UVM Extension and the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative supported the installation of a multi-source biomass fuel boiler at the Vermont Farmers Food Center in Rutland, Vermont. The boiler uses several alternative fuels, such as wood pellets and grass biomass pucks, to displace propane and heat the 4,200 square foot space, home to the Rutland Winter Farmers’ Market and a variety of food system educational program and events. The biomass project demonstrates the economic advantages when compared to typical propane heaters, including a much smaller payback period (roughly 2-8 years) when using biomass fuel sources. Chris Callahan, a UVM Extension Agricultural Engineer, directed the project and worked closely with the Vermont Farmers Food Center to fit a biomass fuel boiler for the space specifications.
Check out this video featuring the project on Across the Fence, the longest-running locally-produced program in the US:
David Marchant and Jane Sorensen of River Berry Farm—an organic vegetable and fruit producer in Fairfax—were early adopters of biomass heating when they installed a corn and pellet furnace in one of their greenhouses in 2008. The furnace required manual lighting and was snuffed out often when strong winds blew, and did not produce reasonable heat. “I kept thinking, there has got to be a better option,” recalls David, “It was a real labor burden, and you couldn’t count on it.”
Based on their early experiences and bolstered by a commitment to long-term sustainability and reduced fossil fuel dependence, River Berry Farm opted to host a biomass heating demonstration project. This time, they opted for a higher-rated boiler rather than a furnace. Boilers produce hot water, rather than hot air, which allows more options for distributing the heat. The new system also had an automated propane ignition system.
The biomass heating demonstration was part of a UVM Extension project aimed at trialing several furnaces in agricultural heating applications with funding support provided by the High Meadows Fund. According to Chris Callahan, Ag Engineer with UVM Extension Agricultural Engineering Program who assisted with some of the design and performance assessment, “The main lessons learned from these early installations were to buy high quality fuel, seek improved automatic ignition controls, invest in a good chimney and install it well, and know the actual heat output rating of the unit.”
Modern biomass heating appliances generally include a fuel storage bin, an auger for feeding fuel to the appliance, the appliance itself (boiler or furnace) with an ignition system, a combustion chamber, a heat exchanger, and a heat distribution system. They also incorporate some means of controlling combustion, fuel feed rate, and air flow and often include emissions control measures and automated ash removal.
The selected boiler was a Central Boiler Maxim 250 with a 250,000 BTU/hr input rating, efficiency of 87.8%, and EPA Phase II Hydronic Heater qualification. “The boiler makes hot water which we can use in multiple greenhouses by plumbing it to them in insulated PEX piping. Once in the greenhouse, we convert to hot air with a hot water fan coil, put it in the ground for root-zone heating or on the benches in our mat-heating system for starts,” says Marchant. “I like it. I keep trying to find something wrong with it, but I can’t. The payback period is a bit longer due to higher initial costs, but you have to expect that.”
The basic system cost was approximately $13,000 for the boiler, bin, pad, and plumbing to a hot water fan coil. The other heat distribution systems included in-ground PEX, heat exchange, and plumbing for a bench heat system and added approximately another $5,000. The system is more automated and reliable than the earlier furnace was, but the higher initial costs and the fact that the system is only used 3 months out of the year do prolong the payback period to about 12 years when compared with a propane furnace. If the system was used for 6 (space heating) or even 12 months (wash water, pasteurization) of the year the payback would be halved or quartered, respectively.
“In addition to the financial payback, the carbon emissions avoidance is also of interest to many people,” says Callahan, “In River Berry Farm’s case, the Maxim is helping them avoid 5,910 pounds of net CO2 emissions per year which is about equivalent to 5,000 miles car travel or the CO2 sequestered by half an acre of pine forest.”
Learn more about UVM Extension’s Agricultural Engineering Program at.
This story was originally released in a series of energy case studies showcasing farms, businesses, vendors, installers, and technical assistance providers who have made a difference with energy efficiency savings and renewable energy production—all of which are components for helping Vermont reach the renewable energy and environmental impact goals of the Farm to Plate Strategic Plan. Learn more at www.vtfarmtoplate.com.
Through a generous opportunity, Vermonters now have a short-time frame before the new year to capitalize on a fantastic incentive offering that helps them save money, while supporting Vermont jobs and sustainable forests, while making sure they stay warm this winter.
Vermonters can get up to $5,500 to help switch from fossil fuel to local wood heating. Cash incentives are available from the Clean Energy Development Fund and Efficiency Vermont. Renewable Energy Vermont and the Renewable Energy Resource Center have partnered to help promote the incentives.
“We’ve been very happy with our decision to switch to a wood pellet boiler. Not only do we save money every year on our fuel bill, but we also love the fact that we’re helping to keep forests intact and logging jobs going,” says Mark Bushnell of Middlesex.
Vermonters who make the switch to wood pellet fuel typically save $1,500 annually when compared to oil and propane fuel heating options. And for those who are used to whole-home heating through their traditional boiler, the wood pellet boiler keeps it simple and complete. Advanced wood pellet boilers are fully automatic, so there’s no work for the home or business owner.
“I heated my home for years with a standard wood stove, but I’m happier with my wood pellet boiler. The new boiler is much more efficient and better for the environment because it is cleaner burning. And it feels great to be off fossil fuels,” says Susan Clark of Middlesex.
Wood pellet boilers, though not well known in the United States, are the primary way of heating in some parts of the world, including Upper Austria where more than 40,000 homes and businesses heat with wood from their background in an easy, seamless way. In fact, the State of Vermont and Upper Austria are involved in a Sister Statehood Agreement to help learning across both sides of the Atlantic to increase the uptake of this sustainable, local heating option.
“For many years, Vermont has been a national leader in the use of modern wood heating systems in large buildings like schools, office buildings, and apartment buildings. With pellets now available in bulk using specialized delivery trucks that conveniently blow pellets into a fuel bin and heating systems that are fully-automated, many homeowners and small businesses are also making the switch from oil and propane,” said Adam Sherman of the Biomass Energy Resource Center.
For more information, please go to www.advancedwoodheat.com
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. Explore the initiative’s extensive and accessible set of bioenergy resources for replication in rural communities across the United States and beyond.
A series of informative educational showcase a range of biofuel possibilities; from research and crop farming to feedstocks and fuel. The videos were developed by the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, UVM Extension researchers, KSE Partners, and the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative grantees.
Two calculators, developed by UVM Extension, help connect potential costs and profits associated with oilseed production:
- Grass Biomass Production and Harvest Cost Estimator
- Vermont Oilseed Crop Production Cost and Profit Calculator
- Biomass to Biofuels, University of Vermont: This semester-long course covers liquid and solid biofuels, biogas and bio-electricity, and environmental, social and economic issue related to biofuels. The course includes guest lecturers and field days. Available for variable credits.
- Biomass to Biofuels, Vermont Technical College: The development of this course and associated materials led to an online repository of resources for the classroom covering biomass to biofuels.
- Digester Operations Master Certificate, Vermont Technical College: a twelve week program designed for participants to work directly with operations staff of Vermont Tech’s anaerobic digester and come away with understanding of the mechanics and operations of a digester system, as well as other areas such as permitting, regulatory compliance and record keeping.
- Alternative Fuel Vehicles: Biodiesel, part of the Green Trainings series at Vermont Technical College: This 2-day course covers engine systems, biodiesel blends and biodiesel production, including a demonstration of fuel-making equipment.
- Biofuels Course at Yestermorrow Design/Build School, part of the Green Trainings series at Vermont Technical College: This weekend workshop enables students to begin replacing fossil fuels with biofuels, such as adapting engines to run on straight vegetable oil. 1 credit.
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.
A variety of reports are available which cover a range of topics including seed preparation and storage:
- Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School.Legal & Regulatory Review of On-farm Biodiesel Production. 2015.
- Chris Callahan and Netaka White,Vermont On-Farm Oilseed Enterprises: Production Capacity and Break-even Economics. July 2013.
- Nell Campbell, Local Production for Local Use to Supply a Portion of Vermont’s Energy Needs.May 2009.
- Emily J. Stebbins. Technical and Economic Feasibility of Biodiesel Production in Vermont: Evidence From a Farm-Scale Study and a Commercial-Scale Simulation Analysis. May 2009.
- Christopher W. Callahan,A Feasibility Analysis of a Mobile Unit for Processing Oilseed Crops and Producing Biodiesel in Vermont. December 2008.
- Emily Stebbins, The Market Potential of Farm-Scale Oilseed Crop Products in Vermont. February 2008. (See also the Executive Summary)
- John Williamson & Tanner Williamson – State Line Biofuels, LLP, Chris Callahan – Callahan Engineering, PLLC, Feasibility Analysis:_Solar Seed Dryer and Storage Bin at State Line Farm, Bennington, VT. October 2008
- Christopher W. Callahan, A Feasibility Study of a Mobile Unit for Processing Oilseed Crops and Producing Biodiesel in Vermont. December 2008
- Kenneth Mulder, Ph.D., Galen Wilkerson, Emily J. Stebbins.Homegrown Fuel: Economic Feasibility of Commercial-Scale Biodiesel Production in Vermont. September 2007.
- The Vermont Biodiesel Project: Building Demand in the Biofuels Sector – Final Report. October 2006. (See also theExecutive Summary)
- Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services, Vermont Biodiesel Pilot Project: Emissions Testing of Biodiesel Blends With #6 Fuel Oil At the Waterbury State Office Complex – Final Report. September 2006.
- Laboratory and Field Testing of Biodiesel in Residential Space Heating Equipment – Final Report. August 2006.
- Vermont Biodiesel Supply Chain Survey – Final Report. April 2006.
- Wilson Engineering,Grass Energy in Vermont and the Northeast, May 2014.
Connect directly with the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative’s technical assistance providers:
Oilseeds for Biofuel
- Heather Darby, Agronomic and Soils Specialist
- University of Vermont Extension, Northwest Crops and Soils Team
- (802) 524-6501
- Chris Callahan, PE, Agricultural Engineer
- University of Vermont Extension
- (802) 773-3349
Grass for Heating Fuel
- Sidney Bosworth, Extension Professor
- University of Vermont College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
- (802) 656-0478
Algae for Biodiesel
- Anju Dahiya, Instructor and Principal
- University of Vermont and GSR Solutions
- (802) 310-1936
17 Aug 2015
The Third Annual National Bioenergy Day (NBD), which will take place Wednesday, October 21st, is a day that is marked with events from across the country that celebrates energy independence, local jobs, and many other benefits of local bioenergy. Led by Biomass Power Association in partnership with U.S. Forest Service, National Bioenergy Day is an opportunity for Vermonters to showcase our research, progress, and impacts in producing local bioenergy for local use.
How To Get Involved:
- Organize an event on or near October 21ndthat showcases bioenergy as a clean, efficient, and resourceful way to produce energy. Emphasizes bioenergy’s role in improving environmental health; and facilitates collaboration along the supply chain.
- Partner with someone who works in the bioenergy supply chain to create an event. Use the Vermont Energy Atlas to find partners in your area.
- Piggyback on an existing event and call it a NBD event.
- Share and talk about NBD in your social media and press efforts while promoting impacts in your community.
The Vermont Bioenergy Initiative, for example, will spend the day re-capping and previewing events and research on our Twitter handle @VTBioenergy that took place throughout the summer and that are planned for the fall. We’ll be recapping and sharing exciting things like the exciting learning opportunities at the University of Vermont, Full Sun Company’s Biodiesel and Meal production, and much more!
For more information, you can visit also visit bioenergyday.com and follow @USAbiomass on twitter!
In order to meet the goals set by Vermont’s comprehensive energy plan for Vermont to produce 90 percent of the state’s energy needs from renewables by 2050 and reduce Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent from a 1990 baseline, Vermont farmers will have an important role to play. As Vermont experiences growth in food-related businesses and jobs, decisions about energy become more important prompting statewide energy and agriculture collaborations. In the following episodes of Across the Fence, UVM Extension agricultural engineer and Vermont Bioenergy Initiative biofuels consultant, Chris Callahan, shares two stories about Vermont farmers who are rethinking their on-farm energy. In both examples UVM extension is able to work with the farmers to help make cleaner, renewable on-farm energy sources a practical solution that saves money and results in greenhouse gas reductions.
Learn more in a series of on-farm energy case studies produced by Vermont’s Farm to Plate Initiative.
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.
20 Apr 2015
The State of Vermont 2011 Comprehensive Energy Plan calls for 90% of Vermont energy needs to be met through efficiency and renewable sources by 2050. As Vermont residents witness continued high numbers in clean energy jobs, and advanced renewable energy legislation they will also need to take responsibility for Vermont to meet these goals, as every Vermonter will need to contribute in some way for Vermont to meet this ambitious goal. Enter Brighter Vermont, an action oriented program of the Energy Action Network, to help everyday Vermonters rethink where their energy comes from, how they use it in their daily lives, and what they can do to help the state reach its 90% by 2050 goal.
The Brighter Vermont website is packed with testimonials and videos shared by individuals who describe the financial decisions they are making to positively affect the environment, Vermont’s economy, and their wallets. A family in Rutland reports on small home improvement they have made to keep out the Northeast cold out and share a video about lowering energy costs, with the help of Green Mountain Power, by properly weatherizing their home, changing to energy efficient LED bulbs, electing for a heat pump, and adding solar panels. The overall transition has made them a more energy conscious family and was achievable with a ten year loan the family is pleased to see being offset by reduction in energy costs.
A family in Burlington’s journey towards reducing their carbon footprint is documented in a fun testimonial video where the family picks out their first electric vehicle. They were able to replace one of their family vehicles with a zero emission Nissan Leaf (hyperlink to video) that was available with an affordable two year lease. The switch from a classic Vermont staple vehicle, a Subaru, to the Leaf, has helped the family not only save money at the gas pump, but the, as the family reports, electricity used to charge the vehicle comes from renewable energy. They enjoy educating their friends and neighbors about this carbon footprint transition.
Brighter Vermont also hosts ways for businesses, schools, and towns to become more efficient and promote renewables in their community. Methods for how schools and businesses have become more efficient by transitioning to modern wood heating. A featured video produced by VEIC (hyperlink) features 54 schools from across Vermont currently heating with wood chips and pellets which provides heat for nearly one third of k-12 students across Vermont. Our own Vermont Bioenergy Initiative Vermont on-farm energy videos are also featured for farmers to learn more about the emerging areas of oilseed, grass, and algae biofuel.
There is much that needs to be done in the fight against climate change and moving Vermont away from its reliance on fossil fuels. While this road can be daunting, it is important to remember that we can all make small changes that will benefit us, our community, and our state. And the Brighter Vermont website provides a fun and interactive platform for individuals, families, businesses, and institutions to learn how to contribute and share these efforts with others so Vermont can take steps towards meeting our renewable energy goals for our future.
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.
- Biomass Boot Camp, February 23, Catonsville, MD
- Farm Energy IQ – Training for NE Ag Service Providers in VT February 23- 25, Fairlee, VT
- ACI’s 4th Carbon Dioxide Utilization Conference 2015 February 25-26 San Antonio, TX
- 2015 Executive Leadership Conference. 25 February – 1 March 2015. Phoenix, Arizona
- World Agri-Tech Investment Summit. March 3-4, 2015 San Francisco, CA
- Waste to Biogas and Clean Fuels Finance and Investment Summit. March 3-4 San Jose, CA
- Farm Energy IQ – Training for NE Ag Service Providers March 10-12, 2015 State College, PA
- Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership Conference March 11-15, 2015 Washington, DC
- Next-Generation Defense Energy Symposium. 17 – 18 March, 2015. Washington, United States
- WEBINAR: Using B100 in Our Class-8 Trucking Operations (60 trucks) in Tennessee March 19, 2015 10:00 AM ET
- ACI’s Annual Lignofuels Americas Summit March 25-26, 2015 Milwaukee, WI
- Forest Products and Timberland Investment Conference. March 31-April 1, 2015. New York, NY
- Applying Renewable Energy – Online Training April 01, 2015 at 09:00 AM to June 30, 2015 at 06:00 PM
- Farm Energy IQ – Training for NE Ag Service Providers in NJ, April 8- 10, Bordentown, NJ
- 5th Defense Renewable Energy Summit. 7-8 April 2015. Arlington, VA
- Good Jobs, Green Jobs 2015 April 13 Washington, D.C
- 2015 Northeast Biomass Heating Expo. April 16-18, 2015. Portland, ME
- Introduction to Renewable Energy Technologies Start date: 20 to 22, 2015
- International Biomass Conference and Expo. 20 -22 April 2015. Minneapolis, MN
- 37th Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals. April 27 – 30, 2015 San Diego, CA