10 kW portable biomass power plant demonstrated at Virginia Tech

By Chris Hanson | April 02, 2013

A new, portable biomass plant was showcased at Virginia Tech’s Department of Sustainable Biomaterials.

The plant is roughly 12 feet tall and capable of generating 10 kW, enough to power 100 100-watt light bulbs. The system combusts syngas derived from biomass feedstock, such as wood chips, corncobs, manure and other agricultural waste, to power a three-cylinder engine and generate 1 kWh for every 1.2 kg of biomass.   Henry Quesada-Pineda, assistant professor at Virginia Tech, demonstrated the college’s portable biomass power plant to 30 visitors from around the globe.

“There is increasing interest in the community and around the world, especially in off-grid situations, to learn more about how biomass energy production can be integrated into small-scale systems,” Quesada-Pineda said.

With an $18,000 price tag, the unit is not yet a cost-effective investment for companies with access to electricity. Currently, the department is researching the optimal use for the renewable energy source and experimenting with different biomass feedstocks, such as sugar cane and coconut shells. In addition, the power plant will be used to teach students interested in biomass energy and to power projects within the student-run Wood Enterprise Institute.

Quesada-Pineda said he hoped future versions will be able to process all kinds of biomass.