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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: The Biology and Politics of Alfalfa Electricity

Authors
item Sheaffer, Craig - UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA
item Lamb, Joann
item Martin, Neal
item Jung, Hans Joachim
item Samac, Deborah

Submitted to: North American Alfalfa Improvement Conference
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: July 17, 2000
Publication Date: N/A

Technical Abstract: Alfalfa was the primary biofuel source in the Minnesota Agri-Power (MAP) project that involved a partnership of the Minnesota Valley Alfalfa Producers (MnVAP), the University of Minnesota, the United States Department of Energy (DOE), and private sector energy processing and distribution businesses. The planned system involved separation of alfalfa hay into leaf and stem fractions. The leaves were to be used as a high protein feed supplement while the stems were to be gasified to power a 75 megawatt turbine. The project provided for electrical generation without carbon dioxide emissions, economic diversification of cropping systems, enhancement of environmental quality and wildlife habit, and rural development. The project began in 1993 when the Minnesota Legislature mandated that Northern States Power, a major utility, produce a small amount of its electricity from renewable sources such as wind or biomass in nreturn for permission to store nuclear waste. The project was terminated i 1999. Obstacles to completion of the project included protracted power purchase contract negotiations, unusual delays in approval of the contract by the Minnesota Public Utility Commission, opposition by the Alfalfa processing industry, and the high cost of alfalfa-based electricity. Despite political constraints, research activities showed: the value of newly developed tall, non-lodging alfalfa cultivars for infrequent biofuel harvests; the feeding value of alfalfa leaf meal for sheep, beef cattle, and dairy; the merit of alternative harvest frequencies on yield and quality of alfalfa leaves and stems; the impact of plant density on leaf and stem yield and quality; and the impact of hay storage conditions on the yield and quality of alfalfa leaves and stems.

Last Modified: 11/27/2014
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