Biomass heating and milking parlor energy efficiencies field day

Biomass heating system heats buildings and water for Michigan dairy farm.

Biomass energy is any kind of energy that uses a biological organism (plant or animal) as its source. The most common biomass used for energy is wood, but algae, some garbage, manure, vegetable oil, and crops like corn and switchgrass are also used as a biomass fuel source. Biomass can be converted directly into heat energy through combustion (burning a log in a fireplace) or converted into another fuel source (ethanol made from corn or biogas derived from manure). Biomass is a renewable energy source because we can always grow more trees and crops, and waste will always exist.

Michigan farms are in a unique position to provide their own biomass for energy generation. Farmers have crop residues and wastes that can be combusted to provide energy. Farmers can also grow specific crops for energy production. Weiss Centennial Farms near Frankenmuth, MI is an example of a farm that will use biomass grown on the farm to produce heat. Trees grown on the farm are harvested, cut to size, and fed to a Heiss Heater gasifier. The gasifier heats water used to provide heat to several buildings on the farm and hot water for sanitary purposes in the milking parlor. The biomass heating system has been fully operational since May 2015.

Michigan State University Extension will be hosting a field day that showcases the complete biomass heating system starting at 9:30 a.m.  at Weiss Centennial Farms on Thursday, September 3, 2015. Topics that will be discussed include robotic milkers, biomass heating design and control system, obtaining milking parlor energy efficiencies, and sources of funding available to implement energy conservation practices. The program agenda, farm location, and registration information can be found online. All field day attendees are invited to go through Weiss Centennial Farm’s corn maze. There is no registration fee for the field day or corn maze activity, but you are asked to register in advance to ensure an accurate count for lunch and the corn maze activity.

Funding for this project was made possible by the United States Department of Energy’s State Energy Program through the Michigan Energy Office, Michigan Agency for Energy.

Questions about the field day can be directed to Al Go at or 517-214-6128 or me at or 616-994-4547.

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