Selling your greenery for bio-fuel

Project to develop biomass crop supplies for CNY energy projects

Central New York landowners may soon be growing grasses, shrub willow and other crops for sale as bio-fuel, in what could be a model for regional bio-energy systems.

A project launched this June will work with rural landowners and crop farmers in a five-county region to develop business arrangements suitable for supplying mid-sized consumers of energy crops for heat and power production.

"By the end of 2009, we will have a good idea of the volume of shrub willow and various grasses that might be available to energy users in a region centered on Madison County, as well as a good handle on the cost of those crops for end-users in that region," said project leader Dan Conable.

Conable is a partner in Central New York Land Management, a consulting firm that helps businesses develop agricultural product procurement systems, as well as research consulting on the economics of energy crop development. Central New York Land Management will be assisted by the SUNY College of Environment and Forestry in executing this project.

"This project will build on work we have already undertaken along with Central New York Land Management to assess the potential commercial availability of cropped and forest biomass in this part of the state," said Timothy Volk, Senior Research Associate at SUNY-ESF. "However, it will go further in the direction of developing crop budgets and model business arrangements between biomass customers, producers, and landowners than we have gone in the past."

A project advisory committee made up of crop farmers from the area will help develop realistic crop budgets and business approaches to be reviewed by 100 landowners, selected at random from those who volunteer to participate in the study phase of the project. A steering committee drawn from county government and others that are developing projects at Morrisville State College and Colgate University will provide overall project guidance.

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