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Biofuel project in Spokane County wins $90,000 grant

Farm Power converting straw to electricity

A Spokane County company has been awarded a $90,000 grant to continue developing a process that converts bluegrass straw into biofuels.

Farm Power, based in Rockford, will use the U.S. Department of Agriculture money for automating controls and feedstock systems, project director Jack Zimmer said Wednesday.

“We’re currently doing all this by hand,” he said, which makes finding the best mixtures of fuel and air difficult.

Zimmer said Farm Power will test other types of straw, as well as sawdust and liquid fuels, to determine which will yield mixes of carbon monoxide, hydrogen and methane best suited for combustion in a diesel generator.

The electricity produced can be used on a farm and nearby structures, or fed back onto the transmission grid, Zimmer said, adding that Inland Power and Light Co. is among the companies working with Farm Power on the project.

He said the company hopes to have 350 kilowatt-hour units ready for sale in about 18 months.

A 2,000-acre farm producing enough straw to keep the unit running 24/7 could recoup the cost in three to four years, Zimmer said.