Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2017

Degree Name

MS (Master of Science)

Degree In

Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

H. S. Udaykumar


Miscanthus is a highly productive, low-input biofuel crop that supports agricultural diversification with improved performance for climate commitment, energy security, and water quality over first generation biofuels. Despite its high performance, no local or regional markets for the feedstock have formed in North America, and current climate-based productivity assessment methods lack the information farmers and decision-makers need to establish commercial scale bioenergy markets, programs, and thermal co-firing plans. This study develops a Miscanthus Suitability Rating and a transferable field-scale siting method, applied at 10 m resolution across the State of Iowa to assess miscanthus production potential and identify individual farms that are highly suitable for large-scale miscanthus cultivation while maintaining a majority of existing row cropping acreage. Results show that highly suitable fields within 50 miles (84 km) of each of Iowa’s coal-fired electrical generating units (EGUs) can displace up to 43% of current coal consumption. Every EGU in Iowa has land resource to produce local miscanthus to co-fire with other solid fuels at industry-leading levels without significantly impacting local row crop production. Seven of the state’s smaller facilities could even operate exclusively on local miscanthus with advancements in densification technology. The energy evaluation tool developed in this work estimates the energy return on investment (EROI) of Iowa miscanthus for existing thermal generation facilities between 37 and 59, depending on transportation requirements and chemical field applications. This transition would diversify local agribusiness and energy feedstocks, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide a sustainable, dispatchable, in-state fuel source to complement wind and solar energy.


alternative energy, biomass, climate mitigation, energy transition, sustainability


viii, 40 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 36-40).


Copyright © 2017 Kayley Christina Lain