Farm Energy

Farm Energy Research

The following is a sampling of research projects relevant to sustainable farm energy. Click on a title below to navigate to the specific project.

This research focuses on using protein engineering of cellulases to increase their activity on native cellulose. This information should allow researchers to increase the rate of cellulose hydrolysis so lower amounts of cellulases are needed for biofuel production. So far researchers have succeeded in identifying multiple residues in two different exocellulases that have this function. 
Top Impact from Work Thus Far: Researchers have identified a novel type of cellulase, processive endocellulase, that has the highest activity on native cellulose of any class of cellulase.
Duration:This research has been going on for thirty years and has three more years of funding 
Project Leader(s): David B. Wilson, 607-255-5706,
Project Partners: John Brady
Potential Benefits for Small Farms: This research should lower the cost of converting sugars from biomass, thus lowering the cost of producing fuels from crops or crop residues.
Funding Source(s): DOE through the BESC
For more information:


As the USA focuses on energy security, grass bioenergy is one of the ways that rural communities can move towards energy security. New York State has about 1.5 million acres of unused or underutilized agricultural land, most of which is already growing grass. Grass biofuel production does not need to divert any of the current agricultural productivity into the energy market; this biomass can be completely independent from, but complimentary to, the production of food and animal feed. 
Top Impact from Work Thus Far: Several grass pelleting and briquetting operations have been initiated in the Northeast.
Project Leader(s): Jerry Cherney, 607-255-00945,
Project Partners: Ke Max Zhang, Mike Hunter, Joe Lawrence, Paul Peterson
Potential Benefits for Small Farms: Grass pellets have great potential as a low-tech, environmentally-friendly, renewable energy system that can be locally produced, locally processed and locally consumed.
Funding Source(s): US Department of Energy
For more information:;


This project is working to demonstrate the cultivation, harvesting, storage, and use of shrub willow as a fuel for on-farm heating.  Researchers have established 25 acres of willow in Geneva, half of which will be harvested each year with a small-scale, tractor mounted harvester. Tthe chips are stored and dried in a pole barn, and then used to fuel a 750 kBtu wood chip boiler which heats two campus buildings.  There is still much to optimize, including weed management during establishment, harvesting logistics, chip drying efficiency, and chip storage logistics. 
Top Impact from Work Thus Far: Researchers have successfully demonstrated the harvesting, drying, and conversion of willow wood chips as on-farm heating fuel.
For more information:
Project Leader(s): Larry Smart, 315-787-2490,
Project Partners: Dan Aneshansley, George Hudler, Greg Loeb, Dennis Rak, Dave Dungate, Mary Wrege, Penn State, Michigan State, West Virginia, SUNY-ESF
Potential Benefits for Small Farms: This has the potential to provide a long-term, low-cost fuel system to replace propane or fuel oil based heating with a sustainable, renewable fuel grown on underutilized, marginal farm land.
Funding Source(s): USDA Hatch, NY Farm Viability Institute, NYS Energy Research and Development Authority


Farm Energy Extension Resources

Cornell Small Farms Program
The Cornell Small Farms Program maintains current resources pertaining to sustainable farm energy.  Visit and click on Resources  > Farm Energy.
Sustainable Farm Energy Field Day Series
Each Fall, the Cornell Small Farms Program and Northeast SARE host a field day series on farms around NYS.  Farmers give tours and share “How-to” information on incorporating solar panels, wind turbines, radiant heat, passive solar and ecological stewardship practices into a farm or homestead.  To receive announcements of upcoming events, visit
New Generation Energy: Sustainable Power for Your Farm or Homestead Webinar Series
A four-part online webinar series sponsored by the Cornell Small Farms Program and NE-SARE has been archived and can be accessed through the Cornell Small Farms Program website. This series provided examples of energy conservation measures, solar arrays, wind turbines, compost heat, and a variety of other ecological production techniques.  Stream the webinars at
Farm Energy Innovators: Successful Conservation and Renewable Energy Strategies
This booklet describes how farmers save energy and decide which renewable systems are right for their farm. Profiles detail the cost of installation, any grants or incentives available, amount of energy saved or produced, and where to go for further information.  Download at

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