Sustainable Biomass: A New Vision for Appalachian Land Use

A native of eastern Kentucky and a former underground coal miner, Nathan Hall sees a need for developing alternative energy resources in the mountains. For several years now, he has been working steadily to implement innovative renewable energy and sustainable agriculture projects in the Eastern Kentucky coalfields.

Hall is starting out his entrepreneurial ventures in clean energy with biodiesel, a renewable fuel made from recycled cooking oil with chemical properties similar to those of diesel, only cleaner and safer. He believes that biodiesel is a critical component to any regional economic diversification plan and is a sustainable solution to the increasing energy demand in the US.

Hall is currently at work constructing a self-contained mobile biodiesel processor powered entirely by renewable energy. It will produce up to 80,000 gallons of ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials)-quality fuel per year. He is collaborating with various state, county, city, educational, and non-profit institutions on the project, including the Floyd County Fiscal Court, City of Prestonsburg, the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, and Appalshop.

Hall plans to use this mobile biodiesel processor to conduct on-site presentations and demonstrations at schools and colleges throughout the region to educate students about a broad range of renewable energy possibilities for Central Appalachia. He recently received a grant for his company, East Kentucky Biodiesel, LLC, through the Kentucky New Energy Ventures Fund.

In the long-term, he plans to develop both ecological remediation/bioenergy plantation projects on abandoned/reclaimed surface mines and diversified biointensive small-scale agriculture on river bottoms and hillsides.

“Growing up in Eastern Kentucky, I thought that I would have to move to Lexington or Louisville if I wanted to work anywhere other than Wal-Mart or the coal mines. The fact is that there are a lot of unexplored opportunities in Appalachia, but they’re going to require innovation, patience, and a change in the way that people look at energy and the economy in this region in order to be viable. I want to be a part of moving us toward a more diversified, healthy, and sustainable future that respects all the hard work our coal miners have put in over the years but that realizes that we need options that aren’t going to be here today, gone tomorrow.”