Collaboration leads to innovative farm-to-energy biodiesel. Two fields of sunflowers growing in Vermont will have an unusual future: the flowers’ seeds will be converted to biodiesel and livestock feed. The fuel will be used in Green Mountain Power’s fleet of vehicles and for building heating, saving money and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants. The feed will be used on Vermont farms to supplement animal nutrition.
“Green Mountain Power is leading the way in many local energy initiatives,” said GMP President and CEO Mary Powell. “Using Vermont sunflowers to power our vehicles and heat our buildings is a beautiful way to keep our energy local and clean.”
Twenty acres of sunflowers are growing at the State Line Farm Biofuels in Shaftsbury and another ten acres are growing at the Ekolott Farm in Newbury. When the oil seeds are harvested this fall, they will be dried and pressed, then the raw oil will be converted to biodiesel, or B100. The solid portion of the seed, the meal, is valuable as a livestock feed. Depending on the crops’ success, the cost of fuel to GMP could be up to one dollar less than current B100 prices.
“It is so great to be part of this innovative test with GMP,” said John Williamson of State Line Farm Biofuels. “Projects like this really help support farmers, plus it’s beautiful to see the fields of sunflowers and even more beautiful to realize it will provide a clean and local power source.”
This pilot is a partnership between GMP, UVM Extension, and the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative. UVM Extension, and the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative have worked together for several years to encourage the growth of oil seeds as an energy source and the addition of GMP is expected to accelerate this effort.
“As a result of the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative, several pioneering farmers in Vermont now have the necessary infrastructure to produce sustainable biodiesel,” notes Chris Callahan, UVM Extension Agricultural Engineer. “This is a unique model: local production for local use. The partnership with GMP means more gallons will be made which means lower cost for everyone.”
Powell added, “We see this benefitting local farms and customers as we work together to provide more clean cost-effective and reliable power.”
Seeds from the sunflowers in Larry Scott’s Ekolott Farm in Newbury, Vt., will be converted to biodiesel to be used in Green Mountain Power’s vehicles and for heating buildings.
Photos courtesy of Larry Scott