Final Report: 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
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


The Kentucky State University P3 Team used GIS technology to determine the area of the rights-of-ways along Kentucky interstates and parkways that could be used to produce Prairie Switchgrass for biofuel production.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

The KSU team estimated that 21,560 acres in the rights-of-way are maintained at annual cost of $4-5 million in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and that this land could produce 95-140 thousand tons of switchgrass. If used for ethanol, the switchgrass would annually produce 7,600,000 to 11,000,000 gallons of ethanol as a sustainable, low-impact fuel source or biofuel feedstock.


Biofuels produced from Kentucky rights-of-way cannot replace petroleum on state-wide scale, but they could offset ethanol use by government vehicles based on the consumption analysis or serve as feedstock for other biofuel production, such as cellulosic-derived biodiesel facilities. Additional biofuel feedstock production areas in the Commonwealth that interfere minimally with crop production and our forests must be identified to meet the fuel needs of the Commonwealth and will likely serve as a bridge to more widespread and convenient public transportation and alternative vehicles.

Proposed Phase II Objectives and Strategies:

  1. Remove areas of high relief and calculate geospatial parameters with data generated in Phase I to predict a general location (by county) of a biofuel facility.
  2. Determine costs of transporting biofuel feedstock from the rights-of-way to the proposed General Atomics Biofuel Facility in Winchester, Kentucky. Assess the amount of cropland that would not need to be converted to biofuel feedstock to support the needs of the biofuel facility by utilizing the rights-of-way for feedstock production.
  3. Survey, map, and determine the biomass of existing plant communities in the major physiographic regions of the Commonwealth of Kentucky rights-of-way as an alternative feedstock with no establishment costs.
  4. Determine the total area of post-mining areas in physiographic regions of Kentucky capable of producing biomass for biofuel facilities based on relief and soils.

Journal Articles:

No journal articles submitted with this report: View all 2 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Biofuels, feedstock, post-mining use, rights-of-way,, 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

Relevant Websites: Exit