The Institute for Advanced Learning & Research hosted the “Southern Virginia Bioenergy: Making Innovation Work” conference on Tuesday. SouthsideCentral was there and was highly impressed at what progress is being made in the bioenergy field.
Here are some thoughts that I got from the conference:
- Southside Virginia has two ways to benefit from increased development of bioenergy sources. First, it will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and second, it will be a greatly needed boost in the regional economy.
- There’s plenty of farmland in the region. Combine that with the industrial sites that are available, you’ve got a perfect recipe for bioenergy R&D. Bioenergy projects can be almost anything, from harvesting methane from closed landfills all the way to growing crops that can be turned in fuels.
- There’s a initiative out there called 25X’25 that is trying to have farms and ranches provide 25% of the total energy consumed in the USA. It’s possible if the movement to renewable energy continues to grow.
- One of the areas at the Institute (That You Don’t Know About) is the Institute for Sustainable and Renewable Resources. They are affiliated with Virginia Tech and have scientists that are doing research all of the time. They had a display about their research on the Jerusalem Artichoke and how they are doing genetic modification to improve its use for ethanol production.
- Auburn University brought a giant truck-size demonstration of how they can convert wood chips and pellets into fuel. I was semi-amazed by that but was totally floored when I was told that their machine can make biofuels out of chicken crap. According to their information, Alabama & Georgia produce 8 billion pounds of poultry crap per year and that can be turned into electricity that can power 1 million homes.
In closing, I have to mention that the Institute is a premier place for business conferences like this. It’s high-tech, super-polished, and the staff handles any need or request that you could ever ask for. They handle the hospitality part excellently with their food and drink services. If only the majority of people knew what happens there, they’d realize how important that the Institute is to the Southside economy.