Protecting native prairie grasslands
By Mark Halsall
By Mark Halsall
Chris Roach, president of Roeslein Alternative Energy, says Valley View and the company’s other RNG-producing farms represent the first stage of a two-tiered biogas production strategy for Monarch Bio Energy, the joint venture formed between RAE and Smithfield Foods.
“Horizon 1 is what is taking place today with the swine gas production. Horizon 2 consists of producing gas from the anaerobic digestion of native prairie plants,” he says.
According to Roach, an important objective of the Horizon 2 project is to help protect and expand native prairie grasslands in the Midwest.
“Prairie is one of the most decimated native habitats in our country. When you look at a row crop field today, you are most likely looking at a plowed-over prairie. The loss of this habitat has caused problems for wildlife, like the monarch butterfly and bobwhite quail, but it has also led to large increases of soil erosion and nutrient runoff, impacting water quality,” says Roach.
“Our vision is to recreate prairie on marginal or highly erodible agricultural lands, thus creating a sustainable crop to be harvested and turned into energy. We plan to put farmers and landowners into the energy business,” he adds.
“We are working now to restore enough acres to support the first Horizon 2 project. We’re not producing gas from biomass yet, but we are getting close,” Roach says. “Once we start, we plan to make a huge landscape impact. Our vision is to restore 30 million acres of native prairie over the next 30 years.”