News Releases

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) -- Senator Murray has secured $750,000 for the Straw to Energy Project in the FY2004 Energy and Water Appropriations conference report. The bill was reported out of conference committee today and will be going to the House and Senate floor for final passage sometime this week or next. Senator Murray is a member of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee and was a member of the conference.

The initiative is a demonstration project to utilize new technologies to convert waste, excess grass, or wheat straw into value-added energy.

“I am proud to have secured this important funding for Eastern Washington,” said Murray. “This technology has the potential to provide long-lasting economic benefit for Eastern Washington. Eventually, our farmers could get paid for their farm waste and our region could have a renewable source of energy.”

Washington grass seed producers are not allowed to burn the straw residue in their fields after harvest due to clean air regulations. This excess straw inhibits re-growth of the new plant. Straw removal is employed by producers, but the straw accumulates with few options for disposal or use.

New technologies developed at NW National Laboratories, and by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and private parties have demonstrated that this field residue can be converted into a gas which can fuel a diesel generator or be converted into ethanol.

The goal of this project is to demonstrate how these technologies can be adapted to a farm scale production where by a farmer can utilize the residue to produce energy which may be utilized on the farm or sold in the form of electrical energy or ethanol. The farm scale size is desired to avoid the high transportation costs of the bulk commodity and to enhance family farm energy sustainability.

The scope of the project will be to determine the optimum operating scale, to refine the processing, storage, and delivery of raw materials, to analyze the residues created by the process (waste and emissions), to develop markets for the products produced, and perform economic analysis to demonstrate economic impact on the family farm.

The potential to provide family farmers a solution to agricultural waste, the opportunity to become more energy self-sufficient, and to develop alternative marketable products from crop residue could add a new economic dimension to NW dryland agriculture. These new technologies can provide a positive step forward in utilizing our bountiful agricultural production to provide new sources of affordable, clean, renewable energy.

Partners in the project include Inland Power and Light, the Bonneville Power Administration, USDA, and local farmers. Inland Power and Light will provide hook-up to the transmission grid, BPA has provided a generator, and USDA is providing research into fuels and other issues.

The demonstration project will be located on the Gady Farm in Spokane County.