A Northwest Pennsylvania farmer is within months if not weeks of unveiling a mechanism that converts bales of switch grass into a burnable heat source, according to The Associated Press.
Calvin Ernst of Crawford County said the wood-like pellets that are generated also can produce electricity or can absorb moisture. The 71-year-old and his son have been working on the contraption and are pleased with their progress thus far. The plan is to have the device up and running in April, when it will generate five tons of pellets per hour.
"We have like 25 different motors in this thing all trying to work together. It would be easy for something to go wrong," he told the news service.
The pellets that come from processed switch grass generate 5 percent less energy than pellets that come from wood. Yet the switch grass pellets are capable of producing two times as much energy in one year per acre.
The effort is funded by an $896,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Environmental Protection Department. Ernst's idea has long been in the planning stages as he planted 1,000 acres of switch grass in 2007.