Grass pellet fuel for electricity production

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2011: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Mary Dolan
Flyingrabbit Farm

Information Products


  • Agronomic: general hay and forage crops


  • Energy: bioenergy and biofuels
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal summary:

    This project will use locally produce grass pellets to produce electricity for our farm’s use. We propose use grass grown on marginal land to be converted to pellets by our neighbors, New York Enviro Energy and then use those pellets to generate electrical energy for our farm. We propose to build a gasification unit that gasify the grass pellets and the resulting gas runs a small internal combustion engine that drives an electric generator to produce electricity for on farm use. The waste heat from the engine will also be used to assist in heating the green house. Our goal to be successful in gasifing grass pellets there by increasing interest and demand for locally produce grass fuel. This will result in an additional crop for area farmers and will reduce dependence on fossil fuels. We have an abundance of old hay lands and low quality land that could be producing fuels to reduce our reliance on foreign fuel. This project will endeavor to demonstrate that grass pellets can produce electricity as well as heat for farms.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    First, we will purchase a GEK gasifier kit. We chose the GEK model as it is a small unit that has been successful used burning wood chips. The GEK produces enough syn gas to drive a 10,000 watt generator which is the maximum allowed under the NYS grid tie program for small scale combine heat and power systems. The unit has also been used by many people successfully using wood chip and the design has been constantly improved.

    Second, we will run test on the GEK to see if the gasification of grass pellets will work. The primary concern is whether the small pellets allow enough air space to allow gasification in the GEK unit. This is where we will have to test and determine whether the pellets will have to be mixed with other biomass fuels such as wood chips or corn cobs.

    Third, if we are successful producing a combustible syn gas using the GEK, we will test the combustion in a 25 horsepower gas engine using our John Deere 40 as the engine. This will power a PTO driven 10,000 watt synchronous generator so that we can measure the out put. While syn gas burns best in ignition engines, we will also test using syn gas in a diesel compression engine. The diesels are generaly more efficient and the syngas can be used as intake air while a very small amount of diesel fuel is used to start combustion, as syn gas will not combust on compression alone. We will use or Kubota diesel to see if we can get a more efficient burn using a compression engine.

    Fourth, we will share our results. The main point of this project is to generate more interest in using locally produced grass pellets as fuel. There has been a lot of research and interest using grass pellets as heat fuel and we would like to see if we can develop an additional use for pellets.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.