Feasibility of sorghum fuel tested
Chromatin Inc., a biomass supplier with operations
in California, and Constellation Energy, a power company headquartered
in Maryland, have agreed to study the feasibility of burning
sorghum as an alternative fuel at two power plants in California.
The plants are jointly owned by Constellation and North American
Constellation understands the potential for becoming sustainable
with sorghum as an energy crop. “We were attracted to sorghum
biomass because it offers potentially high energy content, and
can be handled in our plants with only minor modifications to
our equipment,” said Steve Gross, managing director of West Region
operations for Constellation Energy’s Power Generation Group.
Chromatin is growing three fields of sorghum, which has high
energy content and can be grown on marginal lands. Chromatin’s
first sorghum crop grew more than 12 feet high in less than three
months. The company plans to harvest the crop in September and
October, with other fields under production for future biomass
supply. The harvested sorghum will be test-burned to determine
whether the fuel source will feasibly generate electricity.
The sorghum-powered plants, referred to as the Rio Bravo plants,
are located in Bakersfield and Fresno. Rio Bravo Poso, in Bakersfield,
currently uses coal and petroleum coke, while Rio Bravo Fresno
burns ag residue and construction and demolition debris.
“California requires load-serving entities generate 33 percent
of their power from renewable sources by 2020,” Gross said. “If
we can rely more on sustainable biomass to fuel our plants and
capture greenhouse gases, we would be taking important steps
toward generating the clean power that is the cornerstone of
California energy policy.”