Archive for October, 2010


My name is Gerry Ruestow

I am a consultant working with CCE of Delaware County in our Grass Bio-Energy Project. This project began in 2008 as a collaboration with The Catskill Watershed Corporation to explore and foster the use of Grass Bio-mass as a heat source suitable for homes and small commercial installation.

We began with an outside hydronic   furnace and a pellet stove installed in the Town of Franklin Highway Building which also houses the town meeting hall.

As we learned about the challenges of burning grass pellets we added four outside furnaces and five inside pellet stoves. The last two installations recently came on line. Our next step might be a commercial pellet furnace to gauge the feasibility of using Grass in a higher btu situation.

The Delaware County Grass Bio-Energy is a cooperative effort between Delaware County Cooperative extension and Catskill Watershed Corporation to explore the use of grass bio-mass as a  reliable and renewable heat source.The anticipated advantages of Grass as fuel are:

¨      Local energy loop

¨      Very efficient energy conversion

¨      Existing infrastructure on farms to harvest haycrop

¨      Compatible with livestock and crop operations

¨      Maintains open space

¨      Annually renewable crop

We have been working with EnviroEnergy LLC of Wells Bridge NY who have been making Grass Pellets for three years and have improved the the quality of their product to be very competitive in quality and btu content with premium wood pellets. The ongoing issue is of course the higher ash content of grass pellets as compared with wood pellets. Some appliances work better than others in handling the ash load.

The other issue we are seeing is the fly ash deposits in heat exchangers. This has to be manually cleaned on a regular interval on the units we are demonstrating. We have seen some new units in the last year that offer self cleaning modes. This will help the adoption of grass pellet units for home owners.

This industry is still in it’s infancy even if it seems we have been working on it for quite a while. As it grows we need to be ahead of the learning curve for adopters and especially regulators.


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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.

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Welcome to the Grass Energy Blog sponsored by New York Biomass Energy Alliance.  Our initial discussion on this blog is to introduce ourselves to each other – all the local clusters of grass biomass activity working across New York State.   I am Elizabeth Keokosky from Tompkins County and have started a group called the Danby Land Bank Cooperative to see if we can create a supply of and encourage a market for biomass from over-grown fields on marginal, parcelized rural land.  I am also a part of Community Biomass Energy and work with people in my local Ithaca area and at Cornell University.   I have volunteered to be administrator of this blog because I – like many of you – see great potential in using grass as a source of biomass for bioenergy in the Northeast.   Now I am looking forward to meeting all of you as we try to build a “New York” conversation around figuring out how to make grass bioenergy work.

Grass in particular and biomass in general can be a very challenging energy source.  However, grass fulfills so many environmental, economic, and esthetic goals that it seems well worth the effort to move the concept forward and work for its appropriate use.   As the grassbioenergy website says “It takes 70 days to grow a crop of grass pellet fuel.   It takes 70 million years to grow a crop of fossil fuel.”    How much more renewable can you be than that?

We welcome comments on all blog contributions, but we will monitor them to make sure that the conversation stays respectful of different views, and to discourage people from using comments to advertise particular products or services.   To start the ball rolling we have invited contributions from several people who are leading the effort to make grass energy a reality in their own areas, and they will be introducing themselves when they make their blog contributions.  If you want to make a contribution to the blog talk to these people from your area.

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