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You and a guest are invited to join colleagues in the bioenergy industry at the 2nd Annual Summer Social.

The event will take place on Thursday, August 8 at 10 am to 3 pm.  The day will begin at ReEnergy Black River, a state-of-the-art biopower plant that has recently been converted from coal to use woody biomass to generate 60MW of electricity.  Then, the Social will continue in Alexandria Bay on a double-decker charter, with lunch and a cash bar on deck.

For more information, please contact Alice Brumbach (abrumbach@newyorkbiomass.org or 607-316-3437) or register via credit card here.


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The 2nd annual Northeast Agricultural Biomass Heating Seminar on April 3, 2013 at the City Center in Saratoga Springs, NY, will present project and business leaders from Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Ontario sharing experiences with agricultural biomass crops and combustion. The Seminar is part of the 3-day Northeast Biomass Heating Expo, the largest biomass heating conference and expo in the region.

Seminar presentations will be offered on agricultural biomass fuels for heating, such as grass, willow and crop residues, how to establish energy crops on marginal lands, and the densification, combustion, emissions and economics of crop biomass at residential and commercial scales.

A mid-afternoon session will show the video ‘Grass Fuels.’

“This seminar focuses on an emerging sector of the biomass heating experience, and highlights grass energy as a local source of renewable fuel and a complement to heating with wood”, says Alice Brumbach, Administrator of the New York Biomass Energy Alliance.

The New York Biomass Energy Alliance is one of the lead sponsors of the event with the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Farm Credit East, Catskill Grass Energy Project, and Ernst Conservation Seeds.

Attendees can network with regional experts in the industry, and come away with the knowledge of what it takes to grow crop biomass and a better understanding of the opportunities to use it for heating institutional buildings, commercial and agricultural spaces, and homes.

The Agricultural Biomass Heating Seminar is open to the public. Online registration and the program agenda are available by going to http://www.nebiomassheat.com/events.php .

In its 5th year, the Northeast Biomass Heating Expo unites a diverse audience from the engineering, biomass fuel, supply chain, developer, manufacturer, and government sectors to break barriers and ground for biomass thermal and combined heat and power (CHP) systems. The interactive event includes exhibits, panel discussions and technical workshops for engineers, emphasizing practical learning and real project case studies.

For more information, go to http://www.nebiomassheat.com.

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On behalf of the New York Biomass Energy Alliance, please join me on July 20 at the the NYBEA’s first social event, for members, prospective members, and guests. This is a great opportunity to catch up with your colleagues in the biomass industry – share successes, challenges, and kick back and relax over a local brew.

The Summer Social will begin at 11 am with an industry tour of New England Wood Pellet’s Schuyler Manufacturing Facility, followed by a luncheon and ending at the Matt Brewery in Utica. The day will be a great opportunity for Alliance members and guests to share successes, challenges, but more importantly meet and get to know colleagues in the biomass industry in a low key, casual atmosphere. Events like the Summer Social are just as important to strengthening cooperation and communication within the family of enterprises and organizations committed to biomass energy solutions as attending industry conferences and public sector workshops, but more fun.

Utica area representatives, Congressman Richard Hanna (24), Senator James Seward (NY 51), and Assemblyman Marc Butler (NY 117), are invited as guests of the Alliance. Don’t worry, there will be no speeches, no PowerPoint presentations – just an informal, low key gathering on a summer day.

Tickets are $30 per person, invited guests of Alliance members are free of charge.

Please RSVP by July 13 to me, Alice Brumbach (abrumbach@newyorkbiomass.org / 607-316-3437).

If you wish to pay by credit card, go to http://nybeasummersocial.eventbrite.com 

To pay by check: please send a check payable to ESFPA – Biomass Alliance, (include “Summer Social” in the memo), to: 47 Van Alstyne Drive, Rensselaer, NY 12144

If you plan to continue socializing into the evening, here are some suggestions for local restaurants and accommodations.

For directions to New England Wood Pellet and the Matt Brewery, click here.

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From InShik Lee, TC3 SUNYGREENS NY Program Coordinator- and new to the BioEnergy discussion.
We are living in a time of great stagnation and great transition. The quest for “sustainability” and the reality that we are all dependent upon limited global resources has us all scratching our heads, wondering, ‘what is truly the right thing to do’? Fear of not doing the right thing has many of us doing nothing and perhaps waiting for someone else to take the first plunge- whether it’s the first electric car or the first pellet furnace…So how do we get out of this lull? How do we drive our efforts to get us to the next “wave of innovation” to achieve the levels of sustainability that we have come to know is necessary for a sustainable future? The multitudes of advances in high technology have us questioning their value. The philosophical and ethical discussion about the value of each and every technological innovation leads to a life time of discussions for philosophers. I think it is pretty much agreed that in the field of BioEnergy, we are ripe for innovation.
BioEnergy is a vast and open field of opportunity. As consumers we are bombarded from every angle –what is the best solution, what is the most efficient, what is the most economical…? We have end users who are still burning wood like they did in the 1700’s! We have homeowners complaining that a neighbor’s chimney gases are giving them health problems. We have whole hospitals or schools using the waste woodchips to heat their whole facility. We have corn being turned into ethanol and fueling our vehicles and yet being told it’s not an efficient use of food stock, new willow being grown to be burned… So, what is the best way? And what does it take to push forward an industry so diverse and full of opportunities for so many? And what about all the other side industries which are not energy related who can benefit from this economic growth arena? Manufacturing, transportation, sales & service to name just a few…
As an educator, designer, and consumer, I look for ways to promote opportunities for innovation. Innovations are NOT totally new inventions – derived from Latin ‘innovare’- “to renew or change,” from in- “into” + novus “new”. BioEnergy is not a new idea- Innovations continue to develop from existing ideas and it is what will drive us to the next wave, brought together within a new perspective. The much denigrated “S” word is creating consumer awareness, and a need for industry to rethink systems of growing, processing, manufacturing, processing, delivery, sales to meet the challenges of a changing paradigm. Inspired students and consumers are coming to this arena with questions and ideas which will drive the next wave of innovation. The Bio-Energizers will be the industry members who will answer the call and design solutions to make it economically viable. This will require education of a new generation of students who are looking at new ways to look at the concept of renewable, collaboration between the “old school/low tech / existing knowledge base” and the “new school /high bio-tech/new knowledge base”, and allowing for discovery through trials and failures. I think this aligns with one of Carlton Owens’ take-away from the BIOMASS conference last week- to take the ‘good’ not only the ‘perfect’… We need to move forward to build on the examples of the ‘good’ to move towards the ‘better’ and the ‘perfect’.
The BIOMASS conference I attended this past week armed me with a wealth of information to spread. I learned that the ideas need to be shared, misconceptions need to be cleared, and innovations need to be promoted. All it takes is time and money …and to quote Ephraim from the musical “Hello, Dolly” – “Money, pardon the expression, is like manure. It’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread about, encouraging young things to grow.” We depend on organizations such as NYSERDA and USDA to help forge BioEnergy innovations- as they have for solar and wind technologies. It can be done and I am optimistic!
This leads me to a shameless plug – Tompkins Cortland Community College will be hosting a USDA funded conference on April 27 to discuss the collaboration between education, agriculture, and business to promote and to grow the local BIOENERGY industry. Please follow this link for registration information for the conference
Bio Energy Opportunities in Upstate NY http://www.tc3.edu/about_tc3/sustainability.asp
Hope to see YOU in the BioEnergy future!

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I attended the presentation of the completion of the Community Biomass Energy (CBE) project presented on January 11, 2012 that was a proposal of a more economical use of biomass field grasses and agricultural wastes as a fuel source. The Project Lead for this CBE project was Tony Nekut who recently passed away in September. With his involvement, valuable efforts, and support the project was able to get off the ground and evolve. Continued efforts to complete what his work had helped to make possible led to this presentation. My presence was on behalf of the New York Biomass Energy Alliance (NYBEA) with a role as their intern. Also in attendance was George Adams of CBE, John Bootle of Renewable Energy Resources, Alice Brumbach, administrator of the NYBEA, Dave Grusenmeyer, Managing Director of the NYFVI, Betsy Keokosky of the Danby Land Bank Cooperative and CBE, Bob Rynk, Associate Professor of Agricultural Engineering at SUNY Cobleskill and RBEG Project Investigator along with an intern from SUNY Cobleskill. The consultant who provided technical assistance to the CBE project and who presented was David Waage P.E.  The project presented was one selected to receive technical assistance funded by the Rural Business Enterprise Grant. The selection process was performed by the NYBEA, New York Farm Viability Institute (NYFVI), and SUNY Cobleskill who all jointly administer the technical assistant program. Through this program submitted projects go through a selection process and the chosen projects are then matched up with consultants who can provide technical assistance to the project.

Recognizing the benefits of using waste hay, field grasses, and waste straw as a potential energy source that would offset fossil fuel usage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions while providing a boost to the Upstate New York farming economy, CBE proposed a concept to use these fuel sources in an economically feasible way. With the assistance of David Waage, P.E. the concept was explored and a design drafted.

The more economical approach to utilizing field grasses and waste agricultural products avoids the technical problem of low bulk density which is usually resolved through pelletizing and briquetting that is energy intensive and suffers other difficulties, by using a transportable container that delivers the field grasses as a prepared, compact fuel for burning.

The concept of the containers would be mobile storage containers that utilize rolling compaction and are self-unloading. This would ensure that the fuel grasses which are chopped to ¾ inches would maximize capacity in the transportable containers, optimizing trucking costs and providing adequate combustion. So not only are the containers used for transportation but for storage until use. By avoiding pelletizing and only performing chopping, coarse milling, drying, and rolling compaction, a power savings of 75% is projected over pelletizing. The feedstock is then readily usable for the end user to burn once it is delivered. The feedstock can be stored in the containers for long periods of time until they are needed. The design of a lid for the container will keep out moisture and other unwanted things.

The field grasses once processed at a Central Processing Facility (CPF) and ready for use have potential market to end users heating with biomass fired boilers and furnaces. Such end users would be institutions, commercial buildings, micro generating facilities, and liquid fuel facilities.

In the state of the current market, CPFs can be profitable particularly with switchgrass; and with increasing energy prices CPFs can expect even greater profit. The one fuel that it will be difficult to compete with is natural gas which is a very inexpensive fuel source compared to other fuel sources at $0.73 per therm. But liquid fuels such as fuel oil and kerosene are more attractive to replace, fuel oil having a current market value of $3.60 per therm. Based on the delivery costs of other fuels and the delivery cost of fuel grasses, field grasses can compete with liquid fuels and electric heat. This would provide savings for the end user to use field grasses over these fuels.

The farmers that provide the feedstock would benefit monetarily from the use of field grasses as a fuel source as well. Having around 200 acres of harvested land farmers could expect an average yield of two tons per acre for fuel grasses of $28,000/year at $70/ton. This would boost the economy of local farmers providing for the CPFs.

By refining this concept of using self-unloading mobile storage containers with densification and direct boiler feed capacity, it becomes economically feasible to consider the use of field grasses, switchgrass, and other agricultural wastes as a fuel source in the place of currently expensive fuel sources.

For more information about the Technical Assistance for Customer-Sited Rural Biomass Energy Projects, please contact: Alice Brumbach, abrumbach@newyorkbiomass.org, 607-316-3437.

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As many readers of this blog know, Governor Cuomo has restructured the way that New York State is going about the business of economic development. Some of you may have participated in the development of regional economic development plans through one of the ten Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs). If this is new to you, learn more about the initiative at: http://nyworks.ny.gov/

Each REDC had to submit a five-year Strategic Plan to the State by November 14. A quick perusal of the different regions’ draft plans as of 11/10/2011 does not indicate much mention of the role of biomass (and grass biomass in particular) in the State’s economic development future. A notable exception is the draft plan for the North Country Region. I would encourage you to review your region’s plan to see how biomass has been treated.

The emphasis of the REDC initiative is, of course, job creation through the funding of priority projects – those that most closely conform to the goals and priorities of each Regional Council. Yet the regional plans are also supposed to look ahead and provide guidance on those projects and developments that promise to bear fruit in the near and long term. This is where renewable energy from grass biomass crops fits in. As I and others have pointed out in previous blogs, a well-conceived research and development plan for grass energy that leads to full-scale commercialization is essential.

Perhaps the best home for such a research and development plan will be the Biomass Heating Roadmap for which a Request for Proposals (NYSERDA RFP#2329) is currently on the street. When the Roadmap is completed, I would like to see it integrated with both the REDC plans and the New York State Climate Action Plan. I hope that the topics covered in this piece will be addressed at a special agricultural biomass session preceding the Northeast Biomass Heating Expo next March in Saratoga Springs, New York. This an exciting time for grass energy but we all must diligently participate in these opportunities to set agendas and influence policy if we expect to make significant progress.

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Many readers of this blog have attended the annual conference for people working on the biomass heating sector, “Heat the Northeast with Renewable Biomass” that has been held in Manchester, New Hampshire for the past three years.  This year the meeting is coming to New York State, with the New York Biomass Energy Alliance one of the hosts.  Because the conference gets most of its income from companies that have appliances and other biomass heating products to exhibit in the conference trade show, there will be a particular focus on getting the people who make buying and installation decisions for that equipment to the conference, which has been renamed Northeast Biomass Heating Expo 2012.

To make sure that the concerns of those of us who are working hard to figure out how to commercialize agricultural biomass in heating applications are getting adequate attention, a sub-group of the Expo planning committee has come together to plan a one-day seminar on the use of agricultural biomass in heating applications on March 21, the day before the Expo opens.  The seminar will be treated as an extra conference event, with a special registration rate for those who are attending both this seminar and the entire conference as well.  For registration information, click on this link: http://www.heatne.com/index.html

The Northeast Agricultural Biomass Heating Seminar will take place in the same location as the Expo, the City Center in Saratoga Springs, NY, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 21.

The Seminar Steering Committee is looking for input and suggestions on program content, so that the day’s program will align with critical areas of interest for those who are working to expand biomass thermal energy in our part of the country.  Please click this link to participate in the Steering Committee’s survey on possible program content.

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