• Energy & Power

Iowa Switchgrass Project

Part 1 of Biopower Facts.


  • Productive use of marginal lands
  • Establish management practices for production of as a potential alternative new crop
  • Encourage rural economic growth and development


The results of this project will lead to the development of a fuel industry in the Northern Plains.

Biomass Program

Chariton Valley Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) is working to develop markets for switchgrass as an alternative energy crop in southern Iowa. Native to North America, switchgrass is resistant to many pests and plant diseases and can be grown on marginal lands. It is also capable of producing high yields of biomass with very low applications of fertilizer. The agronomic characteristics combined with the excellent burn qualities of switchgrass have generated interest in growing it for use as a supplementary fuel in electricity generation.

The three objectives of this project are:

  1. to demonstrate the technical aspects and overall viability of establishing a large-scale biomass supply;
  2. to develop implementation strategies that will create sustainable, economically-viable alternatives for the local agricultural economy, secondary industry opportunities, and support rural development efforts; and
  3. to establish the credibility of biomass power within the energy community and increase interest in renewable energy technology.

Research & Development Pathway

Research activities include: a wildlife impact study of switchgrass production and harvesting; an economic study to evaluate the potential of switchgrass as a profitable alternative to row ; development of equipment and processes required for harvesting, handling, and co-firing switchgrass; co-fire testing of switchgrass, including evaluation of fuel and ash samples, boiler performance, and emissions generated; and deployment of technology at Alliant Power’s Ottumwa Generating Station.