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VIASPACE Green Energy (VGE) - Renewable Energy


The VIASPACE Green Energy subsidiary grows and markets proprietary Giant King Grass, a renewable cellulosic non-food resource for: 1) producing low-carbon liquid biofuels for transportation, such as cellulosic ethanol, methanol and green gasoline (grassoline); and 2) a full or partial substitute for coal to reduce carbon emissions from electricity-generating power plants.

Giant King Grass is a perennial fast-growing plant that grows up to 4 m tall and can be harvested four times a year in tropical and subtropical regions with yields up to 156 metric tons (wet) per acre per year. Giant King Grass has much higher yield than competing grasses such as switchgrass and miscanthus.

VGE initially planted 1.2 million seedlings in late 2008 in Guangdong province in southern China. 3 million new grass seedlings propagated from the initial planting are now growing on 112 acres of land leased for 25 years in China. VGE is negotiating for additional land and plans to propagate again later this year.

 

Giant King Grass is considered a renewable and environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels. Burning grass or a biofuel made from grass releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. However the next crop of grass 60 days later absorbs the carbon dioxide during its growth and the process can be carbon neutral over a 60 day growing cycle. Additional carbon dioxide can be released by the trucks that transport the grass and the processes used to make the biofuel. If these are carefully managed, Giant King Grass can be a very low carbon fuel source.

Giant King Grass is also a potential replacement for food crop-based energy sources like corn. The US Department of Agriculture estimated that one third of the US corn crop was dedicated to ethanol production. The World Bank is concerned that using biofuels made from food is increasing food prices and causing world hunger. Since grass is a non-food crop, production of biofuels made from grass should have much less impact on food crops and therefore food prices. Several countries including China have banned biofuels made from food crops.

Transportation applications such as automobiles and trucks require liquid fuels which are easy to store on the vehicle. Giant King Grass can be made into liquid biofuels by gasification or by advanced enzyme fermentation. Biofuels made from nonfood crops are called cellulosic biofuels because the cellulose content is used rather than the sugar content in food crops. Liquid biofuels made from grass have been termed GRASSOLINE. BP (formerly named British Petroleum) recently announced plans to build a cellulosic ethanol plant in Florida with grass as a feedstock. Many other companies are pursuing cellulosic biofuels. Giant King Grass is a feedstock for cellulosic biofuels.

Giant King Grass is also considered a viable alternative to coal for firing electrical energy generating plants. Many existing coal-fired power plants can be straightforwardly modified to accept up to 30% grass as the feedstock in place of coal in a process referred to as co-firing. This would reduce the carbon emissions of the power plant immediately and is the most near-term solution to beginning to clean up coal-fired power plants. It is a proven approach and available now, whereas other clean coal technologies such as carbon sequestration are years away and very expensive.

A growing trend is toward simply burning 100% biomass in the form of agricultural waste in power plants that have been specially designed to use agricultural feedstock--whether agricultural waste or dedicated crops like grass--instead of coal or fossil fuel. Dedicated biomass power plants are encouraged and receive substantial government subsidies in the US, China and other countries. More than 20 dedicated biomass power plants have built in China over the last three years. Coal power plants in the US are being converted to biomass. These biomass power plants use agricultural waste such as corn straw, wheat straw, cotton waste and wood chips as their fuel today. There are major problems using agricultural waste because the fuel supply type and quantity changes with the seasons; it is not consistent in quality, and the sources are not reliable. Biomass power plants would like to have a dedicated energy crop such as Giant King Grass to meet at least one half of their fuel needs and provide a consistent and reliable source.

A single modest 30 megawatt grass-powered electricity generating plant would require approximately 460 tons of grass every day to meet 100% of its fuel requirements. In a tropical or subtropical area this could be produced on approximately 2400 acres of land. In China, 30 megawatts of electricity can supply the electricity needs for approximately 200,000 households.

VIASPACE Green Energy is seeking long-term grass supply contracts from biofuel companies and from biomass power plants. VGE is working to secure sufficient land and propagate enough seedlings to support a dedicated power plant. VGE is examining business opportunities in China, South America, India, Africa and other regions. Giant King Grass was originally developed as an animal feed and this market presents an opportunity for near-term revenue. Giant King Grass , as animal feed, would be able help meet rising demand for feed to raise livestock for human consumption such as cattle, pigs, sheep, poultry, dairy cows and fish. VGE is also seeking contracts to supply producers of livestock.

The extremely high productivity of Giant King Grass allows its use for both fuel production and livestock feed. In addition to being a viable low-pollution alternative to fossil fuels, i.e., petroleum products, as fuel sources, the trend to cellulosic low-carbon biofuels is attracting strong political support. The Obama administration is calling for a national low-carbon fuel standard, and recent landmark legislation in California to reduce carbon emissions "would boost the use of biofuels" by "spurring investment in cellulosic low-carbon fuels made from switch grass and other non-food plants." (Los Angeles Times, March 27, 2009, page A12).