Vermont Grass Energy Partnership
The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund teamed up with the UVM Plant & Soil Science Department, the Biomass Energy Resource Center (BERC) and Vermont Technical College to form the Vermont Grass Energy Partnership in an effort to explore the potential for grass energy in Vermont. This partnership, along with other public and private sector collaborators, is working to identify challenges in the bioenergy supply chain (from field to end energy use), and develop possible solutions to those challenges.
The Need: Vermont possesses good soils and infrastructure to grow perennial grasses, but in order to successfully produce high-yielding biomass crops such as switchgrass and big bluestem, farmers need agronomic data that is specific to Vermont. Also, the process of utilizing grass as a heating fuel in modern combustion systems is in its infancy and a great deal needs to be known to address logistics, densification, combustion and market barriers.
- Phase 1 research by the Vermont Grass Energy Partnership is focused on developing baseline knowledge for the production, processing, and combustion of grass and grass/wood blend pellet fuels.
- Phase 2 will work to develop best practices, new markets, and increase capacity.
The Opportunity: Almost 1/3 of Vermont’s total energy demand is for heating purposes (including business processing), and nearly 60% of the heating fuel used in the state is No.2 heating oil. How much of Vermont's demand for fossil-derived fuels can be offset with local, renewable grasses? The Vermont Grass Energy Partnership is working to evaluate the limits of grass as a fuel feedstock, by studying the agronomy, chemical analysis, combustion performance, emissions and economic feasibility of grass-derived fuels.
Activities & Reports To-Date:
During 2009-2010, the Vermont Grass Energy Partnership implemented a “field-to-flue” project that analyzed grass varieties, tested different pellet formulations using grass and wood and conducted test burns in a 500,000 Btu Sologen pellet boiler to study combustion & emissions. In January 2011, the final report of this applied research project was released:
REPORT: A Technical Assessment of Grass Pellets as a Boiler Fuel in Vermont (PDF, 1.2 MB, 1/11)
Additional resources include:
- Grass Energy Basics; primer developed by BERC
- 2008 Grass Energy Symposium; presentations, notes and photos
The Vermont Grass Energy Partnership has identified two principal strategies for expanding grass fiber use as a heating fuel in Vermont:
- Blend grass with wood pellets to meet existing industry norms for fuel and appliances.
- Build a new market for 100% grass fuel by adapting wood pellet manufacturing equipment to suit the characteristics of grass biomass (or utilize emerging grass pelletizing technologies) and identify or develop the appliances capable of burning grass fuels
In January 2011, the VSJF released an RFP (Request for Proposals) to help accelerate grass energy processing and market development through a competitive grant process. A $100,000 VBI grant was awarded to Renewable Energy Resources, Inc. (RER), of Bennington for the research and development of a mobile briquetting system capable of processing grass fibers into fuel. In addition, the RER proposal included a business plan that identifies steps leading to new markets utilizing densified grass as a heating fuel in Vermont.
For more information about the VSJF funded mobile briquetter project >> Read More
The Vermont Grass Energy Partnership acknowledges the growing body of knowledge as a result of grass-to-fuel research and development efforts in the Northeast, and elsewhere in the US and internationally. The partners look forward to ongoing collaboration with those involved; supporting efforts to economically and sustainably replace a portion of the region’s fossil fuel use in ways that maintain a healthy environment while strengthening the local economy.