More than 70 individuals attended a workshop at the Michigan Tech Memorial Union on Wednesday, July 27 on the topic of utilizing idle and retired agricultural lands to grow biofuel crops. The workshop was organized by Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region (WUPPDR) and sponsored by a grant from the Michigan Biomass Energy Program.

The aim of the workshop was to raise awareness and interest among agricultural landowners in the Western Upper Peninsula of the possibility to grow biofuel crops on their land. Presenters included Bill Cook from the MSU Extension office in Escanaba, Dr. Robert Froese from the Michigan Tech School of Forest Resources and Environmental Sciences and Mike Reid, Vice-President of White Pine Electric Power. During the workshop, the audience was informed of the different crops that can be grown in the region as well as the opportunities and challenges of profitably growing them. Options including hybrid poplar, willow, switchgrass and others were discussed.

Biocrop research projects underway in the U.P. were presented as well as the L’Anse Warden Plant’s current use of biomass in electricity generation.

After gathering feedback from the participants, WUPPDR is planning to look at feasible options for further promoting the growing of biocrops in the western U.P. One possibility that will be seriously looked into is the formation of a biomass cooperative in the western Upper Peninsula. Other sponsors of the event were the L’Anse Warden Electric Company LLC, White Pine Electric Power LLC and UPPCO.