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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: American Forage and Grassland Council Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: July 19, 2000
Publication Date: N/A

Technical Abstract: Alfalfa was the primary biofuel source in the Minnesota Agri-Power project involving a partnership of Minnesota Valley Alfalfa Producers (MnVAP), University of Minnesota, USDA, Department of Energy (DOE), and private sector energy processing and distribution businesses. The system separated alfalfa hay into leaf and stem fractions. Leaves were to be used as a protein feed supplement while the stems were to be gasified to power a 75-megawatt turbine. The electrical generation system was without net carbon dioxide emissions, economic diversification of crop systems, enhancement of environmental quality and wildlife habitat, and rural development. The project began in 1993 when the Minnesota legislature mandated Northern States Power, a major utility, produce a small amount of its electricity from biomass in return for permission to store nuclear wastes. The project was ultimately terminated in 1999 following expenditure eof nearly $6 million of MnVAP member funds and $12 million of DOE funds. Obstacles to project completion included a protracted power purchase contract by Minnesota Public Utility Commission, opposition by alfalfa processing industry, and high cost of alfalfa-based electricity. Despite political constraints, we were able to complete significant research on biological aspects of the system. Our research showed: successful use of near infrared reflectance spectroscopy for rapid prediction of leaf and mineral concentration of hay; newly developed tall, non-lodging alfalfa cultivars for infrequent biofuels-harvest; feeding value of alfalfa meal for dairy, beef, and turkey; merit of alternative harvest frequencies on yield and quality of alfalfa leaves and stems; and the impact of hay storage conditions on the yield of alfalfa leaves and stems.

Last Modified: 11/26/2014
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