Connecting the Dots

Wisconsin network connects people to grassland bioenergy info and resources.
By Anna Austin | April 29, 2011

The University of Wisconsin’s Agricultural Ecosystems Research Group has launched a new network devoted to opportunities and challenges in bioenergy development in Wisconsin, while protecting environmental and ecological resources.

The Wisconsin Grassland Bioenergy Network is an information and connectivity resource linking people—farmers, researchers, project managers and others— to information, resources and other people involved in grassland/agriculture-based bioenergy in the state, while focusing on perennial herbaceous plants.

It took nearly a year and a great deal of effort and collaboration to develop the network, according to coordinator Carol Williams, who is a professor in UW’s Department of Agronomy.

The website offers visitors access to biomass resource atlases, bioenergy policy information, upcoming events, federal and state programs, grants, jobs and internships related to the industry, and an industry directory with contact information for individuals representing various biomass industry trade organizations, companies and projects.

While some general information is available, most of the resources on the website have particular relevance to Wisconsin. For example, under the website’s atlas tab, the Biomass Resource Regions of Wisconsin atlas divides the state into five regions—northern, northeastern, southeastern, south central and west central—and allows users to click on a region of choice. It then provides a geographical description of the region, dominant tree species and vegetation, key biomass resources and biomass projects in the region, including forums, harvest, research and utility projects.

The website also hosts a spotlight feature on a particular individual in the state and explains what he or she is doing in the bioenergy industry. For example, Matthew Dornbush of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay was recently featured for leading an effort to evaluate the economic and environmental outcomes of converting poorly drained, marginal agricultural areas into perennial, biomass-yielding grasslands for electricity and heat generation in Wisconsin.