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Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Emerging Frontiers in Bioenergy

By Sarah Galbraith

The Vermont Bioenergy Initiative has contracted with Wilson Engineering Services, PC in Pennsylvania to conduct a State of the Science Review of Grass Energy in Vermont and the Northeast. The team was hired to evaluate the current research and understanding of growing and combusting grass for thermal energy in the northeastern United States by reviewing current literature and interviewing experts in the field.

“Switchgrass growing at Meach Cove Farm in Shelburne, Vermont.” Vermont Bioenergy Initiative.

“Switchgrass growing at Meach Cove Farm in Shelburne, Vermont.” Vermont Bioenergy Initiative.

Beginning in 2008, the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (VSJF) began to explore the potential for grasses grown on marginal lands in Vermont to meet a portion of the state’s heating demand and reduce the consumption of fossil fuels. The Grass Energy Partnership was formed among Biomass Energy Resource Center, University of Vermont College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Vermont Technical College, and the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative to investigate agricultural best practices, combustion, and market development opportunities for grass energy.

There is an existing and growing body of knowledge on growing, processing and using grass for energy, but this opportunity has not been fully developed into a marketable option for growers, landowners, fuel processors and dealers, equipment manufacturers and vendors, nor homeowners and communities. There are still some uncertainties about the viability of using grass for energy, and as a result, some are hesitant to move forward with grass energy plantations or system installations that will support grass combustion. The State of the Science Review will evaluate what is known and establish the critical next steps for commercialization of grass energy in Vermont.

The final product of this work will be a report, due before the end of this year, containing key recommendations on next steps for commercializing grass energy in the Northeast, and specifically Vermont. The document will serve in strategic planning for the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative as well as the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, and other constituents exploring grass energy.

Stay tuned to the next edition of this column for preliminary results from the state of the science review.

The Vermont Bioenergy Initiative is a program of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund and partners with other organizations expanding the use of renewable energy in Vermont like Renewable Energy Vermont and the Energy Action Network. The Vermont Bioenergy Initiative also coordinates crossover with the Vermont Farm to Plate Network by providing resources and technical assistance to farmers, facilities, and communities to support energy crops to be grown alongside food production.

Sarah Galbraith is the program manager of the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative

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