 2,500 acres by 2016. UI expects to
eventually produce up to 25,000 tons per year of biomass fuel through the grass.
Giant miscanthus is a warm-season grass native known for its
high yields. It grows from 8 to 12 feet tall.
Officials hope to co-fire miscanthus with coal and burn it
in the university power plant as part of an effort to reduce consumption of
Ferman Milster, principal engineer of renewables at the UI’s
Office of Sustainability, said miscanthus can be good for Iowa farmers, because
it can help cut down on soil erosion and nutrient runoff.
“Soil and solar are two natural resources we have,” Milster
said about Iowa’s conditions for growing miscanthus. “All we have to do is
employ them to get our energy.”
Miscanthus has to be planted only once and can last up to 30
“You grow it here, cut it here and use it here,” said
Michele Dunn, a communications specialist with Repreve Renewal, a North Carolina
company that will work with UI in harvesting the grass and feeding it into the
power plant. “It doesn’t get much better than that.”
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