Oilseeds & Biodiesel
Today most agricultural production depends on petrodiesel; a convenient, but increasingly expensive fuel that poses real risks to the environment, our climate, and human health. In recent years, sunflowers, canola and soybeans have been grown as “energy crops” throughout Vermont on farmland. Oilseed crops, when grown in rotation with other grains, grass, and fodder are a sustainable means of producing a clean, renewable fuel to power Vermont’s agricultural sector, while generating livestock feed and food-grade oil as well. In this way, the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative is helping to put more money back in the farmers’ pocket, increase their self-sufficiency, and to moderate the impacts of peak oil and climate change.
VBI Program Goals
- Increase acreage in oilseed crops; collect data, purchase seeds, fertilizer, and agricultural equipment.
- Fund new or improved commercial biodiesel production.
- Calculate costs of farm-scale distributed fuel and meal production
- At least eight Vermont farms now have oilseed pressing and processing equipment and expertise. These and a number of other farms are growing oilseeds for fuel, feed and food.
- Installed on-farm biodiesel production capacity went from 271,000 gallons per year in 2010 to over 604,000 in 2011. This level of production could support more than 10,000 acres per year of oilseed crop production.
- The cost to produce biodiesel from oilseeds from these distributed systems averages $2.81 per gallon (fixed and recurring costs) — well below the current price of off-road diesel fuel (at $3.85, Sept. 2011)
Research & Technical Assistance
Which oilseed varieties grow best in New England? What are the results of organically grown vs. conventional? What constitutes Best Practices for oilseed crop cultivation, pest management, and harvest? Is farm-scale biodiesel production cost-effective?
The VSJF market development approach often begins with applied and experimental research. In the case of building bioenergy products and markets, VSJF and its partners take aim at addressing gaps in regionally specific data, processing technology, and biofuel use. When research is combined with technical assistance — regulatory, technological, and other market barriers are more easily overcome.
- UVM Oilseed Crop Research & TA
- Borderview Farm: Biofuel Production Research Facility
- Vermont's Oilseed Producers
- Homegrown Feed, Food & Fuel Project
- Vermont Biodiesel Project
- Oilseed Production Profit / Loss Calculator
Technology & Infrastructure
What equipment is needed to grow oilseeds crops? What do farm- and community-scale biodiesel facilities need to safely produce high quality biodiesel? Who are these Vermont Bioneers and what can we learn from their stories?
Technology and infrastructure decisions are typically the next step in the VSJF market development model. With more than 30 Vermont bioenergy projects funded to date, one thing is certain — no two farmers or businesses have taken the same approach when it comes to building out the appropriate bioenergy solution for their operation.
- State Line Farm: On-Farm Biodiesel Facility
- Rainbow Valley Biodiesel: On-Farm Biodiesel Facility
- Nava Bioenergy
- Callahan Engineering, PLLC
Sales & Distribution
What factors led to the dramatic rise of commercial biodiesel sales in the early ‘00s? What are the trends in biodiesel sales and use? Where can you purchase bioheat or biodiesel today?
- Commercial Availability
- Vermont Biofuels Project
- Vermont Bioheat Project
- Vermont Biodiesel Supply Chain Survey Survey (PDF, 442 KB, 4/28/11)
Education, Outreach & Network Development
What bioenergy courses are available to Vermont students? What is the full lifecycle CO2 impact of small-scale biodiesel production? What is the role of networks and conferences in developing this new market sector?
- VBI Videos
- Renewable Energy Atlas of Vermont (REAV)
- Biomass-to-Biofuels Course Development
- Field Days & Symposiums (link coming soon)
- Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI) (PDF)
- Renewable Energy Vermont (REV)
Regulation & Public Policy
How are private and public sector players working together to build the Vermont bioenergy sector?