By Doreen Barker
After reading through the comments and optimism brought back from the HeatNE conference, I have decided that I would like to share some information on some movement within the state (specifically the Southern Tier and Central NY regions). There are at least two programs that are developing that will be of interest.
As some of you know, Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3) has been working on a program called Agriculture Consortia on Renewable Energy & Sustainability(ACRES). Doreen Barker (myself), Rich Barrows, Tony Nekut and Elizabeth Keokosky had the privilege of sitting down with several folks from within not only the TC3 academia but some other schools and organizations as well. The staff at TC3 has put together a grant that would allow for a collaborative 2 day forum to discuss the state of BIOENERGY in upstate NY. The aim is to update and educate key stakeholders about the opportunities and challenges concerning the vital interdependencies between Education-Agriculture-Business and our region’s economic/energy sustainability outlook. To address these issues they will bring together educators from Bio-Energy programs at post secondary schools, high school teachers, not-for-profit organizations, local farmers, government entities, financial institutions and related bio energy businesses. The focus of the event will be to gather and brainstorm information from conferring groups and to draft a plan for a Bio-Energy curriculum to be developed for the community college level. The collaboration of stake holders in Education, Agriculture, and Business is key to the development of a successful BIO-ENERGY economy in New York State.
The second program, put together by the Tioga County REAP, is the Stronger Economies Together (SET) will be holding their first meeting this coming Thursday, April 28th. SET was developed by USDA Rural Development and the nation’s Regional Rural Development Centers (RRDC) to help communities and regions work together to pursue regional economic development initiatives. This program will take an in-depth look at regional economic development opportunities and the potential of Bioenergy and renewable land-based resources. I have already been informed that there will be some upcoming changes to the scheduling of these meetings in the future. I will keep everyone up to date with the outcome of those changes after Thursday of this week.
We have also been doing some research into some additional options for units that are being worked on that will have the capabilities of burning multiple fuels. As all of us within the grass energy sector already know, this is going to become a key to our future as time progress on the residential level. As these companies work to clear the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certifications and are able to be sold within NY, I will also be updating those results.
Coming from my perspective, I am excited about bringing grass energy into NY state within our region. There is an overwhelming need for more extension work. In this area, we are losing farm after farm. Which from the renewable energy stand point is both good and bad. But, we need to keep agriculture within this region alive and thriving. I look forward to this region being able to contribute into the sustainable energy sector much like the examples shown to us by a couple of our “sister” organizations. We have many hurdles to overcome but with the dedication and teamwork of everyone involved, I am looking forward to an eventful future! We are all working hard to develop a new market within NY and that isn’t an easy accomplishment but with coordination and dedication we CAN create a more sustainable future together.
Until the next time……Keep up the good work!