Vermont power company leverages local biodiesel model

Green Mountain Power will heat its buildings and power its fleet with biodiesel from locally grown sunflower seeds
By Ron Kotrba | September 17, 2014

Vermont utility company Green Mountain Power has embarked on a biodiesel pilot project with UVM Extension and the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative. The project is based around local oilseed growth, biodiesel production and consumption in Green Mountain Power’s fleet of vehicles, and for building heating.

While the scale of the project is small—just 30 acres of sunflower seeds—the implications could be big for biodiesel in Vermont.

Twenty acres of sunflowers are growing at the State Line Farm Biofuels in Shaftsbury and another 10 acres are growing at the Ekolott Farm in Newbury. When the oilseeds are harvested this fall, they will be dried and pressed, and then the raw oil will be converted to biodiesel. The meal will go to local Vermont farmers as animal feed.

Green Mountain Power says, depending on the crops’ success, the cost of fuel to Green Mountain Power could be up to one dollar less than current B100 prices.

UVM Extension and the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative have worked together for several years to encourage the growth of oilseeds as an energy source, and the addition of Green Mountain Power is hoped to accelerate this effort even further.

“Green Mountain Power is leading the way in many local energy initiatives,” said Green Mountain Power 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.”

“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.”

“As a result of the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative, several pioneering farmers in Vermont now have the necessary infrastructure to produce sustainable biodiesel,” said 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.”

“The goal is for local biodiesel production to both shave fuel costs for our customers while helping to develop new markets for locally produced liquid fuels,” Powell said. “We see this benefitting local farms and customers as we work together to provide more clean, cost-effective and reliable power.”


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