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EnergyAg Newsbriefs

October 2010

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

While every URL in EnergyAg Newsbriefs is checked for accuracy prior to distribution, URLs may change, and servers may temporarily fail to connect to working URLs.


NREL unveils new biomass mapping tools

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently released two visualization screening tools, BioPower and BioFuels Atlas. The tools allow users to layer related bioenergy data onto a single map to gather information on biomass and biofuels potential, production, and distribution. View these tools at

Study presents realistic view of using corn cobs for fuel production

"The Economics of Harvesting Corn Cobs for Energy,” a report recently released by Purdue University Extension, outlines the results of a study on the economics of harvesting corn cobs for energy. It addresses the incidental costs involved in cob harvesting, and examines whether the expenditures outweigh the gains when corn cobs are harvested to be turned into biofuel. Download this report from the Purdue University website at

Study finds algae is a carbon friendly solution for biodiesel

When comparing petroleum, soy, and algae-based diesel, researchers at Colorado State University found that algae-based diesel generated the least amount of greenhouse gases when examined over the entire life cycle, from farm/source to fuel. The research report, “Net Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emission Evaluation of Biodiesel Derived from Microalgae,” was published in the September 24 issue of Environmental Science &Technology (subscription only); a press release is available at

E. coli bacteria could prove useful for biodiesel production

Researcher Desmund Lun of Rutgers University is working on a strain of E. coli bacteria that would make biodiesel from microalgae, and eventually, directly from carbon dioxide. The research is at a relatively early stage, but Lun believes success will be acheived within a few years. Read “E. coli Used to Produce Biofuel” on the Capital Press website at


Carbon footprint of a gallon of milk calculated in industry-funded study

Researchers at the Applied Sustainability Program, under commission by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, calculated the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced during the entire life cycle of liquid milk. The study was designed to help the dairy industry identify opportunities for efficiency and innovation, and is expected to be published in a scientific journal in 2011.To learn more, see “Dairy Industry Completes Fluid Milk Carbon Footprint Study as Part of Industry-wide Sustainability Commitment” on the Dairy Network, at


Food waste in U.S. equivalent to 350 million barrels of oil per year

A recent study published in Environmental Science & Technology, "Wasted Food, Wasted Energy: The Embedded Energy in Food Waste in the United States (subscription required),” calculates how much energy is expended on food per year in the U.S., and cross-references that with the 27% of food which is wasted annually in the United States. The authors found that the U.S. wastes the equivalent of 350 million barrels of oil per year. Read about this study at

Researchers discover how microbes break down plants into simple sugars

In a feat possibly transformative for the biofuels industry, researchers from the University of Illinois have uncovered the process by which bacteria break down cellulosic plant fibers into simple sugars. Currently, the biofuels industry has microbes which ferment simple sugars into ethanol, but a successful, efficient process for breaking down tough plant fibers has been elusive. The article, “Microbial Breakthrough Impacts Health, Agriculture, Biofuels,” describes the research, and is available at .

High-value chemicals produced from biomass

Researchers from Iowa State University have discovered a method for producing high-value chemicals such as ethylene and propylene glycol from biomass. The method, discovered by mistake during an investigation into cellulose-sugar conversion, avoids the use of strong solvents and other harmful chemicals. Read about this research at


Farm Energy website provides a plethora of valuable information

The eXtension Farm Energy website, maintained by the Farm Energy Community of Practice, collates information contributed by over 170 members from university extension services, government entities involved with farms and/or energy, and other authoritative sources. It is designed for farmers and agricultural educators interested in all aspects of farm energy, from conservation and efficiency to renewable energy production. Explore the eXtension Farm Energy website at .


Biomass Fuels Summit + Advanced Fuels Hands On Workshop
October 12-13, Vancouver, WA
The Biomass to Fuels Summit 2010 is presented by Biomass Energy Journal. The Summit’s goal is to advance the production of biofuels from biomass and to develop the supply chains that deliver waste biomass streams and dedicated energy crops to end users as finished energy products.

Biogas USA
October 13-14, 2010
San Francisco, CA
This key event will bring together leaders of the U.S. biogas industry to examine how to develop commercially successful biogas projects, and to address the latest technological advances in production. Delegates will learn from best practice case studies from government representatives, biogas producers, utilities, and biogas users to gain a clear understanding of the current federal policy framework, investment criteria, project start-up requirements, plant optimization, and upgrading biogas for injection into national gas grids.

Bioneers Conference
October 15-17, 2010, San Rafael, CA
Bioneers is a nonprofit educational organization that highlights breakthrough solutions for restoring people and planet. The Bioneers Conference is a leading-edge forum and environmental conference where social and scientific innovators focus on solutions inspired by nature and human ingenuity.

Community and Small Wind Energy Conference 2010 - Rocky Mountain Region
October 26-27, Denver, CO
Community Wind Across America presents a two-day regional conference on local, state and national policies, and options for financing Community and Small Wind projects. The conference will also include practical information on how to put together a Community Wind project. Concurrently, there will be a full Small Wind program focusing on topics such as how to choose a turbine, installation, and rebates and grants.

The Washington Bioenergy Research Symposium
November 8, 2010, Seattle, WA
From anaerobic digestion to pyrolysis, the Washington Bioenergy Research Symposium will explore and examine in depth the full scope of research efforts in the Northwest, with a focus on Washington State's leadership in bioenergy development.

Biogas Workshops
Various dates and locations
The Complete Biogas Handbook is presenting a two-day beginner's workshop in several places around the country offering complete information about “how to understand, successfully make, and properly use biogas ... and how to make simple, effective, low–cost digesters.” See link for locations and dates.


Biomass R&D funds announced

Two major research and development initiatives, one related to pyrolysis and one related to bioenergy landscape design, will receive over $16.5 million in funds from the U.S. Department of Energy. Read about the selective projects in the press release at

USDA offers funds for producers to conduct renewable energy feasibility studies

On September 7, agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the availability of funding under the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) to conduct feasibility studies for renewable energy systems for agriculture producers and rural small businesses. Eligible feasibility studies for renewable energy systems include projects that will produce energy from wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, hydro power, and hydrogen-based sources. For more information, see the rest of the press release at

Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requests proposals for A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3). “The P3 Awards program was developed to foster progress toward sustainability by achieving the mutual goals of economic prosperity, protection of the planet, and improved quality of life for its people...” Areas of interest include: Energy; Built Environment; Materials and Chemicals; Water; and Agriculture. $2.310 million expected to be available, up to 79 awards anticipated. Responses due 12/22/10. For more info, contact Cynthia Nolt-Helms at or go to Refer to EPA-G2011-P3.

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