Genera Energy plants switchgrass along interstate

By Luke Geiver | June 10, 2010
Posted June 28, 2010

Genera Energy LLC, a Tennessee-based renewable energy company, has begun working with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) to plant switchgrass. TDOT has planted test plots along interstate corridors to help reduce maintenance costs related to mowing and possibly for future biomass energy use. "We're hoping our research will determine the suitability of highway corridors for biomass production," said Sam Jackson, vice president of feedstock operations for Genera. "Switchgrass has significant potential to thrive along the interstates and provide TDOT with cost-savings."

The partnership started after the TDOT read about the benefits of the grass and approached Genera, according to Jennifer Burke, communications director for Genera. On approximately 6,000 acres, Genera has contracts with farms to grow the grass for plants like the cellulosic biorefinery in Vonroe, Tenn. "We currently grow switchgrass in nine East Tennessee counties," said Jackson. "Our goal is to help farmers produce healthy switchgrass that can then be turned into energy, such as cellulosic ethanol or pellets for combustion with coal for green power." The test plots, planted at four separate locations, are not currently under contract and there are no plans at this time for the grass to be harvested for biomass use, Burke said.