Currently the most common type of fuel pellets are wood pellets. Wood pellets are used in pellet boilers to produce heat for homes and businesses. Wood pellets are also used for other products such as horse bedding. There are now even wood pellet grills which produce some of best BBQ you will ever taste. However for the pellet fuel market to really grow to its full potential we need to use more of our available biomass resources such as switchgrass. After all there is only so much wood material available for making pellets and as trees grow very slowly we need fast growing biomass energy crops to contribute more.
As you can see from the video in the US and Canada there is a significant interest in collecting switchgrass for processing in pellet mills and small pellet plants. There are several advantages to growing switchgrass for fuel. In many cases there is already a considerable area of land where switchgrass has been growing wild. If the switchgrass can be collected for making fuel pellets this will mean that this land can be managed due to income coming in from this previously unused agricultural land. Switchgrass does not require much water and can withstand flooding very well also. The yields that can be harvested are very impressive and are on a par to miscanthus and only slightly below that of hemp.
Another advantage with switchgrass compared to making wood pellets is an increase in the productivity per hour the pellet mill can achieve. Due to the lower density of the grass the pellet mill consumes less power per ton of grass pellets produced. However in reality even though the pellet plant is producing more product per hour you will be no more profitable than a wood pellet plant. The reason is that switchgrass fuel pellets will produce more ash than wood pellets and have a slightly lower calorific heat value. Therefore you will have to charge less per ton than the current price of wood pellets to attract a customer base. However with switchgrass you also have a lower raw material cost. Originally sawdust was free or you even got paid to take it away from sawmills, however those days are now gone.