The Agriculture Finance Unit of the Environmental Finance Center provides innovative and effective finance expertise to rural communities and farm operations to improve their understanding, development and implementation of strategies to resolve problems and issues of environmental protection and restoration. For the Chesapeake Bay watershed, there is particular focus on nutrient and sediment management, water quality, Watershed Implementation Plans, natural resource conservation, and sustainability. In 2012 the main endeavor is a set of demonstration projects for thermochemical processing of poultry litter to produce heat and electricity.
The goal of the Manure to Energy Initiative (M2E) is to develop and vet options for poultry farmers which increase their net revenue and reduce sediment and nutrient movement to local waters and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. M2E is leading 5 demonstration projects which employ different hybrid gasification technologies at farm-scale to convert poultry litter to heat and/or electrical energy. The co-product is ash which is rich in P and K, and being examined in fertilizer compositions. Three demonstration projects are identified in the Delmarva Peninsula, one each in DE, MD and VA. There is a project in Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County and one Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Three projects will produce heat: two projects will produce heat and electricity.
The Chesapeake Bayregion faces a constant challenge to identify restoration strategies that reduce nutrient loads and meet pending regulatory requirements. Pilot agricultural programs, like the Chester River Association’s (CRA) switchgrass project that incentivize growing switchgrass over conventional crops are already in place and have proven highly popular with farmers in the region and reasonably be expected to deliver environmental, social, and economic benefits. CRA asked the EFC to investigate the feasibility of a host of potential end markets for the switchgrass grown tied to alternative energy opportunities. The EFC’s final report Assessing the Feasibility of Alternative Switchgrass Markets on Maryland’s Eastern Shore includes our findings as they relate to energy applications that use either the raw or densified version of the crop.
The EFC is working with the Chesapeake Bay Program Office to expand the capacity of communities to advance their Watershed Implementation Plans. The EFC will assist in developing and implementing a series of “road shows” throughout the region with a mix of stormwater and agricultural nutrient management and finance content tailored to the needs of the communities involved.