Grow Your Own Fuel

Grow Your Own Fuel

If you’re situated on acres of farmland, you just might be able to grow your own fuel to heat greenhouses. That’s what Arie Van Vugt, owner of Plainview Growers is doing at his more rural facility in Allamuchy, N.J.

Van Vugt just purchased a 500-hp burner that will burn wood pellets and pellets made out of grasses, like switchgrass and miscanthus, from Crone Boilers in Holland through Total Energy Group. He will be planting 200 acres of miscanthus in open fields and using wood pellets in the mean time, while waiting for those yields.

GG: What made you consider growing miscanthus as an alternative fuel?

“At our Allamuchy facility, which is farm country, there is no way of getting natural gas–just propane or fuel oil. When we started there nine years ago, we were paying $1 per gallon for No. 2 fuel oil. This past season, it was $4 a gallon. We are using approximately  7,000 gallons every week and could not afford it. We’ll burn 150,000 gallons of oil during the season. It was the first time in my career I was ever forced to make this type of decision based on an outside factor such as energy. We looked at other growers’ operations using wood chips and decided it was too much work, too much handling and not exactly what we were looking to do. When we were tipped off about wood pellets, the whole miscanthus option came up. After much research  of  all the different types of alternative fuels available, we decided that miscanthus   was for Pvg.  We have since contacted Rutgers University, which is trialing switchgrass and miscanthus as an alternative fuel source. Together we are working on which varieties are best suited for northern New Jersey.”

GG: How are you making the conversion from fuel oil to miscanthus grass?

“We jumped in with both feet and are going to go for it. We’re putting in 200 acres of grass. It takes two years to establish yields. The grass is a perennial and good for 20 years of production. We just purchased a 500 hp pellet burner from Crone Boilers in Holland and are putting up two 250-ton silos for storage .This season, we will be using wood pellets from Energex Corp based out of Harrisburg PA, and have a two-year contract with set pricing. Once we purchase a pelletizing machine, we will be self sufficient. Our goal is to be oil / gas free ( including Pompton Plains ) within the next few years.”

GG: What do you expect your savings and return on investment to be?
“We expect our return on investment to be four years. With wood pellets, we’ll be paying $1.65 versus $4.00 oil (equivalent at 144,000 btus) when we switch to grass pellets; we expect to save 90 cents more. This is quite an undertaking, an exciting project. I was at a recent bank board meeting and told them about it and it created such a buzz–the whole idea of growing your own energy and fuel. We’re fortunate to have the land to produce it ourselves.”

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20 comments on “Grow Your Own Fuel

  1. I think this is great. It would be nice to be efficient with cost savings and at the same time productive. This is truly green and I hope more people like this will go on to do the same thing. We need to quit depending on oil and gas. It is cleaner for the environment and less costly. Great to know that other people care.

  2. When (Summer or Autumn, and just once?) will the Miscanthus be harvested and what equipment will be used?

    Sue Vargas
    MasterTag
    Montague, Michigan

  3. The grass Arie is growing is Miscanthus x giganteus. The Allamuchy facility has 8 acres of greenhouse and a few more will be added. The grass is a perennial. I believe it will be havested only once in the fall.

  4. Dear Arie,

    From my researach Miscanthus dries down to slow and the stalks do not leach out enough nutrients so you get significant more ash. Switch grass if cut in the fall and harvested in the very early spring gets the ash content down to about 5% The crop is native and lives indefinitely. It is also easier and less costly to establish. Make sure the wood pellets have no sand in them. Ash content of good wood pellets can be lower than 1%. Ash and the clinkers are what cause all the problem.

  5. This is what the government should have backed instead of ethenaol. This type of innovation is what it will take for our industry to be competitive in the future.

    It would be great to see regional cooperative ventures to produce and pelletize this type of fuel for retail growers who could then lease the boilers and buy the fuel from the co-op.

  6. Its impressive and something new.Clients select Absolute Source because of our trained and certified programmers’and developers’unique ability to blend award-winning Web design with Dynamic web programming.Orange County Web Design

  7. I think this is great. It would be nice to be efficient with cost savings and at the same time productive. This is truly green and I hope more people like this will go on to do the same thing. We need to quit depending on oil and gas. It is cleaner for the environment and less costly. Great to know that other people care.

  8. Can you tell us what MIscanthus you will be growing?
    Thanks
    Art Cameron
    Professor of Horticulture
    Michigan State University

  9. What is the ratio of acres of grass to acres of greenhouse? How many acres of greenhouse will those 200 acres of grass heat?

  10. When (Summer or Autumn, and just once?) will the Miscanthus be harvested and what equipment will be used?

    Sue Vargas
    MasterTag
    Montague, Michigan

  11. The grass Arie is growing is Miscanthus x giganteus. The Allamuchy facility has 8 acres of greenhouse and a few more will be added. The grass is a perennial. I believe it will be havested only once in the fall.

  12. Dear Arie,

    From my researach Miscanthus dries down to slow and the stalks do not leach out enough nutrients so you get significant more ash. Switch grass if cut in the fall and harvested in the very early spring gets the ash content down to about 5% The crop is native and lives indefinitely. It is also easier and less costly to establish. Make sure the wood pellets have no sand in them. Ash content of good wood pellets can be lower than 1%. Ash and the clinkers are what cause all the problem.

  13. This is what the government should have backed instead of ethenaol. This type of innovation is what it will take for our industry to be competitive in the future.

    It would be great to see regional cooperative ventures to produce and pelletize this type of fuel for retail growers who could then lease the boilers and buy the fuel from the co-op.

  14. Its impressive and something new.Clients select Absolute Source because of our trained and certified programmers’and developers’unique ability to blend award-winning Web design with Dynamic web programming.Orange County Web Design

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