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May 01, 2017 07:46 AM EDT

The University of Iowa plan to reduce reliance on coal in its power plant and has been burning Miscanthus grass as a renewable energy source. Burning 1 acre of can offset 4 tons of coal in a power plant and a field of the grass can grow for a decade or more without replanting. Miscanthus can tolerate Iowa winters and can't produce seeds, so it won't invade neighboring fields.

University of Iowa's renewable energy business development manager, Erin Hazen, said replacing coal with Miscanthus makes environmental sense. It benefits the university and all of eastern Iowa. Coal is not great for the environment and has problematic emissions. Since 2015, the university has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 17 percent with Miscanthus and other biofuels.

The university will also benefit in an economic sense. Its power plant has a $14 million budget for fuel and some of it is used for coal. The money spent on coal goes out of state. Hazen said they want to divert the money in state to give more income for growers.

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The university plan to generate 10 percent of its energy from Miscanthus and use biomass fuels for the other 90 percent. Their goal is to eventually eliminate dependence on coal by 2025, Omaha reported.

The Biomass Fuel Project has recruited about 15 growers and more than 800 acres of Miscanthus across eastern Iowa so far. Jay Kemp, has more than 100 acres of Miscanthus on his property in Letts located 37 miles southeast of Iowa City. He decided to rent his fields to the University of Iowa for his convenience.

Kemp said he's getting just as much out of it as it he was renting it to a farmer. One advantage to it he said was it doesn't need to be fertilized or do anything at all.

He recently held a demonstration for farmers that were interested in growing Miscanthus. Officials from the university and partners attended the demonstration and answered some questions. Kemp's partners were Iowa State University and Aggrow Tech, which planted the Miscanthus on his property.


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Follows university of Iowa, Miscanthus, coal, Iowa, Erin Hazen, environment, eastern Iowa, Biofuels, Biomass Fuel Project, Jay Kemp, Aggrow Tech
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