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Switchgrass production and turning grass bales into briquette fuel

Grass for Solid Biofuel

Grass for biofuel 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.

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.

The profiles, publications and links to the right and image gallery below provide more information on the work being done in Vermont and nationally to advance the commercialization of grass for thermal energy.

 

Having sold his dairy herd several years ago and thinking he was heading into semi-retirement, Roger Rainville began experimenting with farm-scale biodiesel production on his family farm in northern Vermont, which literally hugs the Canadian border. The University of Vermont (UVM) now leases a number of acres from the Rainvilles as Borderview Farm has become one of the best-known applied research facilities in Vermont. Roger, along with Dr. Heather Darby, a UVM Extension agronomist, and her team have helped transform the former dairy farm, conducting leading research in the Northeast on oilseed crops, perennial grasses, hops, small grains and other crops suitable for small-scale and value-added farming.

Grass Energy Overview

Wilson Engineering, Grass Energy in Vermont and the Northeast, May 2014.

Grass Energy Basics

Biomass Energy Resource Center, Grass Energy: Basics of Production, Processing, and Combustion of Grasses for Energy, 2009.

Cornell University Cooperative Extension, Bioenergy Information Sheet #1, Grass Bioenergy in the Northeast USA, July 2006.

Grass Energy Benefits

A Witter et al, Sustainability in the Biofuels Industry, March 31, 2009.

Roger Samson and Stephanie Bailey Stamler, Going Green for Less: Cost-effective Alternative Energy Sources, February 2009.

Cornell University Cooperative Extension, Bioenergy Information Sheet #2, Benefits of Grass Biomass, July 2006.

Cornell University Cooperative Extension, Bioenergy Information Sheet #3, USA History of Grasses for Biofuel, December 2005.

R. Samson, R. Jannasch, T. Adams, and C. Ho Lem, Grass Biofuel Pellets: An ecological response to North America’s energy concerns, 2002.

R. Samson et al, The Use of Switchgrass Biofuel Pellets as a Greenhouse Gas Offset Strategy, 2000.

Growing Grass for Biomass

Sid Bosworth and Tim Kelly, Evaluation of Warm Season Grasses for Biomass Potential in Vermont, 2009-2012, March 2013.

C. Ho Lem et al, Commercial Energy Grass Production and Implications for Invasive Species in Canada, December 31, 2008.

Jerry Cherney, Production of Grass Biomass in the Northeast, Presentation at the Grass Energy Symposium, November 2008.

REAP Canada, Optimization of Switchgrass Management for Commercial Fuel Pellet Production, March 2008.

Cornell University Cooperative Extension, Agronomy Fact Sheet Series, Establishment and Management of Switchgrass, February 2006.

Cornell University Cooperative Extension, Bioenergy Information Sheet #4, Management of Grasses for Biofuel, December 2005.

Grass Energy Feasibility

Biomass Energy Resource Center, Addison County [VT] Pellet Feasibility Study, November 2009.

Biomass Energy Resource Center, A Feasibility Study of Pellet Manufacturing in Chittenden County, Vermont, August 2011.

Cornell University Cooperative Extension, Bioenergy Information Sheet #6, Research to Advance Grass Bioenergy, February 2006.

R. Jannasch, R. Samson, A. de Maio, and T. Helwig, Switchgrass Fuel Production in Eastern Ontario: A Market Study, December 2001.

Robin L. Graham and Marie E. Walsh, A National Assessment of Promising Areas for Switchgrass, Hybrd Poplar, or Willow Energy Crop Production, February 1999.

Grass Fuel Processing

Cornell University Cooperative Extension, Bioenergy Information Sheet #7, Grass Pelleting – The Process, February 2006.

Jannasch et al, A Process and Energy Analysis of Pelletizing Switchgrass, 2001.

Grass Combustion & Use

Biomass Energy Resource Center, A Technical Assessment of Grass Pellets as Boiler Fuel in Vermont, January 2011.

Biomass Energy Resource Center, A Sanctuary’s Modest Pellet Boiler Will Help Test Local Field Grasses, 2009.

Jerry Cherney, Combustion Technology Issues in Vermont, Presentation at the Grass Energy Symposium, November 2008.

Samson et al, The Use of Agricultural Residues and Energy Crops in Biomass Combustion Systems, 2007.

Cornell University Cooperative Extension, Bioenergy Information Sheet #5, Ash Content of Grasses for Biofuel, July 2006.

Samson and Duxbury, Assessment of Pelletized Biofuels, 2000.

Roger Samson and Bano Medhi, Strategies to Reduce the Ash Content in Perennial Grasses, BioEnergy, 1998.

Sustainability and Harvesting Guidelines

Wisconsin Bioenergy Council, Wisconsin Sustainable Planting and Harvest Guidelines for Non-Forest Biomass

National Wildlife Federation, Perennial Herbaceous Biomass Production and Harvest in the Northern Great Plains: Best Management Guidelines to Achieve Sustainability for Wildlife 

Grass Energy Basics

UVM Grass Energy Website (with reports and links)

Grass Energy Google Group

Grass Energy in the Northeast (NY Biomass Energy Alliance Blog)

Grass Energy Resources (Biomass Energy Resource Center)

Grass Bioenergy (Jerry Cherney at Cornell University)

Ditchmass: Roadside Biomass for Energy (Wisconsin)

Grass Energy Conference Proceedings

Grass Energy Symposium (2008)

Grass Biomass Supporting Organizations

Meach Cove Farms (Shelburne, Vermont)

VT Grass Energy Partnership

Biomass Energy Resource Center(BERC)

Biomass Thermal Energy Council (BTEC)

Resource Efficient Agricultural Production (REAP) Canada

New York Biomass Energy Alliance

Grass Energy Working Group, St. Lawrence County, NY

Grass Energy Businesses

Beneterra Agritech, LLC: A Biomass Energy Company

Grass Combustion & Use

Catskill Grass Bioenergy Project (Cornell University Cooperative Extension of Delaware County)

Hudson Valley Grass Energy (RC&D Council)

Biomass and Renewable Fuel Development Utilizing Pelletized Grasses: A Project of PA Fuels for Schools and Beyond

Planting Switchgrass

Planting Switchgrass

Sid Bosworth planting switchgrass, Alburgh, Vermont, 2011. Photo credit: Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

Planting Switchgrass

Planting Switchgrass

Planting switchgrass, Borderview Farm, Alburgh, Vermont, 2011. Photo credit: Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

Spring Switchgrass

Spring Switchgrass

Spring switchgrass, Borderview Farm, Alburgh, Vermont, 2012. Photo credit: Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

Researcher and Switchgrass

Researcher and Switchgrass

Sid Bosworth, University of Vermont Extension horticultural farm, Shelburne, Vermont, 2011. Photo credit: Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

Switchgrass

Switchgrass

Switchgrass, Meach Cove Farm, Shelburne, Vermont, 2012. Photo credit: Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

Researcher and Miscanthus

Researcher and Miscanthus

Miscanthus trials, 2nd year, Meach Cove Farm, Shelburne, Vermont, 2011. Photo credit: Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

Switchgrass Harvest

Switchgrass Harvest

Switchgrass at harvest, Meach Cove Farm, Shelburne, Vermont, 2012. Photo credit: Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

Switchgrass Seedheads

Switchgrass Seedheads

Switchgrass seedheads, Meach Cove Farm, Shelburne, Vermont, 2012. Photo credit: Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

Tetting Switchgrass

Tetting Switchgrass

Tetting switchgrass, fall harvest, Meach Cove Farm, Shelburne, Vermont, 2011. Photo credit: Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

Switchgrass Spring Harvest

Switchgrass Spring Harvest

Switchgrass, spring harvest, New Haven, Vermont, 2013. Photo credit: Netaka White

Baling Switchgrass

Baling Switchgrass

Baling switchgrass, Meach Cove Farm, Shelburne, Vermont, 2011. Photo credit: Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

Baling Switchgrass

Baling Switchgrass

Baling switchgrass, Meach Cove Farm, Shelburne, Vermont, 2011. Photo credit: Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

Chopped Grass

Chopped Grass

Chopped grass before hammermill, Millbrook New York, 2011. Photo credit: Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

Switchgrass Pellets

Switchgrass Pellets

Switchgrass pellets, Shelburne, Vermont, 2011. Photo credit: Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

Switchgrass Pellets

Switchgrass Pellets

Switchgrass pellets, Brandon, Vermont, 2011. Photo credit: Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

Pelletizer

Pelletizer

Buskirk pelletizer, Vermont Technical College, 2012. Photo credit: Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

Pelletizer

Pelletizer

Buskirk pelletizer, Vermont Technical College, 2012. Photo credit: Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

Grass Pellets

Grass Pellets

Buskirk grass pellets, Vermont Technical College, 2012. Photo credit: Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

Pellet Combustion

Pellet Combustion

Grass pellet combustion, Meach Cove, Shelburne, Vermont, 2010. Photo credit: Chris Davis

Briquette Combustion

Briquette Combustion

Grass briquette combustion, Meach Cove, Shelburne, Vermont, 2010. Photo credit: Jock Gill

Switchgrass Pellet Combustion

Switchgrass Pellet Combustion

Heating with grass pellets in a Bio-Burner, Brandon, Vermont, 2011. Photo credit: Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

Biomass Heated Greenhouse

Biomass Heated Greenhouse

A biomass-heated Vermont greenhouse, Brandon, Vermont, 2011. Photo credit: Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

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