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VT Biofuels Initiative e-Newsletters

Post Irene Oilseed Crop Report

Everywhere creeks and rivers came close to roads, homes and farms tropical storm Irene left her mark. In many cases, that meant vegetable, grain and forage crops drowned in flooded fields or had to be plowed in due to health risks associated with even minor flooding. Several of the Vermont Biofuels Initiative (VBI) oilseed growers evaded the worst of what Irene dealt out, others weren't as fortunate. Here is a sampling, in their own words, of what they saw the day after:

From Newbury:  "As of 10:00 this morning, we had about 40 acres of corn under water and about half the sunflowers are swimming again this year (12-15 acres). When the river receded, crops are pretty much still standing, but covered in silt. So much for Mother Nature playing nicely. Overall though, I think we dodged the bullet on this one, compared to others here in the area." - Larry 

North Bennington:  "We got beat up by the storm pretty bad. The suns (sunflowers) didn't look very good this morning. Good call not to travel today, there are a lot of closed roads." - John

Shaftsbury:  "We got by (with a few minor exceptions) essentially unscathed and I feel very lucky. The damage to so many in our little state is overwhelming to a point hard to comprehend." - Andrew

Alburgh:  "With all the wind and the rain I believe we fared pretty well. Lots of water in the fields but I believe it will drain off. Everything is leaning but still standing. Some of the canola got flattened but (it) should be ready to harvest in a week or so." - Roger

Near Brandon:  "We're relatively unscathed here, as we are not really on any fast moving creek land. Our sunnies were looking nice (then they were) kinda knocked over a bunch from the storm. Business went into the tank, but our land etc. is still here. Hope all is well on your end." - Jon

We are wishing all those affected by Irene a speedy recovery.


What's the cost of on-farm biodiesel in VT? [less than you're paying at the pump]]

Using 2010 crop and production data from seven Vermont farms growing and processing oilseeds -- it costs an average of $2.81 per gallon to produce high quality, on-farm biodiesel from sunflower, soybean & canola seeds, while off-road petrodiesel costs an average of $3.85/gal. This is an "all-in" figure which:

  • Includes all recurring costs for crop production and processing; seeds, fertilizer, fuel, electricity, labor etc.
  • Includes all fixed costs dedicated to oil crop production; farm equipment, storage bins, oilseed press, biodiesel processing equipment, building costs, etc. - amortized over the life of the equipment and spread across the number of gallons produced in 2010.
  • Assumes the cost will go down as these farm operations increase biodiesel production. Analysis shows that the cost to make a gallon of biodiesel could drop by 47% from 2011 prices (to ~$1.32/gallon) once farms reach full capacity. That level of operation will require approximately 10,700 acres of annual oilseed production.

With the help of the Oilseed Profit and Loss Calculator, developed by Callahan Engineering with VSJF and UVM Extension support, growers throughout Vermont and the US have been able to carefully evaluate their oil, meal and fuel production, and processing costs. With the help of this tool, growers are better able to make informed business decisions about their oilseed operations.

What's more, recent lifecycle analysis (LCA) studies funded by VSJF show that on-farm biodiesel production in Vermont creates a negative greenhouse gas balance -- where more GHGs were offset than emitted, and the net Energy Return on Investment (or EROEI) is greater than 4:1 (for every 1 unit of energy used to produce the biodiesel, 4 units of energy are returned). Both results are better than the national data and show that small-scale biodiesel production works; economically, energetically, and environmentally!

The Oilseed Business Calculator Tool is available as a FREE DOWNLOAD on the VSJF website HERE. The GHG and EROEI studies will be published soon.

Senator Sanders and the VT Bioenergy Tour

Sen. Sanders at Stateline FarmIn mid August, Senator Sanders paid visits to two VBI grantees; John Williamson at State Line Farm and Vermont Technical College (VTC). At State Line, Bernie had a chance to learn first hand about growing canola and sunflowers, and how the seeds are pressed and the oil converted to biodiesel fuel that runs the Williamson farm. The Senator's next stop was at VTC to view their switchgrass research plots (for heating fuel) and their new installation of a multi-fuel biomass boiler for the Red Schoolhouse. "Bernie asked great questions", Williamson reports, "I guess I gave him a lot to think about, by the time he left."

We appreciate the Senator taking the time to learn first hand about these innovative projects.

Click, to view images from the State Line visit: http://sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/photos/gallery/?id=47693377-ddfe-4065-857e-a0f2f6bbf346
Click, to view scenes from VTC: http://sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/photos/gallery/?id=c2552b49-d15d-43d3-8e22-adcfc7d1025e

 

Vermont Bioenergy Now! THE MOVIE

Roger Rainville on tractorVSJF began collaborating in May on a comprehensive video library highlighting the Vermont farmers, business, researchers, and their findings at the forefront of the renewable fuel movement. With KSE Partners behind the camera and the interviews, and VSJF in the lead on scripting and directing, already 20 hours of footage has been shot at 7 farm locations.

Topics for the series cover best practices for growing conventional and organic sunflowers, soybeans and canola; on-farm production of oil, biodiesel and protein meal; growing, pelletizing and heating with grass energy; algae-to-biofuel research and prototypes; commercial biodiesel blending and use, and more. The 90-minute series, filmed over four seasons, will be told in 13 segments, each approximately 7 minutes long. Camera work will conclude in late December, with a target release date of April 2012. Stay tuned for the release party!

 

Grantee Updates:

Algae-to-Biofuels on Display at ECHO Centers

Carbon Harvest Energy at Echo CenterCarbon Harvest Energy has recently designed and installed a display version of their algae culture system in the Rubenstein Ecosystem Science Lab, visible from ECHO. This display culture system is now part of the Lab's "window science" project, showing ECHO visitors important environmental research that UVM is engaged in.

Carbon Harvest is also working with ECHO's environmental educators to develop programming on algae biofuels that uses their culture system as a visual starting point. It's an exciting collaboration with great potential for public outreach on the importance of sustainable biofuels development in Vermont and elsewhere.

For more info on the ECHO project: http://www.vsjf.org/news/44/algae-on-display-at-echo-center
To learn more about Carbon Harvest Energy: http://carbonharvestenergy.com/

 

VSJF Announces $100,000 R&D grant to develop VT Grass Energy

VSJF received verification from US Department of Energy that Renewable Energy Resources (RER) of Bennington has been approved for a $100,000 grant from the Vermont Biofuels Initiative. RER's grant will be used to help pay for the design and fabrication of a mobile grass briquetter to produce heating fuel for several Vermont businesses and institutions (see story below). The company has been producing grass briquette fuels for the Benton, PA school system with a prototype system. The VBI grant will enable RER to scale up their production in Vermont and work closely with landholders to turn hay that has no feed value, into fuel, and to help establish switchgrass as a high-yield biomass energy crop in the state.

Back by Popular Demand: UVM Biofuels Course Registers for the Third Time!

Two years ago, the University of Vermont was awarded a VSJF / Biofuels Initiative grant to develop a Biomass-to-Biofuels course for degree and non-degree seeking students, farmers, budding entrepreneurs, teachers and others.

UVM is pleased to announce that the Biofuels course has been registered for the third time for the 2011 Fall Semester and will run from September 2nd-October 8th on the UVM campus and throughout Vermont for field trips and hands-on experience.

Experts in the following areas will provide hands-on instruction in various bioenergy fuels including:

  • Liquid Biofuels (oilseed-based biodiesel; bioethanol; algae-biofuel)
  • Solid Biofuels (wood & grass energy)
  • Biogas (farm-based methane power)
  • Biofuels related science and technology topics, background and literature, as well as important environmental, economic, social and other bioenergy related issues.

For more info: http://learn.uvm.edu/?Page=biomass_to_biofuels.html or contact the Lead Instructor at adahiya@uvm.edu for syllabus related questions.

VBI In the News

Could Switchgrass Offer a CO2 Solution?

The Addison Independent recently published an article on switchgrass experiments in the state, profiling VSJF grantee, Renewable Energy Resources, and VSJF Bioenergy Director, Netaka White and his research colleague, Peter Carothers.

Switchgrass and other perennial grasses are being grown on marginal farmland not suitable for other crops and they represent a low emission and low-carbon renewable alternative to heating oil.

Renewable Energy Resources from Bennington (see above), and Addison County farmers are working with Vermont institutions like schools, town buildings, and industrial partners to produce grass biofuel as a local source of heat (densified grass has nearly the same energy content as wood).

For more info: http://www.addisonindependent.com/201107could-switchgrass-offer-co2-solution

Farm Aid Features North Hardwick Dairy

Nick and Taylor at North Hardwick DairyFarm Aid recently profiled VSJF grantee, Nick Meyers, as a "Farmer Hero" for his innovative efforts in sustainable farming, including on-farm biodiesel production.

From the article: "Three years ago, they began growing sunflowers and have been successfully producing sunflower oil and biodiesel fuel for about a year. The beauty of this method, Nick explains, is that the sunflowers produce two beneficial products. The first is the oil, which can be made into fuel, and the second is a high protein sunflower meal. Nick mixes the meal with grains at a ratio of 50/50, and feeds this mixture to his calves and heifers. As Nick explains, "The high protein gives the calves an extra boost for growing." In the winter Nick uses the biodiesel produced from the sunflowers in his barn's furnace for hot water and heat. During the warmer seasons the biodiesel is blended in a ratio that ranges from B20 (20% Biodiesel) to B50 (50% Biodiesel) for their farm equipment and he has been able to cut his (petrodiesel) fuel purchases.

For more info: http://www.farmaid.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=qlI5IhNVJsE&b=2723875&ct=10863075

Register Today for the Annual REV Conference!

October 11 & 12
Sheraton Hotel & Conference Center
Burlington, VT

Join Renewable Energy Vermont to celebrate a decade of advancing renewable energy in Vermont and throughout the Northeast. With nearly 800 participants, REV's annual fall conference is consistently the largest renewable energy event in Vermont. Click HERE for more info!

Flexible Capital Fund Seeks Renewable Energy Businesses Ready to Grow!

VSJF's Flexible Capital Fund is looking to invest in growth stage renewable energy companies. If you're looking for risk capital to grow your business, give us a call. Janice St. Onge, (802) 828-0398.

Now Hiring at Carbon Harvest Energy

Carbon Harvest seeks leaders in Renewable Energy Systems and Sustainable Agriculture.

  • Senior Algae Culture Biologist
  • Chief Financial Officer
  • Senior Plant/ Hydroponics Biologist

For more information, qualifications, and application instructions, visit CHE's website.

Save the Date!

Learn more about opportunities for green training and green jobs at the Vermont Green Summit and Showcase at Vermont Technical College on November 9th. Click HERE for more information.

Senator Sanders and the VT Bioenergy Tour 

 

Sen. Sanders at Stateline FarmIn mid August, Senator Sanders paid visits to two VBI grantees; John Williamson at State Line Farm and Vermont Technical College (VTC). At State Line, Bernie had a chance to learn first hand about growing canola and sunflowers, and how the seeds are pressed and the oil converted to biodiesel fuel that runs the Williamson farm.

The Senator's next stop was at VTC to view their switchgrass research plots (for heating fuel) and their new installation of a multi-fuel biomass boiler for the Red Schoolhouse. "Bernie asked great questions", Williamson reports, "I guess I gave him a lot to think about, by the time he left."

We appreciate the Senator taking the time to learn first hand about these innovative projects.
 
Click, to view images from the State Line visit: http://sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/photos/gallery/?id=47693377-ddfe-4065-857e-a0f2f6bbf346 
 
Click, to view scenes from VTC: http://sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/photos/gallery/?id=c2552b49-d15d-43d3-8e22-adcfc7d1025e