Ashtabula County is close to embarking on an alternative energy project that could potentially bring up to 1,200 jobs to the area. These jobs would provide a much-needed boost as we continue the effort of rebuilding our economy.

The project, introduced by Aloterra Energy, includes establishing and cultivating a fast-growing perennial grass from Asia known as Miscanthus giganteus. Once harvested, this grass can then be pelletized and used as an alternative fuel. I have been working closely with Growth Partnership, which has assisted businesses in Ashtabula County since 1990, and the Farm Bureau in order to make this endeavor a reality.

Also covering Lake, Geauga and Trumbull counties, this project represents another step forward in the effort to find alternative and renewable energy sources in the United States. With the nation’s current debt predicament growing steadily every year, hopefully we can begin to make a serious effort to reduce our massive spending—hundreds of billions of dollars each year—for oil overseas.

Additionally, this has the potential of being an effective job-creating opportunity for Ashtabula County, a county with an unemployment rate that is almost a full percentage point higher than the state average. Utilizing our soil in an environmentally friendly way is a substantial and sustainable way to keep jobs in the county.

Thanks to funding from the federal Biomass Crop Assistance Program, or BCAP, the project has the monetary legs to move forward. BCAP provides growers of Miscanthus grass with up to 75 percent in crop-sharing assistance until the crop has an opportunity to be established.

During tough economic times, it is important that we consider all options, and do what we can to capitalize on opportunities when they are presented to us. I believe the production and eventual use of Miscanthus giganteus grass to produce alternative, clean energy is an avenue worth pursuing for Ashtabula County, and I will continue to work with the departments and agencies responsible for implementing this program.


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