It may look like ordinary farm equipment, but take a second look. This innovative machinery was developed with Energy Department funding to help biofuels become more affordable. Looking more closely at this image and accompanying infographic, you can see that this combination harvester both harvests and bales corn cobs, husks, stalks, and residue all in one step. Its purpose is to save the time and money required to harvest corn stover feedstock for biofuel production, ultimately helping make biofuel from non-food sources cost-competitive with petroleum gasoline.
This combination harvester is just one of many new innovative harvesting technologies that were recently completed through $21 million in 2010 Energy Department funding awarded to AGCO Corporation, FDC Enterprises, TennEra, the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF), and Auburn University. As with two new feedstock logistics projects selected for funding in late 2014, and another in 2013, the purpose was to lower the costs involved in collecting, storing, and transporting corn stover and other cellulosic feedstocks to the biorefinery.
Some of the new machinery is already available on the commercial market, including Tigercats’ feller buncher and skidder, and New Holland’s self-propelled forest harvester. Machinery developed through all the projects have led to unique and innovative technologies to harvest corn stover and energy crop grasses and trees—saving labor and machine costs in the biomass supply chain while reducing greenhouse gas emissions from harvesting and logistics operations. Demonstrations of the projects showed cost reductions of as much as 34% over conventional systems.
Each award recipient was required to partner with at least one biorefinery—such as newly opened POET-DSM’s Project LIBERTY and the Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Kansas facility—and with at least one original equipment manufacturer—responsible for designing, building, and demonstrating the equipment. Original equipment manufacturers included Stinger (partnered with AGCO Corporation); Kelderman Manufacturing, Allied-Freeman, Vermeer, and Rotochopper (partnered with FDC Enterprises); Marathon Equipment, Laidig Systems, and Deere & Co. (partnered with TennEra); New Holland (partnered with SUNY-ESF), and Tigercat (partnered with Auburn University). Streamlining steps in the biomass harvesting and delivery process is important because biorefineries can only produce as much biofuel as there is feedstock, and cost reductions create savings that ultimately translate to lower biofuel prices.
Click through the infographic gallery above to see exciting innovations from each of the five projects and how they can help reduce the cost of biofuels.