From biomass to energy

By Evan Johnson - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Renewable International Fuels, a Baton Rouge company, was in the Lake Area to demonstrate one of their units which turns biomass, such as switchgrass and wood chips, into energy.

Renewable International Fuels Environmental Director Dr. John Sutherlin says, "A little over a year ago, we started investing more and more money into developing a portable machine, or a movable machine, where you can go around and put wood chips, or any other carbon mass, inside the unit at high temperatures under pressure and it literally produces electricity."

The way the unit works is on one end the carbon material is placed into an airtight container and heated very high under pressure.  It then produces a gas that's filtered for any kind of pollutant before going into a standard sized generator which produces the electricity. Observers were impressed with what they saw and say the portable unit is a bright idea.

McNeese State University Farm Manager Darrin Goodwin says, "We live in Southwest Louisiana where we have a lot of renewable resources.  Just south of I-10, we're in the coastal prairie area.  Just north of I-10, we're in the piney woods area.  Right here, we're blessed in this area to have such biomass that can be used and converted to energy."

Frances Boo Kay, Principal of Bishop Noland Episcopal day school, says, "I think it's a great opportunity not only to learn about how this might be a great thing for businesses, but it's also a great thing to think about for schools."

The central Louisiana company says their creation is also good for small towns as well.

Sutherlin says, "This particular unit you could pull in after a disaster, chop up all of your wood, and convert it into electricity so you're back on the grid powering your drinking water and sewage system. This would have been perfect to have for FEMA after the hurricanes we've suffered in this state."

The Biomass to Energy unit is just one more possible solution as Americans strive to become energy independent.

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