The University of Louisville has been a state-approved grower of hemp since 2016 as one of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s pilot program. The Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research hopes to accelerate commercialization of a biocoal made from wood and biomass materials, including hemp. The Conn Center, part of the J.B. Speed School of Engineering, has established research and development and pilot-scale production facilities to study the torrefaction and densification of wood and agricultural biomass sources.
Dr. Jagannadh Satyavolu, the theme leader of biomass and biofuels at the Conn Center, has a special interest in using forest waste, kenaf/Hibiscus cannabinus (which is native to southern Asia), and hemp. “We see an opportunity to ship these biocoal pellets to Europe and Asia, particularly Japan, to replace traditional coal. This is primarily wood chips and some plants. In the future of our economy, it may be possible to create rural jobs from the farming of plants and collection of forest waste for this process.”