BROOKSVILLE, Ky. (AP) — An alternative fuel experiment in northeastern Kentucky didn't work out as well as hoped, but officials are still calling it a success.
The project between the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture and Eastern Kentucky Power Cooperative had farmers grow switchgrass to use at a generating plant near Maysville. The three-year experiment ended as 2013 began.
Eastern Kentucky Power officials told The Ledger Independent (http://bit.ly/TL2miI) that the project showcased how different substances can be used for fuel to make electricity and reduce plant emissions.
UK officials said they had to change how the switchgrass was processed during the experiment, and had bales of unprocessed switchgrass left over.
Even so, UK Hay marketing specialist Tom Keene called the project successful. He says officials "learned a lot that we can use on future projects."
The Spurlock Station facility near Maysville took 265 tons of switchgrass in 2010, and Keene said officials decided that year to change to a pelleted product mixed with coal to make handling easier.
"Early in the process it became clear we needed a product delivery system to utilize our conveyer type fuel delivery system," said Nick Comer, EKP spokesman. "A year or so ago we donated about $100,000 to UK to help with the development of a pelleting process."
Keene said a machine that resembled a large food processor ground and compressed the switchgrass into pellets that were nearly the size of a hockey puck. The items were then taken by truck from the Brooksville processing plant to the power plant.
Last year, Keene said between 20 to 25 tons of pure pelleted switchgrass was delivered, but that fell short of the 100-ton goal.
"The machinery could not take the material as fast as we had hoped," Keene said. "We knew it would be a learning process."
He said problems with the machine also delayed production.
"We had to wait for parts from overseas," he said. "Why we do these projects is to learn."
Keene said now that the experiment is over, the pellet machinery will be used at other UK experiment sites.
Comer said the power company learned in the process as well.
"The pelleted product served us well," Comer said. "I know there have been challenges, but that is part of the process of finding new ways to do things."
Information from: The Ledger Independent, http://www.maysville-online.com