Tom Vilsak - File Photo

Biomass Project Will Benefit Western PA

The USDA is targeting 5,344 acres in northeast Ohio and northwest Pennsylvania for a new Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) project.  US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says they will incentivize to grow “giant miscanthus,” which is a hybrid grass that can grow 13-feet tall.  “The land that will be used to grow this crop will be land that would most likely not be used for traditional crop production,” Vilsack said in a conference call with PA and OH media.  Vilsack says the miscanthus will be turned into pellets: “Which in turn will be used by electric companies to produce power and electricity.”   

The seven-county area includes Erie, Crawford and Mercer counties in Pennsylvania’s northwest corner.  “We believe that as many as 1,200 jobs will eventually be created,” Vilsack says.  Eventually, the USDA hopes there will be enough interest in these biomass pellets to create an export market.  Pennsylvania’s alternative energy portfolio standard is 18% by 2020, and at least 8% of that should come from renewable energy sources like biomass.   

Vilsack, by the way, is a Pittsburgh native.