UK Center for Applied Energy research partners with Hazard in effort to improve rural power generation

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By Dave Melanson
Special to KyForward

The University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) has received a $1.6 million U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant to develop an innovative partnership in Hazard, Kentucky, that could serve as a model for future energy projects in rural Eastern Kentucky communities.

DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) funded the project, which is titled Gasification Combined Heat and Power from Coal Fines. Funding for 20 percent of the project cost is provided by the UK Research Foundation, Arq Coal Technologies LLC, and Beijing Baota Sanju Energy Science and Technology Co. Ltd. The grant will allow CAER and its community partners to complete a front end engineering design (FEED) study for a 5-megawatt electric equivalent polygenerating unit utilizing waste coal fines and biomass as feedstocks.

Applied Energy research labs in Lexington. (Photo by Mark Cornelison/UK)

“This project could be a first step to a Midwest regional partnership for research, development and deployment of energy-related innovation,” said Kunlei Liu, the project’s principal investigator and associate director at CAER. “This type of project, involving many partners across Kentucky and beyond, shows great promise for testing and demonstrating new energy technology.”

CAER will be recycling two Eastern Kentucky products — sawdust and coal fines — to help create localized power generation in Perry County.

“I’ve always believed that localized and regional power generation would work well in many Kentucky communities — particularly throughout rural Kentucky,” said Jack Groppo, a principal research engineer at CAER and faculty member in the UK Department of Mining Engineering, who is working on this project. “We have a tremendous amount of coal fines left over throughout Kentucky coal fields as well as a strong, vibrant lumber industry that has industrial waste as well. This project will allow us to combine those two products to create fuel that will help power rural Kentucky communities for years to come.”

As part of the project, CAER will partner with several businesses based in Hazard, including Gay Brothers Lumber, Blackhawk Mining and the Hazard-Perry County Economic Development Alliance.

CAER will use biomass (sawdust) from Gay Brothers Lumber and will utilize waste coal fines from Blackhawk Mining. The model location will be located at the Coal Fields Regional Industrial Park in Hazard.

The center will also collaborate with Beijing Baota Sanju Energy Science and Technology Co. Ltd. in China to conduct a preliminary design on the 5-megawatt gasifier, as the project seeks to find out how best to optimize how much heat and power can be generated. The grant will fund a cultural impact study in the region to help determine the community and financial benefits of local, gasified power generation.

Smith Management Group of Lexington will contribute to the FEED study, along with Trimeric Corporation from Texas.

Dave Melanson writes for UK Now

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