Murray State’s use of biomass technology to improve campus and community

Murray State’s Equine Center received $309,000 to install, test and operate a biomass heating system for the facility from the Tennessee Valley Authority and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The biomass heating system will utilize renewable plant/crop feedstock — an agricultural crop that can be grown and used for energy or the waste from a crop — that will produce heat throughout the Equine Center from pipes connected to the walls of the facility. Some examples are energy beets, biomass sorghum, sorghum and switchgrass.

Loretta Daniel, director of the Regional Business and Innovation Center. said an example of a waste from a crop might be the corn stalk left after the harvest.

“In the equine center we will be using horse manure that will be used in the bioburner unit to produce heat,” Daniel continues.

In addition to the new biomass heating system, a portable unit will be used as a demonstration tool to educate regional farmers, agricultural individuals and the community on understanding how biomass-to-energy works and how this technology will benefit their businesses.

This type of technology is safe for the environment, will provide students with a unique learning opportunity and improve the quality of life in western Kentucky.

Daniel said the new biomass heating system will impact the future of Murray State and influence western Kentucky, because this piece of the Bio-Energy Demonstration Center will provide farms and businesses with the ability to see how to utilize biomass for heat, specifically with equine waste, but with other biomass as well.

“People in the horse industry around the world are interested in our project and are going to be following our progress, so the impact of what we learn will not only benefit West Kentucky and the state, but possibly the world as well,” Daniel said. “West Kentucky AgBioworks strives to be a catalyst for the development of the opportunities in biomass.”

Launched in 2009, the West Kentucky AgBioworks Initiative consists of multiple partners on Murray State University’s campus including the RBIC, the Arthur J. Bauernfeind College of Business, the Hutson School of Agriculture, the college of science, engineering and technology, and the regional outreach office, as well as outside agencies including the Purchase Area Development District and other local organizations.

The West Kentucky AgBioworks initiative anticipates the biomass heating system to be operational by the 2014 winter season.

For more information on the grant or biomass technology, contact Daniel at ldaniel@murraystate.edu.