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Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund hires team to advance grass energy as a replacement for fossil fuels

Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund hires team to advance grass energy as a replacement for fossil fuels

Posted on August 14, 2013

The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (VSJF) has contracted with Wilson Engineering Services, PC in Pennsylvania to conduct a State of the Science Review of Grass Energy in Vermont and the Northeast. The team was hired to evaluate the current research and understanding of growing and combusting grass for thermal energy in the Northeastern United States by reviewing current literature and interviewing experts in the field.

“While there is an existing and growing body of knowledge on growing, processing and using grass for energy, this opportunity has not been fully developed into a marketable option for growers, landowners, fuel processors and dealers, equipment manufacturers and vendors, nor homeowners and communities,” says Sarah Galbraith, VSJF program manager for the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative. “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. The State of the Science Review will critique what is known and establish the critical next steps for commercialization of grass energy in Vermont.”

Click here to watch a video in which a Vermont agronomist explains switchgrass production, followed by entrepreneurs turning bales of grass into briquette fuel.

The final product of this work will be a report containing key recommendations on next steps for commercializing grass energy in the Northeast, and specifically Vermont. The document will serve VSJF in strategic planning for the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative, and the hope is that others in the field will find it useful in their strategic planning as well. The final report is expected by the end of September.

The consulting team includes members from Wilson Engineering Services and Ernst Conservation Seeds, and a former staff of Pennsylvania State University Cooperative Extension. Staff from Vermont Agency of Agriculture aided VSJF in the selection of this team.

Beginning in 2008, VSJF began to explore the potential for grasses grown on marginal lands in Vermont to meet a portion of the state’s heating demand and reduce the consumption of non-renewable fossil fuels. The Grass Energy Partnership was formed among Biomass Energy Resource Center, University of Vermont College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Vermont Technical College, and VSJF to investigate agricultural best practices, combustion, and market development opportunities for grass energy.

For more information on the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative, contact Sarah Galbraith at sarah@vsjf.org or (802) 828-5670.