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EnergyAg Newsbriefs

February 2012

Welcome to this edition of EnergyAg Newsbriefs brought to you by the Washington State University Extension Energy Program Library. Please forward this issue to those of your colleagues interested in energy-efficient agricultural practices. Archives of past messages

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USDA to support advanced biofuel facility in Oregon

A new advanced fuels biorefinery will be built in Boardman, Oregon, with the support of $232.5 million in loans from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Biorefinery Assistance Program. Feedstocks for the facility will consist of 30% agricultural residue such as wheat straw and corn stover, and 70% locally farmed hybrid poplar. To learn more, read the January 26, 2012, press release.

Biofuels in aviation discussed in FARM to FLY report

A January 2012 report, Agriculture and Aviation: Partners in Prosperity, presents the findings and recommendations of the FARM to FLY Working Team, a partnership involving members of the USDA, Boeing, and Airlines for America. The team was formed to advance the production and use of biofuels in the aviation industry; the report analyzes the current state of biofuels in aviation, describes USDA-funded research projects and their outcomes, and provides a list of milestones for the advancement of biofuels in the aviation industry.

New round of REAP funding

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is now accepting applications for funding from the Rural Energy for America (REAP) program. A combination of grants and loans are being offered for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects for farms and rural small businesses; deadlines vary depending on the type of project. For more information, see the January 20, 2012, press release.

The fate of anaerobic digestion byproducts

"Digestate Utilization in the U.S." was published in the January 2012 issue of BioCycle. The article summarizes an Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy project, which found that farmers who use anaerobic digestion for manure management mainly use the byproducts for their own fertilizer and bedding needs, with a lesser amount being marketed outside the farm. An overview of anaerobic digestion byproducts and their uses is also provided.

Public and private contributions to biomass industry in Oregon

"OSU Researcher Highlights Public, Private Biomass Work in Oregon," published January 18, 2012, at, describes efforts by private and public institutions in Oregon to research, develop, and market biomass-related processes and products. The article summarizes a presentation given by Christine Kelly of Oregon State University at the 2011 Pacific West Biomass Conference and Trade Show, held October 23-25, 2011, in Boise, Idaho.

Biofuel sustainability and standards

Two articles addressing the sustainability of biofuels were recently added to the eXtension website:

"Sustainability Standards for Farm Energy," updated January 27, 2012, provides an overview of national and international efforts to develop standards for responsible and environmentally sound biofuel production. A brief description of each variable under consideration in the standards development process is provided, as are links to further resources.

"Key Components of the Biofuel Sustainability Debate," updated January 26, 2012, provides a list and brief descriptions of controversial factors in the biofuels debate. Links to further resources are also provided.


Biochar guidelines final draft released

A final draft of Guidelines for Specifications of Biochars for Use in Soils was released for public review on January 10, 2012, by the International Biochar Initiative (IBI). Comments will be accepted until February 10, 2012. A webinar providing a response to comments from a previous draft, as well as an overview of the new guidelines, took place in January 2012; materials from the webinar are available on the IBI website.


Tractor efficiency

"Selecting Engine and Travel Speeds for Optimal Fuel Efficiency," updated on January 30, 2012, on the eXtension website, explains how to balance tractor operating speed and fuel efficiency considerations when performing field work. Throttle, gear, and ballast adjustments can be made to reduce the amount of fuel used while optimizing performance and speed. Examples and figures are provided.


Water rights controversy in Washington State

Bills currently being considered in the Washington State Legislature would allocate new irrigation water to support organic and biofuel crops along the Columbia and Snake rivers. The bill, which has been generally popular among legislators, has been formally opposed by the Washington State Horticultural Association, which considers it to be preferential treatment. To learn more, read "Washington State Horticultural Association Opposes Bill to Provide Additional Water for Organic Crops and Biofuel Crops," published January 17, 2012, by PR Newswire.


Energy cost of pesticides

"Energy Use and Efficiency in Pest Control, Including Pesticide Production, Use, and Management Options" was updated January 30, 2012, on the eXtension website. This feature provides an analysis of the energy expenditures involved in pesticide manufacture, distribution, and use in the United States. The author suggests Integrated Pest Management (IPM) as a method to reduce pesticide-related energy expenditures. References and links to further resources are provided.


Two new tools for analyzing wind energy sites

Two new tools, developed with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), can assist in the development of public and private distributed wind energy sites. The Distributed Wind Site Analysis Tool, developed by the Cadmus Group, helps users choose the most effective site for a wind energy project by analyzing location and terrain data. The Distributed Wind Policy Comparison Tool, developed by eFormative Options, contains information about rebates, tax incentives, zoning, and other variables for a given site.

USDA energy Information website

A new website by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides one-stop access to information about USDA efforts and programs related to renewable energy and energy efficiency. Included is an energy investments map; a matrix with information about USDA funding, research, and development; and a tool (still under construction) to facilitate the discovery of opportunities in bioenergy. The new site was announced in a January 18, 2012, press release.

Harvesting Clean Energy 2011 conference materials

Presentation materials from the Harvesting Clean Energy conference, held October 23-25, 2011, in Boise, Idaho, are now available on the conference website. Topics include: How the USDA Can Help You; Tapping into USDA Energy Programs; Cutting Fat on the Farm – Saving Money with Efficiency; Geothermal – Farming with the Heat Below Your Feet; and many others.


Modern Solar Photovoltaic Technology
Webinar, Iowa State University Extension
February 24, 2012, 8:00 AM PST
The second web seminar in the 2012 Bioenergy Fridays series will present today and tomorrow's solar photovoltaic (PV) technology. New solar technologies have increased efficiencies and reduced costs. Question and answer period to follow.

Want to Contribute? If you have information on events, publications, or other ag-related topics that you would like mentioned in an upcoming issue of EnergyAg Newsbriefs, please contact Talia Mathews at