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Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

Grantees: Biomass-to-Biofuels Course Development

Grantees: Biomass-to-Biofuels Course Development

In order to advance bioenergy educational opportunities in Vermont, VSJF awarded grants to the University of Vermont and Vermont Technical College for the development of biomass-to-biofuels course curriculum. These courses provided students, farmers, entrepreneurs, and others with the educational foundation and hands-on technical skills necessary to develop Vermont’s biomass-to-biofuels market.

University of Vermont

“The course was extremely helpful. It provided an overview of each of the current biofuel technologies and their future plans. It broadened my perspective of biofuels through the EROI and the life cycle analysis. I learned a great deal and will carry this knowledge with me in the future.” – UVM Student

The course at UVM provided the participants with hands-on technical exposure to various biofuels related science and technology topics, background and literature information that addressed the environmental, economical, policy, and social issues of bioenergy development. Various means of instruction were utilized, including on-campus classes, field work involving tours to farms and biofuel facilities, lectures by experts on particular biofuel types, biofuel equipment demonstrations by professionals, online supplementary classes and information including video clips, and service learning projects. After completing the development of course, the course has been offered twice through Continuing Education program at UVM and is scheduled for a third run in the spring of 2012.

The UVM's team, including guest speakers, included:

  • Introduction: Biofuels and Vermont – Anju Dahiya; Guest Speakers: Matt Cota, Executive Director, Vermont Fuels Dealers Association; Adam Sherman, Program Manager and Fuel Supply Expert, Biomass Energy resource Center
  • Biodiesel (Oil seeds based) – Heather Darby
  • Biogas – Guy Roberts, Avatar Energy
  • Solid Wood Fuel – David Brynn, Roel Boumans
  • Grass Energy – Sid Bosworth
  • Algae Oil – Anju Dahiya and John Todd
  • Sustainability, policy and other related issues – Thomas Buchholz
  • Economics & other topics – Jon Erickson, Gary Flomenhoft, Roel Boumans
  • Farming Communities Integrated with Biodiesel Production System – Samuel Gorton
  • Final session & Biofuels Panel – panel session organized by Anju Dahiya: all the available Co-Instructors, Guest Speaker: Netaka White, Bioenergy Program Director, Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

For more information:

Vermont Technical College

Vermont Tech created a course that addressed the technology and processes associated with the production and use of solid and liquid biofuels. The goal was to provide a resource for educating and training people interested in this field in order to support growth of this sector in Vermont and the surrounding region. The course material was introductory and targeted towards individuals who would benefit from knowledge of how biomass resources (wood, grass, crops, etc.) can be converted and used as fuels for heat and power. The content was technical in nature and highlighted the opportunities and constraints associated with adopting biomass energy technology.

The course was designed as separate modules that could be delivered individually or clustered as a sequence within a certificate or degree program curriculum. The topics were chosen to address sectors that have been developed to some level of capacity in Vermont. The five modules addressed the following topics:

  1. Introduction to Biomass and Biofuels
  2. Biodiesel: Feedstock and Byproducts
  3. Biodiesel: Fuel Production, Standards, and Regulations
  4. Solid Biomass Fuel: Resources, Material Handling and Processing
  5. Solid Biomass Fuel: Combustion, Emissions, and Byproducts

Visits were conducted to field sites like Clearbrook Farm and State-Line Farm where oilseeds and biodiesel are produced, Vermont Wood Pellet Company, the state’s first and currently only pellet manufacturer, and to chip heating facilities at Middlebury College and Randolph Union High School. These visits and discussions provided input for the development of the learning objectives and the course topics. Field experts who provided input included Adam Sherman (Biomass Energy Resource Center / BERC), Heather Darby (UVM Extension), Sid Bosworth (UVM Extension), John Williamson (State-Line Farm), Andrew Knafel (Clearbrook Farm), Tom McGinn (Middlebury College), Chris Brooks (Vermont Wood Pellet Co.), Mark McKinstry (Randolph Union High School chip plant), David Frank (Sunwood Energy Systems), Winston Sadoo (NAVA Bioenergy), and others.

In June 2011, one of the modules was test-delivered to chemistry students at Vermont Tech, which included a lecture session as well as lab and a field activity at the Nava BioEnergy facility in Brookfield. The experience provided information about the logistics and costs required for these activities that will be applied to plan future offerings.

For more information: