Corn Bins and Clean Energy…There is a connection!

Posted on September 17, 2009. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , |

Corn Bin (from Save Our Sky)

Corn Bin (from Save Our Sky)

Earlier this week, Jim Groves of the Save our Sky Home Heating Cooperative based in Takoma Park posted the news to the Clean Currents facebook page that a new corn bin will be installed in Mt. Rainier. This sounded like interesting news, but I must admit, I wasn’t really sure at first how a corn bin was related to clean energy.

It turns out that burning corn in a “corn stove” can be a cost effective and environmentally conscious way to heat your home. It also turns out that a such a stove is fairly simple to install into an existing fireplace or can be built near a wall without a chimney in the same way as a dryer vent….Interesting.

What about the CO2 emissions from burning corn? Corn based ethanol has acquired bad rep for its carbon footprint, but what about burning the kernels directly? The Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) conducted an analysis of the Takoma Park corn stoves and concluded that the fuel is actually carbon negative. The reason: the corn stalk and root stores (or sequesters) carbon throughout its lifecycle and this carbon is more than the carbon released into the atmosphere by burning the kernel. The study took into account the following factors:

  • the amount of soil tillage (minimum because of farming style of the farmer that supplies the co-op, see below)
  • fertilizer and herbicide production
  • fuel for planting, harvesting, ground preparations and manure spreading
  • fuel for drying of corn
  • fuel for transport to Takoma Park

What about all the horror stories related to large scale industrial corn farming (think: king corn) in the United States? The Save Our Sky Co-Op supports local agriculture by buying their corn from a mennonite farmer in Mt. Airy whose corn is grown with out GMOs, is organically fertilized and is, “grown using a “no-till” method which minimizes soil erosion and keeps more climate-warming carbon dioxide locked in the soil”.

If you’re interested to learn more, check out the Save Our Sky website, or stop by the ribbon cutting for the new corn bin in Mt. Rainier on October 2 (More info: here)

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