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Posts tagged: Biomass

USDA Forest Service’s Fuels for Schools program Turns Biomass into Energy

The USDA Forest Service’s Fuels for Schools and Beyond program promotes and encourages the use biomass to energy as a renewable and natural resource.

Recently the U.S. Forest Service recognized the Darby School District in Montana for success in the Fuels for Schools Program for their innovation, cost savings and energy efficiency and in particular Darby High School’s biomass system. It’s part of a pilot program funded by a grant from the Forest Service’s National Fire Plan. In 2003, the Darby School District was the first in the state to have a biomass system. Read more »

USDA Works with the Farm Foundation to Help Producers Develop Renewable Energy and Biomass

Earlier this month, I joined colleagues from several USDA agencies in Knoxville, Tennessee to discuss biomass production and renewable energy opportunities with producers.  The event was sponsored by the Farm Foundation. Read more »

Biomass and Biofuel – What’s in it for Hawaii’s Agriculture?

Hawaii and the Pacific Basin

The dwindling global supply of fossil fuels and the resulting escalation in prices has set the stage for entry of commercial biofuel produced from biomass, including co-products and bi-products.  This transition in the energy sector’s feed stocks offers Hawaii a unique opportunity to locally produce biofuel from locally produced biomass feed stocks, and ultimately support the stabilization of the state’s energy resources; increase the local circulation of energy dollars; and further under gird Hawaii’s agricultural industry.  Read more »

Iowa’s Innovative Bioenergy Industries Have Caught the Attention of the Nation and the World

This week I had the pleasure of meeting with representatives from eight German companies who are in Iowa to learn more the approach to biofuels in the US, and specifically in Iowa. Read more »

Sugarcane as a Biofuel – How Sweet It Is.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Hawaii, most people would agree, is pretty close to being paradise – and the same things that make Hawaii a great place for a vacation also make it a great place to grow things. The natural capacity of land to produce crops depends on the amount and distribution of sunlight, temperature, and precipitation.  Hawaii has a greater natural production capacity than anywhere else in the U.S.   At one time, sugarcane was planted on over 100,000 acres of Hawaii farmland, and there were nine major sugar producers in the state.  Now there is only one producer, and the sugarcane acreage has shrunk to 37,000.

One way to revive the sugar industry in Hawaii is to diversify its products so that Hawaiians earn more per acre, and have their own sustainable supply of energy.  The USDA has partnered with the University of Hawaii and the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company (the “last man standing” in Hawaii’s sugarcane industry) to develop new ways to grow and use sugarcane as a source of biomass (the organic material used to create biofuels).

In Hawaii, sugarcane has the greatest near-term potential as a biomass feedstock for producing biofuels—it’s perennial and non-invasive, it’s already been grown in Hawaii for over a hundred years, and there is room to improve the existing yields by using newer varieties and harvesting other parts of the plant.  Sugarcane yields more energy per acre than other existing crops– it produces both cellulosic biomass (that can be converted into sugars) as well as the sugar itself. 

In January, the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Navy got together and signed an agreement to work together on developing new biofuels and renewable energy sources.  Why is the Navy interested?  The Navy has also been looking into ways to “green” its large fleet of ships stationed in Hawaii, and it costs $10.6 million per year (at a price per gallon of $2.81) to keep one fueled and ready to move.  Right now all of that fuel has to be imported, too.

It has a 270-megawatt geothermal power plant in California, a wind farm at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and solar photovoltaic panels at its facilities in San Diego.   Using biofuels in its fleet is a logical next step.   The USDA, the Department of the Navy, the University of Hawaii, and the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar are now working together on this project.

Harvesting sugarcane in south Florida, where scientists in the ARS Sugarcane Production Research Unit are identifying research to help sustain both agriculture and natural Everglades ecosystems.
Harvesting sugarcane in south Florida, where scientists in the ARS Sugarcane Production Research Unit are identifying research to help sustain both agriculture and natural Everglades ecosystems.

An experimental ARS sugarcane field near Canal Point, Florida.
An experimental ARS sugarcane field near Canal Point, Florida.

Bar-coded tags identify experimental varieties of sugarcane.
Bar-coded tags identify experimental varieties of sugarcane.

- Ellen Buckley, Program Analyst, Natural Resources and Sustainable Agricultural Systems, USDA Agricultural Research Service

These turkeys fill your belly and keep the lights on, too

Sietsma Farms in central Michigan sends more than a million turkeys a year to the dinner table.

That’s a lot of Thanksgiving feasts.

Turkey: Has my presidential pardon arrived yet?A million turkeys also generate a lot of waste – on the order of 17,000 tons of litter per year. Local farms are happy to use it as fertilizer, but a little litter goes a long way – and at this point, the litter has to go farther and farther away. In fact, it can cost as much as $10 a ton just to get it to mid-Michigan farms that can use it. A million turkeys also need to eat. To feed all those birds, Sietsma Farms has its own mill that creates feed pellets, which is a very energy intensive process.

Thanks to a $500,000 energy grant and $700,750 energy loan from USDA Rural Development, Sietsma Farms has constructed a biomass renewable energy plant adjacent to their Howard City facility. This will use the turkey litter to power the feed processing center. The energy plant will require 14,000 tons of litter per year to produce approximately 8,625 pounds of steam and 462 kW per hour.

It will draw upon the waste of five turkey operations within a 45-mile radius for its fuel, in effect turning a hazardous substance into a valuable one. As a result, there will be less pollution, less odors and more electricity for other users in the area.

We estimate that the project will pay for itself within four years.

Not bad for a holiday dinner entrée.

Alec Lloyd, Michigan Public Information Coordinator, USDA Rural Development