Bioenergy is simply energy that comes from biological material.  Bioenergy is typially divided into two categories: biomass and biofuels.  Biomass energy is used for heat and/or electricity, and can be converted to energy through combustion, gasification, pyrolysis, anerobic digestion, or some other process.  Biomass energy can come from a variety of sources including manure or other waste products, or dedicated energy crops (such as switchgrass), though the most common source is probably still wood and wood residues (i.e., wood that is left over after processing of wood products).  Some of the most promising biomass energy technologies are waste-to-energy system.  These include anerobic digesters, which take manure and convert it to a biogas that can be burned for heat or electricity.  For the Shenandoah Valley, especially Rockingham County, poultry litter-to-energy systems are particularly promising as a potential source of renewable and environmentally reposonsible energy source.

Biofuels are fuel products derived from biological material and are usually used for transportation applications.  Prominent biofuels are biodiesel and ethanol.  Biodiesel uses the oils from biological material to produce a diesel product that can be used in diesel engines.  It usually comes in blends of B1, B5 or B20, depending on the blend ratio (higher numbers mean higher percentages of biodiesel).  Ethanol is produced from sugars, which are distilled to form alcohol that can be blended for use in gasoline-powered engines.  Most gasoline pumped in the U.S. already contains some ethanol, usually around 10%, but flex-fuel vehicles can use E85 as well.  The most common source of sugar for ethanol production in the U.S. is corn, although sugarcane is used exclusively in Brazil and the only ethanol producer in Virginia uses barley. Valley 25x’25 statement on biofuels: Valley 25x’25 promotes the adoption of sensible renewable energy solutions for the Shenandoah Valley.  We recognize that corn-based ethanol is a highly controversial topic in the Valley and elsewhere because of its impact on feed prices for poultry farmers.  Although Valley 25x’25 has no official position on ethanol,  because it does not make much economic or environmental sense.  We want to promote sensible renewable energy solutions for our region.

Biomass Links and Resources

  • Virginia Residual Biomass Mapper
  • Woody Biomass Deskguide.pdf
  • Manomet Biomass Report.pdf
  • Manomet Biomass Report – Executive Summary.pdf
  • EPA State Bioenergy Primer.pdf
  • Biogas Recovery Systems.pdf
  • AgStar Handbook.pdf
  • 2007 Biogas Digester Update.pdf
  • “Park Spark” project – dog manure to light project in Cambridge, MA
  • “U,S.. Billion-ton Update”