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:
Grass BioFuels for Heat
Making heating pellets and briquettes (logs) from hay is a viable clean energy source option that is available to be implemented now, since we have an abundance of hay fields, farm equipment, agricultural knowledge in existence among the local citizens, and a need for jobs in almost every community.
To show why the use of hay as a heating source would benefit both an individual home owner, the world we live in, and why producing these densified heating sources would be a mainstay in Energy Farming, I have assembled the data below.
The following chart shows costs estimates comparing the cost to heat a 2000 sq ft a home with various fuel sources (data gathered 2009 - 2010)
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.
Grass BioFuels for Ethanol
and Residential Wind Power Installations
Generating power from exercise equipment like that which I've built at our home is certainly not going to displace Nuclear power, but why not take the energy people burn in gyms, at home, and at sporting facilities and turn this human energy into energy created to use in our power grid? Relatively speaking, there won't be a large amount of contribution here, but anything is better than nothing. Also, implementing this technology would not only promote good health, but it would also create the following jobs, all of which could be kept in the US:
▪ Manufacturing of the products
▪ Follow up maintenance
Also, given the current tax incentives that exist for Clean Energy equipment (assuming these incentives remain in place), home owners and business who purchase and use this equipment should be entitled to some sort of deduction each tax year.
Whether coupled with solar panel and residential wind turbines, or as a standalone unit that feeds AC power to a home, farm, or business power grid, exercise power would be a quality but small component of an Energy Farm.
More details on the power producing exercise equipment that I've installed at our home, along with how it works, see the Exercise Power
I haven' spent much time on this, but the concept is simple - the inside of the earth has heat the farther down towards the core we go, so why not take advantage of this heat to make steam for power and heat for homes. So why include this with Energy Farming - if we have a farm with wind turbines on it, solar panels on building rooftops or set up in dead lands, crops growing on the land for fuel and heat pellets/briquettes, there are certainly areas on the farm where heating/cooling lines could be run to heat buildings on the farm or buildings that are part of a small pelleting/briquetting or ethanol operation. Companies are now are installing geothermal home heating/cooling systems by circulating water thru several waterline 'loops' buried in the ground outside of a home - this works because of the constant temperature of the earth after going down a few feet, so why not consider this in Energy Farming as a land owner would be farming the land - from underneath.... Geothermal technologies can also be used to generate electricity. For more details on this, see the Geothermal
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Click here to see some other clean energy ideas and concepts that might someday become a reality
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.
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
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
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 the winter of 2013 I intend to begin 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.