Local Landowners to Learn About Switchgrass and Woody Biomass for Energy

UNIVERSITY PARK – The United States House of Representatives recently passed the groundbreaking American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. How can Central Pennsylvania farmers and landowners participate in and benefit from these new energy and climate policies? One way is through the establishment, harvesting, and processing of biomass crops like switchgrass. At the July 21 Central Pennsylvania Biomass Energy Workshop stakeholders will be able to learn more about these renewable energy crops.

Biomass crops are plants specifically targeted for use in renewable energy production. These include wood from fast growing trees and switchgrass being used for heat or for processing into cellulosic ethanol. Best of all, these biomass energy crops can often be sustainably established on lands unsuitable for traditional agricultural production, for instance former mining lands or poor fertility vacant farm land. Biomass crops can have other environmental benefits too, such as erosion control, sequestration of carbon below ground, and wildlife habitat improvement.

The Central Pennsylvania Biomass Energy Workshop to be held at Penn State’s University Park campus on July21 will offer a mixture of speakers, discussion, exhibits and tours of actual biomass crops including switchgrass and mobile grass pelletizer. Penn State hosts Greg Roth and Dan Ciolkosz state that, “we are very excited to share the knowledge of Penn State’s Biomass Energy Center and Cooperative Extension in an event targeted directly towards Central Pennsylvania. Anyone interested in the agricultural, environmental, and economic aspects of biomass crops should attend this workshop.”

Partner host Headwaters Resource Conservation & Development Council Coordinator Adam Dellinger concurs saying that, “wood based biomass energy projects like those in place under the Fuels for Schools & Beyond Program already have a track record of positive local economic development in a number of northern Pennsylvania communities. Switchgrass and other dedicated biomass crops have the potential to extend those benefits throughout the region.”

Andy Bater, of Biomass Connections, also a collaborating host adds that, “as a Centre County switchgrass grower I am thrilled that we were able to put this workshop together. It will be of great value getting fellow central Pennsylvania farmers and landowners in the same room with potential end users to discuss how we can further the growth of the biomass energy marketplace.”

Registration for the July 21workshop is $20 which covers lunch and transportation to Penn State’s biomass crop field trials. Sign up information is available online, or by contacting the Headwaters Resource Conservation & Development Council at 814-375-1372 extension 4 or headwatersrcd@yahoo.com.

Headwaters RC&D is a nonprofit organization serving the residents of Jefferson, Elk, Clearfield, Cameron, McKean, Potter, Clinton and Centre Counties. The mission of this organization is to provide leadership through projects and partnerships that develop or enhance the sustainable cultural, environmental and economic well-being of north central Pennsylvania communities. More information is available here.

Penn State Cooperative Extension is an educational network that gives people in Pennsylvania’s 67 counties access to Penn State’s resources and expertise. More information at: www.extension.psu.edu

Biomass Connections is an online agricultural portal providing resources and bulletin board discussion of energy crops such as switchgrass and woody biomass. More information is available online.

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