Archive for the ‘Developing a market’ Category

Greetings all,
At the conclusion of this year’s Agricultural Biomass Heating Seminar in Saratoga Springs, I had the pleasure of announcing the pending release of funds to support a “state-of-the-science” review of grass energy in Vermont and the Northeast. Here are the details:

The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (VSJF) is seeking proposals from individuals, consulting firms or organizations to conduct a state-of-the-science review of grass energy in Vermont and neighboring states and establish the next step(s) to accelerate the commercialization of grass energy in the region and specifically in Vermont.

Over the past few years, a number of projects in Vermont and the Northeast have led to a body of knowledge on growing, processing and using grass for energy. However, this opportunity has not fully developed into a marketable option for growers, landowners, fuel processors and dealers, equipment manufacturers and vendors, nor homeowners or communities. There are still some uncertainties around 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.

At this time, VSJF would like to assess the current state of knowledge and identify the remaining critical questions that need to be answered in order to commercialize this opportunity. To review the complete Scope Of Work relating to this RFP, and the information needed to apply, please visit the VSJF website at: http://www.vsjf.org/news/72/request-for-proposals-grass-energy-in-vermont


After reviewing the RFP, if you have questions please email us at: vtbiofuels”at”vsjf.org


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It has been some time since HVGE contributed to the Grass Energy blog. This is primarily due to the resignation of our former Project Manager, Libby Murphy. Libby has moved on to graduate school, but not before infusing our project with her enthusiasm and leading our team in many significant accomplishments.

An additional challenge to our project has been the extreme weather that was experienced by southeast NY in August/ September, 2011. Not only did this weather divert some of our  (Soil and Water Conservation District) Project staff to flood response work, it essentially prevented our participating farmers from making ‘pellet’ hay as they attempted to cope with the many impacts of this unprecedented weather.

Despite these challenges, the Project has made some significant advances this past summer/fall. In July, we were visited by Jim Carrabba of NYCAMH who performed a safety analysis of our mobile biomass pelleting equipment/operation. Jim was able to observe our preparation and start-up procedures, and was able to observe our equipment line producing grass pellets for some time before a motor issue required us to shut down. Given that our self-contained mobile system had no real model to follow, the design instead being essentially a ‘from scratch’ amalgamation of many off-the-shelf and fabricated components, we were extremely pleased that Jim found our equipment and operational procedures to be very safe and well planned. Jim’s report did make note of several areas where suggested improvements could be made, but overall these were relatively minor concerns and they  all have been addressed by our project team already. 

Improvements we have made recently  include a fines recycling system, a road-worthy roof over the pelleter trailer, and a safety rail around the bed of the  truck that carries our gen set and pulls our pelleter trailer (0ne of Jim’s suggestions). Our talented fabricator, Toby, who is also our driver/mill operator, is currently building a  storage tank on our flat bed truck that will pre-heat water using excess heat from the gen set before delivering it to the steam generator on the pelleting trailer. Previous testing suggested that  our steam generator might not be generating enough steam to deal with hard-to-pellet or excessively dry materials. We are hopeful that pre-heating the water feeding the steam gen will increase its steam output sufficiently to deal with these types of materials. Among the many other things we have learned at the school of hard knocks, one is that we will encounter a wide variety of materials and moisture contents from one Hudson Valley farm to the next. While we can’t possibly deal with all of them, the more accommodating we can be – the better. A rule of thumb that seems to have coalesced is, better too dry than too wet. We can add moisture, but can’t in any practical way remove it to any significant degree.

If the weather cooperates at all, we hope to continue field operations and pellet production/testing in the coming winter months. What about grass pellet marketing and use? Briefly, two of our project team members are continuing to test the wide variety of biomass pellets we have made in residential multi-fuel stoves (a US Stove 6041 and an Enviro M-55) with very encouraging results. We are working closely with one local Town who hopes to install a small  commercial scale pellet furnace in a new Dial-A-Bus garage scheduled for construction in 2012, and fuel it with biomass pellets from farms within their town. A number of other marketing initiatives are under way,  but progress in this area has been slow and somewhat frustrating. This frustration results partly from the current lack of a Project Manager to keep the various initiatives on task, but also from some significant technical, institutional and related challenges to the use of biomass pellets in commercial scale heating appliances. I suspect most readers of this blog are already quite familiar with these particular issues. We  also know that many of you are actively working on these and other related issues. HVGE would like to coordinate and collaborate more closely with other grass energy advocates around the Northeast. Unfortunately, we have found it to be an extreme challenge simply finding the time and organizing work days to optimize our equipment line, complete grant deliverables and visit farms that originally signed on to collaborate with us on this project. While we do have paid staff, the project still relies heavily on the contributions of volunteers and SWCD staff with limited availability. We hope to soon have a new Project Manager and to be able to interact more actively with others promoting and developing grass energy.

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Event: Stronger Economies Together –  Tioga County SET program.  Recent flooding in our region has caused delays or relocation of services in scheduled meetings. The public was invited to attend the kick-off meeting on Thursday, September 22, to learn about this exciting new Southern Tier regional bioenergy initiative and hear, among others, two featured speakers from Cornell University.  The speakers were Michael P. Hoffmann, Director, CU Agricultural Experiment Station and Associate Dean, CU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Hilary Mayton, Biomass Specialist with CU Dept. of Plant Breeding and Genetics.  Speakers shared expertise and experiences in understanding bio-energy and innovative initiatives in NYS regions. People from Broome, Tioga and Chemung County Co-operative Extension staff, Southern Tier East Regional Development staff, Broome-Tioga BOCES staff, TC3 staff and several local farmers were in attendence.  Interests ranged from farm production to educational programs.

There are SET programs in two other “zones”, but they don’t concentrate on bioenergy.  The CNY regional is just using general guidelines and hasn’t set out a specific track.   Another regional in the North has some focus on local food and agriculture. Hopefully, those of you within those regions will take a bit of time to contact the administrative SET staff to make sure they are aware of the part biomass plays within agriculture and rural economic development.

Broome Biomass is working to help shape the Tioga SET program to educate bioenergy stakeholders. All upcoming meetings are scheduled for the 4th Thursday of the month. The next meeting will be in Candor, NY. There is no cost to attend the program.  For inquiries, contact Lois Kang, Sustainable Tioga Project Coordinator at sk479@cornell.edu.

Marketing: Governor Cuomo has released funds for people within the flood zone to upgrade appliances and furnaces. With cold weather already upon us, this would be a great time to talk multi-fuel capabilities. Not only will that promote agricultural biomass, but all forms of local heating supplies. We are anxiously waiting for the ecomonic impact spreadsheets to come back from the professor at Cornell. If anyone would like to see the overall spread sheet for NY, please feel free to contact me via email: doreen@broomebiomass.com.

Emissions: I would also like to thank Laura Colban for including myself, Jim Knight and John Bootle to be involved in a discussion with the BTEC about the support of future emissions and efficiency testing for commercial boilers. As for testing in NY, I decided to contact our regional Air Emissions Officer through the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Simply put, units less than 1 MMBtu input per hour would actually qualify as a residential scaled unit. If the unit is installed in an outdoor location, it must meet all standards for wood boilers (no matter what material is being combusted). New York requires that the same test methods as the EPA’s 28-OWHH compliance (this is voluntary testing, not federally mandated). NY states that the main concern is the Particulate Matter Emissions (PM). The requirement is to produce less than .4 lbs/MMBtu combusted. There are new revisions under way with the 28-OWHH that will require the particulate matter to be less than .32 lbs/MMBtu.

PLEASE make note that all furnaces or boilers purchased or installed after April 1st, 2011 must meet all of the installation and certification guidelines set forth by the DEC. If the unit is established inside an OCCUPIED building (not a shed or outbuilding), then the unit must comply to all federal, state and local building codes. Any unit that is not established within the above guidelines will be shut down and face heavy fines.

On commercial or industrial scaled units, the testing is to be completed via the Compliance Method Testing Part #227 (a search on the DEC website will provide the exact details). For units up to 10 MMBtu/hour input the PM limit is .70 lb/MMBtu and above the 10 MMBtu/hour input is .03 lb/MMBtu. Typically, bi-annual testing is required after the initial gateway testing for compliance certification. To learn more specific details, please contact your regional Air Quality Officer through the NYS DEC.

News: In Shik Lee from TC3 notified us at the SET meeting that the grant she filed for the college on Bioenergy promotion has been approved. I will be contacting her to see what she would like us to put together to contribute to the future development of the program.

Question: What is everyone’s opinion on having another ABIG meeting sometime around the middle of November? A phone conference to make it easier without the issue of travels during the months when the weather is unpredictable.

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I had a meeting with the chair of the Tompkins County Legislature and the head of the County economic development agency. I pointed out that space heating using locally produced biomass fuel was economically attractive and offered many other benefits. I suggested that local government could play a key role in building a robust local supply chain by converting some of their facilities to biomass heating. The payback time for well-chosen projects could be less than five years and capital costs could be amortized against fuel bill savings. Establishing a small but reliable market for locally produced biomass fuel will convince potential supply chain stakeholders that it is time to get engaged.

Planning is underway to organize a meeting for current and potential future biomass fuel consumers and supply chain stakeholders.  The purpose of the first meeting is to bring together current commercial and institutional users of biomass thermal energy in the Ithaca area (along with a few consulting experts in the field) with potential future users.  The goal will be to inform the potential users about the biomass energy option for their facilities.

Note from moderator: This has happened already in Danby, a village in the south part of Tompkins County, where a biomass boiler is in the process of being purchased for the Highway Department with the help of a NYSERDA grant.

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