Sustainable energy source; Miscanthus

The word’s dwindling supply of oil and coal resources has intensified the search for alternative, sustainable energy.   A perennial grass, Miscanthus Giganteus could effectively reduce our dependence on fossil fuel, while lowering atmospheric carbon dioxide.

 

The word’s dwindling supply of oil and coal resources has intensified the search for alternative, sustainable energy.   A perennial grass, Miscanthus Giganteus could effectively reduce our dependence on fossil fuel, while lowering atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Using a simulation tool that models the future global climate, researchers predicts energy crop, Miscanthus can repair the carbon that is released into the atmosphere from the loss of natural vegetation within 30 years.

According to scholars from the National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) in Taiwan, the long perennial grass may become a sustainable and environmental-friendly energy source.  “As the world is faced with a serious resources shortage, the search for alternative energy should be a nation’s top priority. Miscanthus, known as elephant grass, has already been grown in Europe and based on an Irish study, if 10 percent of growing land in Europe is planted with Miscanthus, it can generate about 9 – 10 percent of total electricity needs in the European Union countries,” said Tzen-Yueh Chaing, professor of life sciences.

Miscanthus can be found in several areas in Taiwan; the rapid growing grass has a low mineral content and salt-proof characteristic.  The energy grass can save energy and reduce carbon emissions, it is also very profitable, once planted it can be harvested year after year for 20 years.  In comparison with heating oil it can reduce heating cost by as much as 50 percent.  One hectare of Miscanthus yields twelve to 20 tons per year and provides an energy yield of about 6,000 liters of heating oil.

“In Taiwan, one hectare of land can produce 38 tons of Miscanthus to replace the most commonly used oil,” said Wen-Teng Wu, director of the energy research centre.

According to Wu, burning one ton of coal will lead to 2.62 tons in carbon dioxide emission, whereas this wild grass can absorb carbon dioxide without polluting the air.

The high energy balance of Miscanthus Giganteus is associated with a high carbon balance for the crop. Calculations put the Miscanthus Giganteus carbon ratio at 53:1 (Renewable Energy World, 2011). This means that, of the carbon contained in the fuel, for every one part of man-made carbon input needed to grow and harvest it, 53 parts are absorbed by the crop from the environment.

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