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Archive for Monday, March 31, 2008

County residents have hot idea for new type of biofuel - hay

Mike Schaetzel, 25, of Lawrence, plans to work with his father, Bill Schaetzel, to manufacture bricks made of hay or straw for woodburning stoves. The bricks would be similar to those shown here, but these are made of sawdust.

Mike Schaetzel, 25, of Lawrence, plans to work with his father, Bill Schaetzel, to manufacture bricks made of hay or straw for woodburning stoves. The bricks would be similar to those shown here, but these are made of sawdust.

March 31, 2008

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Hay may be the new coal.

At least that's what Bill Schaetzel thinks. And he's ready to invest some big bucks to find out.

Schaetzel, a Topeka physician and pathologist who lives in Lawrence, plans to obtain equipment that will turn hay or straw into bricks. Those bricks will be marketed to retail outlets to be sold as fuel for wood-burning stoves and fireplaces.

"I've always been interested in renewable energy and alternative energy sources," Schaetzel said.

But before he can set up shop, Schaetzel must wait for Douglas County to establish a new category for issuing a conditional-use permit for his business under its zoning regulations. Then he will have to apply for the permit, which ultimately will require approval from the Douglas County Commission.

That could take three to six months, according to Linda Finger, the county's planning resource coordinator.

Once the paperwork is done, Schaetzel and his son, Mike Schaetzel, plan to operate the business from their rural Douglas County farm. A hydraulic machine press will be purchased from a plant in Germany and brought to the farm. The machine, which costs about $350,000, compresses the hay into bricks.

Schaetzel could be the first person in the country to mass produce hay bricks.

"There are several people who are using different products or investigating other products, but I do not know of any commercial venture right now using hay or straw," Schaetzel said.

Tom Engle, who owns BioPellet LLC, a business near Hartford, Conn., that produces and sells bricks made of sawdust, said he has made a few hay bricks.

"I've only done it on a trial basis, but I've gotten very good results," said Engle, who also owns the German plant that makes the hydraulic equipment.

"It's good for the environment, and it's fairly inexpensive for the homeowner."

That's what attracted Schaetzel to plan the business, which will be called Great Plains Fuel Bricks.

"It's something that would benefit Kansas," Schaetzel said. "It would benefit the farmer in supporting their price for hay or straw and in the rural areas it would be an alternative to heating with propane or oil."

At full production the plant would consume 20 tons of hay a day, Schaetzel said. A semitrailer would bring in about 17 tons of hay each day, and another truck would haul off the day's brick production, he said. Regional farmers would benefit because freight costs make it economically unfeasible to transport hay more than 100 miles, Schaetzel said.

Comments

cobaltblue 6 years, 5 months ago

Great idea. Hope you can get it going. I have a pellet stove that burns corn and sawdust pellets. Any plans to make hay pellets?

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Janet Lowther 6 years, 5 months ago

Just great! Another scheme to turn feed into fuel. . .

Ethanol has been such a calamity I can hardly wait to see what this does to hay prices! .

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Mkh 6 years, 5 months ago

Legalize Hemp and use it for fuel as well as dozens of other necessary products! It's the only way to go (besides algae). Hemp is the best biofuel for the long term. And it grows naturally in Kansas (as well as almost everywhere else). Tell your elected representatives to stop being 'useful idiots' to corporate special interests!

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Chris Golledge 6 years, 4 months ago

I think this may have less impact than using corn for fuel. Corn has higher production costs than hay and I see a lot of molding bales collapsing in the fields because they were just surplus.

Hay would be even easier to grow if you didn't care if it was fescue, alfalfa, clover, or weeds. Then there is always the stalks from wheat (straw) which is pretty useless, although I presume there is some benefit from tilling it back into the ground.

Good luck, I think there is a niche for this.

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kansascrone 6 years, 4 months ago

jrlii - hay is not food and feeding hay to livestock so people can eat meat is a very inefficient use of hay as a resource. this is exciting.

bowhunter99 - http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/ncnu02/v5-284.html

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Chris Golledge 6 years, 4 months ago

I'm sure this project is targeting use in small stoves, like for home use, but it would be interesting to compare the overall efficiency of the path from converting energy from burning hay to generating electricity to creating hydrogen for use in vehicles to the path of using hay to create biodiesel or ethanol for use in vehicles. I understand hydrogen burns pretty cleanly and I don't think we've worked out biodiesel/ethanol from cellulose on a large scale yet.

Again, it's a niche, but I can imagine a lot of idle fields springing into hay production quite readily, if there was a market.

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Chris Golledge 6 years, 4 months ago

OK, one more comment and then I'll let it go.

Plants have been competing with each other for efficiency in capturing solar energy for several billion years. I'd be surprised if any modern technology even comes close to the level of efficiency of a plant. 'Course, they won't work worth a darn in the winter.

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Mkh 6 years, 4 months ago

Bowhunter99 (Anonymous) says:

"stop being useful idiots to special interest and legalize hemp:.. huhmmmm I have the feeling you're not thinking clearly. I wonder why:"

Bowhunter,

Hemp is a different plant than marijuana. Hemp does not contain THC.

By the way... you are very dumb.

Have a nice day.

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acoupstick 6 years, 4 months ago

"Plants have been competing with each other for efficiency in capturing solar energy for several billion years"

Terrestrial plants have been around probably less than 500 million years. Hay shortages are a huge problem in other parts of the country, even leading to people giving away livestock due to an inability to afford feed. Feed-derived derived ethanol, livestock or human, is a BAD idea. See last weeks Time magazine for an excellent article regarding this subject.

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cowboy 6 years, 4 months ago

Interesting to listen to those who have never done anything on a farm other than drive by one , have a positive opinion of this. The ethanol craze has been a disaster. it has driven feed costs into double digit increases that will have an effect on most everything you purchase , not just meat. The only ones getting a benefit are the middle men traders . To think you can take a large quantity of hay out of the farm market without a drastic impact is extremely naive. find an unused resource to recycle into fuel then you're talking a good impact.

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aginglady 6 years, 4 months ago

Straw ought to be considered. Cheaper, and wouldn't be taking that much away from anything. On the other hand, I think of how Romania recently outlawed horse drawn wagons, etc from their streets, citing the number of auto accidents involving them. Most of the farmers, etc all used horses. Now, they can't afford to feed them, and are turning them loose, the horses are starving and dying all over the place. From the lack of spare hay and $.

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gr 6 years, 4 months ago

"Schaetzel must wait for Douglas County to establish a new category for issuing a conditional-use permit for his business under its zoning regulations."Now what in the tarnation is that all about! Sounds like Douglas county is anti-environment, anti-biofuels. Why would someone need a permit for doing something on their own farm? It's compressing hay! What's so wrong with that? It's a wonder they don't require a permit for baling hay. The only thing, and I mean the only thing, which I can see could even be a remote issue is the semitrailer coming each day. But, what if he was selling hay bales and needed a trailer to come? Unless someone can give a good reason for needing a permit for such, it sounds to me it's just a bunch of stupid government people stifling progress.

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gr 6 years, 4 months ago

"Using food to power autos is just plain stupid."I'm sorry, but I don't believe the article is talking about powering autos. Also, it is not using food to power anything. The beauty of this idea is it is NOT using food. It's using hay.Now, maybe you think hay is food, but I would tend to think most would not think it's taking "food off your table". But, suppose you intend it to mean food for animals. But isn't everything food for something? Isn't petroleum food for bacteria?"by reducing energy consumption in homes."But haven't we all been doing that since the 70s? Haven't you? How much more can we reduce energy consumption? Isn't there a limit to how far we can go? I mean, pretty soon, we'll have to turn our air-conditioners on to lower the thermostat any more during the winter.

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