St. Lawrence County Grass Energy Working Group
The St. Lawrence County Grass Energy Working Group is an informal, non-incorporated association of persons, businesses, agencies and institutions that was formed in the wake of some public meetings that were held on the preparation of the “Renewable Fuels Roadmap”. We are collaborating with other like-minded groups around the State, but most directly with the Drum Country Bio-Energy Group in Jefferson and Lewis Counties.
Our point of view on grass and other biomass fuel sources is that they are best used to meet space heating and hot water applications close to the point of their production instead of converting them to liquid fuels. This is because, while sustainable biomass energy crops are renewable, they are finite, and it is essential that the maximum amount of useable energy be squeezed out of them. They are too precious a resource to squander through energy inefficient processes, such as by trucking feed stocks long distances or incurring energy losses through excessive processing.
The reason we are concentrating on grass fuels is that they are currently an undeveloped resource that has great potential. The woody biomass fuel industry, on the other hand, is already developed with a proven track record and significant infrastructure. We believe that, with a proper approach, grass biomass crops could provide an important contribution to the total biomass resource base and provide benefits to the agricultural sector.
If you are curious about this emerging field, please visit our website at www.slcgrassenergy.org/ We have tried to bring together a lot of relevant and useful information but recognize that new developments are constantly happening and, like many web sites, it is always a “work in progress”.
The St. Lawrence County Grass Energy Working Group includes representatives from the County Planning Office, SUNY Canton, St. Lawrence University, Clarkson University, the Black River-St. Lawrence RC&D Council, Cornell Cooperative Extension and interested individuals. Our stated goal is:
To develop a viable local grass energy economy in the North Country that will displace fossil fuel use for space heating and hot water, increasing local economic benefits and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
We feel that grass energy offers the promise that:
• Farmers will have a new market for grass, even low-quality hay and weed mixtures.
• Densification will add value to previously low-value material.
• Money from pellet/briquette sales and hay purchases will stay local.
• Grass combustion does not contribute fossil carbon and thereby helps reduce atmospheric greenhouse gasses.
• The fuel source can be renewable and sustainable.
We are very supportive of the direction advocated in the plan: “Heating the Northeast with Renewable Biomass – A Vision for 2025”, issued April 28, 2010 by the Biomass Thermal Energy Council, Washington DC, Alliance for Green Heat, Takoma Park MD, Maine Pellet Fuels Association, Portland ME, New York Biomass Energy Alliance, Syracuse, NY and the Pellet Fuels Institute, Arlington, VA.
We believe that the “greater biomass community of interest” is largely in agreement with the overall fuel use philosophy described in this blog posting.
Second, we hope that this posting will stimulate comments and information that will accelerate the pace of grass biomass energy development. Last, we hope that grass energy will be taken a bit more seriously by funding agencies and viewed as a significant part of a portfolio of biomass and non-biomass resources that our society is going to have to wisely use in order to meet our total energy needs in the future.