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EnergyAg Newsbriefs

October 2011

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

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Newly discovered enzyme improves yields for grain ethanol

Researchers from the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have discovered an enzyme which lessens the amount of electricity, natural gas, and water expended per unit of grain alcohol produced. The enzyme works by allowing water to be more easily extracted from dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS), a grain ethanol precursor. To learn more, read "USDA Scientists Use Commercial Enzyme to Improve Grain Ethanol Production," published September 12, 2011, on the ARS website.

Open source hog farm garners Google support

A pilot hog farm developed by Duke University is producing enough electricity to power 35 average homes, and displacing the amount of CO2 emitted by 900 cars. The farm is trading carbon offset credits, and has garnered the attention and dollars of Google, who will help support the farm for a 5-year term in exchange for the credits. The system’s design is meant to serve as a model for others to freely copy. To learn more, see "Hog Waste Producing Electricity and Carbon Offsets," released September 8, 2011, by Duke University.

USDA funding for bioenergy producers

On September 27, 2011, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced funding for 160 energy producers in 41 states under the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels (BCAP) program. The payments will be made based on the amount of biofuel produced from renewable biomass such as cellulose, crop residues, animal manure, and food waste. For details and to see a list of recipients, see the USDA press release.

Biogas basics

"Introduction to Biogas and Anaerobic Digestion" is a feature article appearing on the Extension website and updated September 2011. The article provides basic information about biogas and anaerobic digestion, particularly in livestock systems. For those who are curious exactly what a biodigester does and what it looks like, and/or want to know what biogas is used for and what are the risks and benefits of such a system, this article provides a simple introduction.


Dairy Sustainability Awards nominations now being accepted

The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy is now accepting nominations for the 2012 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards. Awards will be granted in three categories: Excellence in Dairy Sustainability, Diary Manufacturing and Processing Sustainability, and Outstanding Achievement in Energy. Nominations must be received before December 1, 2011.

Anaerobic co-digestion in Washington State

A fact sheet published in August 2011 by WSU Extension, Anaerobic Co-Digestion on Dairies in Washington State: The Solid Waste Handling Permit Exemption, describes how co-digestion operates within dairy waste anaerobic digestion systems. With co-digestion, pre-consumer organic waste is processed alongside dairy manure to increase biogas yields and revenue. In the State of Washington, a solid waste handling permit waiver can sometimes be granted for co-digestion; this document outlines the qualifications necessary for an exemption.


Results are in for multi-decade farming trial

The Rodale Institute has been operating field trials comparing organic and conventional agriculture since 1981. In September 2011, Rodale released a report, The Farming Systems Trial: Celebrating 30 Years, which quantifies and summarizes the results to date. Among the results are findings that organic agriculture yields are equal to that of conventional, and that organic agriculture uses 45% less energy than conventional agriculture.


Agricultural appropriations funding cut; REAP reduced by nearly 50%

On September 7, 2011, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to cut funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) by nearly 50%. Substantial cuts were also made for farm bill mandatory conservation programs and Value Added Producer Grants (VAPG), and a request for matching federal grants for states through the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program (SARE) was denied. For details, see "Senate Agriculture Spending Bill Unveiled," released September 9, 2011, by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

ACEEE weighs in on USDA funding cuts; the importance of data collection

In "What Will USDA Budget Cuts Mean for Energy Efficiency," Kate Farley of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) discusses the importance of data collection for the development of energy efficient agricultural practices. Farley points out that funding for the DOE Energy Information Administration (EIA) has already been cut, and that funding for data collection could be an easy target during the development of the 2012 Farm Bill. This article appeared on September 16, 2011, on the ACEEE website.

Effect of biodiesel mandate waivers on farmers

"EPA Mandate Wavers Create New Uncertainties in Biodiesel Markets" appeared in the 2nd Quarter 2011 issue of Choices, a publication of the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (AAEA). The article explores the cascading effect of legislation which allows the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to waive mandatory inclusion of biodiesel in domestic fuel sales. The allowance of waivers adds variability to biofuel market demand, which in turn has a destabilizing impact on agricultural producers who supply cellulosic biomass and/or agricultural waste for biodiesel production.


Report examines electricity and energy trends in Northwest agriculture

"Electrical Energy Efficiency and Emerging Technologies in Northwest Agriculture," published in July 2011 and available for download at, was sponsored by the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEAA) and developed by Cascade Economics, GlobalWise, and MetaResource Group. This 172-page document examines the role of electricity in agriculture in the Pacific Northwest, identifies key energy trends and opportunities for efficiency improvements, and recommends emerging technologies for further study. The report does not describe current NEEA practices or policies, but is intended to inform the future direction of NEEA in relation to Northwest agriculture.


Multimedia: Determining wind energy potential

A short video created by Colorado State University Extension, "Is Wind Energy Practical for Me," was uploaded to YouTube on September 23, 2011. The video presents basic information on how to determine if wind energy potential exists at your site.


Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program: Sustainable Bioenergy

The AFRI Sustainable Bioenergy Program will fund grants that target vital topical areas related to the development of regional systems for the sustainable production of bioenergy, biopower and biobased products. Project types supported by AFRI within this Challenge Area include single-function Research Projects, multi-function Integrated Research, Education, and/or Extension Projects, and Food and Agricultural Science Enhancement (FASE) Grants. Eligibility requirements vary by project type. Application deadline is December 15, 2011; a letter of intent is due October 25, 2011. ? NCAT Weekly Harvest newsletter, September 28, 2011

Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) Grants

Proposals for five types of grants are currently being accepted by Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) in the following categories: Research and Education, Professional Development, Production, Professional and Producer, and Graduate Student Grants in Sustainable Agriculture. Deadlines vary, with most proposals due in December 2011.


Harvesting Clean Energy Conference XI
October 23-25, 2011, Boise, Idaho

Join us in Boise in 2011 for another successful Harvesting Clean Energy conference. We will feature panel discussions designed to answer questions including: How can farmers, ranchers, food processors and rural communities prosper in the new energy economy? Where are your best opportunities in wind power, solar technologies, geothermal, small hydro, biomass or biofuels, upgrading to energy efficient equipment? What financing, technical expertise, and partners are available to help? If you are interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at the 2011 Harvesting Clean Energy conference, please contact Dana Colwell: 253-445-4575.

Alternative Energy Resources Organization 37th Annual Meeting
October 28-30, 2011, Lakeside, Montana

The weekend will feature keynote speaker Phillip Ackerman-Leist of Green Mountain College in Vermont, with insights on contemporary homesteading. Other events include energy and agriculture tours, roundtable discussions, auctions, music, demonstrations, as well as a harvest market.

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