The 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.
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.
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
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:
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
08 May 2014
Montpelier, VT – A new report evaluating grass biomass energy as a potential heating fuel has been released. 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 report was released last week by the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative, a program of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund. The full report can be found on the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative website.
“There have been several independent assessments over the years of the various aspects of growing and burning grass for energy, but we were missing the step of linking it all together. We needed to put into one place what is currently known about grass energy, and get our remaining questions on paper,” says Sarah Galbraith, program manager of the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative. “It is very possible that grass as a heating fuel could enter into Vermont’s growing suite of renewable energy options. There are still uncertainties, but this report provides a series of recommendations and next steps for Vermont and the Northeast.”
The assessment for the report was conducted by members from Wilson Engineering Services and Ernst Conservation Seeds, and a former staff of Pennsylvania State University Cooperative Extension, who together conducted a literature review and interviews with experts in the field. The report was reviewed by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, University of Vermont Extension, Biomass Energy Resource Center, and the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund.
Grass Energy in Vermont and the Northeast includes key recommendations on models of grass energy that will work best for Vermont. Regional and closed loop processing were two models recommended, 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.
Despite hurdles in some of the models presented, the report points to grass energy being a good option overall. “Native, warm-season grasses grown as a heating fuel are a viable energy crop for Vermont farmers wishing to diversify. Once the grasses are well-established, the input costs are minimal—especially compared to corn,” states Alexander DePillis, senior agriculture development coordinator for Vermont’s Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, an instrumental partner throughout planning for and publishing the grass energy report. “Grass thermal energy has the potential to help cut Vermont’s overall fuel bills while helping us meet the overall goal of the Comprehensive Energy Plan—for Vermont to obtain 90% of its energy from renewable sources by 2050.”
Perennial grasses can be grown on marginal lands not well suited for continuous row crop production and in open rural land currently not in agricultural production. 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. Recommendations include a concerted effort in Vermont to plant grasses for energy on extended buffer strips along Lake Champlain, thereby reducing its nutrient load. Grass is a perennial crop harvested annually that can help level the increasing demand for forest biomass, while adding water quality and wildlife benefits by controlling erosion, reducing fertilizer use and providing cover and food for migrating and nesting birds.
In 2008, the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative began to explore the potential for grasses 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 to aid in strategic planning for future grass energy program directives. The Vermont Bioenergy Initiative and subsequent grass energy report are funded by appropriations from the US Department of Energy secured by the Office of Senator Patrick Leahy.
The Vermont Bioenergy Initiative (www.vermontbioenergy.com) draws the connection between diversified agriculture and local renewable energy production for on-farm and community use. Aiming to supply farm inputs and reduce fossil fuel consumption, this program supports research, technical assistance, and infrastructure development in emerging areas of bioenergy. Since 2003 the program has focused on 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. The Vermont Bioenergy Initiative is a program of The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, a non-profit organization which provides financing, technical assistance and other resources to Vermont businesses who develop products and services and create jobs in the fields of renewable energy, and sustainable agriculture and forestry.
A report published this week in Nature Climate Change indicated that ethanol made from corn residue can reduce soil carbon and increase CO2 emissions, indicating the harvested leftovers from corn are “worse than gasoline for global warming,” according to the Associated Press, who released the study results.
In Vermont the term “biofuel” and “bioenergy” are commonly used to refer to woody biomass (e.g., chips and pellets), anaerobic digestion (e.g., new manure and food scrap digester at Vermont Tech), and on-farm biodiesel production.
A scale-appropriate model of local bioenergy production for in-state use is being pioneered by farmers and researchers. These emerging renewable energy resources include switch grass for heating, algae production for biofuels and wastewater management, and oilseed crops for on-farm biodiesel production, equipment use, and animal feed. Since 2003, the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative has been funding research, technical assistance, and demonstration projects—along with its partners at the University of Vermont Extension—in order to develop the infrastructure to connect diversified agriculture and local renewable energy production for on-farm and community use. A new website www.VermontBioenergy.com provides a series of written and video resources in these emerging fields of bioenergy.
“Local oilseed biodiesel production for local use is profoundly different from national and international models of biofuel production. While corn-based ethanol and palm oil biodiesel are gaining negative attention for their impacts on the environment and food security, biofuels that are produced and used locally help transition away from unsustainable models of food and fuel production,” states Sarah Galbraith, program manager of the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative. “Local production for local use works well in conjunction with sustainable food production.”
Vermont is particularly dependent on fossil fuels for heating and transportation, sending its energy dollars largely out of state. In the case of locally produced biodiesel, three products can be made from one crop: animal feed, organic fertilizer, and biofuel for heat, transportation, and farm equipment.
US corn-based ethanol mandates are bringing additional acres into mono-crop production, in some cases converting sensitive natural areas like native grasslands and forestland into farmland. In contrast, local bioenergy production for local use incorporates rotational crops like sunflowers and soybeans into acres already in production. Vermont farms growing oilseed crops for biodiesel production are doing so on long-established cropland in the context of diversified and sustainable food production.
The ethanol mandates are raising grain costs nationally, making feed expensive for Vermont dairy farmers. Local bioenergy production, however, means farmers produce their own feed, fuel, and fertilizer for on-farm use, at a fraction of the cost and at more stable prices.
The Vermont Bioenergy Initiative’s newly launched website features an in depth look at oilseed production and biodiesel operations with case studies, research, and educational videos. The website also features similar resources for grass energy and algae for biofuel and wastewater management as well as information on other biofuels being produced and used in Vermont. www.VermontBioenergy.com
The Vermont Bioenergy Initiative draws the connection between diversified agriculture and local renewable energy production for on farm and community use. Aiming to supply farm inputs and reduce fossil fuel consumption, this program supports research, technical assistance, and infrastructure development in emerging areas of bioenergy. Since 2003 the program has focused on biodiesel production and distribution for heating and transportation, oil crops for on-farm biodiesel and feed, grass for heating, and algae for biofuels and wastewater management. The Vermont Bioenergy Initiative works with biodiesel producers including State Line Biofuels and the Farm Fresh Fuel Project at Borderview Farm and grass pellet research through UVM Extension and is supported financially by US Department of Energy congressional appropriations secured by US Senator Patrick Leahy. The Vermont Bioenergy Initiative is a program of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund—a non-profit organization created by the Vermont Legislature in 1995 to accelerate the development of Vermont’s green economy in the fields of renewable energy, sustainable agriculture and forestry.
09 Apr 2014
Green Energy Times is an independent media company that publishes and energy independent website and newspaper. The power used to design the print publication and operate the website is completely off-the-grid and solar powered. Green Energy Times publishes all ranges of renewable energy and climate action news and articles from across Vermont and the region.
The Vermont Bioenergy is pleased to be authoring a regular column entitled Emerging Frontiers in Bioenergy. We plan to share each upcoming article on the Field Notes part of this website, and to get you up-to-speed, we wanted to share the first three in the series:
This article reviews how bioenergy refers to renewable energy fuels and feedstocks derived from forest and agricultural biomass, liquid biofuels, and biogas to be used for heat, electricity, or vehicle fuel.
This article explores the potential for grasses grown on marginal lands in Vermont to meet a portion of the state’s heating demand and reduce the consumption of fossil fuels and the study being conducted to assess the opportunities.
In this article, algae production is discussed as an excellent source of oil for making biodiesel, which could displace substantial volumes of petro-diesel for heating and transportation.
17 Sep 2013
Co-products: High-protein sunflower meal as feed ingredient
Energy Output: Power (for farm machinery)
Services: Oilseed Grower, Oil milling, Fuel Processing, Feed Supply
Owner: Nick and Taylor Meyer
Location: Hardwick, Vermont
The Meyer family has owned and operated their dairy on a 327-acre farm in Hardwick, Vermont since 1978. In 2003, when the younger Meyer boys took over the farm where they grew up, they transitioned to organic production. Today, Nick and Taylor produce some of the highest quality milk in the state of Vermont, winning numerous awards and gaining notoriety for their sustainable and innovative approach.
That approach has included efforts to reduce overhead costs by making the farm as self-sufficient as possible. A Bergy Wind Turbine was erected in 2007 to provide some of the farm’s electricity and Andrew began making biodiesel from waste vegetable oil in 2008. All the tractors on the farm run on B50 (50% biodiesel & 50% petrodiesel) for the summer and the furnace runs on B15 for the winter months.
“I want to produce everything the farm needs, without buying out (off the farm)” Nick Meyer explains. North Hardwick Dairy (NHD) uses 4,000 gallons of diesel each year (2,000 gallons of diesel for off- road equipment and 2,000 gallons in their furnace).
27 Aug 2013
The University of Vermont Extension Northwest Crops and Soils team held their annual Field Day on Thursday, August 1, 2013 from 10:00am to 3:30pm at Borderview Research Farm in Alburgh, Vermont.
Dr. Heather Darby led more than 200 attendees on a tour of research stations at the farm. The theme of this year’s field day was “Strategic Farming – Gearing Up for Weather Extremes.” Tour stops included brief overviews from researchers and technicians focused on cover crops, irrigation systems, sunflowers for cooking oil and biodiesel, wheat varieties, aerial seeding, hops variety trials and demonstration of a mechanized hops harvester, and demonstration of an oilseed press.
Vermont Bioenergy Initiative was in attendance with the Bioenergy Now! videos along with copies of the report, Vermont On-Farm Oilseed Enterprises: Production Capacity and Breakeven Economics written by Netaka White, formerly of VSJF and now of Full Sun Company, and Chris Callahan with UVM Extension.
More than 20 attendees, many of them farmers, attended the demonstration of the two oilseed presses at Borderview Farm by Hannah Hardwood of UVM Extension and Roger Rainville, owner along with his wife, Claire, of Borderview Farm.
A small revolution is happening in Grand Isle County, a declaration of fuel independence: In 2012, ten farmers and landowners tried their hand at growing sunflowers to have the oil made into biodiesel to fuel farm equipment or heat their homes.
Many farmers want to diversify their operation, control and lower fuel costs, and become more self-sufficient. Additionally, locally-grown renewable energy will support the agriculture economy. In Grand Isle County, growing their own biodiesel can save farmers more than $2.00 per gallon, according to a new study released by the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (See the report, Vermont On-Farm Oilseed Enterprises: Production Capacity and Breakeven Economics). Emerging feedstocks and new technology takes know-how, and the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative (VBI) at Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund is taking steps to overcome barriers to energy self-sufficiency on the farm.
With funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, Borderview Farm staff and UVM Extension researchers guided the planting, tending, and harvesting of more than 60 acres of sunflowers in the 2012 growing season for the Grand Isle Farm Fresh Fuels Project. Each farmer planted two to ten acres of sunflowers, growing more than 30 tons of sunflower seeds. The seeds will be pressed into 3,000 gallons of renewable, low-emission biodiesel and 26 tons of oilseed meal to feed livestock or use as pellet fuel.
For the UVM researchers, coordinating the project, overcoming some of the logistical challenges, and shepherding a successful crop of sunflowers into the storage bin at Roger Rainville’s farm was all part of the job. The lessons learned this year in Grand Isle County also contribute to a growing body of knowledge that is helping farmers in other regions put more acres under oilseed production and save money on their fuel bills.