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energy[1]Following the Fall Semester UVM bioenergy course Bioenergy: Biomass to Biofuels, the University of Vermont will be offering a new bioenergy course this spring entitled Waste to Energy: Community Development Application. The course will again be taught by Anju Dahiya, cofounder of General Systems Research, LLC (GSR), lead biofuels instructor at the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, and a Vermont Bioenergy Initiative 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.

food-waste[1]In a Vermont post Act 148, the universal recycling law for solid waste, food waste, dairy farm manure, municipal wastes, landfill waste, carbon exhaust, nutrient runoff and other materials not being converted into value products are all resources that hold potential energy that can be developed in a sustainable way to power a local economy. This class focusing on waste sourced bioenergy comes on the heels of a promising results and continued work by Dahiya’s company GSR on incorporating algae into Green Mountain Power’s anaerobic digester at Nordic Farms in Shelburne, Vermont. The product serves as a strong example in which excess nitrogen and phosphorus in cow manure would find its way off farmland and end affecting health of natural water bodies, but instead is harnessed to make electricity and biofuel. As listed in the course catalog “the mission of this program is to provide hands-on instruction in all possible Bioenergy areas, support generation of related skilled workforce and stimulate sustainable energy production.”

nutrients-pic-1[1]Lectures will be held every on campus every Friday during the UVM spring semester from 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm, with 5 additionally required off campus field trips. 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]

By: Ellen Kahler

VT Bioenergy Team – L to R (Chris Callahan – UVM Extension, Kirk Shields -- Green Mountain Power, Christy Sterner – US DOE, Larry Scott – Ekolott Farm, Ellen Kahler – VSJF, John Williamson – Stateline Biofuels) at Green Mountain Power’s Energy Innovation Center in Rutland

VT Bioenergy Team – L to R (Chris Callahan – UVM Extension, Kirk Shields — Green Mountain Power, Christy Sterner – US DOE, Larry Scott – Ekolott Farm, Ellen Kahler – VSJF, John Williamson – Stateline Biofuels) at Green Mountain Power’s Energy Innovation Center in Rutland

Vermont can produce more of its own biofuel energy and the environmental and potential economic benefits of local bioenergy have been proven by the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative – a program of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund. Since 2005, the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative has invested more than $2.5 million in innovative bioenergy research, projects, and people so Vermont can locally produce more of the state’s energy needs – from a variety of agricultural and algal feedstocks.

US Senator Patrick Leahy made the investment at this scale possible through Congressionally Directed Awards from the US Department of Energy (US DOE). The funding concludes in early 2016, at which point a complete impact report will be released by the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, who has served as the intermediary between the US DOE and 52 individual Vermont bioenergy projects over the past ten years.

Research, development, and early stage demonstration projects have included:

  • Investing in 2 on-farm methane digesters;
  • Building farm-scale infrastructure to turn oilseed crops such as sunflowers into biodiesel to run farm tractors;
  • Growing switchgrass and densifying it into “pucks” that are burned in a high efficiency commercial boiler instead of propane;
  • Identifying the most lipid producing strains of native Vermont algae which can feed off the excess nutrients from methane digesters and can eventually be harvested to make biodiesel or jet fuel;
  • Developing two “Biomass to Biofuels” college level courses which run repeatedly at UVM and VT Tech to inspire and train the next generation of bioenergy experts and technicians;
  • Exploring the logistics of bulk wood pellet delivery systems to Vermonters’ homes;
  • Organizing a number of learning opportunities and conferences for oilseed, grass and algae researchers, farmers and entrepreneurs to attend;
  • Providing agronomic and engineering support to oilseed and grass farmers;
  • Educating the general public about why the local production for local use of energy crops from Vermont farms and forests makes good economic and ecological sense.

 

VT Bioenergy Team 2 – L to R  (Roger Rainville – Borderview Farm, Christy Sterner – US DOE, Heather Darby – UVM Extension, Natasha Rainville – Borderview Farm)  at Borderview Farm, Alburgh VT

VT Bioenergy Team 2 – L to R (Roger Rainville – Borderview Farm, Christy Sterner – US DOE, Heather Darby – UVM Extension, Natasha Rainville – Borderview Farm) at Borderview Farm, Alburgh VT

The Vermont Bioenergy Initiative is a unique effort and one that is gaining resonance in other parts of rural America. The initiative’s resource website, www.VermontBioenergy.com is utilized by biofuel producers, educators, and technical service providers from across the country.

The work conducted over the past ten years by the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative to conduct research, provide technical assistance, and develop infrastructure in emerging areas of bioenergy will continue with the initiative’s partners at UVM Extension and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets. As Vermont moves forward – being innovative and increasingly focused on generating renewable energy from the land and forests – the research and infrastructure the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative has invested in over the past ten years will endure and spawn the next wave of bioenergy development in the state.

Ellen Kahler is executive director of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (VSJF), a non-profit organization created by the State of Vermont to help develop Vermont’s sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, and forest product businesses. Since 2005, the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative has been a VSJF program that connects 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 for heating and transportation, oil crops for on-farm biodiesel and feed, grass for heating, and algae production for biofuels and wastewater management. Learn more at www.VermontBioenergy.com.

Farm_eventAlgae for biofuel has been a long time component of the local biofuel production for local use model pioneered by the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative. At the forefront of these efforts has been Anju Dahyia, a VBI grantee, lead biofuels instructor at the University of Vermont, and president of General Systems Research (GSR) Solutions. When the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association received a USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant to utilize waste materials from Vermont farms to produce sustainable distillate fuel, Anju and GRS Solutions were already in a prime positon to conduct the necessary research.

GSR is developing a method of producing algae biofuel to replace traditional fossil fuels in motor vehicles, heavy farm equipment, and even airplanes at Charlotte’s Nordic Dairy Farm as a second tier to the already operational anaerobic digesters contributing to Vermont’s distributed energy generation grid. The process to produce algal biofuel has the potential to prevent nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen from making their way into local lakes and waterways. Nordic Dairy Farm’s owner, Clark Hinsdale, explained at a recent press event on his farm: “the best way to capture excess nutrients on farms is to never let them get beyond the boundaries of the farmstead.”

The current anaerobic digestion system “Cow Power,” utilized by Green Mountain Power, functions by using the methane byproduct harvested from constantly produced cow manure to make electricity that then is sold to Green Mountain Power customers. The research done by GSR focuses on another byproduct of digestion – the nutrient dense liquid waste, previously left unused for power purposes.

The oleaginous algae strains that Anju Dahyia has been working with since 2008 thrive on this dense waste and after the algae has consumed the available nutrients, the creation of the distillate fuel can begin. The result makes the process a closed loop system, and means that dairy farmers like Nordic Dairy (whose cows produce up to a ton of manure a day) would be able to sell algae derived biofuel to local fuel dealers and create granular organic fertilizer. According to Dahyia, Hinsdale’s 300 cows alone have the potential to produce anywhere between 20,000 to 30,000 gallons of biofuel each year.

The cost of production is estimated at $20 dollars per gallon, but Dahyia thinks that with increased scale will come a decreased price. At the recent press conference at the Nordic Dairy Farm site early in September, Mary Powell of Green Mountain Power outlined how the company is working with GSR Solutions to help increase scale and add more small refineries that mimic this operation. She went on to note the resiliency a community-sized digester refinery can add to a microgrid.

Speaking to ABC local 22 News, Matt Cota, Director of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association added, “We know that bio-heat, renewable blended fuel, combined with heating oil works in customers tanks and burners, so if we can source that locally, it would be a great thing for Vermont’s economy, for Vermont famers, Vermont fuel dealers and consumers all across Vermont.”

Richard Altman of the non-profit Commercial Aviation Fuels Initiative was also in attendance and trumpeted that “community-scale digester-refineries in the region might be feasible by 2020,” noting that this project is just a start.

Also on the horizon, GRS Solutions is already working to go further with this technology by incorporating food waste into this digester system. While this system may be in its early stages, one thing is for sure, Vermont energy stakeholders are lining up to show their support and contribute to this more than viable option for local energy production.

For more watch the local WCAX coverage of the September 3rd press conference and to learn more about Algae Bioenergy in Vermont see our other post Algae Biofuel – Vermont’s Search for Viable and Cost-Effective Methods

 

 

 

#vtclimateeconThe Summit on Creating Prosperity and Opportunity Confronting Climate Change brought together over 400 innovative business, non‐profit, and community leaders, elected officials, public policy advocates, students, and interested residents to begin to frame policy and investment strategies to advance the development of the Vermont Climate Economy. Summit participants developed a list of key practical actions to serve as a launching point for the Vermont Climate Change Economy Council (VCCEC), a group charged with a one year mission to develop a structured plan with practical actions to reduce carbon emissions and stimulate green economic development in Vermont. The Council will build a set of public/private strategies designed to promote economic opportunity, innovative business development, investment, and job creation in Vermont.

Over the course of 2015, VCCEC will evaluate findings, key ideas and suggested action steps derived from the Summit, lead regional public forums, evaluate and summarize research findings, interview key stakeholder groups, and consider model economic development strategies from other state and countries. During 2015, the group will develop a strategic platform of recommendations for action, and report to the Vermont legislature, the Governor of Vermont and the public in January 2016. The Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) will provide support to their work and then help promote the platform of action that comes from its deliberants. Goals of the Vermont Climate Change Economy Council are to:

  • Identify opportunities created by climate change to strengthen Vermont’s economy through strategies advancing key business clusters and economic sectors.
  • Build an increased sense of unity in Vermont around policies to confront and mitigate the impact of climate change and to advance economic opportunities and solutions that respond to climate change.
  • Build a public information campaign to celebrate innovation and Vermont’s green business leadership; internally and externally marketing to build the Vermont brand as an economic/environmental problem solver.
  • Expand Vermont’s economic brand around climate change solutions to retain and attract youth and creative entrepreneurs to locate throughout the state.

Vermont businesses and nonprofits are addressing climate change – both its challenges and opportunities. Their creative solutions are a growing part of our state’s economy. What are your experiences? Do you have ideas about how Vermont can grow jobs and nurture innovative business development in sectors ranging from clean energy, to recycling, transportation systems, and thermal efficiency?

JoRegional_Forum_Flyer5_15_statewide[1]in the Vermont Council on Rural Development and local business leaders at a forum on “What’s Next for Vermont’s Climate Change Economy?” Forums will take place at 7:00pm at the Paramount in Rutland (Aug 26), the Latchis Hotel in Brattleboro (Oct 6), and City Hall in Burlington (Oct 29). Come to the forum(s) most convenient for you.

These forums are the next step for public input to the Vermont Climate Change Economy Council, a group working to develop a practical plan to reduce carbon emissions and stimulate economic development in Vermont. To learn more about the forums and the Council visit VCRD’s website at vtrural.org, download the event flyer (pdf).

For more information about the results of the summit, Click HERE to read the report and follow the hashtag #VTClimateEconomy and Vermont Council on Rural Development on Twitter at @VTRuralDev for more updates!

 

The EAN's 4 Key Leverage Points of capital mobilization, public engagement, technology innovation, and regulatory reform

The EAN’s 4 Key Leverage Points of capital mobilization, public engagement, technology innovation, and regulatory reform

The Energy Action Network (EAN) is a community of  a community of Green Mountain State stakeholders working to change the Vermont energy landscape “to end Vermont’s reliance on fossil fuels and to create clean, affordable energy and secure electric, heating, and transportation systems for the 21st century.” Their goals are consistent with the State of Vermont 2011 Comprehensive Energy Plan, which aims to meet 90% of Vermont’s energy needs through efficiency and renewable sources by 2050.

EAN has identified a series of pathways for Vermont for Vermont to accomplish the paradigm shift of 90% renewables by 2050. Membership is structured into working groups focused on four “leverage points” capital mobilization, public engagement, technology innovation, and regulatory reform. Current projects include alterations to Act 250, changes in zoning laws, programs to promote bringing rental properties into efficiency standards, and assessing current land use for its potential for bioenergy and solar projects.

One notable awareness vehicle, Brighter Vermont, encourages Vermonters to change the way  common energy use and think more about where energy comes from. Read more about how Brighter Vermont helps change energy behavior. EAN also works with municipalities and recently helped Montpelier plan for a 15 year track to become the first state capital to accomplish all of its energy needs with renewable energy. On February 12, 2015 the Montpelier City council accepted and endorsed the plan to make Montpelier a “net zero” city.

Currently, EAN is working with the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund to expand the Vermont Energy Atlas website into the Community Energy Dashboard. The Dashboard will enable communities to understand their energy use and make clean energy choices and investments across all energy sectors—heating, transportation, and electricity. The Dashboard will make energy use visible and understandable to consumers and communities by showing town-level progress toward Vermont’s 90% renewables by 2050 goal. The Dashboard will also shows existing and potential renewable energy sites (solar, wind, hydro, biomass). We will provide updates as they develop. Stay tuned into the Vermont Bioenergy Field Notes blog and visit the Energy Action Network website to learn more.

Sunflowers growing at Ekolott Farm in Newbury VT

Sunflowers growing at Ekolott Farm in Newbury VT

2014 was a busy year for the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative as we engaged in national outreach efforts to share our work connecting diversified agriculture and local renewable energy production for on-farm and community use in ways that be applicable to rural areas around the country. These rural areas are often at “the end of the pipeline” and are subject to higher and more volatile costs for energy. The Vermont Bioenergy Initiative “local production for local use” model shows that rural communities can produce some of their own energy, thereby improving their energy security and benefitting from more predictable and affordable energy prices. Any farm in any part of the country can grow and process their own fuel, using the best practices developed by the collaborating farms and UVM Extension researchers working in partnership with the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative. Funding for our program work to support research, technical assistance, and infrastructure development in emerging areas of bioenergy was secured by US Senator Patrick Leahy and the US Department of Energy.

Recent news we distributed to local, regional, and national audiences includes:

Local production for local use is biofuel model that works in Vermont.

Vermont Bioenergy Initiative releases report on grass heating energy potential in Vermont and the Northeast.

Vermont sunflowers to help provide biodiesel power.

We have worked with several regional and national publications to secure editorial specifically featuring oil crops for on-farm biodiesel and feed, and grass energy for heating.

Check out the recent interview with our UVM Extension consultant and agricultural engineer, Chris Callahan in Biofuels Journal.

Read about alternative energy innovations on the farm featuring farms a part of the Farm Fresh Fuel Project in Farming Magazine.

The Grass Energy Report we released summer 2014 was featured extensively in both Renewable Energy World and On Pasture Magazine.

Visit the Green Energy Times website for our ongoing column, Emerging Frontiers in Bioenergy and follow the Vermont Bionenergy on Twitter for current news, trends, and tweets on renewable energy in Vermont and beyond.

climate summit 1

Vermont is an indisputable leader in sustainable job growth and renewable energy, punching well above its weight in the fight against global climate change. It is because of opportunities like the upcoming summit, Creating Prosperity & Opportunity Confronting Climate Change, that local business, government, non-profit, and higher education leaders will come together to focus on advancement of sustainable job growth in fields that have a positive impact on the environment and local economy. Organizations including the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, Renewable Energy Vermont, Green Mountain Power, University of Vermont, Energy Action Network, several government agencies, and multiple renewable energy businesses will converge at Vermont Technical College on Wednesday, February 18th for Vermont’s climate change summit sponsored by the Vermont Council on Rural Development. The day will commence with a keynote address from Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin who will speak about “Vermont as Climate Economy Leader.” The recently reelected Governor’s inaugural address, focused heavily on energy and the environment and the summit provides an opportunity for Vermonters concerned with regional climate change to learn more about his upcoming plan of action.

A “Climate Science Fishbowl” will follow, focusing on the effects regional and global climate change will have on Vermont’s future. Moderated by Mark Johnson, host of WDEV’s The Mark Johnson Show, the panel will feature Jon Erickson of Rubenstein School, UVM, Alan Betts of Atmospheric Research, and Gillian Galford of VT Climate Assessment, UVM.  Two sets of breakout sessions round out the rest of the day; the first focusing on “climate economic policy” followed by “ideas for action” in the afternoon.  Those interested in bioenergy might elect to attend breakout sessions such as “Advancing Community-Based Climate Action” moderated by Johanna Miller of VECAN and the VT Natural Resources Council or “Developing Ubiquitous Distributed Energy” moderated by Chuck Ross, Secretary of VT Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets. Additionally, “Spurring Research and Development for New Technologies in Vermont” moderated by Ted Brady, USDA Rural Development seems to complement the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative’s work building the new frontiers in bioenergy for the State of Vermont. To register and for a complete schedule visit: http://vtrural.org/programs/climate-economy/summit.

Sunflowers growing at Ekolott Farm in Newbury VT

Sunflowers growing at Ekolott Farm in Newbury VT

Beautiful fields of sunflowers growing in Newbury and Shaftsbury, Vermont will have an unusual future: the flowers’ seeds will be converted to biodiesel and livestock feed. The fuel will be used in Green Mountain Power’s fleet of vehicles and for building heating, saving Green Mountain Power customers money and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants. The feed will be used on Vermont farms to supplement animal nutrition.

“Green Mountain Power is leading the way in many local energy initiatives,” said Green Mountain Power President and CEO Mary Powell. “Using Vermont sunflowers to power our vehicles and heat our buildings is a beautiful way to keep our energy local and clean.”

Twenty acres of sunflowers are growing at the State Line Farm Biofuels in Shaftsbury and another ten acres are growing at the Ekolott Farm in Newbury. When the oilseeds are harvested this fall, they will be dried and pressed, then the raw oil will be converted to biodiesel, or B100. The solid portion of the seed, the meal, is valuable as a livestock feed. Depending on the crops’ success, the cost of fuel to Green Mountain Power could be up to one dollar less than current B100 prices.

sunflowers being harvested at state line farm in shaftsbury vt

Sunflowers being harvested at State Line Biofuel Farm in Shaftsbury VT

“It is so great to be part of this innovative test with GMP,” said John Williamson of State Line Farm Biofuels. “Projects like this really help support farmers, plus it’s beautiful to see the fields of sunflowers and even more beautiful to realize it will provide a clean and local power source.”

This pilot is a partnership between Green Mountain Power, UVM Extension, and the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative. UVM Extension and the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative have worked together for several years to encourage the growth of oil seeds as an energy source and the addition of Green Mountain Power is hoped to accelerate this effort even further.

“As a result of the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative, several pioneering farmers in Vermont now have the necessary infrastructure to produce sustainable biodiesel,” notes Chris Callahan, UVM Extension Agricultural Engineer. “This is a unique model: local production for local use. The partnership with Green Mountain Power means more gallons will be made which means lower cost for everyone.”

“The goal is for local biodiesel production to both shave fuel costs for our customers while helping to develop new markets for locally produced liquid fuels,” said Powell. “We see this benefiting local farms and customers as we work together to provide more clean cost-effective and reliable power.”

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About Green Mountain Power

Green Mountain Power (GMP) serves approximately 265,000 residential and business customers in Vermont and has a vision to be the best small company in America by empowering customers to save money and move to clean energy sources. GMP recognizes the role of electric utilities is changing and is focused on a new way of doing business to meet the needs of customers with integrated services, while continuing to generate clean, cost-effective and reliable power in Vermont. In 2014, Vote Solar named GMP a Solar Champion. More information at: www.greenmountainpower.com.

 

About the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative

A program of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative connects 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 for heating and transportation, oil crops for on-farm biodiesel and feed, grass for heating, and algae production for biofuels and wastewater management. More information at: www.VermontBioenergy.com.