A Future Energy Generation Option for Rural Areas

As the Mars Sojourner rover amply demonstrated, future success in many areas could rest on combining low-tech with high-tech to find the most practical and cost-effective solution.


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Low- and high-tech could also be the future of electricity generation for some living in rural areas.

Researchers have predicted that in a few years biomass or renewable organic matter such as forest residues and agricultural crops and wastes will power fuel cells that generate electricity.

These biomass fuel cell proponents will be at a workshop, September 30 and October 1 at Arbor Day Lodge in Nebraska City, Nebraska.

A fuel cell is a device that converts the chemical energy of fuel directly into electricity. The fuel cell does not burn the fuel and does not need to produce steam. Using a fuel cell option, steam can be produced as part of a cogeneration system. The fuel cell uses an electro-chemical process that causes hydrogen atoms to give up their electrons.

Fuel cells have already produced power and heat for dispersed generation using indigenous biomass and waste-derived fuels. These power plants can provide energy on-site while reducing energy costs. Fuel cells also use highly efficient power generation technology that is environmentally clean since biomass is the "fuel."

A Power Plant in the Heartland?

The workshop organizers' goal is to provide attendees with the status and economics of biomass fuel cell power plant technology and identify possible partners in building a rural biomass fuel cell plant.

The Electric Power Research Institute workshop is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy's Western Regional Biomass Energy Program and Nebraska Energy Office.

For more information about the workshop, contact Jean Ku at Energy Research Corporation, phone 203-825-6215, Email erc!jku@attmail.com or Jeff Graef, in the Energy Office

Workshop at a Glance
September 30
  • Perspectives from federal energy and ag agencies, ethanol and corn producers and environmental interests
  • Fuel cell technology
  • Feedstock and rural development issues
  • Applications
    • On the farm
    • Ethanol plants
    • Digesters
  • Domestic and foreign markets
October 1
  • The economics
  • Finding a project and supporters
  • The business plan
  • Commercializing fuel cells
  • What is next?
Keynote speakers and others sessions as well as meals are also scheduled.

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