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Switchgrass Biofuel Makes Home Energy Costs Drop


switchgrass-biofuelAccording to a study conducted by the USDA Agricultural Research Service, the burning of biomass in the form of switchgrass, instead of oil, could cut down energy costs of companies and homes.

The study shows that this is particularly true for regions such as the Northeast, where the price of oil as well as the energy consumption is much higher. But, the study does not suggest that owners of functioning oil heaters should replace them. The money-saving strategy would work only if a replacement of old equipment is required.

The Agricultural Research Service provided an estimate of the cost per gigajoule of heat. If a new pellet heating system in a residence is installed, it generates energy worth $21.36 while the same amount from oil sums up to $28.22.

The study, however, emphasizes that installing a pellet burner would be more expensive than the oil one, especially when fuel handling and storage are added to the equation.

A big advantage for switchgrass biofuel is the fact that it generates less greenhouse gas emissions, even when the process of producing the switchgrass is included.  Converting to biofuel could reduce the emissions by 146 pounds of CO2 per gigajoule, according to the study.

One of the most intriguing conclusions is that switchgrass used for home heating could replace 17.2 megajouls, or 116 gallons of oil, while if used as a bio-gasoline, the amount drops to 6.2 megajouls, or 50 gallons of gasoline. Same applies to greenhouse gas emissions.

The study suggests that switching to this biofuel at home would reduce the expenses of households in the Northwast, but the authors are not so convinced about using switchgrass as a gasoline replacement.

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