Using GIS to Determine Plantable Area for Prairie Switchgrass Biofuel Production in Kentucky Rights-of-Way

EPA Grant Number: SU833949
Title: Using GIS to Determine Plantable Area for Prairie Switchgrass Biofuel Production in Kentucky Rights-of-Way
Investigators: Sluss, Tamara , Bates, Ken , Cook, Nich , Hansford, Sharmali
Current Investigators: Sluss, Tamara , Bates, Ken
Institution: Kentucky State University
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2008 through August 14, 2009
Project Amount: $9,978
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2008) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Energy , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


(1) The United States’ dependence on foreign fuel and other non-renewable resources has implications across disciplines including international relationships, the environment, and economics. Biofuels have been proposed as an alternative; however, land for biofuel production currently interferes with human and animal feed crop production. Right-of-ways have the unique potential to serve as areas for prairie switch grass biofuel production. (2) We propose to use GIS to determine area of road rights-of-way for prairie switch grass (Panicum virgatum) ethanol yield. These areas are currently mowed by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet., (3) The use of biofuels in Kentucky could decrease our dependence on foreign sources of oil and other non-renewable resources, potentially reduce green-house gas emissions that contribute to global climate change, tax money used to pay for mowing rights-of-way may be used for other purposes, and to investigate alternatives to using corn or other crops that have an economic or environmental impact. (4) Results are easily quantifiable with GIS techniques. Several area determinations will be conducted to reach an average plantable area and will be subject to quality control measures. (5) This project will serve as an educational tool as it will be integrated into an ecology laboratory and a GIS course.


To determine the area for switchgrass and the amount of biofuel that could be produced from the rights-of-way.


Geospatial analysis, GIS.

Expected Results:

Geospatial analysis will reveal the volume of biofuel that may be produced in the rights-of-way. These results may lead to targeted managment of the rights-of-way as they are currently mowed at a high cost to tax payers.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 2 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Ethanol, biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol, innovative technology, environmental science, pollution prevention, sustainability, global climate, transportation, energy efficiency, power, environmentally friendly technology, environmental management plan, energy efficiency, environmentally conscious design, modeling, GIS, infrastructure, rights-of-way, native grasses, Goal 1, Objective 1.1, healthier outdoor air, Objective 1.5 Reduce Greenhouse Gases,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Air, Sustainable Industry/Business, POLLUTION PREVENTION, Environmental Chemistry, Sustainable Environment, Energy, climate change, Air Pollution Effects, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Environmental Engineering, Atmosphere, environmental monitoring, sustainable development, environmental sustainability, alternative materials, biomass, energy efficiency, energy technology, alternative fuel, biodiesel fuel, alternative energy source

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report