Consider what a farm would look like that produced a home heat source from hay, Cellulosic Ethanol from Switchgrass or Reed Canary Grass in its fields or from left over corn stalks after combining, power from wind turbines standing in pastures, dead lands, or fields, power from solar panels on all roofs, power from exercise equipment in the home, and geothermal circulating underground to be used to heat & cool buildings. A set up like that which contains some or all of these components could certainly be considered a farm that doesn't produce milk, vegetables, or meat, but one which produces energy.  A similar set up could be an existing dairy, vegetable, or beef farm that adds in some of these components to serve as another "crop" that they farm, where this crop is energy - thus the phrase "Energy Farming".

Another scenario of an energy farm could be one that produces multiple products from single crops, while encompasing energy from solar, wind, and geothermal souces to power an operation that produces the following:

    1) Food (corn, soybean, oats, wheat)
    2) Fuel made from harvesting left over stalks
    3) Heat sources (briquettes or pellets) from the leftovers of the Cellulosic Ethanol production process
    4) Biochar as fertilizer (leftover from burning briquettes or pellets)
    5) Electrical power production via syngas made from consuming briquettes or pellets in a CHP unit


Below I've taken some broad strokes at laying out how I see the U.S as a nation better adopting the concept of Energy Farming both in the near term, and over the next several years. None of these technologies and concepts by themselves are the single answer to our energy situation, but combined, would certainly help our country create employment, revenue, security, and globally would help to reduce dependency carbon and nuclear fission based energy production.

First, I'd like to ask folks to please consider the following analogy - I call it the drop in the bucket theory:

     If a pail represents our energy demand at a given point in time, and oil being fed into the pail represents our current energy sources supplying our
     current demand, then a full bucket of oil means we have all of the supply that is required to satisfy the demand. However, if that oil (energy sources)
     become difficult to obtain, inaccessible, or side effects become too much for our planet to handle, then the bucket is not or cannot be kept full of oil.

     So then the question becomes how do we fill / top off the bucket? The obvious answer is with clean, renewable energy sources that are constant,
     dependable, and infinite. Using water to represent these clean energy sources, no one given source is likely to fill the pail, but together, if each adds
     a few drops at a time and we continuously increase the quantity of renewable energy sources dripping water into the pail, we�ll arrive at a full pail once
     again.
 
To further develop this "bucket of energy" idea, I spent the past few years investigating this concept of Energy Farming and how its components would contribute to our energy needs. Below, I describe at a high level, some obvious components that are part of this concept. Each of these components, in its own way, has the potential to:

▪  Create jobs
▪  Create tax revenue
▪  Create use for idle land and resources on that land
▪  Foster energy independence
▪  Help to displace current energy sources that have harmful side effects

To demonstrate the positive environmental impact of burning grass pellets and briquettes, see the chart below that outlines the carbon output for various fuel sources. Notice that burning hay results in nearly the least amount of carbon emissions per million BTU (data gathered 2009 - 2010 and validated September 2011):

These environmental and financial benefits outlined above, combined with a vision that I have in mind that someday would be beneficial to a community that takes on this challenge of producing densified heating fuels from local hay, have led to this vision where the basis of this vision isn't all that different that that of the early to mid 1900's, where farmers worked together to thrash oats. In this scenario, farmers could make use of their farm equipment and hay to harvest the hay as usual at the desired moisture content that is required for pellets and briquettes. Once the hay is harvested, since transportation costs and the costs of a densification machine could be somewhat significant, if a community organize a co-operative to process and sell pellets & briquettes, the co-op could then own the machine and manage marketing to help the individual farmers process and sell their product. This machine could be at a fixed location, or be mobile and moved around from farm to farm, just like how a thrashing machine was use back in the day.

More details on the efforts I've undertaken to this point in working to establish a small operation in Hammond NY, along with additional related information and how this technology works are found on the Grass-4-Heat page of this site.

Grass BioFuels for Ethanol

Making Ethanol from hay or left over corn stalks (corn stover) is a technology that currently works, but economically does not currently have much of an advantage over producing gasoline. However, if gasoline prices rise above a certain threshold, or the cost to produce Cellulosic Ethanol decreases, this technology would certainly lend itself to be a viable ethanol source and would be a wonderful component of Energy Farming.

Cellulosic Ethanol is the making of ethanol from the cellulose in plant materials, rather than from the starchy material in corn kernels. Those plants higher in cellulose are Switchgrass and Reed Canary Grass, however other materials such as wood and corn stover are being investigated too. At the moment, the commercially produced ethanol comes mainly from corn. However, given the higher yields of ethanol per acre, higher net energy used in the complete cycle, and better net environmental benefits, Cellulosic Ethanol a real good idea to pursue as stated at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cellulosic_ethanol
http://news.mongabay.com/2009/0202-ethanol.html
http://news.mongabay.com/2008/0107-switchgrass.html

Also, in 2005 the USDA estimated that about 30 percent of US oil consumption could be replaced by Switchgrass and other cellulosic biofuels, and the USDA also stated that this method would not cut into the production of our food supplies.

Currently, there are demonstration facilities and isolated commercial facilities in the US and Canada producing Cellulosic Ethanol, but hopefully within the next decade, commercially produced Cellulosic Ethanol will increase, and farm lands & Energy Farms in the North Country can begin supporting this technology. In anticipation that this technology will come, I have spent the last several years growing and maintaining one of the primary sources for Cellulosic Ethanol, Switchgrass.

Advantages of Ethanol from Cellulosic sources:
▪   It is said that greenhouse gas emission are reduced by 80% over gasoline, vs. 20-30% for corn
▪   Cellulosic sources do not have to be planted every year
▪   Cellulosic sources have a strong, anchoring root system
▪   Cellulosic sources do not require large amounts of water or pesticides
▪   Biofuels such as those derived from Switchgrass, Reed Canary Grass, and other Cellulosic sources can be used in most modern engines with minimal adjustment to the engine
▪   The net energy gain from Cellulosic Ethanol is far greater than that from corn ethanol

Some good sites to reference that discuss the benefits of Cellulosic Ethanol over Corn Ethanol are:
http://news.mongabay.com/2008/0107-switchgrass.html
http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/April09/Massa.cover.tb.html
http://www.pnas.org/content/105/2/464.abstract

To view results from my work to successfully establish Switchgrass stands, where the goal has been to understand what it takes to do this in anticipation that the Cellulosic Ethanol market will develop, to view results of a trial run I conducted for producing ethanol from corn, and to better understand how this technology works, see the Grass-4-Heat and Grass-4-Fuel pages

                                                                Solar and Residential Wind Power Installations

It had been documented that in 45 seconds, the earths surface receives enough solar energy to fully meet the worlds entire energy demand for that day
(http://www.pwc.com/en_GX/gx/sustainability/assets/earths-solar-potential.pdf) and similarly, another resource states that the earth receives enough energy from the Sun in one hour (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_energy) to power the planet for an entire year, and this amount is for one year is "twice as much as will ever be obtained from all of the Earth's non-renewable resources of coal, oil, natural gas, and mined uranium combined" in that same year (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_energy).

Given all of this, I put together a data set that shows if every US home had 225 watt solar panels on 250sf of roof area (250sf is an assumption, however a local installer figures for 280sf), and 10% of all residential US homes had a Skystream 3.7 personal wind turbine (10% is an assumption), residential homes on the average could supply 44% of their total power needs. Click here to view the data I gathered that led to this conclusion.

If efforts could be aligned to pursue a goal such as is described above where solar panel and residential wind turbines would be installed at all capable homes and business, and where solar panels and wind turbines get installed on roofs of farms buildings (or set up in pastures) biofuels are farmed from fields, and geothermal systems are installed underground, imagine the jobs and Energy Farms that would be created.... Consider that a noticeable sized work force would be needed (in the US) in each of the following areas:

▪  Manufacturing of the products
▪  Installation of solar panels and wind turbines
▪  Follow up maintenance
▪  Sales
▪  Consulting
▪  Project management

Also, given the current tax incentives that exist for clean energy equipment (assuming these incentives remain in place), home owners and business who install and use solar panels and residential wind turbines would be entitled to some sort of deduction each tax year.

For more details on the solar power system that I've installed at our home, see the Solar Power page, and to view details on residential wind turbines including one that a friend and I custom built, see the Wind Power page.

                                                                                                 Needed Actions

Upstate NY and the US has the capacity NOW to support most if not all of these aspects of Energy Farming - so why not embrace a positive change that will be beneficial to our financial, environmental, and national & self security for now and for our kids, grand kids, and beyond.

In my understanding of all of this, the following are actions that need to be taken to make Upstate NY an Energy Farming capital:

a) Communities need to work to make commercial wind farm placement satisfactory - this option can not be abandoned where the potential exists
b) Communities need to allow, encourage, and not hinder residential and small wind development
c) Solar installations at home need to become as common as internet access is to the home
d) Pellet stove makers need to make pellet stoves here in the US that will handle grass pellets (once again, Europe is ahead of us)
e) Cellulosic Ethanol - the market needs to develop and cheaper processes need to emerge
f) Subsidies, grants, and tax breaks for clean energy systems need to remain or even increase
g) Local, State, and Federal governments need to embrace the idea of Energy Farming
h) Energy users need to reduce consumption - see for more details see the
Energy Saving Ideas page

I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, "Move from here to there" and it will move Matthew 17:20

The videos at the following sites show what others have to say about this topic:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsUZ4EtEHVs
http://www.history.com/states.do?action=detail&state=Global Warming&contentType=State_Generic&contentId=56815&parentId=earth
http://harvestcleanenergy.org/

In closing, potential benefits to a community from the incorporation of clean energy systems into their economies, as also mentioned above, would serve to:

a) Create clean energy systems manufacturing & production, sales, installation, and maintenance jobs
b) Reduction Greenhouse gas emissions on a community scale, since farming select grasses for energy is close to a carbon neutral process as is stated at: (http://forages.org/bioenergy/page.php?pid=165#env)
c) Potentially increase property values at local homes and businesses that work to install power systems that let them either power themselves or provide a 
   majority of their own power - potential buyers in real estate might view this as an added value for a property
d) Create a demand for local stores that would need to stock items such as LED and CFL bulbs, charge controllers and inverters, wiring, batteries, and other
    items needed to support clean energy systems. Stores could also sell items that serve to reduce energy consumption such as efficient appliances, insulation,
    programmable thermostats, etc..
e) Create demand for hay (once the Cellulosic Ethanol market evolves) for Cellulosic Ethanol production, since it is proven that we can grow two of the grasses
    that would be in demand for Cellulosic Ethanol, Reed Canary Grass and Switch Grass
f) Provide an opportunity for citizens to collect and/or sell carbon credits

Energy farm technologies are currently at various stages of development, use, and acceptance. As is with most new technologies and ideas, issues need to be worked through and bumps in the road overcome - that's called progress.

Farm-4-Energy
Farming-4-Energy


For more information, requests, or if you would like to share information, please see the Contact Ian page
                                                                                                  Energy Farm Pictures

Click here
to see mocked up pictures of what our farm in Hammond might look like as an Energy Farm, and to see what a modern Energy Farm might look like if the form of a model I built that shows residential wind turbines, solar panel installations, a Geothermal system being installed, and grass being harvested for Cellulosic Ethanol and grass pellet production

                                                                                    Community Benefits from BioFuels 

Along with the environmental and cost benefits outlined above for both Grass Biofuel sources, each as part of the overall concept of Energy Farming would serve to benefit citizens and communities as outlined below.

1) Both Cellulosic Ethanol and Grass Pellets will likely call for local production plants mainly since transportation costs at a certain point would make producing   
   densifield heating fuels and ethanol from grass cost prohibitive. In speaking with Iogen (
http://iogen.ca/ ) a leader in Cellulosic Ethanol Technologies in Ottawa
   Ontario, they 
stated that a feasible distance for them from the field to the plant is up to 60 miles. Given this, if local plants were established to provide energy,
   local people could go to work, dead farms could be revived, and supporting businesses (farm dealers, trucking companies, 
etc) could flourish.

2) Provide a new need for unused farm land by creating new demand for hay since:
    a) Many former dairy farms are now shut down and their lands go unused
    b) Mulch hay being sold out of state could now have a new local market
    c) Less nutritional hay growing on marginal land could now have a new use
    d) Once Cellulosic Ethanol production becomes common place, left over processed feedstock could potentially be dried and made into pellets or briquettes, or
        could also be used for electrical power generation on site at the production facility

3) Upstate NY could become further recognized as a region known for its clean energy resources by:
    a) Contributing to reducing oil dependency and greenhouse gas emissions by replacing dependency on fuel oil for heat with densified grass heat fuel sources - 
        since farming select grasses for energy is close to a carbon neutral process as is stated at: (
http://forages.org/bioenergy/page.php?pid=165#env
)
    b) Utilizing potential for producing a new heating fuel source since standing hay is becoming increasingly available more and more each year. This in
        conjunction  with our solar, wind, geothermal power capabilities coupled with Cellulosic Ethanol potential and existing hydropower establishment would  
        certainly make a name for the area
    c) Adding another agricultural attraction to the area which could garner further attention from Albany and Washington that would potentially bring in increased 
        funding to support agriculture resources

4) Jobs would be created by the need for:
    a) Farm labor and equipment operators
    b) Stove sales, installation, and maintenance jobs
    c) Labor and trucks would be needed to handle and deliver pellets/briquettes
    d) Businesses that would supply items such as binders, machine parts, bags, ect
    e) Local stores, restaurants, and service stations that would support increased local labor

5) Business would be created for agricultural equipment dealers in the form of:
    a) Increased demand for haying equipment
    b) Increased demand for replacement parts on machinery
    c) Jobs for sales of and maintenance work related to farm equipment that is required for an operation of this nature
 
6) Foster additional local sales tax revenue from:
    a) Sales from pellets or briquettes, stoves, equipment, and parts where local counties and townships could better support their budgets with this increased sales
        tax revenue

7) Increase local tax bases because:
    a) Local pelleting and/or briquetting businesses would result in greater assessments which would increase the local tax base
    b) Local farm lands would become worth more since the demand for hay would increase

8) A few companies are also investigating Consolidated Bioprocessing, where the pretreatment and Hydrolysis steps are combined and accomplished via    
    ensiling. If it is found feasible to accomplish these first two steps in this way, the cost of the process would certainly be reduced by some factor and possibly
    help take steps towards making the Cellulosic Ethanol process something that would exist in local communities.

With this thought of Consolidated Bioprocessing, I have a vision in mind that someday would be beneficial to a community that takes on this challenge of producing Cellulosic Ethanol, where the concept of this vision isn't all that different from how producing and shipping milk from a dairy farm works. This vision depends on the successful development of Consolidated Bioprocessing, but once that comes about I have thought about how farmers could make use of silos on their farms to start the Cellulosic Ethanol process off, where they could individually pretreat and complete hydrolysis in the silo. Then, with another vessel on the farm, could transfer the feedstock to it and complete the fermentation step. Once that is done, a truck like a milk truck could come around and pickup the 'beer' that results from fermentation, transport it to a central facility, and complete the distillation process there. Since transport costs are a major economical factor in this plan, it would make more sense to transport fewer loads of beer to the central facility instead of the same number of loads of feedstock that were put into a silo.

                                                     Calagoba Energy Farm

Starting in 2014 I have begun home trials of making Cellulosic Ethanol from the Switch grass that we've grown on the Calaboga Road in Hammond NY and from Reed Canary grass that we also have growing in the area. Hopefully some day in the not too distant future, these trials will evolve into production situations where PaddockEnergy is producing ethanol and biofuels for home heat and CHP on a community basis.

Click here to find the results of the first Trial #1 that I recently conducted in March 2014.

Below is a process diagram that outlines the trial process. Notice that this process incorporates other aspects of Energy Farming such as wind and solar power, thus truly making this process an energy farm where in the end we'll be producing electrical  power, heat sources, and fuel.

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