The recent surge in fossil fuel prices highlights the fact that farms in Vermont and the northeast region could derive an economic benefit from developing cost-effective on-farm energy sources.
The University of Vermonts Renewable Energy Center is networking with partners across the state to develop and collect information that can help farmers make good decisions about using renewable energy.
An annual report from Vermonts Sustainable Agriculture Council summarized alternative energy enhancement activities underway in Vermont. The energy enhancement section of the 2007 Annual Report from the council focuses specifically an update on-farm production, use and policy development for biodiesel as a biofuel in Vermont.
Working with the Gund Institute and the Vermont Alternative Energy Corporation, the Center surveyed dairy farmers about their interest in growing and processing biodiesel crops. A model was developed to better understand the economic conditions and business structures under which an agriculturally-supported biodiesel industry could be developed in Vermont. The summary report of this work is at http://www.uvm.edu/~susagctr/BRDI%20summary.pdf.
Biodiesel is made from vegetable oil, alcohol and lye. To the extent that these ingredients can be produced and processed on the farm, a significant degree of energy independence can be gained and a more sustainable fuel-food cycle realized.
In 2006 the UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture and University of Vermont Extension partnered with farmers and other organizations to conduct on-farm research and demonstration aimed at growing and processing oil-seed and sugar-producing crops for production of biodiesel. The results of this work are in the final report On-Farm Oil Seed Production and Processing.
Other Vermont organizations are involved in studying the opportunities and obstacles associated with on-farm biofuel production, with funding from the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund Biofuels Initiative.
For reports on their activities see: http://www.vsjf.org/biofuels/vermont_biofuels_initiative.shtml .