07/17/07 — Will it be the fuel of the future?

View Archive

Will it be the fuel of the future?

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on July 17, 2007 1:45 PM

Environmentalists, farmers and others interested in alternative fuels came from across the state to Cherry Research Farm recently to see firsthand how to make alternative fuels to power their homes and vehicles.

The Fueling the Farm workshop was held at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, with nearly 100 people in attendance.

Suzanne and Ron Joyner live in Lansing, in the northwest corner of the state. They have been using solar cells and wind power to operate their farm for a decade and came to Cherry to learn more about how they can be less dependent on fossil fuels.

"We've been wanting to do this for a long time," Mrs. Joyner said during a biofuel demonstration. She added that the workshop was informative and helpful with contacts, too. She and her husband discovered that several of their friends from Ashe County also were in attendance.

Among the workshop participants was Steve Gross, a math teacher at Spring Creek High School, who said he came because of his interest in new technology.

"I didn't know this could be done with that," he said, as he watched experts convert vegetable oil into a fuel that could be used to run engines.

Don Carpenter came from Bear Creek in Chatham County. After watching how to build a biofuel reactor from a hot water heater, he said he planned to try to do the same.

"I probably will go back home and make one," he said about the 55-gallon biofuel reactor, digging out his new find, "Biodiesel Homebrew Guide" provided by Matt Rudolf, the director of Piedmont Biofuels in Pittsboro, one of the day's presenters.

Converting the hot water heater into a biofuel reactor took only an hour.

"We put this thing together in a hurry today, but the amazing thing is how quickly you can do it," said Rudolf who got involved with biofuel just four or five years ago.

Before that, he said, nobody had ever heard of biodiesel.

By the time the reactor was made, the project had cost $350. Rudolf recommended that small farmers get together with their neighbors and form a cooperative to build a common biofuel reactor.

Nancy Creamer, director of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, was thrilled with the interest shown in conservation measures that can be taken on the farms.

"We've had sessions on how to assess the efficiency of different things on the farm and how to make them more energy efficient," she said.

The participants asked some interesting and very pointed questions, said Cherry Farm Manager Steve Moore.

"We have about 20 of these workshops a year, but they're on agriculture, not energy," he said. "This is probably the most popular workshop."