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These really should be ‘one of the above’; On-site grass pelletizers

This simple apparatus, powered by an old tractor, can turn six acres of grass (and/or weeds) into a season’s worth of heating for an average house in the Northeast.
Photo contributed by Will Brandau

By Anne Willard
September 28, 2016

HONESDALE, PA — As peak oil and global warming have increased the urgency of finding replacements for fossil fuels, the option of biomass is one that is frequently mentioned without ever seeming to gain much of a foothold, at least in this country. But there are some locals who have been developing some interesting techniques and ideas about one kind of biomass that could prove a boon to our own area: grass pellets that can be burned, like wood pellets, for heat. A couple of them came to the Wayne County Conservation District (WCCD) office last Saturday to give a workshop presenting some technology that could move grass pellets one step closer to commercial viability.

An indoor presentation on small-scale, on-site pelletizers was given by Will Brandau of Wapwallopan, followed by a hands-on outdoor demonstration by businessman and farmer Larry Hartpence of Moscow. The workshop was sponsored by the WCCD and the Pocono Northeast Research and Development Council.

The focus of the workshop was to introduce and explain the use and benefits of small-scale densifiers that can be purchased economically by individual farmers or small groups of farmers (or any owner of a property with even a few acres of fields) to turn the grass in their fields into pellets. This represents a huge practical advance, as hitherto there has been only one pelletizing facility anywhere remotely close, Enviro Energy in Unadilla, NY, dozens of miles from our area and not a practical distance to haul hay.

If farmers can produce the pellets at low cost on their own properties, they can also use it to heat their own houses, and perhaps those of any interested neighbors. They might also be able to sell their surplus at local farmers’ markets or farm outlets like Agway not only for burning, but also for uses like high-quality horse bedding and kitty litter (they absorb and neutralize ammonia smell), animal food and mulch.