State of the Energy Industry


Bioenergy Curriculum graphic

This State of the Energy Industry module is part of the Biomass Energy Training Curriculum, 13 modules developed through a Southern SARE grant and collaboration between Tennessee State University, the University of Tennessee,, and USDA-Rural Development. While it is written as a training guide for TN producers, much of the information is applicable throughout the Southeastern US region.

This curriculum is designed to increase the knowledge base of extension agents and local officials on biomass energy so that

Introduction to Processing Feedstocks into Biofuels

Processing Biodiesel
From feedstock to fuel. Photos: D.Ciolkosz, M.Szala, Biodiesel Ed at U Idah. CC license

Biomass is transformed into solid & liquid fuels, gas, electricity and heat using a variety of processing methods and equipment.



One of the main barriers to a successful biomass energy industry is the simple fact that most raw biomass is not immediately useful as an …


USDA-NIFA (National Institute for Food and Agriculture) currently funds 7 bioenergy Coordinated Agricultural Projects (CAPs) through Agricultural and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Grants. 

AFRI CAPs 2015
AFRI CAP Biofuel Feedstocks and Project Locations

Explore the NIFA Bioenergy CAPs:

Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest (AHB)
Lead Institute:  University of Washington
Awarded:  2011
Feedstock:  Purpose grown woody crops (e.g. poplar)
Conversion platform target: Hybrid bio/thermochemical conversion
Industrial Partners: ZeaChem Inc.

Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA)
Lead Institute:  Washington State University
Awarded:  2011
Feedstock: Forestry residuals

What are the pros and cons of using crop residues or wastes for biofuel production?

Corn stover, straw, and other crop residues remaining after harvest can be an excellent source of organic material for biofuel production. They are considered waste products in many agricultural systems, so the additional money and/or energy that can be gained by farmers can provide a considerable boost to the overall farm budget. In addition, the fuels produced from these wastes offer a source of energy that doesn’t compete with food crops for arable land. Concerns have arisen mainly due to …

What is direct land use, or direct land use change?

Direct land use, or direct land use change, refers to land already used for a specific purpose (for example, growing food) and whose future use will achieve the same result. The term “direct land use change” might be used for a situation in which a field was being converted from corn-for-ethanol to switchgrass production, as in both cases the land would ultimately be used to grow crops for biofuel production. “Indirect land use” or “Indirect land use change”, on the …

What are the differences between biofuels, biopower, and bioproducts?

These terms refer to three generally different end uses of biomass based products. “Biofuel” is short for “biomass fuel,” a term used for liquid fuels produced from biomass (generally transportation fuels), such as ethanol, bio-oil, and biodiesel. “Biopower” refers to biomass-fueled power systems that generate electricity or industrial process heat and steam, such as combined heat and power (CHP) systems. “Bioproduct” is short for “biomass products” and can be used to describe a chemical, material, or other (non-energy) product such …

Why is there such an emphasis on power production from biomass?

Woody biomass is an abundant and readily available resource that historically has not been used much except by forest products manufacturers as an internal energy source at their facilities, although many such manufacturers have also been able to produce excess electric power for sale to the grid. Whereas commercial-scale production of transportation fuels is still in early stages of development, technologies are already well-developed for producing heat and electricity from biomass in firing or co-firing in boilers and in gasification …

What are some of the most common crops used for biofuel production?

While the most common crops used for ethanol throughout the world are certainly corn and sugarcane, there are an increasing number of crops being investigated and used in the industry. Amongst sugar/starch crops, sugarbeet and sweet sorghum have been the focus of much attention; cellulosic crops such as switchgrass, miscanthus, corn stover, poplar, and grass are the subject of increasing interest.
Currently, rapeseed (canola) is the dominant feedstock for biodiesel in Europe, and soybeans are the dominant feedstock for biodiesel …