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9CHe innoculum bags 2With funding from the US Department of Energy secured by US Senator Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative has supported a number of algae biofuel research projects. This early-stage research and development was undertaken to determine the most viable and cost-effective methods for accessing algae’s commercial potential to produce clean renewable energy while treating wastewater and supplying nutrient-rich feeds and food.

Algae produces more than half of the oxygen on the planet, while consuming vast amounts of heat-trapping carbon dioxide and taking up nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous to make biomass and energy. The lipids, or oil, that algae produce can be extracted and processed into renewable fuels such as biodiesel. Algae are an excellent source of oil for making biodiesel, which could displace substantial volumes of petro-diesel for heating and transportation. Microalgae reproduce rapidly, and they grow on non-agricultural land, so they do not compete with food, feed, or fiber production.

The keys to commercializing algae for biofuel production include identifying and cultivating native species, optimizing growing conditions in natural and artificial environments and the efficient harvest and oil extraction of algal biomass. At the forefront of this algae biofuel research is Dr. Anju Dahiya, cofounder of General Systems Research, LLC, lead biofuels instructor at the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, and Vermont Bioenergy algae for biofuel grant recipient. Dr. Dahiya has been searching for high lipid algae strains, and scaling those up to a level that could be available for commercial use, especially for biofuels.

“At GSR Solutions, we are looking at producing algae not just for biofuels, but combining it with waste water treatment and to produce other valued byproducts as well. This is very significant, because this would make algae production cost-effective. This would also help in nutrient recovery,” says Dahiya.

Bioenergy Textbook

innovative new textbook that provides insight into the potential and current advances and benefits of biofuel

Some of the findings and knowledge afforded by Dr. Dahiya’s research are available in the new introductory textbook, Bioenergy: Biomass to Biofuels, which was edited by Anju Dahiya less than a year ago and represents a compilation of work from an extensive list of well-respected university extension programs, such as The University of Vermont Research Extension, as well as numerous national organizations including the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratories. Dr. Dahiya will also be using this textbook as the basis for a University of Vermont Bioenergy Course offered for the 2015 fall semester.

In the below video, Vermont researchers and entrepreneurs demonstrate their innovations in algae to biofuel research and development.

For more algae bioenergy resources see the visit the Algae section of the Vermont Bioenergy Website.

Learn more about the mentioned UVM Bioenergy Course visit the University of Vermont Renewable BioEnergy page or email the lead instructor Anju Dahiya at [email protected].

For more information on the introductory textbook Bioenery; Biomass to Biofuels see our write up on the book here!

Sid Bosworth

University of Vermont Extension Agronomist, Sid Bosworth explains in the field his research into use of grasses for combustion and thermal energy

In 2008, the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative began to explore the potential for grasses energy grown in Vermont to meet a portion of the state’s heating demand and reduce the consumption of non-renewable fossil fuels. The Grass Energy in Vermont and the Northeast report was initiated by the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, and carried out by its program the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative, to aid in strategic planning for future grass energy program directives.

Grass Energy in Vermont and the Northeast summarizes current research on the agronomy and usage potential of grass as a biofuel, and points to next steps for the region to fully commercialize this opportunity. The keys to commercializing grass for energy are improving fuel supply with high-yielding crops, establishing best practices for production and use, developing appropriate, high-efficiency combustion technology, and building markets for grass fuel.

Perennial grasses, while serving as a biomass feedstock for heating fuel, also have numerous other benefits to farmers. The grass energy benefits reviewed in the report include retaining energy dollars in the local community, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from heating systems, improving energy security, providing a use for marginal farmland, and reducing pollution in soil and run-off from farms.

Regional and closed loop processing were two models recommended by the report, both involving farmers growing and harvesting grass, but differing in where the grass is processed into fuel and where it is used. The regional processing model calls for aggregating grass from a 50-mile radius at a central processing facility, where the grass is made into and used as fuel, or sold to local users. The closed loop model suggests farmers growing and processing grass on-site for on-farm or community use. Other models, like mobile on-farm processing and processing fuel for the consumer pellet market have significant hurdles to overcome if they are to be successful in Vermont.

In the below video a Vermont agronomist explains switchgrass production followed by entrepreneurs turning bales of grass into briquette fuel. This grass biofuel feedstock can be grown alongside food production on marginal agricultural lands and abandoned pastures, and in conserved open spaces. The harvested grass can be baled and used as-is in straw bale combustion systems, or it can be compressed into several useable forms for pellet fuel combustion systems.

For more information on grass biofuel feedstocks and to read the full Grass Energy in Vermont and the Northeast report visit the grass energy section of the Vermont Bioenergy website.

The Vermont Bioenergy Initiative aims to connect diversified agriculture and local renewable energy production for on-farm and community use by supporting research, technical assistance, and infrastructure development in emerging areas of bioenergy including biodiesel production and distribution. As we move into the growing season, there are a variety of pests that can potentially affect sunflower, canola, and soybean biomass feedstock production. In this video a University of Vermont agronomist explains how to control theses potential biomass feedstock pests and increase crop, and eventually biofuel, yields without heavy reliance on pesticides and herbicides.

 

2013 Biomass classComing this fall the University of Vermont will be offering a bioenergy course taught by Anju Dahiya, cofounder of General Systems Research, LLC, lead biofuels instructor at the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, and Vermont Bioenergy algae for biofuel grant recipient. This course is open to both degree and non-degree students from any background or department, as well as farmers, entrepreneurs, and teachers interested in developing curriculum, or projects at school or college levels. This course is also approved for graduate credit.

Potential participants are offered the option of variable credits, ranging from 0 to 6 credit hours. This allows prospective students to only attend lectures and have access to online course materials for 2 credits; further their experience with the addition of hands-on labs and field trips for 3 credits; or participate in all aspects of the class while additionally applying lessons to a service learning project with a community partner, earning 4 credits. Participants have the ability to add up to 2 more credits, totaling no more than 6, for additional work with the community partner pending special permission from the course instructor.

Biomass classLectures will be held twice a week between September 18th and December 9th of 2015. Friday lectures will be on campus from 4:05 pm to 7:05 pm, followed by Saturday morning field trips between 10:00 am and 1:00 pm for those students who elected for 3 credits or more. The course required textbook, Bioenergy: Biomass to Biofuels, was edited by Anju Dahiya less than a year ago and represents a compilation of work from an extensive list of well-respected university extension programs, such as The University of Vermont Research Extension, as well as numerous national organizations including the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratories.

Learn more about this course at the University of Vermont Renewable BioEnergy page or email the lead instructor Anju Dahiya at [email protected].

BERC Database Screen GrabThe Biomass Energy Resource Center (BERC), a program of the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC), has launched a re-tooled web-based database for tracking the advancement of modern wood heating throughout North America. The newly revised searchable database houses key information on existing community-scale modern wood heating and combined heat and power systems across the U.S. and Canada, as well as an archive of links to case studies. Examples of community-scale facilities include schools, campuses, hospitals, prisons, multi-family or senior housing, government buildings, commercial buildings, and farms and greenhouses.

The database was originally created with funding from the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities and further improvements were made with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy through the support of Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy. The re-tooled database is a user-friendly, interactive tool that will help collect and track information on a continuing basis. “This resource will provide stakeholders from a variety of backgrounds with a better understanding of the current demand for wood fuels as an energy source and the success of modern wood heating projects throughout North America,” said Adam Sherman, Manager of BERC at VEIC.

The database already contains more than 500 entries, but to ensure that this publicly available resource is accurate and up to date, BERC is asking for user participation. “We are committed to maintaining and building this database over time to ensure it remains a useful and reliable too, but this is a rapidly growing sector, so we need users to help,” said Sherman. “We need people to engage with the database; add new entries for facilities that have been missed and as new facilities come online, and edit existing entries that are incomplete.” With regular contributions, the database will continue to improve and grow.

With tens of thousands of annual visits and top Google search ranking, the BERC website is a high-visibility home for this important tool. The BERC database is designed to provide vital information on a specific subset of biomass energy facilities; community-scale biomass heating projects. The BERC database complements the Wood2Energy.org database that covers a broader spectrum of biomass energy facilities including power plants, sawmills, and pellet mills. Not only will the BERC database provide wood heating systems vendors the exposure and recognition for their projects, it also helps demonstrate that modern wood heating is becoming mainstream throughout North America. To learn more about using and contributing to the database visit www.biomasscenter.org/database.

About BERC

The Biomass Energy Resource Center (BERC) is a program of Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC). BERC works to advance the use of community-scale biomass energy throughout North America and beyond by providing technical consulting services, biomass energy program design and delivery, and education and outreach on benefits and best practices. BERC works with communities, federal, state and local governments, colleges and universities, businesses, utilities, and others to use local biomass resources, invest in local energy systems, and reduce the use of fossil heating fuels.

Energy IQ

It’s not too late to register for the upcoming Farm Energy IQ Training for New England Agricultural Service Providers. This training will take place starting Monday, February 23rd at 8:00 a.m. and will end Wednesday February 25 in Fairlee, Vermont. Organized by individuals from the University of Vermont Extension Service, Penn State, and Rutgers University, this three day training is a great opportunity for those interested in on farm energy to learn and apply their skills as well as network with other attendees. The Farm IQ Energy Training is funded generously by Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program as part of a regional professional development program to bring the latest developments in the field to individuals who can best apply them.

Energy IQ Schedule

This conference will provide a range of opportunities to learn or improve energy purchasing, calculating, conservation, production, and analysis.Attendees will even have the opportunity to apply skills via hands-on activities and by visiting local operations. Over the three days these lessons will be compared for application on farms in different settings. In addition, attendees will receive a comprehensive binder with all the material covered in the workshops as well as supplemental materials to refresh and share material as well as continue learning.

This conference is a great opportunity to solidify one’s knowledge by learning from on hand specialist and being immersed with in the material. If you happen to miss this particular training, the same workshop will be offered in Pennsylvania, March 10th to the 12th and again in New Jersey from April 8th to the 10th.

Read more about renewable energy events around the country on the Vermont Bioenergy Field Notes blog

 

 

Sunflower Bioenergy

 

ABLC 2015

The Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership Conference, to be held on March 11th through the 13th in Washington D.C. serves as a great opportunity to for companies and individuals in the field of biofuels and bioenergy to educate themselves on the most recent advances in the field as well as network with some of its top experts and leaders. This event will open up with a welcome introduction from Jim Lane, Director and Editor of Biofuels Digest and the event’s momentum only promises to build from there. Among other big industry names in appearance, leaders from organizations such as the National Biodesiel Board, American Council on Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Algae Biomass Organization, and even the U.S. Navy will be speaking and presenting on a variety of policies, advances, and outlooks pertaining to their respective niches.

This conference offers the rare opportunity to receive first hand updates and future outlooks of U.S. bioenergy policies from those who can report best; both Jonathan Male, Director of the U.S. DOE Bioenergy Technologies Office and Harry Baumes, Director of USDA Energy Policy will be speaking on the subjects during the Thursday session of the conference. In addition, conference goers can expect the most up to date reports on current best practices and trends in the field during the ABLC Finance Summit from big investors such as Citiroup and the sessions such as “Due Diligence” in which experts David Dodds of Dodds & Associates and Ron Cascone of NEXANT look at new and emerging companies and technologies.

In addition to conventional biofuel operations and programs, the conference will feature some more advanced military and aviation biofuel related sessions with an appearance by the U.S. Navy’s operational energy director, Chris Tindal. These sessions are organized in partnership with the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI). Altogether, this conference is a great opportunity that can’t be missed for those working with bioenergy of all feedstocks and uses. A complete list of conference sponsors, speakers and events as well as information for registration and lodging can be found on the ABLC website.

Bioenergy; Biomass to Biofuels

Bioenergy: Biomass to Biofuels; is an innovative new textbook that provides insight into the potential and current advances and benefits of biofuel. Contributions include an extensive list of well-respected university extension programs, such as The University of Vermont Research Extension, as well as numerous national organizations including the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratories. The text is edited by Anju Dahiya, cofounder of General Systems Research, LLC and lead biofuels instructor at the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, both of which stand as leaders in cutting-edge topics such as microbial fuels and biogas. The chapters of the book are divided into solid, liquid and gaseous biofuels, and further explore cost-effective production as well as discussions covering economics, environment and policy.

Organized into seven accessible sections, Bioenergy: Biomass to Biofuels begins with an in-depth overview of the transformation of biomass into biofuels. Once the basics are covered, readers move on to the technical applications of solid feedstocks, such as wood and grass, and their transformation into biofuels. The following section discusses biomass to liquid biofuels—text focuses on oilseeds, cellulose ethanol, and algae as feedstocks. Anaerobic digestion is explored in a section outlining gaseous fuels and bioelectricity and focuses primarily on livestock manure feedstocks. Throughout the chapters, the tradeoffs and benefits of these different feedstocks are outlined through deeper analysis.

Multiple chapters focus in detail on conversion pathways for cost effective biofuel production. The myriad of topics include basic biodiesel production efficiency, converting petroleum-based infrastructure into biorefineries, reducing enzyme cost through varying combinations, and sustainable aviation biofuels. The text concludes with a robust section that connects biofuels to a big picture perspective—economics, sustainability, environmental implications, and policy are examined closely in relation to renewable resources, future uncertainties, and entrepreneurship.

Bioenergy: Biomass to Biofuels is structured to meet the needs of professionals finding their way in the field, students in need of an introduction, and instructors establishing a course on biofuels. Case studies on provided topics are found at the end of every section and are based on documented implementation projects. Bioenergy: Biomass to Biofuels is available for purchase on the Elsevier publisher website. Editor Anju Dahiya, owner of General Systems Research in Burlington, Vermont and is a Vermont Bioenergy Initiative grant recipient to advance research and applications of converting algae into biofuel.

Eat It, Drink It, Feed It, Fuel It:

By: Debra Heleba, University of Vermont Extension agriculture coordinator

UVMExt Experimental plots - courtesy NWSoilsCropsSince 2003, the University of Vermont Extension Northwest Crops and Soils program (NWCS) has been conducting on-farm research on a wide range of crops-from cereal grains and forages to hops and oilseeds-to provide farmers and end-users with agronomic information that supports human food and beverage markets, as well as local livestock feed and biofuel production.

Dr. Heather Darby, Extension Agronomic and Soils Specialist, leads NWCS. As a farmer herself, she understands the importance of conducting research locally. “One of the most important reasons for conducting research at a land grant university is to answer the questions that are coming from the community around you,” states Darby. To that end, NWCS brings together farmers and end-users of their products (bakers and brewers, for example) in every step of the research process, from identifying production barriers and developing research questions to implementing trials and sharing the results on-farm. This team approach has allowed NWCS to successfully address goals outlined in Vermont’s Farm to Plate Strategic Plan. Here are just a few examples:

• Toward Vermont’s Farm to Plate goal to increase the overall amount of food produced in Vermont, NWCS conducts variety trials of wheat, barley, and hops. It also created a grains and hops testing lab to ensure high quality, safe local products. Several bakeries are now using Vermont-grown wheat and nine Vermont breweries are using locally grown hops.
• NWCS research on cover crops and home-grown livestock forages as well as its nutrient management planning education have helped dairy farmers reduce off-farm fertilizer and livestock feed purchases moving toward Vermont’s goal to decrease adverse environmental impacts from farming and food system activities and the goal to increase dairy farm viability. Results from a 2010 NWCS survey suggest that through the development of nutrient management plans, Vermont dairy farms have reduced phosphorus additions on their farms by an average of 50% and have implemented cover cropping and other conservation practices.
• Toward the Farm to Plate goal to increase food system renewable energy sources, NWCS research and outreach projects in partnership with the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative on sunflower, soybean and canola crops have sought to build on-farm energy independence; more than 24 farms are now growing their own oilseed crops for fuel, feed, and fertilizers.

To learn more about NWCS and its research to date, visit www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil.