Grant will study turning farm waste into energy

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(Host) Two federal agencies have awarded a grant of nearly $750,000 to look into how Vermont can produce fuel from plants and farm waste. Proponents say bio-renewable energy can help consumers and farmers.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) Producing fuels like ethanol and biodiesel from vegetable oil, and methane from manure is not a new technology, but so far it’s been applied mainly to the large farming operations in other parts of the country.

Under the grant from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Energy, the Vermont Alternative Energy Corporation and the Intervale Foundation will study how to adapt the technology to Vermont. Among the possibilities are bio-refineries that would use farm waste and specific crops to make a host of environmentally friendly products now being made with petroleum – from fuel to plastics. Sabrina Trupia is vice president of the Vermont Alternative Energy Corporation.

(Trupia) “One good thing about a bio-refinery is that it’s not necessarily ugly and polluting.”

(Zind) Trupia says one of the main products of a bio-refinery would be a clean burning, locally produced diesel fuel that could help reduce reliance on imported fossil fuels.

Proponents also say growing crops used in bio-refineries offers Vermont farmers a potential new source of income. Guy Roberts of the Intervale Foundation says some of the grant money will be used to figure out how to do this.

(Roberts) “To go out and actually poll the farmers to see what their interests are, to actually look at the soils to see what kinds of plants are best supported here, to decide, is there a path out there for this state to enter into this whole bio-refinery industry.”

(Zind) Roberts says he’s also looking into ways to help farmers produce their own fuel and energy on the farm, and sell the surplus. The Vermont project was one of 19 applications chosen by the government from a field of over 400.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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