The Environmental Finance Center was asked to investigate the market opportunities for switchgrass as an alternative energy source on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. This investigation included an extensive series of interviews hosted by the EFC with resource experts who had first-hand experience with the science behind switchgrass production and the economics of agricultural operations, as well as expertise in biofuels production. Between March and June 2011, the EFC communicated with more than 30 individuals and organizations, through informal email correspondence, phone interviews, and formal, in-person meetings. Of those conversations, a majority were with regional experts from the mid-Atlantic.
A variety of new and existing market opportunities exist for switchgrass as a renewable energy source, each with its own set of benefits and challenges. The grass can be used either in its raw form, which keeps processing costs at a minimum, or in a densified form, which is more easily transported.