Energy freedom through farming

Energy freedom through farming

By Robert & Sonia Vogl

The Illinois Renewable Energy Fair at the Ogle County Fairgrounds August 10 & 11 offers ideas on becoming less reliant on imported oil and more energy independent using new fuels from renewable resources.

Technology exists to convert farm, forest, industrial and urban wastes into chemicals, fertilizers and fuels for transportation. If these products are locally produced and used, the community becomes more energy independent and less vulnerable to disruptions in supplies and sudden price gyrations.

Biofuels programs can generate local jobs, increase farm income and help preserve rural communities. They also can lessen the severity of global climate change.

Several workshops highlight ways in which farm communities can benefit from renewable energy programs. Hans Detweiler of the Environmental Law and Policy Center will describe the new farm energy economy. On-farm renewable energy—wind, biomass, and efficiency—can serve both as an energy source and as new farm income. Repowering the Midwest provides the context, demonstrating that clean energy technology is available now, is cost-effective, and would bring positive economic development impacts.

John Sellers, Field Coordinator, Charitan Valley, Iowa, RC&D Biomass Project, will describe the first project using switchgrass from 600 acres of CRP land to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions from a coal-fired electric plant. The new farm bill permits increased use of CRP plantings for fuel.

Bruce Papiech of Forever Power advises farmers to install utility sized wind generators on their land and sell electricity to utilities, suggesting this approach will yield more annual income to the farmer than merely leasing land to wind farm developers.

Biomass products from farm operations can be used to provide heat and generate electricity that exceeds most farm needs, allowing farm operators to sell electricity to the grid if an economic incentives make it profitable for the farm operator. Duane Hanusa of Alliant Energyís describes experiences with biomass projects in Wisconsin.

Esh Noojibail of Anergen Corporation of Naperville will take the mystery out of digester technology, which processes animal and agricultural wastes and turns them into usable forms of energy. His presentation will discuss the pros and cons of different systems. Since a methane molecule is 20 times more powerful than a carbon dioxide molecule in its ability to contribute to global warming, using wasted methane as a fuel source has environmental benefits.

Wood is an often overlooked energy source. Owners of small woodlots often have difficulty locating a skilled and willing person to remove damaged, diseased or dead trees. Large trees cut from urban areas seldom find their way to sawmills as mill operators fear their saw blades will be damaged by a hidden nail or staple. Richard Bergman, a wood energy specialist with the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin, will describe small wood energy systems being used in schools, factories, hospitals and rural communities.

Frederic Kuzel, Director of the Great Lakes Regional Biomass Energy Program, will describe their work with existing organizations to provide information and technical assistance to increase the use of bioeneregy

technologies, including biogas, biomass, E-diesel, ethanol and biodiesel.

A sustainable, clean energy program starts with efficiency and includes a variety of renewable energy sources. Fair workshops describe the larger role agriculture can play in supplying us with renewable energy.

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