Dry Grain Using Renewable Fuel
Once harvested, grain often requires drying to bring its moisture content down to an acceptable level to prevent spoilage during storage. In Canada, drying grain can be one of the most energy-intensive, and therefore costly, operations on the farm.
While there are plenty of grain drying technologies in Canada to choose from, the energy supply options for these technologies is limited to either oil or electricity. The reason for this is that until now no-one has been able to develop a high-output dryer run on renewable fuel that is still financially justifiable when used for only a few months each year.
This however, could be about to change. Over the past few years the Swedish Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Engineering (JTI) has been working to identify wood chip-fired hot air furnaces suitable for grain dryers. These technologies have not only fared well in practical operation with positive feedback from farmers, but switching from oil to wood chips has been painless.
The key to switching to hot-air wood chip furnaces is that despite a relatively large investment, the wood chip fuel comes cheaper; particularly for farmers with forests or access to locally-available forestry or logging residue. Furthermore, while switching to wood chips does involve more work, research has shown that during the drying period, ash only needs emptying twice a day, while wood chips only require refilling once a day. This has resulted in no more than 20 minutes of extra work a day.
Another key reason for switching to wood chips is that the cost of this renewable biomass energy source is unlikely to fluctuate or increase in price over the coming years. This is unlike oil and electricity, which are both predicted to increase in price over the next decade. Furthermore, because wood chips are safe and easy to store, they can be purchased in large (and therefore cheaper) volumes at one time.
There are other renewable biomass energy heating options, such as pellet burners, that can be fitted to oil-fired hot-air furnaces. While pellet burners are readily available in Canada, relatively inexpensive, and pellets are easy to store and handle, pellets are almost twice the price of wood chips. It is therefore much harder for pellet burners to be financially justifiable when used for only a few months each year.
For more information about grain dryers using renewable fuels, or if you have any questions regarding biomass renewable energy, please contact us.