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Biomass

Do you ever wonder where tomorrow’s energy will come from?

The more we learn, the more we realize that earth-friendly, renewable energy sources are right here – in Midwestern fields and forests – full of opportunity.

Alliant Energy has been a leader in the exploration of renewable energy sources for decades. Our generation portfolio is comprised of a variety of renewable energy sources such as wind, hydro, solar and biofuels – like biogas and biomass – with projects ranging from small on site anaerobic digesters to large scale wind farms.

Biomass includes things like grasses, waste-wood and corn stalks. Our work with biomass dates back to the late 1990’s when we began experimenting with switchgrass. We conducted a series of switchgrass test burns at our Ottumwa Generating Station in Ottumwa, Iowa between 2000 and 2006.

biomass processingNelson Dewey Test Burns

Employees at the Nelson Dewey Generating Station (NED) in Cassville, Wisconsin successfully completed biomass test burns in both 2010 and 2011 after receiving Research and Testing Exemptions (RTE) from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR).

The purpose of the test burns was to help gain a better understanding about environmental impacts, supply chain capabilities, material delivery and handling costs, blending and combustion of biomass based materials within the current plant configuration.

While we have no current plans to burn biomass at NED on a permanent basis, the knowledge we gained from performing these test burns will help with future strategic planning purposes.

switchgrass fieldBiomass studies

Established in May 2008, Alliant Energy is helping fund a study of switchgrass demonstration plots in southwestern Wisconsin.

The project is being coordinated by the Southwest Badger Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Council – a nonprofit community development organization whose mission is to implement natural resource conservation, managed growth and sustainable rural economic development in the nine county area of southwestern Wisconsin. The University of Wisconsin Extension is also participating in the study, and conducting the research. The goal of the project is to determine the best management practices for maximizing switchgrass yields in southwestern Wisconsin.

This study involves six sites covering about 62 acres. Each site is also separated into several different test plots. There are differences in the establishment of switchgrass across the test plots based on things like tillage, weed cover, herbicide treatment, fertilizer application and seed mix.

Researchers have seen a full range from the test plots with some having no switchgrass in the first year, to fairly well established test plots in the second and third harvest years. Well established switchgrass was harvesting about three to three and a-half tons per acre.

In 2010, the Southwest Badger RC&D Council, also with funding help from Alliant Energy, established a four acre miscanthus demonstration and a 15 acre switchgrass demonstration containing one established and two new hybrid varieties of switchgrass and 10 acres of forage sorghum provided by Blade Energy Crops, a division of Ceres. Miscanthus is a very high-yield crop that has not been tested in Wisconsin before.