Viaspace to supply Giant King Grass for China power plant trial

By Anna Austin
Posted September 15, 2009, at 1:56 p.m. CST

Renewable energy company Viaspace Inc. has signed a memorandum of understanding with Beijing, China-based biomass power provider DP Cleantech, to supply Giant China King Grass for testing at a Cleantech power plant.

Viaspace holds a worldwide license to grow and cultivate the fast-growing perennial plant, which it acquired in the fall of 2008. Originally developed as feed for livestock, the grass can grow nearly four meters in 60 days and can be harvested four times a year, producing yields of up to 156 metric tons (172 tons) per acre. Giant China King Grass has a life span of approximately seven years, and grows best in tropical and subtropical climates, or where temperatures are consistently above 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit), according to Viaspace CEO Carl Kukkonen.

In October 2008, Viaspace planted more than 1 million Giant King Grass seedlings on 112 acres in the Guangdong Province in southern China, an area the size of California, according to Kukkonen.

Cleantech subsidiary National Bio-Energy owns and operates19 dedicated biomass-fired power plants throughout China. In May, the company conducted an independent test using Giant King Grass to determine whether the energy crop could be used as a feedstock in its plant boilers. The upcoming trial will further examine the grass' efficiency for use at one of the company's existing power plants.

"We're working to schedule the test firing, but there's nothing confirmed yet," Kukkonen said. He added that he recently visited one of National Bio-Energy's biomass power plants in northern China, which runs on agricultural waste. "Giant King Grass has properties very similar to the corn straw that they are using currently," he told Biomass Magazine.

Viaspace will deliver at least 300 tons of biomass per day to supplement the upcoming trial. About 600 tons of Giant King Grass would be required daily, or 219,000 tons per year, to power a 30-megawatt plant, according to Viaspace.

Kukkonen said Viaspace is working on transporting the feedstock for test firing.