Growing energy on the countryside

An emerging economic challenge for greater Minnesota involves developing renewable energy sources for local consumption.

To lay the groundwork for the next generation, the West Central Rural Outreach Center (WCROC) has launched an extensive applied research program in renewable energy geared towards rural Minnesota users and producers.  

An extention of the University of Minnesota's College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences, WCROC tests and develops biomass gasification, creates synthetic fertilizer (NH3) from wind turbines, as well as photovoltaic and solar-thermal systems.

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    Two points in response

    (1)  The Morris "biomass gasifier" hasn't worked out well.  This has been well-obscured in oceans of promotional propaganda, but the Strib has reported (date unclear) that:

    "The biomass gasifier was built in 2008 but did not run with any consistency until this fall. "We had major issues with fuel density and fuel uniformity," Rasmussen said.

    They tried prairie grass, corn cobs, wood chips, wheat straw and harvested soybean plants. (Soybean plants, Rasmussen said, were "a big disappointment.") They tried grinding, compacting, blending and making briquettes and pellets.

    "We are now closing in on the range and variation of fuels that we can successfully gasify," he said. Once created, that gas can be a substitute for natural gas.

    For a few more months, the facility will remain in the research phase. So an operator might run it for five days, then pause it for five days to collect samples and do analysis."

    http://www.startribune.com/local/115613614.html?page=all&prepage=2&c=y#continue

    (2) The term "renewable energy" is meaningless because it doesn't distinguish desirable (wind, solar....) from undesirable, highly-polluting sources such as "biomass."

    Alan Muller