Growing Barley as Biomass fuel


Grasses and grains offer a good potential for fast growing fuel, which generally have a much shorter harvest cycle than fully mature trees. for boilers, however Alaska’s climate is not particularly well suited for many of the biomass crops used in other producing regions. Alaska does have some viable options for producing biomass that are currently being researched and developed as a cheap, clean and renewable resource for heating Alaskan homes and community buildings.

Delta Junction Barley

Barley grown in Delta Junction has been identified as a possible source of biomass energy for Fort Greely. Developing this resource falls into Alaska’s stated agricultural goals of providing employment, promoting a self supporting agricultural industry, and ensuring agricultural practices are environmentally sound. (HCR 29, 1981)

Barley could be viable in Alaska projects for several reasons. It is successfully being produced in the region in smaller quantities.There is a large amount of fallow land in the Delta/Fort Greely region, creating a market for local farmers would provide incentive for higher production, thus promoting a local economy. Barley has a consistent moisture of 13%, while other woody biomass fuels often vary in their moisture content. Consistent moisture allows boilers to be managed more efficiently. Unlike pellets which do have consistent moisture content, barley requires no additional processing after storage, nor does barley pose serious environmental concerns. Unlike some grain crops being used to produce alternative fuels, using barley for energy does not remove grain from the food system, as Alaska’s land availability far exceeds the 5000 acres of land currently being used to provide feed for livestock. There is at least 50,000 acres which could be used to provide Fort Greely and potentially other communities with a renewable and cost effective fuel source.

The economic incentives for increased barley as biomass are great. Farming on 5000 acres of currently fallow land would bring 2.8 million in direct sales. Increases in production would mean an increased job market, building an economy in rural workforces. In addition to developing local economy, Fort Greely would reduce its fuel use by almost 2 million gallons, and save almost 3 million in tax dollars. Ultimately Fort Greely would need around 15,000 tons of barley to meet its 220 billion BTU/year heating needs. Delta fields could produce approximately one ton per acre.

Project Facts:
71,000 acres of farmland available in Delta ||
Approximately 5000 currently used for barley production ||

Cost per million Btu $16.47 (Barley) $33.71 (Fuel Oil) at $4.08/gallon
393,000 BTUs per bushel of barley
1 bushel of Barley = 3.6 gallons
1 bushel Barley costs 5.60, 3.6 gallons of fuel cost 14.69

Fort Greely:
2010 estimated fuel cost 5.5 million dollars
2010 estimated gallons 1.9 million gallons
Equivalent barley fuel cost 2.8 million gallons

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