Grow Your Own Fuel

Grow Your Own Fuel

If you’re situated on acres of farmland, you just might be able to grow your own fuel to heat greenhouses. That’s what Arie Van Vugt, owner of Plainview Growers is doing at his more rural facility in Allamuchy, N.J.

Van Vugt just purchased a 500-hp burner that will burn wood pellets and pellets made out of grasses, like switchgrass and miscanthus, from Crone Boilers in Holland through Total Energy Group. He will be planting 200 acres of miscanthus in open fields and using wood pellets in the mean time, while waiting for those yields.

GG: What made you consider growing miscanthus as an alternative fuel?

“At our Allamuchy facility, which is farm country, there is no way of getting natural gas–just propane or fuel oil. When we started there nine years ago, we were paying $1 per gallon for No. 2 fuel oil. This past season, it was $4 a gallon. We are using approximately  7,000 gallons every week and could not afford it. We’ll burn 150,000 gallons of oil during the season. It was the first time in my career I was ever forced to make this type of decision based on an outside factor such as energy. We looked at other growers’ operations using wood chips and decided it was too much work, too much handling and not exactly what we were looking to do. When we were tipped off about wood pellets, the whole miscanthus option came up. After much research  of  all the different types of alternative fuels available, we decided that miscanthus   was for Pvg.  We have since contacted Rutgers University, which is trialing switchgrass and miscanthus as an alternative fuel source. Together we are working on which varieties are best suited for northern New Jersey.”

GG: How are you making the conversion from fuel oil to miscanthus grass?

“We jumped in with both feet and are going to go for it. We’re putting in 200 acres of grass. It takes two years to establish yields. The grass is a perennial and good for 20 years of production. We just purchased a 500 hp pellet burner from Crone Boilers in Holland and are putting up two 250-ton silos for storage .This season, we will be using wood pellets from Energex Corp based out of Harrisburg PA, and have a two-year contract with set pricing. Once we purchase a pelletizing machine, we will be self sufficient. Our goal is to be oil / gas free ( including Pompton Plains ) within the next few years.”

GG: What do you expect your savings and return on investment to be?
“We expect our return on investment to be four years. With wood pellets, we’ll be paying $1.65 versus $4.00 oil (equivalent at 144,000 btus) when we switch to grass pellets; we expect to save 90 cents more. This is quite an undertaking, an exciting project. I was at a recent bank board meeting and told them about it and it created such a buzz–the whole idea of growing your own energy and fuel. We’re fortunate to have the land to produce it ourselves.”

Leave a Reply

20 comments on “Grow Your Own Fuel

  1. I think this is great. It would be nice to be efficient with cost savings and at the same time productive. This is truly green and I hope more people like this will go on to do the same thing. We need to quit depending on oil and gas. It is cleaner for the environment and less costly. Great to know that other people care.

  2. When (Summer or Autumn, and just once?) will the Miscanthus be harvested and what equipment will be used?

    Sue Vargas
    MasterTag
    Montague, Michigan

  3. The grass Arie is growing is Miscanthus x giganteus. The Allamuchy facility has 8 acres of greenhouse and a few more will be added. The grass is a perennial. I believe it will be havested only once in the fall.

  4. Dear Arie,

    From my researach Miscanthus dries down to slow and the stalks do not leach out enough nutrients so you get significant more ash. Switch grass if cut in the fall and harvested in the very early spring gets the ash content down to about 5% The crop is native and lives indefinitely. It is also easier and less costly to establish. Make sure the wood pellets have no sand in them. Ash content of good wood pellets can be lower than 1%. Ash and the clinkers are what cause all the problem.

  5. This is what the government should have backed instead of ethenaol. This type of innovation is what it will take for our industry to be competitive in the future.

    It would be great to see regional cooperative ventures to produce and pelletize this type of fuel for retail growers who could then lease the boilers and buy the fuel from the co-op.

  6. Its impressive and something new.Clients select Absolute Source because of our trained and certified programmers’and developers’unique ability to blend award-winning Web design with Dynamic web programming.Orange County Web Design

  7. I think this is great. It would be nice to be efficient with cost savings and at the same time productive. This is truly green and I hope more people like this will go on to do the same thing. We need to quit depending on oil and gas. It is cleaner for the environment and less costly. Great to know that other people care.

  8. Can you tell us what MIscanthus you will be growing?
    Thanks
    Art Cameron
    Professor of Horticulture
    Michigan State University

  9. What is the ratio of acres of grass to acres of greenhouse? How many acres of greenhouse will those 200 acres of grass heat?

  10. When (Summer or Autumn, and just once?) will the Miscanthus be harvested and what equipment will be used?

    Sue Vargas
    MasterTag
    Montague, Michigan

  11. The grass Arie is growing is Miscanthus x giganteus. The Allamuchy facility has 8 acres of greenhouse and a few more will be added. The grass is a perennial. I believe it will be havested only once in the fall.

  12. Dear Arie,

    From my researach Miscanthus dries down to slow and the stalks do not leach out enough nutrients so you get significant more ash. Switch grass if cut in the fall and harvested in the very early spring gets the ash content down to about 5% The crop is native and lives indefinitely. It is also easier and less costly to establish. Make sure the wood pellets have no sand in them. Ash content of good wood pellets can be lower than 1%. Ash and the clinkers are what cause all the problem.

  13. This is what the government should have backed instead of ethenaol. This type of innovation is what it will take for our industry to be competitive in the future.

    It would be great to see regional cooperative ventures to produce and pelletize this type of fuel for retail growers who could then lease the boilers and buy the fuel from the co-op.

  14. Its impressive and something new.Clients select Absolute Source because of our trained and certified programmers’and developers’unique ability to blend award-winning Web design with Dynamic web programming.Orange County Web Design

More From Greenhouse Grower's GROW...
CareerUp

December 27, 2017

How CareerUp Helps Young Professionals Level-Up

The mission of CareerUp is to equip young professionals with the skills to maximize their career potential.

Read More
Nathan-Nordstedt-in-the-Greenhouse-feature

December 26, 2017

Richard T. Meister Scholarship Winner Encourages Industry to Offer Young People New Opportunities

This year’s scholarship winner says young people need experiences that challenge them and allow for creativity and innovation.

Read More
GROW

December 21, 2017

Greenhouse Grower’s GROW Initiative: How You Made a Difference in 2017

To create a competitive advantage, you must consistently experiment with and learn from new ideas. Greenhouse Grower’s GROW initiative provides you with cutting-edge ideas and actionable advice that results in greater profits in everyone’s pocket.

Read More
Latest Stories
CareerUp

December 27, 2017

How CareerUp Helps Young Professionals Level-Up

The mission of CareerUp is to equip young professionals with the skills to maximize their career potential.

Read More
Nathan-Nordstedt-in-the-Greenhouse-feature

December 26, 2017

Richard T. Meister Scholarship Winner Encourages Indust…

This year’s scholarship winner says young people need experiences that challenge them and allow for creativity and innovation.

Read More
GROW

December 21, 2017

Greenhouse Grower’s GROW Initiative: How You Made…

To create a competitive advantage, you must consistently experiment with and learn from new ideas. Greenhouse Grower’s GROW initiative provides you with cutting-edge ideas and actionable advice that results in greater profits in everyone’s pocket.

Read More

December 15, 2017

Your AFE Donations Will Be Matched Between Now and the …

Between now and December 1, any donations made to the American Floral Endowment will be matched up to $20,000.

Read More
HortScholars

December 8, 2017

HortScholars Program Now Accepting Applications for 201…

Do you know any college students currently in a horticulture-related program? This unique program gives them a chance to connect with industry leaders and make new connections at Cultivate.

Read More
GROW-Summit-2017-Group-Photo

December 5, 2017

GROW Summit 2017 Tackles Marketing and Business Managem…

This year’s think-tank style event brought together leaders from across the green industry to deliberate on topics such as disruptive marketing, cost accounting, and Millennials, to name a few.

Read More
Photo-with-Endless-Summer-Hydrangea

November 27, 2017

Why It’s Important to Get to Know Consumers at th…

One way to learn about consumer behavior is to get boots on the ground and engage with them.

Read More
Seed-Your-Future-feature

November 9, 2017

Dümmen Orange Throws Support Behind Seed Your Future In…

Dümmen Orange has announced it will pledge $450,000 over the next three years to Seed Your Future, the non-profit organization whose mission is to promote horticulture in the U.S. and inspire people to pursue careers working with plants.

Read More

November 1, 2017

Thanks to the 2018 GROW Sponsors

There are a number of industry organizations that help make Greenhouse Grower’s GROW Initiative a success.

Read More
Marshall Dirks, Proven Winners

October 28, 2017

5 Rules for Creating a Lifetime of Outdoor Garden Memor…

Many customers are time starved. Their most important asset is time, not money, so be realistic about the investment of both when they are buying plants.

Read More
Living Umbrellas

October 25, 2017

Why Living Umbrellas May Have a Bright Future

Sometimes innovation strikes by chance. Such was the case with David Tilley, developer of the “Living Umbrella.”

Read More
Luxflora Paris Trip

October 20, 2017

Luxflora Paris Trip Offers Insights on Trends Shaping H…

Each year, Luxflora hosts an international trip that allows participants to gain insights on trends and gather inspiration that ultimately will shape and support our industry in many ways. This year’s event took the group to Maison & Objet and Design Week in the City of Lights – Paris, France.

Read More
Steve Garvey, Dallas Johnson Greenhouses

September 23, 2017

Producing Quality Plants in the Greenhouse Starts From …

It's common for growers to make mistakes. What you learn from those mistakes is what sets you apart as a grower and where quality starts.

Read More
Quality in the Greenhouse

September 21, 2017

Two Head Growers and a Retail Live Goods Buyer Talk Bes…

Ultimately, the quality of the plants you grow will be responsible for the success of the consumer, and consumer success will ideally translate to repeat sales. That’s why quality must be a top priority for all growers, according to Brad Julian, a Live Goods Buyer for Lowe’s Home Improvement, and Head Growers Dennis Crum of Four Star Greenhouse and Joe Moore of Lucas Greenhouses.

Read More
Jan Gulley, Gulley Greenhouses

August 25, 2017

Why It’s Important to Educate and Engage the New Hortic…

Young adults entering the workforce have more professional choices than ever before, and many want to work in environments in which their work has a clear purpose for both the organization and society at large.

Read More
Seed Your Future feature

July 26, 2017

Seed Your Future Aims to Inspire Careers in Plants

Who will be the next generation of horticulturists? The answer lies in helping to change the perception of horticulture and using contemporary new language to tell our stories.

Read More
Albert Grimm, Jefferys Greenhouses

July 8, 2017

How You Can Use Lifestyle Marketing to Sell Plants

Should we be trying to educate consumers into loving what we like to produce, or should we allow consumers to educate us into producing what they love?

Read More
Metrolina Make a Wish Greenhouse

July 7, 2017

Metrolina Builds, Decorates Greenhouse for Young Cancer…

When Michael VanWingerden and his wife Courtney heard through their work with the Make-A-Wish foundation that 11-year-old Jason wanted a greenhouse to grow vegetables in, they knew Metrolina Greenhouses could help.

Read More