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Viaspace signs MOU with Seema for new biomass crop cultivation

Giant king grass needs six and a half months growth time from plantation to harvest
Giant king grass needs six and a half months growth time from plantation to harvest

Viaspace Green Energy has signed a memorandum of understanding with Seema Energy in Thailand to grow ‘giant king grass’ to power Seema’s proposed 90MW biomass plant.

Giant king grass is similar to sugarcane but it is not a food crop and develops cellulosic characteristics rather than sugar strands. Viaspace believes the grass has the highest energy yield per hectare of potential energy crops.

The joint venture will see a test plot cultivated at first and then a further two hectare testing facility will be used to analyse giant king grass grown under the Thai climate.

The plant is expected to come into commercial operation in 2014 and Viaspace will grow up to 930,000 tonnes of giant king grass a year, which has 35% moisture, to produce the 90MW of energy. The project is expected to create 2,000 jobs for local farmers.

Carl Kukkonen, CEO of Viaspace, says: ‘Thailand is implementing a new feed-in tariff as foreshadowed in the cabinet announcement last summer and we expect this to extend to support energy crop projects. The agreement with Seema Energy provides a platform for significant growth for Viaspace in Thailand and south east Asia.’

The biomass power plant will be located in Nakhon Ratchasima and Pongchat Limvichit, director of Seema Energy, says it is an ‘important project for Thailand’.

‘It paves the way for Thailand to access a domestically developed and grown energy source and provide an energy hedge against increasingly volatile conventional energy commodities such as gas and coal. This is especially important for Thailand which faces difficulties in developing conventional energy projects - in particular coal-fired power plants,’ he says.

By 2022, the Thai government plants to be producing 3,700MW from biomass and is in particular promoting biomass power generation from dedicated energy crops.

Giant king grass needs six and a half months growth time from plantation to harvest