Green energy from the farm

December 19, 2008
Written by Guelph Organic Conference
Dec. 19, 2008, Guelph, Ont. - Seas of prairie grasses are now blowing in the wind on farms in Eastern Canada. With wood pellets becoming scarce and fossil fuel prices on a roller coaster, native grasses turned into pellets may just be one of our most important fuels of the future.
Compared to growing high-input field crops, some farmers believe switchgrass is the way ahead to creating a green energy prosperity from the farm and badly needed jobs in rural towns. The emergence of farm-derived grass pellets could be one of the important success stories to help Canada get away from the economic doldrums and environmental blues.
A study by Canadian and Dutch scientists just released in a book by Springer Publishers found that grass pellet biofuels have set a new Canadian benchmark in greenhouse gas (GHG) displacement. Switchgrass pellets as a solid biofuel technology from energy crops for heat energy can reduce GHGs by 7,600 to 13,100 kg CO2e/ha. By comparison, corn ethanol in Ontario was found to reduce GHG's by 1,500 kg CO2e/ha. (CO2e = equivalent carbon dioxide.)




Solid biofuels produced from second-generation energy crops will be covered during the opening session of the 28th annual Guelph Organic Conference, Expo & Tasting Fair, being held from Jan. 22-25, 2009, at the Guelph University Centre in Ontario. The opening session will be held Thursday, Jan. 22, from 1 to 5 p.m.

“Solid biofuels produced from second-generation energy crops, such as switchgrass, effectively blow away liquid biofuels like corn ethanol as a serious greenhouse gas mitigation option,” explains Roger Samson, executive director of REAP-Canada and lead author of the study.


This symposium will feature leading technical specialists and farmers from the Great Lakes region who are developing warm-season grasses for energy. Specific topics to be covered by leading experts from New York, Ontario, Pennsylvania and Quebec include:
* Best management practices for establishing native grasses.
* Available native grass cultivars and potential to improve yield through breeding.
* Recent technology developments for improving mowing and baling of energy grasses.
* Creating biomass quality in grasses to ensure high quality combustion.
* Experiences with low-cost briquetting of switchgrass and burning warm-season grasses in commercial boilers.

Celebrating its 28th year, the four-day event includes international speakers, seminars and introductory workshops on frontline topics including GMOs, organic production and certification, food in a changing climate, eco-villages, earth buildings, farmland protection and food security. From producer to consumer, the workshops offer something for everyone.

Also featured will be the Organic Expo and Tasting Fair with the more than 160 exhibitors on Saturday and Sunday, free to the public. This is your opportunity to sample and purchase a plethora of organic, fair trade products and meet the makers, movers and shakers.

For more information and to register, visit

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