Waseca, Minn. — The internet is littered with dating and matchmaking services of every type. Now there is even a service to match ag “leftovers” — biomass processing residues — with people who value corn stalks or alfalfa stems or poplar branches.
The new AURI-hosted Web site — www.mnbiomassexchange.org — will help biomass users find those with spare fibers and residues. For example, a power plant operator might be looking for sunflower hulls or baled corn stalks or sawdust to use as solid fuels.
“We hope that this site will be a tool to get those buyers and sellers in communication with each other,” says Joel Haskard of the Clean Energy Resource Teams at the University of Minnesota, a site sponsor.
“There is a lot of interest … whether it’s for energy or fiber use, there are people who are looking to source biomass,” says Alan Doering, who operates AURI’s coproducts lab in Waseca. Doering has worked with dozens of projects that need affordable biomass. “There are supplies out there, but it can be hard to find them or to find sources that are nearby to make transportation cost effective.”
The Minnesota Biomass Exchange is a clearinghouse of information on the type, quantity and location of available wood, agriculture and processing coproducts. It can be accessed via AURI’s Center for Producer-Owned Energy Web site: www.mncpoe.org
Besides linking buyers and sellers, Mike Taylor of the Minnesota Department of Commerce says the site will “create new thinking around biomass as a product for energy rather than just a waste or byproduct to be disposed. Farmers, industries, municipalities and schools are in completely different markets so they may not be aware of each other.”
“A steady fuel source can make or break a biomass project,” Haskard adds. “Getting a decent price for ag wastes or alternative fuel crops will mean more cash in our farmers’ pockets. Gathering and transporting biomass will mean job creation. And locally-produced, renewable biomass is a win for Minnesota’s environment and energy infrastructure.”
Designed and maintained by Karen Zimny, AURI communications assistant, the site will be updated weekly to ensure a steady supply of current information.
“We don’t want site users to be sent on any wild-goose chases because the information is old or outdated, so we intend to keep it fresh,” Zimny says.
The site is offered at no charge and visitors can browse to see what is available. However, user must register to access contact information. The biomass exchange site is a collaborative effort of AURI, Green Institute, Minnesota Department of Commerce, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and CERTs, which is part of the University of Minnesota’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships.