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EnergyAg Newsbriefs

March 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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Business thrives on farm/energy partnership

Farm Power Northwest LLC, headquartered in Skagit County, Washington, has partnered with five Pacific Northwest dairy farms to build and operate biodigester facilities on their lands. "Farm Power Investing Millions in Northwest Dairy Towns," published February 12, 2012, at, provides a profile of the company, describes current and upcoming projects, and outlines the economics, challenges, and successes of this innovative business model.

BCAP incentives for camelina fall short

In August 2011, the USDA Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) offered incentives for Washington farmers to grow camelina as a biofuel crop. Farmers were to partner with a biomass refinery, and would receive annual payments for five years. Not a single farmer from Washington State applied for the incentives. Feasibility of Camelina as a Biofuels Feedstock in Washington, published February 14, 2012, by the IMPACT center, WSU School of Economic Sciences, examines the economic realities and contract shortcomings which dissuaded farmers from enrolling.

Innovative ideas for corn stover

"Stover for Power – Not Just Biofuels," by Kris Bevill, Associate Editor, Ethanol Producer Magazine, was published in the December 2011 issue of Biomass Power & Thermal. The author suggests financing and technological approaches for converting corn stover into useful and marketable energy products.

Beet energy development in North Dakota moves forward

An ambitious program to develop North Dakota's beet biofuel industry received $500,000 in grants from the North Dakota Renewable Energy Council, and an equal amount of matching funds from industry. The program, with research support from North Dakota State University, seeks to negotiate a crop insurance deal with USDA, refine beet growing, storage, and processing methods, and spread the word about the emerging opportunity. To learn more, read the February 1, 2012, news release.


The November 2011 issue of Geo-Heat Center Quarterly Bulletin included two articles about farm and rural geothermal power:

"Geothermal Heat in Agriculture: Preliminary Results of an Energy Intensive System in Iceland" was written by Robert Dell, The Cooper Union, et al. The system, tested in both Iceland and New York City, extended the growing season at each and increased plant growth.

"Paisley Oregon Geothermal Project," by Dan Hand, Sustainable Engineering, et al., describes the phenomenon of small and modular systems where low-temperature (as low as 195 degrees F) geothermal sources can supply base power at prices lower than those paid for fossil fuels. Such systems work well for rural co-ops and the ranchers in their service territories whose lands are often blessed with abundant geothermal resources.


Energy under scrutiny in 2012 Farm Bill hearing

The first of four hearings for the upcoming 2012 Farm Bill, "Energy and Economic Growth in Rural America," took place on February 15, 2012. One topic under discussion was the re-inclusion of funds for the Rural Energy for America program (REAP) and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), neither of which are included in the current version of the bill. To read a summary of the hearing, see "Path to the 2012 Farm Bill: Senate Kicks Off Hearings," published February 15, 2012, on the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition website. A detailed analysis of the bill can be found in Previewing the Next Farm Bill, by Ralph M. Cite, Coordinator, Congressional Research Service, February 15, 2012.


United Nation report examines the importance of soil carbon

A new book published by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) in February 2012, Year Book 2012, reports that worldwide soil erosion rates combined with land clearing and development have decreased soil carbon by about 60% since the 19th century. Also, because agriculture causes soil to be lost at 100 times the rate than it can regenerate, soil carbon is being released into the atmosphere much faster than it can be restored. The report recommends that carbon losses be mitigated with changes to land use and farming practices, such as mixed cropping and no-till farming practices, improvements in grassland, and preservation of peatlands. Learn more in "From Soil Carbon to Decommissioning Nuclear Reactors, UNEP Year Book Highlights Key Emerging Issues," published February 3, 2012, on the UNEP website.

Farmers could have stake in biofuel storage

Researchers at Michigan State University are looking for new and more efficient ways to transport and store biomass on its way from farm to refinery. The model under development would use a string of biomass depots; the farmers themselves could potentially own the depots, thus benefitting financially from usage fees. Methods of treating biomass to make it more transportable and less prone to premature rotting are also under investigation. To learn more, see "Michigan State University Research Looks to Improve Logistics of Biofuel Raw Materials," released February 17, 2012, at

New biochar research from WSU

Dr. J. Streubel, along with WSU and USDA-ARS colleagues, has published "Biochar Produced from Anaerobically Digested Fiber Reduces Phosphorus in Dairy Lagoons" in the Journal of Environmental Quality. Streubel completed his doctoral degree at WSU in May 2011; this publication represents some of his dissertation research. The abstract is available here; full article by subscription.

- Annoucement from WSU CSNAR


Materials from the 2012 Oilseed Production Workshop, held January 24, 2012, in Colfax, Washington, are now available on the Washington State University website. Topics include oilseed content and quality, irrigated winter canola production, oilseed crop rotation with wheat, and many more.


"Irrigating with Non-Potable Water" is a three-Web-page article by Lynette Von Minden, Public Relations Counsel, Swanson Russell. It was published in the November/December issue of Water Efficiency. Three types of non-potable water are covered: brackish, harvested, and reclaimed (recycled). Additionally, products for use with non-potable water are discussed. Finally, the author has written a section on the future of reclaimed water, given water shortages and the active encouragement for reclamation from several quarters. The article includes a sidebar, "The Irvine Ranch Water District: Pioneering Reclaimed Water Use."


Energy Challenges: 2012 Public and Land-Grant University Conference
April 29-May 1, 2012
Columbus, Ohio
The 2012 Conference on Energy Challenges will examine the role of public and land-grant universities in leading the technology, understanding and public education of advanced energy options. Join us for this vital discussion on how we can face our energy challenges and lead our nation into the energy future through discoveries in advanced energy expansion and innovations.

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