So I've been doing the production per acre math on switchgrass vs. cordwood and it looks significant. If switchgrass yield is 5-7 tons/acre and sustainable northeast cordwood selectively cut is 1 FACE cord -- or even 1 cord! -- per acre per year, which is 1/3 - 1 ton ... that's a big difference! And even if you weren't using switchgrass but ordinary junk hay full of goldenrod and whatnot, that's a ton per acre, so equal to forests. And then there's the notion that maybe we should be letting our forests sequester carbon long term, while a good hay field is at least sequestering *some* in the soil through root shedding as it goes, even though you're taking the bulk of the topgrowth ... well. So it might make sense.
BTU's per ton are equal.
As I understand it, we don't usually burn hay for the following reasons:
* it's a smoky mess. Which in theory a good hot rocket firing ought to at least partially correct, no?
* it burns up very quickly. Which in theory good mass storage ought to solve, though one might get sick of having to reload every 5 minutes throughout a firing.
* it's awkward to handle and store. Which would be the problem I'm soliciting brainstorming about, I suppose. I know there is such a thing as hay pellet machines and hay briquette machines, but that's extra machinery and expense, which only makes sense if you were doing it commercially for all your neighbors too. (Some people are.) I'd be interested in ideas for it to work with minimal processing though?
Or is there some reason it's just a terrible idea? I haven't seen anyone else ask this, and I'm not sure why.
Lots of people round me burn Straw for warmth, I'm sure they would also burn hay but it's 10x the price. It is horrifically smokey, a furnace that burns wood with 0 visible smoke will produce a plume of black gunk when starting up with a straw burn. They burn it by the bale, older furnaces use the 10kg small bales but all new ones use 300 or 500kg bales one bale will burn for 2-7 days depending on heat requirements. The burn rate is controlled by the airflow.
To burn it loose you're going to be refilling every 10-15 seconds,
I've seen pictures on here of someone who made a tiny baler that made decorative straw bales for Halloween, it only used some bits of wood and string. Baled into tiny little bales it might burn for a few minutes before you needed to put another in, (and the bales would be really cute!)
I think if you have the hay/straw resource available, it could make sense. I think for long term, though, you would need to consider how much work goes into getting the burnable resource. A chainsaw is relatively small and you can get a lot of heat by cutting down a single tree. In contrast a tractor plus implements takes up a lot of storage space and are quite costly for mowing, drying, and baling hay. Or optionally you would need a lot of time to scythe, dry, and bale by hand. I don't have any scientific numbers to back this up, but my guess is that the wood is much more dense as far as BTU is concerned, so you have a greater amount of storage area needed for hay vs wood.
"The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is." C.S. Lewis
"When the whole world is running towards a cliff, he who is running in the opposite direction appears to have lost his mind." C.S. Lewis
Right. That's my question. Assuming that the equipment were on hand to mow, either with a bushhog or just by asking one of my hay-making neighbors to mow and rake a junk field (obviously you wouldn't do this with good green feed-grade hay, but the stuff that got rained on or let go too late), is there a labor and time efficient way to get that hay into a burnable form? Because yeah, loose flares up absurdly fast (I just stuffed a flake in my home stove to see what would happen). Hence the pellet machines. But surely there's something in between, equipment and labor wise?
I saw an old patent for a hay-twisting machine. It was essentially a rotating hook. You caught one end of a hank of loose hay on it and kept feeding more loose hay into the hank until you had four feet or so of rope, and then you let it twist on itself and tucked in the ends, like a skein of yarn. Haven't tried it though, and don't know how much of a pain in the neck that would be.
Just curious if anyone else were aware of intermediate solutions between loose (or baled but that wouldn't fit in a home stove) and pelletized. What might it look like?