With 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.
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.
For more information on the introductory textbook Bioenery; Biomass to Biofuels see our write up on the book here!
01 Jun 2015
Nationally, corn-based ethanol and palm oil based biodiesel are gaining negative attention for their impacts on the environment and food security. But here in Vermont, farms are producing on-farm biodiesel to power equipment and operations on the farm and the local farm community. This is a profoundly different model from national and international biofuel production. Agricultural Engineering and Agronomy Researchers at University of Vermont Extension in partnership with farmers and the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative have developed a model of local minded, on-farm production of biofuels that can help rural communities transition away from unsustainable models of food, feed and fuel production.
National and global models of corn-ethanol and soy oil-biodiesel production are resulting in large-scale land conversions in some parts of the world, in particular to a loss of native grass and forestland. This type of biofuel production is not happening in Vermont, where bioenergy production incorporates rotational oilseed crops like sunflowers and soybeans on Vermont farms.
Locally produced biodiesel supports resiliency in Vermont, a cold climate state which is particularly dependent on oil. Over $1 billion leaves the state for heating and transportation fuel costs. Heating and fuel independence by producing on-farm biodiesel provides farmers fuel security which is comparable to that which is sought by Vermont’s local food movement.
The local production for local use model results in two products from one crop: oil and meal (animal feed or fertilizer). By growing oilseed and pressing the seed to extract the oil, farms are creating a valuable livestock feed at home, rather than importing it. The oil can be sold as a food product, used directly in a converted engine or converted to biodiesel for use in a standard diesel engine. In this way, oilseed crops offer flexibility in the end-use of the products. US corn-based ethanol mandates are raising grain costs nationally, making feed expensive for Vermont farmers. Local bioenergy production means farmers produce their own feed, fuel, and fertilizer for on-farm use, at a fraction of the cost and more stable prices. Reduced and stable prices for feed, fuel, and fertilizer can mean improved economic viability for Vermont farms and more stable food prices for Vermont consumers in the future.
Overall viability can be seen in the local production for local use model by considering economics, energy and carbon emissions. Biodiesel production costs of between $0.60 and $2.52 per gallon have been estimated for farm-scale production models, which are generally below market price for diesel fuel. The net energy return in Vermont on-farm biodiesel operations has been estimated at between 2.6 and 5.9 times the invested energy (i.e. more energy out than was required to produce the fuel), demonstrating strong returns and potential for improvement with increased scale. Furthermore, oilseed-based production of biodiesel has been estimated to result in a net reduction of carbon dioxide emissions of up to 1420 lbs. per acre, the equivalent of about 1500 miles of car travel per year.
Categorizing the Vermont biofuel model with national models and trends is inaccurate, considering the innovative and efficient systems benefiting Vermont farmers. While national and international analysis weighs the benefits of food versus fuel, the model is quite unique in Vermont and the food versus fuel challenge is well met. The model developed in Vermont does however have wider-reaching implications in that this can be replicated in rural farm communities across the US.
As John Williamson of Stateline Farm, a Vermont Bioenergy grant recipient says, “100 years ago everyone produced their own fuel; we are just doing that now in a different way.”
Coming 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.
Lectures 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.
Jim Malloy, of Plainfield, Vermont, is being recognized for his contributions to reducing the use of petroleum fuel in the transportation sector. His business, TH Malloy and Sons in Newport, Rhode Island, is being recognized with the New England Northern Star Award as one of the top fleets for reducing their emissions through the use of biodiesel made from recycled restaurant oil.
The 75-year-old family business is a distributor for Newport Biodiesel, also of RI, who produces biodiesel from recycled restaurant oil. Both companies are being recognized with the award.
Each recipient of the award demonstrated a deep commitment to the goals of the Clean Cities program through use of alternative fuels, alternative fuel vehicle purchasing, and petroleum reduction practices. The designation as a Northern Star required that the fleets be a stakeholder in their local Clean Cities Coalitions and that they meet a list of criteria showing their commitment to Clean Cities’ initiatives.
Malloy introduced biodiesel fuel into his RI company’s distribution fleet and has helped 4,000 customers replace oil with biodiesel. His efforts have displaced nearly 4 million gallons of oil in the past seven years. Malloy is also being recognized for the impact he has had on reducing emissions statewide by working in the RI legislature to make biodiesel a more affordable fuel option.
Replacing petroleum fuel with biodiesel that is produced locally from recycled cooking oil has the benefits of increased energy security, stronger local economies, improved air quality, and reduced contributions to global climate change.
“I am honored to be recognized,” says Malloy. “I’m passionate about recycling waste and creating an outlet for less expensive and cleaner-burning domestically-made fuel that displaces petroleum.”
Malloy is also owner of Black Bear Biodiesel in Plainfield, Vermont, which is a two-year-old restaurant oil collection recycling service and biodiesel distributor serving northern and central Vermont. The company plans to have drive-up fill-up stations at their Plainfield location in late May.
“I look forward to bringing this same passion for recycling and emissions reduction and petroleum displacement to Vermont as well, while at the same time saving locals money by providing a more efficient, cleaner fuel and an affordable replacement for petroleum,” says Malloy.
The other four recipients of the award are the City of Boston Massachusetts, the City of Nashua New Hampshire, Oakhurst Dairy in Maine and New Hampshire, and the University of Vermont.
was funded through a U.S. Department of Energy grant that identified barriers to the proliferation of alternative fuels and how to remove them. There are nearly one hundred Clean Cities Coalitions around the country whose purpose is to help reduce the use of petroleum, cut emissions, and promote alternative fuel options. The Northern Stars program was developed by the five Northern New England Clean Cities Coalitions and is just one of the ways that these coalitions promote the use of alternative fuels in fleets.
This project is funded by a U.S. Department of Energy grant awarded to Maine Clean Communities, a program of the Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG), and other Northern New England Clean Cities Coalition grant partners.
More information on the Northern Stars program can be found on the Vermont Clean Cities Coalition website at www.uvm.edu/vtccc.
06 Apr 2015
Make sure to check on the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative website for more national bioenergy events as we will be updating this list!
- WasteExpo 2015 June 1-5, 2015 Las Vegas Convention Center
- 5th International Conference on Algal Biomass, Biofuels and Bioproducts. 7 – 10 June 2015. San Diego, USA
- BIO International Convention June 15-18, 2015. Philadelphia, PA
- Bioenergy 2015,June 23-25. Washington, DC
- GAI AgTech Week June 22-24, 2015 San Francisco, CA
- 19th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference (GC&E). July 14-16, 2015. N. Bethesda, MD
- BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology. July 19 – 22, 2015. Montreal, Canada
- EnergyPath 2015, July 20-24. Scranton, PA
- BioFuelNet Advanced Biofuels Symposium 2015. July 22 – 24, 2015. Montreal, Canada
- Switchgrass III. September 30 to October 2, 2015. Knoxville, TN
- 2nd International Conference on Past and Present Research Systems of Green Chemistry. September 14-16, 2015. Orlando, Florida
- Ag Innovation Showcase September 14-16, 2015 St. Louis, MO
- Algae Biomass Summit September 30-October 2, 2015 Washington, DC
Monday, March 3, 2014 at the Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center in Burlington, VT. Join us to learn from growers, processors and researchers about their experience with oilseed crops like sunflower, canola, soybeans and flax. Discuss how these oilseeds can add value to farms in the form of feed, fuel, soil amendments and culinary oil. View the workshop brochure or the detailed agenda for more information. Visit www.uvm.edu/extension/oilseed meeting to register.