ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. – The Golden LEAF Foundation is giving a $2.942 million boost to research into alternative fuel research.

Programs at North Carolina State University and Appalachian State University will receive the bulk of the money. The Foundation, which oversees distribution of funds from the state of North Carolina’s financial settlement with cigarette manufacturers, divided the money between six grants.

NCSU will receive $1.5 million to design, construct and commission a pilot plant to turn biomass resources that are “easily grown in North Carolina” into ethanol. Targeted crops include sweet potatoes, switchgrass, and loblolly pine.

“The objectives of this project are to create markets for low-value agriculture products, boost the state’s economy, enhance economic opportunities and quality of life in rural communities, and foster and support a new biomass-based energy infrastructure,” Golden LEAF said in a statement.

Appalachian State received $750,000 to build a biodiesel testing facility. “The initiative is responsive to the needs of mid-sized biodiesel producers in North Carolina and will further development of a decentralized fuel production model that relies heavily on local feedstocks and fuel markets,” the Foundation said.

Other alternative fuel-related grants include:

• Two grants totaling $397,578 to NCSU’s Energy Crops program to “demonstrate the agronomic and economic viability of energy crops that can be grown in North Carolina, and their potential for biofuel and power production.” Crops include canola, switchgrass, hulless barley, timber, and Bermuda grass.

• A grant of $175,000 to the North Carolina Forestry Foundation to study a process that heats wood chips to reduce their weight and increase their energy content, making them more suitable for energy production.

• Two grants totaling $175,000 to the Appalachian State University Energy Center for its Community TIES (Trash Into Energy Savings) program. The program targets counties that want to explore using methane gas from landfills.

• A grant of $690,000 to Robeson County for installation of a methane collection system at the county landfill. The gas will be used to power an ethanol production facility that is locating near the landfill.