The USDA this week announced that it has awarded Pennsylvania State University a five-year research grant totaling about $10 million to develop biomass supply chains for the production of liquid transportation and aviation biofuels in the Northeast.
This is the sixth such award made through USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). Its goal is to develop renewable energy markets, generating rural jobs and decreasing America's dependence on foreign oil in every region of the U.S. The Northeast joins five regional systems in the Pacific Northwest, Northwest, Northern States, Southern States and Southeast.
The grants came through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The NEWBio Consortium will focus on non-food biomass sources of willow, miscanthus and switchgrass. Integrating research, education and Extension, the consortium will address crop genetic development, harvesting, storage and processing techniques, and sustainable production systems. The research will develop sustainable production practices to improve yield by 25 percent and reduce costs by 20 percent, the USDA reports.
The research will enable private-sector partners to produce advanced ready-to-use liquid transportation and aviation biofuels. The team, which will be led by Penn State’s Thomas Richard, aims to provide business support to generate at least 100 supply contracts and support more than 50 new supply chain businesses to harvest, transport and preprocess biomass.
Richard will lead a team of researchers and staff from the following organizations: Cornell University, Delaware State University, Ohio State University, Rutgers University, West Virginia University, University of Vermont, Drexel University, American Refining Group, Ernst Conservation Seeds, Case New Holland, Praxair, Inc., Idaho National Lab, Mascoma Biofuels, Primus Green Energy, Double A Willow, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Aloterra Energy, Oak Ridge National Lab and USDA's Agricultural Research Service.
USDA is investing in or making payments to more than 5,700 renewable energy and energy efficiency improvement projects. More than 130 biodiesel and ethanol projects funded by USDA are currently producing almost 3.7 billion gallons of biodiesel and ethanol annually, enough fuel to keep five million vehicles on the road every year. This year, the USDA also provided financial assistance to help support nearly 250 blender fuel pumps.