Energy expert visits W.Va. State University research project

Contact: Dr. Orlando F. McMeans
(304) 204-4300
Aug. 23, 2013
Energy expert visits W.Va. State University research project
ALDERSON, W.Va. – A leading renewable energy expert is working with West Virginia State University’s (WVSU) Agricultural and Environmental Research Station to evaluate the use of biochar as a value-added product for the biomass-to-energy industry. Ken Moss, founder and CEO of Piedmont BioProducts LLC in Gretna, Va., has served on forums alongside clean energy experts and Tom Vilsack, U.S. secretary of agriculture, to explore bioenergy and energy opportunities for rural economic development.
Moss recently visited WVSU’s research facilities to explore collaboration on the biochar project. Biochar’s potential for renewable energy, its positive effects on climate change and enhancement of agricultural productivity is a growing research topic, and one that WVSU is glad to be partnered with Moss to explore.
“Biochar is a very interesting by-product that could greatly improve fertility and productivity of Appalachian soils,” said Dr. Amir Hass, assistant research professor at WVSU. “Working with Ken and exploring the nature and use of biochar is a very intriguing research endeavor, one of great practical applications and economic and environmental impact.”
Biochar is charcoal produced for use as a soil amendment. Given its inherent carbon-based properties and stability, biochar can be used to improve soil functions while avoiding detrimental effects on the environment. Benefits to using biochar as a soil amendment include a strengthened ability to absorb water, aiding plants during drought periods, and nutrient availability and delivery at a stronger pace than other soil amendments.
The current project explores the improvement of chemical and physical properties of biochar and evaluation of its impact on soil properties, plant growth and the environment, said Hass. “We are working on developing a procedure to improve biochar physical properties,” he said. “We also use extraction of digested dairy manure to augment the biochar and improve biochar agronomic value.”
Field and greenhouse studies are conducted in collaboration with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) at the NRCS Plant Material Center in Alderson W.Va.
Piedmont BioProducts LLC is a renewable energy resource company dedicated to meeting the need for clean alternative energy produced on a renewable basis.
West Virginia State University is a public, land grant, historically black university, which has evolved into a fully accessible, racially integrated, and multigenerational institution, located in Institute, WV. As a “living laboratory of human relations,” the university is a community of students, staff, and faculty committed to academic growth, service and preservation of the racial and cultural diversity of the institution. Its mission is to meet the higher education and economic development needs of the state and region through innovative teaching and applied research.
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