About CBE

Community Biomass Energy is a grassroots effort to develop homegrown renewable energy from local biomass.  It was launched in 2009 by its steering committee (biographies below) who share a common vision of a sustainable system that can provide multiple benefits across the community.  They are sharing this vision in a series of meetings which aim to engage the public and draw others into the effort.  The most ambitious part of the project is to build a manufacturing plant that will use locally sourced wood and grass feedstocks to produce fuel pellets and other products for sale in the local market.  The plant is essential to the economic feasibility of the system because it converts low-value raw feedstocks into value added products.  CBE hopes to validate a model of distributed biomass energy utilization in which modest sized plants link local sources and markets; growth is by replication rather than centralization.

In addition to public meetings, the steering committee is writing a business plan, seeking market opportunities, applying for grant funding, and building relationships with local groups and businesses.  The project timeline is here:  CBE Project Schedule.  CBE is definitely a “work in progress” and our current plans and business model are by no means “cast in stone”.  One of the primary reasons for our public meetings is to gather suggestions and comments.  We also welcome anyone who recognizes the value of this project to get involved and help make it happen!  You can contact CBE at info@communitybiomassenergy.com.

Tony Nekut

Originally from Pennsylvania, Tony holds Cornell degrees (BS, 1972; PhD, 1978) in Applied Physics.  During his long educational stay in Ithaca, he learned to appreciate the area’s natural beauty.  He worked in exploration geophysics for twenty years at Amoco’s R&D center in Tulsa, OK, happily returning to Ithaca in 1999 when he took a position with Vector Magnetics where he is currently employed.  Having spent his career in the energy sector, Tony is interested in promoting increased use of energy efficiency measures and renewables to insure a sustainable future as fossil fuels are depleted.

 He first became interested in biomass energy when he started heating his home with wood in 2005.  After investigating available options, he purchased a wood gasifying boiler that works in conjunction with his existing hydronic system.  Compared to a conventional wood stove, the highly efficient boiler uses less fuel, burns cleaner with lower emissions, and requires less tending.  In 2007 he purchased some forest land for recreation and as a source of firewood.  As a forest owner, he came to recognize the benefits to forest health and productivity that could be realized by creating a market for sustainably harvested low-grade wood.  In June, 2008, Tony travelled to Austria with a group of forestry professionals to learn first-hand how biomass energy has been systematically developed in Europe since the first “oil crunch” in the ‘70’s.  There he learned about the technologies and practices, including clean combustion, combined heat and power and district heating, that have enabled many EU countries to responsibly expand biomass energy utilization.   Over the past two years, Tony has manned a booth at Ithacafest, written several locally published articles, put up a website (www.ithacawoodheat.org) and worked on a NYSERDA funded project to install a woodchip fuelled boiler that is now supplying heat at the Cayuga Nature Center.

Tony will continue to devote his time, expertise, and resources toward establishing a local biomass infrastructure that connects local forests and fields to local biomass energy consumers. 

Ken White, CMfgE

Ken holds both Bachelors and Masters degrees in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University ’69 & ‘70. He has a wide range of experience in the high-speed consumer products industry, manufacturing, robotic vision, control systems, non-contact inspection, scanning systems including bar codes as well as development of intelligent devices,  machines and large scale processes.  

He is a Certified Manufacturing Engineer with the first half of his 40 year career spent in industry at Procter & Gamble and RJR Nabisco, and the second half as an independent engineering consultant serving North American customers based in Ithaca, NY.For the last two years Ken has worked with a small group of Central NY inventors to develop and patent the technology utilized for combustion of biomass powders, the missing link in direct biomass energy conversion. Harnessing long feared “dust explosions” enables replacement of propane and fuel oil in energy applications at half the cost per BTU, burning a solid with on/off control as if it were a gas.

Utilizing a powdered biomass fuel source is highly desirable, as it is carbon neutral, sustainable, locally available, manufacturable, yet produces no smoke or smell, resulting in ultra low emissions.  This technology is poised to create a green alternative and entirely new vertical segment in the energy industry - an exciting thought.

The production facility to be built in Caroline by Community Biomass Energy will produce pellets and powder for local heating needs.  The Ithaca region will be first to utilize and demonstrate a new approach toward local, sustainable, green energy supply for both existing and emerging technology.

Elizabeth Keokosky

Betsy has worked at Cornell in computing, and, most recently, as a system analyst for the Johnson Graduate School of Management.  She is currently working on a Master’s degree in City and Regional Planning in the concentration of Regional Economic Development.  The Danby Land Bank Cooperative is both a part of her master’s project and an attempt to build an economic model that includes the environment, the community, and the economy.  She and her husband have two grown-up children and have lived in two stone houses that he built in the countryside around Ithaca, one in Caroline and one in Danby.  They also have a large vegetable garden and chickens.

One of the main goals of the Danby Land Bank Cooperative, which is a biomass supplier, has always been to encourage a local biomass producer.   Betsy thinks that the Northeast United States, and our area in particular, is naturally suited to biomass production.  As chair of the Land Band steering committee, she brings a young, foot-hold organization with its publicity and local affiliations – one with intrinsic connection and interest in biomass – to be part of the support and foundation of this new business, Community Biomass Energy.    Her motivation is to help the rural economy, create jobs, and be in a position to take advantage of the political and economic opportunities that the transitioning from fossil fuel use is going to inevitably create in the United States, as it has already done in Europe.

Ben Boynton

Ben is a local businessman, manager and woodworker at Red Barn Cabinet Shop, which  he has owned and operated for 25 years. Ben also owns and manages 55 acres of forest land in Caroline.  This has given him the opportunity to see forestry firsthand and to recognize the need for a new local market for low grade trees Ben lead a successful effort to bring a 60 acre abandoned farm on Boiceville Road, adjacent to his shop, back into organic cultivation. He now lives on the farm , which will also become home to Community Biomass Energy.

He is a board member of Tompkins Cortland Habitat for Humanity, Tai Chi instructor, Introduction Leader for Landmark Education and father of two adult daughters.