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Allegheny College



Titles Currently Available

  • 2012-1   Ash and Nutrient Concentrations in Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) Cultivars and Ecotypes in Northwestern Pennsylvania

    Switchgrass is a promising biofuel that can be burned directly for heating and electrical generation, or converted to ethanol.  Despite many advantages, switchgrass contains more ash than other biofuels (e.g. wood).  After burning, large quantities of ash must be removed from combustion systems.  Despite this drawback, few studies have explored variations in ash content among different strains of switchgrass, or the variation of ash content within single strains.  Understanding this variation will give growers better information for selecting strains for commercial production and for producing uniform commercial products.

    We quantified variability of ash, C, N, and S across twelve strains and within two relatively uniform fields containing a single strain, Shawnee.   Among the twelve strains, we found a nearly 2-fold range of ash concentrations.   Even within fields of Shawnee, switchgrass ash concentrations ranged two to three-fold.  We also found wide variation in nitrogen concentrations among the strains and within the fields.  Variation within single uniform fields suggests that differences in soil conditions across small scales may drive tissue chemistry variation.  Manufacture of uniform biomass switchgrass products will need to consider variation within and among fields where it is grown.

  • 2011-1   Mill Run Environmental Assessment

    In 2008, with support from a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Growing Greener Grant, CEED faculty and students began work on an environmental assessment of the Mill Run watershed. This assessment provided the DEP with information needed to include Mill Run in the Commonwealth's 2012 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report, and identified impairments resulting primarily from the effects of urbanization (stormwater), streambank erosion (siltation) and agricultural runoff. In addition, aging sanitary sewer infrastructure in unswered areas of the watershed was identified as the most likely sources for the presence of E. coli and human bacteriodes in Mill Run. Click here to view the Executive Summary, Environmental Assessment or Appendices.

  • 2010-1   Aboveground and Belowground Biomass, Carbon, and Nitrogen Content of Two Strains of Switchgrass in Northwestern Pennsylvania

    Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) is a biofuel with a high biomass yield and a deep root system. However, few studies have quantified both above- and belowground switchgrass biomass, even though this information is needed to develop biomass and C storage models that can be applied widely. Here, we quantified aboveground and belowground biomass and C content of two switchgrass varieties (Cave-in-Rock, Shawnee) in two sites with high silt content soil in northwestern Pennsylvania.

    For both varieties, approximately 90% of the total aboveground mass exists within the pool to be harvested for biofuel. Most roots were found in the AP horizon, with the B horizon holding 3.3 + 0.4 (SE) % of the total in Cave-in-Rock, and 10.6 + 2.1 (SE) % in Shawnee. For both strains, root biomass was slightly more than total aboveground mass. For Cave-in-Rock, root mass was 51.5% + 4.4% (SE) of the total aboveground and belowground biomass combined; for Shawnee, root mass was 55.8% + 5.0% (SE) of total mass. Besides direct biomass C storage in roots, root turnover will provide a source of carbon that contributes to long-term soil carbon storage, although this amount is not yet quantified. In addition, quantifying belowground biomass will assist in estimating potential carbon offsets available in belowground biomass.

  • 2010-2   Potential for Wind Power at Acutec Precision Machining, Inc., Saegertown, Pennsylvania

    This study examines the wind resource at Acutec Precision Machining, Inc. in Saegertown, Pa., and its potential for generating electricity with the installation of one or more large wind turbines. Wind speed, gust, and direction were recorded using wind anemometers installed on-site at heights of 50 ft, 100 ft, 170 ft, and 230 ft to assess the vertical wind shear profile and account for various wind turbine hub heights. Our analysis also shows that the current wind suitability map for Pennsylvania appears to be inaccurate. Additional locations may have local orographic conditions conducive to wind power production, and identification of site suitability will depend on accurate on-site wind measurements.

  • 2009-1   Siting Wind Turbines at Acutec Precision and Manufacturing, Inc., Saegertown, Pennsylvania: An Environmental Impact Assessment

    Acutec Precision Manufacturing, Inc., in Saegertown, Pennsylvania, is beginning a preliminary investigation of the feasibility of installing a large windmill on its Saegertown facility. The firm uses approximately three MW of electricity annually, and in preparation for projected major electrical rate hikes as utility caps are removed in 2010, it is seeking ways to reduce or replace its current source of electricity. As part of this preliminary feasibility assessment, Acutec has partnered with the Allegheny College Center for Economic and Environmental Development to perform an initial environmental impact statement for placement of wind turbines at the Acutec location in Saegertown. The proposed site for placement of windmills at the Acutec Precision Manufacturing facility in Saegertown appears to pose no major threats to the environmental integrity of the area.

  • 2009-2 Variability of Soil Carbon and Nitrogen in Switchgrass and Big Bluestem Fields in Northwestern Pennsylvania

    Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and big blue stem (Andropogan gerardii) are potential biofuels that are native perennial grasses, have a high biomass yield, and grow well in marginal soils. Previously, we found substantial variation among biomass of these grasses within the same fields. Understanding controls of variability will help resource managers to maximize efficiency of plant productivity. To examine causes of spatial variation in biomass, we quantified the nitrogen (N) and carbon (C) variability of soils within four transects established in each of three fields containing these grasses. Nitrogen levels differed substantially within each field. For example, within the Shawnee field, N concentrations varied three-fold, from 0.087% to 0.288%. Soil C also varied within each field; in the Big Bluestem field, soil C ranged from 1.52% to 4.29%, a nearly three-fold difference. Cave-in-Rock was the most variable for both C and N, with coefficients of variation of 36% and 37% respectively. Big Bluestem was least variable in C and N, with coefficients of variation of 16% and 18% respectively. Field topography had no discernable effect on soil C and N concentrations. Despite our findings of concurrent biomass and soil variability, we did not measure biomass and soil parameters at the same locations within each field. Soil nitrogen is likely influencing plant matter production, thus measuring both soil nutrient concentrations and biomass production for each sample plot would better determine the strength of this correlation.

  • 2009-3 Identifying and Leveraging Growth Drivers in the Tooling and Machining Industry in Crawford and Erie Counties

    This report surveyed 28 firms in the tooling and machining industry of Crawford and Erie counties. Over the last 10 years, 10 of the 28 firms surveyed achieved positive growth rates; four remained flat, while 14 firms achieved negative growth rates. Based on this information, it is estimated that 752 jobs were lost, representing a layoff of about 7.24 per firm. Growth and performance depend on two factors: whether a firm is in a niche market (with few competitors) and whether it has a diversified customer base. Those specializing in niche markets within the medical and aerospace sectors have grown faster and performed better than firms in the automotive and electronics sectors. The tooling and machining industry continues to face a number of challenges, including low capacity utilization arising from the recession, shortage of skiled and experienced toolmakers, lack of government support, government regulation, and lack of working capital.

  • 2008-1   Grease is the Word: Feasibility of Biodiesel Production in Meadville, PA

    Biodiesel is a renewable biofuel that can be produced from waste cooking oil. In its pure form, or mixed with petroleum diesel, biodiesel can be used in standard diesel vehicles without engine modification. We estimated the amount of waste cooking oil produced annually in Meadville, PA, and we canvassed 56 local restaurants to determine their willingness to participate in a biodiesel program. Nine restaurants are potentially willing to contribute their waste cooking oil, providing a total of 614 gallons per month. Nine additional restaurants were interested in the program, and would thus provide 494 additional gallons per month, bringing the potential total available raw material to 1108 gallons per month. Based on 13,296 gallons of potential fuel could be collected annually, the potential value of the produced biodiesel, at $3.92/gal is $52,000. Costs of biodiesel production, labor, supplies, and equipment depreciation totaled $32,000, thus providing the City of Meadville with a net annual savings of approximately $20,000.

  • 2008-2   Market and Cost Analysis of Switchgrass in Northwestern Pennsylvania

    This project explores the opportunities, constraints, and dynamics of the biomass market in northwestern Pennsylvania (NWPA). Based on a survey of nearly 50 enterprises and organizations in the region, the study concludes that there is a sizable market for biomass in NWPA. Most of the enterprises surveyed expressed willingness to embrace biomass, as long as it makes economic sense and does not damage the environment. There are sectoral variations, however, in the potential size of the biomass market. While a relatively thriving biomass market (mainly wood pellets and stoves) already exists in the residential sector of the region, this is not the case for the industrial/commercial sector. Indeed, none of the business enterprises interviewed uses biomass, and most have not heard of switchgrass as an alternative source of energy.

  • 2008-4   Biomass, Nitrogen, and Ash Content in Stands of Switchgrass and Big Blue Stem in Northwestern Pennsylvania

    Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) is being considered as a potential biofuel because it is a warm season native perennial grass that has a high fiber content, high biomass yield, is drought resistant, easily established, and has a perennial growth strategy. Because biomass removal is also accompanied by nutrient removal during harvest, however, it is imperative to determine the nitrogen removal during switchgrass harvest. In this study, we estimated the nitrogen removal during harvest of two switchgrass varieties and big blue stem, another native grass with biofuel potential in northwestern Pennsylvania. Productivity varied among the three types of biomass tested. Big Blue Stem was the most productive (0.942 kg m-2), with 39% more mass than Switchgrass Shawnee and 16 percent more than Switchgrass Cave-in-Rock. Big Blue Stem, generated the least amount of waste as ash, however, it removed the most N from soil. This study also showed strong variability of growth within the different plant types; production differed two-fold even within plots in the same field.

  • 2004-1  Firm Closures in the Tool and Die Industry in Crawford County of Northwest Pennsylvania

    This report summarizes results from a survey of over 50 companies in Crawford County between 2002 and 2004. The survey was undertaken to identify the main factors responsible for the closure of T&D shops in the county. The companies surveyed were divided almost equally between those that failed and those that were deemed to be performing well. The inclusion of both successful and unsuccessful companies in the sample facilitated the identification of factors responsible for failures and successes.

Allegheny College's  
Center for Economic and Environmental Development  

Last update: 29 July 2010