Grass pellet heating system intended to provide new cash crop for farmers

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Experimental project being established at Perennia centre

Jonathon McClelland, general manager of West Nova Agro Commodities Ltd., in the Annapolis Valley, demonstrates some of the grass pellets his company is working to produce as a new, green energy source that could also provide a new cash crop for Nova Scotia farmers. HARRY SULLIVAN TRURO DAILY NEWS

BIBLE HILL - An experimental heating system being established at the Perennia Innovation Centre is intended to also serve as an avenue for new cash crops for Nova Scotia farmers.

A boiler room is being constructed behind the Bible Hill facility that is designed to burn grass pellets. The project is to serve as a pilot project to demonstrate how the experimental renewal resource can replace traditional heating sources, such as oil, which is currently used to heat the Perennia centre.

"We really like the idea that farmers can make money (by growing grass from which to make the pellets)," Agriculture Minister John MacDonell said, during the Tuesday morning announcement at the centre.

The Department of Agriculture is spending $787,200 to construct a building behind Perennia Centre for the pellet-burning boiler and to connect it to the facility.

A tender will be issued for a grass pellet supplier and the government is hoping the grass-burning initiative can be expanded to other companies and industry to the point that it will make it viable for Nova Scotia farmers to grow a special type of grass as a new cash crop.

"If the prices are right, and that's the other part of this," MacDonell said. "The farmer has to know it's worth turning on the tractor to do this."

The minister said there are about 40,000 hectares of pasture or forage land in the province that could easily be developed to produce 360,000 tonnes of grass pellets per year, a figure that could translate into $36 million annually for the agriculture industry.

Truro-Bible Hill MLA Lenore Zann, who was also present for the announcement, described the venture as a "very interesting and intriguing" idea that will provide a boost to innovators looking to establish the niche market.

"So, in doing this, we believe that we're helping to position Nova Scotia as a leader in this field while we help our farmers right here at home to continue growing a strong diverse agriculture industry that builds on our natural advantages," she said.

"When we do support our farmers, we are also helping to support our rural communities and we're helping to create jobs here at home and we're contributing to the provincial economy. And I think that's good for everybody, for all Nova Scotians."

The grass-burning boiler is expected to be ready for operation by the end of March and the government is currently working with West Nova Agro Commodities Ltd., in the Annapolis Valley to produce quality pellets.

Jonathon McClelland, general manager of West Nova Agro Commodities, estimated the cost of burning grass pellets could work out to about 60 to 70 per cent of the cost of burning furnace oil.

"We see this as an industry that can reduce energy costs ... provide cost stability and also provide a new green fuel for our environment," he said.

"And here is an opportunity for farmers to take the equipment they already own, make the good quality hay when the weather is good (and) once that peak time is past, they can use the same equipment to use the under-utilized land to produce a fuel and cash crop for them."



Organizations: Perennia Innovation Centre, Department of Agriculture, West Nova Agro Commodities

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Nova Scotians, Annapolis Valley

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Recent comments

  • bruce farrell
    November 30, 2012 - 14:58

    Huge expenditure was already laid out by the Dept of Agriculture some years past to convert a boiler for experimental bio-mass conversion at the AC. .Sawdust,wood pellets,etc.were feasibly used there and tested for both efficiency and efficacy . How could this boiler not be used for prototypical work with the grass pellets.Scaling down of this type is rarely a challenge in engineering,it's not a nuclear reactor. So,make your pellets with your "press",and truck them the few kms from AgriPark to the AC,if you cannot produce enough to fire up that boiler---you need a better process,not a smaller boiler. If the AC is no longer into research??,truck the pellets to the other bio-mass conversion boiler in Port Hawkesbury. But wait the pellets,or a steady supply of such,do not yet exist,this verges on idiocy. Well named,Perrennia,doing nothing here but attempting to create some "perennial" jobs jobs here.That's hardly innovative.

  • Jeff Johnston
    Jeff Johnston
    November 29, 2012 - 14:03

    Seems the only thing you have to do these days to scam our government out of millions of dollars is show them a bucket of grass . The only thing this is fueling is bureaucratic greed .

  • Doug
    November 29, 2012 - 11:14

    This could be all well and good as long it doesnt push commodity prices up like the Corn for ethenol does. Completely understand the need for sustainable energy, but when lots of familys cant afford to eat, having farmers pay more for hay (if they dont make their own) is only gonna put costs up in other areas......

  • Amanda
    November 29, 2012 - 06:56

    Are you kidding me PRICEY? Many scientists say this? and the majority do not. Even if we did have enough oil left for 800 years it's not just about the amount of oil left, it's about the environment. Our environment can not handle the burning of fossil fuels for much longer. I suppose you are one of those people who claim climate change isn't a real danger to us. I think you need to do some research into who is funding these scientists that claim everything is ok, I think you'll find some big name oil companies backing them.

    • Jeff Johnston
      November 29, 2012 - 12:27

      Hey Amanda , I think it's you that needs to do some research . You'll find that the exact opposite is true . The big oil companies have always funded the environmental groups to shut down production to create artificial scarcity so they can keep the price high . Plus there are all kinds of free energy technologies that are being suppressed , like water splitting . They are also trying to get control over water as well , and the town of Truro sold out sovereignty over our water to the provincial bureaucracy in 2008 . The Global Warming Movement is a total fraud and a hoax designed to bring in draconian taxes and controls on the population . Also the Ozone Layer Movement in the eighties was also a total hoax . This is where they banned freon coolants because supposedly they were breaking up the sky . As it turns out , the coolant companies that owned the patents for freon coolants funded this , because their patents were set to expire and their newer coolants that they had new patents for weren't as good so they needed to get the freon coolants banned .

  • Jeff Johnston
    Jeff Johnston
    November 28, 2012 - 22:18

    Burning oil enriches the soil . Growing and burning grass pellets depletes the soil . Have people learned nothing from the ethanol scandal ? They'll probably end up growing GMO grass for grass pellets , just like they grew GMO corn for ethanol . If they want a real cash crop they should let people grow industrial hemp which is 4 times stronger for making clothes and many other things . All these earth worshipers living in sin looking for ways to validate themselves . Worship the creator not the creation . Repent , give cash to the poor . Judgement is coming !

  • dana
    November 28, 2012 - 09:47

    Spending $800,000 just to build a building and about 100,000 in over run costs, the tax payers should be very happy with this . Someone needs to get there head in the right place . There is no way this cost will saved . Take on the chin tax payers.

  • Pricey
    November 28, 2012 - 07:05

    $787,200 to build the building? Let's see. At about $1.20 including 15% tax for Furnace Oil right now, thats 656,000 litres of Furnace Oil. Or to put it in perspective, about 38-65 of the oil trucks we see running around town all the time supporting the local economy, depending on their size. The math seems a bit skewed to me at the expense of tax dollars. Seems to be pretty expensive to make the switch to alternatives. Many scientists say there is enough oil for 800 years, so maybe a step back and ease into it may be a better plan instead of going in the poor house in the process. And what about the tractors and equipment used to produce the pellets? They must run on sunshine instead of diesel ?