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$10M Grant Will Fund Research into Biofuel-based Economic Development

The Northeast could help lead the way to a renewable-energy-based economy by growing energy crops on marginal and abandoned land.

The college aims to take that lead with a new research and education project supported by a $10 million grant from the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The Northeast Woody/Warm-season Biomass Consortium, or NEWBio, will develop perennial feedstock production systems and supply chains for shrub willow, switchgrass, and miscanthus.

“NEWBio is aimed at overcoming existing barriers and dramatically increasing the sustainable, cost-effective supply of lignocellulosic biomass,” says project leader Tom Richard, professor of agricultural and biological engineering and director of the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment.

Richard explains that NEWBio will center on four large demonstration projects operating on thousands of acres and producing 500 to 1,200 tons per day of lignocellulosic biomass suitable for manufacturing advanced transportation fuels.

Researchers involved in the project range from plant and forest scientists to agricultural engineers and economists.