Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Newsletter September 2009

September 2009
Gerald W brown * 7202 County Road U * Danbury, WI 54830 Phone 715-866-8535
Gerald Brown is solely responsible for the content in this newsletter
























MGT Power Limited has received consent from the British Government to proceed with the development of a 295 MW biomass electricity plant, Tees Renewable Energy. The plant will use 2.65 million tons of wood chips per year, which it will source from the southern US and other locations.

The $815m USD Tees Renewable Energy Plant, located at Teesport in north east England, and being developed by British company MGT Power Limited has received consent from the British Government under Section 36 of the Electricity Act.

With a capacity of 295MW, the plant will generate enough electricity to meet the needs of approximately 600,000 homes and will be one of the largest-ever biomass plants to be built in the world, and one of the largest of all renewable energy projects. The Tees Renewable Energy Plant will begin commercial operation in late 2012.

Chris Moore, Director of MGT Power, said: "The Government's consent is welcome news as we are at an advanced stage with the forestry establishment for fuel sourcing and power plant procurement. We can now appoint our banks, conclude the financing and reach agreement with our preferred technology bidders. We are moving towards an early construction start with a high degree of confidence."

He added: "Other similarly sized biomass plants are proposed in other parts of the country, but our Teesport project is currently two years ahead of the pack and likely to be one of the first to be operational. It comes at a time when replacement UK energy generation capacity is urgently needed. We will continue to work closely with the Redcar & Cleveland Council as well as PD Ports, the owners of Teesport, Renew Tees Valley and the local Trade Unions to complete the project. Their support and commitment to the project over the last 2 years has been invaluable."

The Tees Renewable Energy Plant will help to meet the UK's environmental and renewable energy targets and add to the country's growing need to diversify its power generation. It will create 600 jobs during the three year construction period, 150 permanent jobs during the stations lifetime, and once operating will contribute about $49m USD per annum into the North East's economy, supporting a further 300-400 jobs indirectly. It will save 1.2 million tonnes of CO2 per year and will account for 5.5% of the UK's renewable electricity target.

David Kidney MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the UK Department of Energy & Climate Change said: "The Tees Renewable Energy Plant brings a range of economic and environmental benefits, not least creating new jobs at Teesport, and the use of clean technology will help reduce carbon emissions. Biomass generation, using sustainable sources, is starting to make a significant contribution to the UK's energy market and will help us reach our renewable targets."

The biomass feedstock for the Tees Renewable Energy Plant will be sourced from certified sustainable forestry projects developed by the MGT team and partners in North and South America and the Baltic States. These projects will provide clean burning woodchips, which deliver 95% greenhouse gas savings in comparison to coal or natural gas through the life cycle and will not use high quality land suitable for food crops.

The plant will use around 2.4m tonnes (2.65m short tons) of woodchips per annum and will operate 24 hours a day, all year round at baseload. This means the Tees Renewable Energy Plant will produce the same amount of renewable electricity over a year as a 1,000MW wind farm.

Forest2Market is acting as MGT's North American advisor for supply chain issues.


July 25, 2009

Caption: Brothers and Canadian Bio Pellet Inc. owners Stan, left, and Dan Stasko celebrate the start of construction on their $80- million wood-pelleting plant

INGLESIDE -- Meet the bioenergy bros.

Canada's largest wood-pelleting facility broke ground Thursday led by owners Stan and Dan Stasko, brothers with Cornwall roots.

The Ingleside plant, which could fuel biomass generators for companies like Ontario Power Generation, will put Ontario on the map in the growing industry of bio-energy.

"It's amazing to work with your brother on a project of this magnitude," said Stan Stasko, co-CEO of Canadian Bio Pellet Inc. "We're different, but I think that's the key to our success."

The $80-million development process has been two years in the making, said Stan, who attended Gladstone Public School in Cornwall.

"We've spent many late night conversations building this dream," added younger brother Dan.

On the 60-acre parcel of land near the Kraft factory, piles of wood are ready to go, but construction of the facility will still take a year to complete.

When its doors open, Canadian Bio Pellet is licensed to produce up to 360,000 tonnes in its first year of operation. Its capacity is 450,000 tonnes.

Thirty Canadian companies produced 2.2 million tonnes of wood pellets in 2008, but the Staskos said it's estimated the national output could reach up to eight million tonnes by 2010 as the number of manufacturers climbs to 40.

Bio-energy projects are growing in popularity as forestry mills continue to close.

Earlier this year, OPG announced it would be phasing out its use of coal in favour of biomass to fuel its generators over the next three to five years.

Minister of Natural Resources, Donna Cansfield, called the Ingleside facility "the art of the possible".

She said the 80-100 jobs created at the facility will be a much needed boost to a community stricken by the loss of manufacturing jobs in recent years.

"We had all the right ingredients to a make it happen and you made it happen," Cansfield told the Stasko brothers.

MPP Jim Brownell and South Stormont Mayor Bryan McGillis spoke about their many meetings with the ministry and the Staskos to ensure the process went forward with all the bases covered.

"I talked with him about the pellet plant so much, I think I could design one myself," McGillis joked.

Brownell, hardhat in hand, said he was thrilled the brothers chose eastern Ontario for their cutting-edge green facility.

"What a team they've brought together in our community," Brownell said.

Once up and running, the Staskos estimate the bio pellet plant could inject $60 million into the local economy and create up to 300 spinoff jobs.

The wood pellet manufacturer will run largely on solar power and have a gas line available as a back-up source of energy.

The location was chosen partly because of its access to forests in Ontario and Quebec.

According to the company's website, the burning of the product produces almost no emissions of carbon-dioxide, making it a carbon-neutral energy source.

"It has one of the cleanest burns of any solid fuel," the site states. "Pellets conforming to the norms commonly used have good structural strength and low dust and ash content."

The Staskos have previously addressed concerns of any unpleasant odours that may be emitted from the facility. They've said it will smell like a burning fireplace.

For more information visit


by AER Staff on Friday 24 July 2009

The Wild Center, a museum located in Tupper Lake, N.Y., has announced that it will install a wood-pellet boiler integrated with a solar tube hot water system that will supply much of the hot water required to heat its 54,000 square-foot facility.

According to the museum, the new boiler system will represent the first commercial-sized, gasification wood-pellet boiler of its kind and size manufactured and installed in New York state. The 1.7 million Btu boiler unit will be in The Wild Center's basement boiler room, next to its existing propane boiler. The pellets will be stored in an outdoor container next to the administration wing of the museum.

"This innovative renewable heating and hot water system dovetails perfectly with The Wild Center's Silver LEED certification," says Chris Rdzanek, manager of museum facilities. "From the museum's inception, green building practices have been at the forefront of every decision that we make."

SOURCE: The Wild Center


by Pablo Edronkin

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA is accepting applications for up to $50 million in projects to promote the continued production and use of biofuels.

"Using homegrown energy to end our dependence on foreign oil is a key component of President Obama's vision for rebuilding and revitalizing rural America, and this funding will help advance that goal," said Vilsack. "USDA continues to work aggressively to provide our nation's rural communities, farmers, ranchers, and producers of biofuels with the financial tools they can use to help bring greater energy independence to America."

USDA is working with other Federal agencies to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and spur rural economic development. This $50 million in 2008 Farm Bill money will advance two USDA efforts: $20 million under to provide financial incentives to biorefineries to replace fossil fuels used to produce heat or power at their facilities with renewable biomass; and $30 million to provide payments to eligible advanced biofuel producers to encourage the increased production and use of biofuels.

Applications for the advanced biofuels program are due Aug. 11; applications for the biorefineries to replace fossil fuels are due Nov. 1. More information is available at or in the June 12 Federal Register.

Biorefineries and advanced biofuel biorefineries must be located in a rural area and must have been in operation before the enactment of the 2008 Farm Bill (June 2008). The biorefineries will receive funding based on the amount of fossil fuel replaced, percentage of fossil fuel usage reduced, and the cost-effectiveness of the system. The advanced biorefineries will receive funding based on the amount of advanced biofuels production.

These projects are expected to help biorefineries reduce energy costs and consumption; necessary steps toward meeting our nation's critical energy needs. Advancing the biofuel industry can lead to cleaner and more sustainable energy production as well as creating jobs, generating government revenue, and stimulating rural economies across the nation.

USDA Rural Development's mission is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for rural residents. Rural Development fosters growth in homeownership, finances business development, and supports the creation of critical community and technology infrastructure. Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA Rural Development's web site at

Source: USDA

07/29/09 4:55 pm | reporter: Shawn Smetana producer: Ray Rivera
Georgetown, SC - With business at a near stand-still, the struggling Port of Georgetown gets a dose of good news. The State Ports Authority announced Wednesday a new company will begin calling on the Georgetown Port by October.

An energy producer and the states port authority signed off on the deal to bring some much needed help to a port that’s has seen better days.

It's a common sight at the Georgetown port with no ships, no workers and no business. Just four vessels have called on the port all year and that’s about to change. The leaders of Carolina Pacific have agreed on a 20 year deal to export its product overseas.
4 Interact:

“It puts a ship or so a month in here, gives us something to do, and it’s a great start,” said Edwin Jayroe, a Georgetown Harbor Pilot.

The company produces wood power pellets that are used in place of coal at some power plants in Europe. Jim Black, President of the Carolina Pacific, says he considered other ports along the east coast, but Georgetown leaders sold him on this deal.

“Anything you need we will get it done and that’s a great attitude,” said Black.

There remains one serious issue, the harbor needs dredging, enough depth to make the port a viable option to future customers. But right now, there’s no money to pay for it.

“That’s scary, what we don’t want to have happen is have the first ship come in here and get stuck in the mud obviously,” said Black.

Leaders say federal dollars for dredging are based on port volume, adding a new customer moves this port one step closer to the money it desperately needs.

Carolina Pacific will also open a manufacturing plant at the port that will employ 12 to 14 people. The company will also hire union workers to load ships. It’s a one million dollar deal for the state ports authority and the contract also comes with the option of two five year extensions.

By JARED MORGAN - The Southland Times
Last updated 05:00 31/07/2009
Text Size

BARRY HARCOURT/Southland Times
EARLY MORNING START: Firefighters at a blaze at a Southland wood pellet factory early yesterday morning.
A rural mail contractor who noticed the glow of a fire coming from a Southland manufacturing plant was credited with saving it.
Invercargill Fire Service station officer Greg Koppert said the contractor spotted the blaze at Southern Wood Pellets on Makarewa-Branxholme Rd and dialled 111 about 3.30am yesterday.
"It certainly had the makings of a much bigger blaze," he said.
Senior station officer Alan Goldsworthy said when firefighters arrived smoke was coming out of the roof, which was heavily smoke-logged.
As the building was locked, fire crews wearing breathing apparatus forced entry on the south and north sides of the building by cutting through doors and found one big fire that had spread, creating hotspots throughout the plant.
At its peak, 20 firefighters from Wallacetown, Invercargill and Kingswell on seven fire engines attended the blaze, Mr Goldsworthy said. Damage was confined to an internal wall in the plant.
Firefighters remained at the scene checking for further hotspots until about 9.30am.
Southern region fire safety officer Barry Gibson finished his examination of the site yesterday and was looking at several possible causes of the blaze, which was started after wood shavings and sawdust ignited, but there were no suspicious circumstances, he said.
Wood shavings and dust were a volatile mix and it was possibly only the actions of the contractor that saved the factory from becoming the site of a large fire, he said.Maureen Erskine, who runs the business with her husband Aven, said the blaze had come as a shock, and had forced the temporary closure of the factory.
However, she and her husband planned to have the company, which manufactures pellets for pellet-burning fires, open again as soon as possible. The factory was fully insured, Mrs Erskine said.


By Anna Austin

The millions of acres of dead, downed and diseased timber infected by pine beetles in Colorado and the Western U.S. could be put to beneficial use by the biomass industry, and also help with forest fire mitigation and suppression, according to Mark Mathis, Pellet Fuels Institute Government Affairs and Commercial Fuel Committee member.

In mid-June, Mathis, a number of congressmen from western states, representatives of the U.S. departments of agriculture and the interior, state and local officials, and business
owners testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Water and Power and Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. All stressed how important it is for the biomass industry to gain access to the pine-beetle-damaged wood, and to help Congress formulate a strategic plan to manage the materials.

Mathis is also president of Confluence Energy LLC, which is removing affected timber in Colorado and using it to produce wood pellets. The company operates a manufacturing facility in Kremmling, Colo., 70 miles northwest of Denver.

“The utilization of this material from U.S. forests and parks will put value on the material, which is currently considered a substantial liability to U.S. taxpayers,” Mathis said. “Confluence Energy has viewed documents created by U.S. Forest Service suggesting that the cost to treat some of the existing area in USFS Region 2 would exceed $220 million over the next three years. Confluence Energy said that by lowering some of the existing hurdles in accessing the dead and dying trees, private industry can add value to the material and dramatically reduce the cost to taxpayers.” Mathis said the company estimated the possible savings at about $75 million over five years.


By Diane M. Calabrese
Date Posted: 8/1/2009
SEYMOUR, Missouri – When Robert Carter launched Ozark Hardwood Products seven years ago, manufacturing fuel pellets from sawdust was a great business strategy. Construction was booming and so were sawmills, explained Mike Ferguson, the general manager of Ozark Hardwood Products.
However, when the housing industry bubble broke, homebuilding went south and took lumber production with it. With the reduction in lumber production, sawdust became difficult to obtain.
Ozark Hardwood Products was forced to adapt quickly to the declining supply of raw material.
“Two years ago, I never would have thought to buy pulp wood,” said Mike, who talked with TimberLine about Ozark Hardwood Products (OHP).
OHP makes industry-standard, 40-pound bags of wood fuel pellets for the residential market. Bagged wood fuel pellets account for 90% of the company’s product line.
When sawdust became difficult to obtain, Mike began buying wood chips – “whatever quality product we could get,” he said. He also started to research investing in a chipper so that OHP could buy pulp wood and chip it into suitable raw material.
“I did a lot of research on chippers,” said Mike. “I wanted a quality product and a high production rate.” He found both, he explained, in the Continental Biomass Industries Inc. Magnum Force 6400 chipper.
The CBI Magnum Force 6400 is a “four-pocket micro chipper,” explained Mike. CBI, based in New Hampshire, developed the four-pocket chipper rotor to serve customers that require a small, consistent product. The rotor produces microchips (three to six millimeters) at rates as high as 100 tons per hour, depending on the model.
The CBI 6400 in service at OHP is powered by a Caterpillar C-27 1,050-hp diesel engine. It produces chips at the rate of 75 tons per hour at OHP, said Mike.
When Mike talked with TimberLine in July, the CBI 6400 had been in operation for 10 weeks. The chipper was meeting all his expectations after the usual “fine tuning” any new machine demands, he explained.
At OHP, the CBI Magnum Force 6400 will soon be paired with the newest contribution that CBI is making to the pellet fuel industry, a chain flail debarker. Mike expects delivery of the flail debarker from CBI by the end of August. OHP currently buys pulp wood that is already debarked. The CBI chain flail debarker “will give us much more flexibility” when buying pulp wood, said Mike.
OHP buys pulp wood from loggers within about a 100-mile radius of Seymour. The company operates a log yard, and logs are delivered to the yard by contract truckers. The occasional saw logs are sorted out for sale to sawmills, but most logs become raw material for pellet production. Logs are offloaded in the yard with a Caterpillar 930 with grapple forks, and a Caterpillar 320 knuckle-boom loader feeds logs to the CBI 6400 chipper.
Seymour, which has a population of 1,800, is located in the southwest part of Missouri, about 30 miles west of Springfield. It is part of the Ozark Mountain or Ozark Plateau region, a 50,000-square-mile, hardwood-species-rich area that spans southern Missouri, eastern Oklahoma and northern Arkansas.
OHP occupies part of a 35-acre site owned by the company. “We only utilize about six acres,” said Mike. The log yard fills three of those acres. The remaining acreage is planted in hay.
The company makes fuel pellets from all hardwood material, particularly oak and hickory. Pellets are manufactured to strict standards of the Pellet Fuels Institute, an industry trade group of which OHP is a member. OHP also manufactures premium cedar horse bedding.
According to the Pellet Fuels Institute, 800,000 homes in the U.S. use wood pellets for heat, burning them in a variety of heating appliances or stoves. Wood fuel pellets also are used in commercial and industrial applications for heat, such as stores and government buildings.
OHP operates around the clock, seven days a week with 15 employees and some robotic assistance. A robotic arm from Fanuc Robotics America Inc. stacks bags of pellets. The actual pellet mill was supplied by Andritz-Sprout of Muncy, Pa.
Production at OHP is approximately 300 tons per day. OHP sells pellets under its own label and also sells them under private labels for other companies. The finished pellets are bagged automatically with a system from Hamer International Inc.
The CBI Magnum Force 6400 has met Mike’s expectations for performance. “We tried it out before we bought it,” he said. “I took three trips up there” to CBI’s plant in New Hampshire before making a buying decision.
After the CBI 6400 was on site, CBI sent technicians to assist with the set-up and to train OHP personnel. Service and support were among the reasons that Mike chose to purchase the machine from CBI. They also factored into his decision to choose CBI for the chain flail debarker.
The demand for wood fuel pellets continues to grow, but the biggest growth is occurring overseas, Mike noted. “The big growth segment is the export business,” he said. However, without easy access to seaports, it is not realistic to try to capitalize on that growth at this time. Even so, OHP continues to grow at a modest and gratifying rate.
(The burgeoning export market for wood pellets stems in part from the renewable energy requirement the European Union imposed on its members. EU nations must generate 20% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. The renewable energy requirement has led to an increase in U.S. exports of wood fuel pellets to Europe, according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal.)
Mike is also president, founder and one of the owners of AgriRecycle Inc., headquartered in Bolivar, Mo., which has pellet operations of another type. AgriRecycle processes litter from chicken houses into fertilizer.
(When a farmer receives chicks to grow to market, the floor of the building is covered with wood shavings or similar material to absorb waste from the chickens; when the mature chickens are removed and taken to market, the litter is removed and the chicken house is replenished with fresh bedding material.)
As Mike worked to enable chicken farmers and the poultry industry to recover value from litter, which otherwise would be a waste by-product, he was often approached by other businesses that were interested in making fuel pellets. In due course, he was persuaded to take the role of general manager at OHP. Now he wears two hats, one at OHP and one at AgriRecycle.
Mike, who grew up on a dairy farm in upstate New York, has a knack for engineering. He was attending college to earn an engineering degree, but he was recruited to work on projects, one after the other. A temporary break from college studies to do hands-on, real-world engineering got longer and longer. He did not complete his degree requirements, but he may yet finish them by taking the few courses he needs.
When Mike began studying engineering, he already had a background in industrial processes. “I was brought up in heavy industrial processes — asphalt, rock crushing, heavy machinery,” he said.
He also has some logging experience; he cleared land for the family farm with a chain saw and later machines.
By tying together expertise in industry, farming and wood products, Mike was informally launched on his professional trajectory. Mike sees parallels and possibilities.
Although AgriRecycle makes fertilizer pellets from chicken litter, its technology and processes may be adaptable for other applications, according to Mike. “When we first started making manure pellets, there was interest in burning them to heat chicken houses,” he said. However, one problem that could not be solved was obtaining an “even burn” or burning that would achieve an even temperature in the chicken houses. Now, however, advances in burners are close to overcoming this challenge.
There is a “distinct possibility” that wood fuel pellets could be produced from chicken litter, said Mike. If it can be done with chicken manure, conceivably it could be done with other animal waste, such as cow manure, he indicated. “I think that is just around the corner,” said Mike.
Mikes takes satisfaction in developing processes that can produce alternative types of fuel and fertilizer. “I like to take a waste product and turn it into a value-added product,” he said.
Mike expects vendors to provide the same kind of quality that OHP provides to its customers. He has found the CBI Magnum Force 6400 chipper to be a great complement to the company’s operations. “It’s dependable,” said Mike. “It’s a good company that stands behind their product. The machine is very well built.”
CBI has a motto – ‘more with less.’ The ‘less’ includes energy consumption, heat generation, handling time and machine downtime. The company is committed to increasing productivity while reducing these factors.
CBI was founded by Anders Ragnarsson in 1988. It grew out of a land-clearing company that Anders started in 1983. The more land he cleared, the more focused Anders became on ensuring that wood material from clearing land could be utilized for mulch or biofuel.
Tailoring equipment to the needs of a customer begins with providing options. The CBI 6400, like many other machines from CBI, is available in stationary and portable models. The 6400 series machine can be configured with a two- or four-pocket drum chipper rotor or two grinding rotor options as well.
CBI is committed to continuous improvement. For instance, in November 2008, CBI introduced an improved version of its popular Magnum Force 6800 grinder; it takes the model number 6800B. The Magnum Force 6800B can be purchased as a portable, stationary or track-mounted machine.
The CBI Magnum Force 6800B is designed and engineered for companies tackling jobs that require high-volume throughput and reliability. The “B” version has more space behind the screens than its predecessor, increased strength in the grinding chamber structure, an added fines transfer conveyor, and many other improvements based on customer feedback as well as CBI’s own observations. In addition, the turn of a switch causes the two main lock pins to retract. Two hydraulic cylinders, which are activated by another switch, lift the upper section of the 6800B to a vertical position, allowing complete access for maintenance.
The hog chamber of the CBI Magnum Force 6800B is reinforced with continuous welds for rigidity and strength. The feed table on the “B” version is 1 foot longer than on the original. The horizontal grinder can be ordered with a CAT C-18 765 hp or a CAT C-27 1,050-hp engine.
The CBI Magnum Force 6800A and
B models are equipped with the CBI IntelliGrind control system; it can self-adjust feed speed to coincide with engine load. System diagnostics, analysis and program adjustments can be simplified with
an optional modem communications system. The CBI Metal Detection System is another option.
In his free time, Mike enjoys the outdoors. “I’m a hunter and a fisherman,” he said.
For Mike, pulling together equipment and ideas from seemingly disparate sectors is a day-to-day endeavor he finds very rewarding. OHP and AgriRecycle have much in common, he explained. About each it can be said: “It’s a recycling business. It’s taking a product that’s not merchantable, and we’re turning it into a product that’s value-added.”

Matt Bewley,Agweek
Published: 08/03/2009

Dave Volker spends nine to ten hours a day driving the modified New Holland on straight canola oil for the Polk County Highway Department in western Minnesota. (Matt Bewley / Agweek)
CROOKSTON, Minn. — Picture yourself getting ready to hook up the air seeder and head out to plant your wheat. The morning news said Big Oil recently has been raising the cost of gas and diesel, as it does each year during the summer travel season. At the same time, you know canola oil prices have been holding steady near $16 a hundredweight. With some satisfaction then, you start filling your fuel tank with canola oil, knowing you will be burning your own batch of biodiesel and leaving Big Oil to boost its profits from someone else’s pocket.
This scenario is getting closer every day to becoming a reality, and a lot of people are waiting for it. Barry Coleman, executive director of the Northern Canola Growers Association, is one of them.
“I know plenty of people who would like to get the canola biodiesel from a crush plant and use the biodiesel themselves,” he says.
Canola fuel
Paul Aakre, assistant professor at the University of Minnesota-Crookston, is heading an effort to test the feasibility of the concept.
“Part of the idea of this project here is just to see how much work it actually takes to squeeze the oil, get it filtered, be able to deliver it to a tractor and so on and what the feasibility of that is,” he says.
Last year, Aakre was focused on the economic value of buying and crushing canola seed. The two products, canola pellets and oil, were compared in value to the original cost of the seed. They were found to be a viable cattle feed supplement and fuel source for home heating.
Several studies have been performed, comparing soybean meal with canola meal as protein supplements in dairy and beef cattle and as starters for calves. While there are some differences in the nutrients present in the two seeds, a protein supplement report by NDSU Extension Service beef cattle specialist Greg Lardy indicates canola is an effective protein supplement.
Minnesota’s Agricultural Utilization Research Institute’s oils laboratory in Marshall found that, while most organic materials, including wood pellets, contain about 8,000 British thermal units per pound, the canola pellets generated 8,766 Btu.
Of 100 pounds of seed, bought at $16 per hundredweight, Aakre was extracting 30 pounds of oil and 66 pounds of pellets.
“It’s going to give us a feed value of about $6.60,” he says. “We have been selling some pellets for about $240 per ton, which comes to about 12 cents a pound. But they’re really worth more than that.”
The pellets also can be sold for about 12 cents per pound as a home heating fuel, he says.
Therefore, excluding the roughly $16,000 cost of the press, Aakre can produce canola oil for about $2.35 per gallon and break even with the cost of the seed.
Alternatively, straight canola oil can be bought in quantity from press plants, though Coleman says those sales are made based on full tanker-loads.
“Typically, canola oil is going to be probably 4 to 5 cents per pound more than the Chicago Board of Trade’s soy oil would cost,” he says.
Hot oil
The canola press at the university is working hard these days to keep up with the demand of the test machine, a New Holland T6070 tractor, which is leased to the Polk County (Minn.) Highway Department from Titan Machinery in Crookston. They use it to tow a 15-foot mower deck, which they use to mow ditches along the county’s rural roads.
The tractor can run on straight vegetable oil with the aid of a heat exchanger, which heats the vegetable oil, thinning it so it can atomize and burn properly. Aakre knows from experience — dating back to his days as a graduate student at North Dakota State University in Fargo — that running vegetable oil can gum up a diesel engine.
“We were burning a mixture of sunflower oil and diesel fuel,” he says. “We ran some tractors, and by the end of the year, when we pulled the engines apart, we found that we had some ring-sticking problems and lots of gum and varnish built up in the piston and piston ring area and also up in the valve area because of incomplete combustion.”
The heat exchanger, a unit made in Germany by Elsbett Technology, uses engine coolant to transfer heat to the vegetable oil.
“There are a couple companies that have been doing this for several years, working with farmers and truckers, putting on some conversion units that heat up that oil to help in that combustion process, so we’re not doing any engine damage,” Aakre says.
Aakre first heard about the Elsbett conversion kit from a dairy farmer in Wisconsin.
“He’s been a running a couple farm tractors and semi tractors for a couple years,” Aakre says.
The conversion kit costs about $3,500.
Dual fuel
To get the heat exchanger warmed to operating temperature by the engine coolant, the tractor engine must be allowed to warm. This must be done on diesel fuel, for which a small auxiliary tank is mounted on the front of the chassis.
Initial bench testing at Titan Machinery showed the engine coolant, as well as the vegetable oil, were being properly heated.
“The temperature of the fuel approaches 185 degrees,” Aakre says. “In that process then, that oil is thinned out considerably, and so its spray and burn characteristics are going to be closer to diesel than it would be if it was cold fuel.”
Why 185 degrees? Because that’s the temperature of the coolant temperature.
Once the engine is properly warmed, a thermostatic control unit in the heat exchanger switches the fuel supplied to the engine from diesel to vegetable oil. The tractor then can run all day on vegetable oil.
At the end of the day, however, the engine is manually switched back to using diesel fuel to clean out the vegetable oil and ensure that fuel lines and injectors are filled with diesel fuel for the next cold start. This takes five to 10 minutes, Aakre says.
“Any of these vegetable oils are too thick to burn properly when the engine temperature is cool and the fuel is cool,” he says, “So we always want to purge the system when it shuts down so that it always starts on diesel fuel.”
Simply pre-heating the vegetable oil before a cold startup would not work because the engine components themselves are cold. When hot vegetable oil hits cold metal, it cools too much for proper combustion.
If the operator wants to shut down for a few minutes, for example, to hook up a PTO shaft, the vegetable oil and engine parts still will be hot enough for the vegetable oil to burn properly at startup.
Lost in translation
One glitch in the project turned out to be the installation of the conversion kit. Aakre worked with one of his students, Tom Haarstick. They knew soon after opening the kit that they were in trouble,
“The instructions were horrible,” Aakre says. “It was kind of English, but a lot of it didn’t make sense. And some parts of the instructions were in German. It took us quite a bit longer than we had anticipated because of the confusion and trying to understand the German names of some of these components.”
Despite trading several e-mails with one of the engineers at Elsbett, they continued to struggle with the language barrier.
“His English ain’t great,” he says.
After several evenings of scratching heads and trying to guess at the German wording, they got it done.
“We utilized mounting holes already on the tractor. We mounted that extra tank in the front, and there’s also a supply pump that goes along with the diesel tank up front and the SVO in the main tank,” he says.
Now that they’ve completed one conversion, Aakre says they could finish another in a single day.
Field testing
The conversion done, Aakre turned the tractor over to its users at the county highway department. On June 15, driver Dave Volker got the nod from his boss to take the canola-fueled tractor out and put it to work. He hooked up the 15-foot batwing mower deck and headed out.
Volker has driven the tractor for 125 hours since then, and Aakre understands the department expects to get a total of 300 to 350 hours in by wintertime.
“We are getting about 85 percent of the horsepower that we would be getting out of diesel fuel, according to our dyno(mometer) tests,” Aakre says. “When we ran it on diesel fuel, we were getting about 120 horsepower under full load. On the SVO, we are getting about 108 horsepower, something like that.”
He says Elsbett offers a computer chip upgrade kit to make up for the lost horsepower by injecting more fuel, but he has no plans to buy it.
“It’s operating satisfactorily for what we need,” he says. “It’s not necessarily an easy deal, compared to diesel fuel, but the conditions we’re running at right now are about ideal,” he says.
Aakre says they’ve had problems with fuses. When the fuse blows, the fuel supply automatically switches over to diesel.
“It’s happened about three times in almost 125 hours. We’re not sure why we’re having those issues,” he says. “We bought the unit from a business in Wisconsin. He, too, is a little perplexed as to why we’re having this fuse problem.”

They also are finding that the system operates better when the vegetable oil filter is changed regularly, somewhere around 125 hours. Volker says he thought he had lost a little power recently, so he replaced it. The performance immediately returned to normal.
This is the reason for Aakre’s testing: To find the glitches and maintenance needs that farmers would be faced with.
“We also hope to do some kind of an engine tear-down this winter, but there’s nothing for sure at this point,” he says.
Meanwhile, the canola press at the university is going full tilt.
“About every day, we press about 1,200 pounds,” he says. “We have to keep running, because the press is barely keeping up, right now. The tractor is burning almost as much as we are pressing each day.”
He says the tractor probably is operating about nine hours a day. They will keep up the supply and make sure the tractor gets as much test time in the field before winter.
“The intent is to look for a renewable source of farm-grown oil,” he says. “We’re just looking at opportunities where farmers, co-ops or groups of farmers can get together and press some of their own seed to produce some oil for diesel tractors.”



Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Gregory True shows one of the generators that can be used to generate electricity and provide the community with heat that is a by-product.
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Hopes are running high that the creation of a wood pellet manufacturing plant in town will help give this community of 4,600 people an economic shot in the arm.

The site of the former Timco Lumber Company, once the largest employer in Barnstead and one of the largest lumber companies in the Northeast, is being transformed into a wood pellet manufacturing company that will be a producer and supplier of wood pellets for private households and commercial businesses.

Lakes Region Pellets, located on Depot Street in Barnstead, plans to start making pellets as early as next week. Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer Gregory True sees the light at the end of the tunnel and believes that this is one of the steps in boosting the local economy.

"What we're trying to do, essentially, is to figure out Obama's stimulus plan," True said. "Those stimulus dollars are there somewhere; we just need to find out where."

Timco once employed more than 130 direct employees who were all laid off in 2003 when the business went bankrupt, leaving the property like a ghost town for the past six years.

True said he has hired 20 employees since operations began in April in an effort to start the first phase of production. Once the pellet company is in full operation, there could be 30 to 35 jobs created directly, which could produce up to 10 tons of product per hour. Another 100 jobs will be created indirectly by outside loggers, truckers and other contactors.

True is certain that the pellet company will grow to its full potential.

"It's not a matter if," True said. "It's when we get it done because it will get there."

On site there is a five-megawatt generator that True plans to operate, which will create an additional 20 jobs directly with 100 jobs created indirectly from outside lumber services.

Down the road, True said the opportunities on the property are endless, suggesting that there could be symbiotic relationships that could eliminate waste and at the same time keep a company in business. If a fish farm were to be built on the property, the carbon released from the generator could be used to grow algae, which could be used to feed the fish.

"Unemployment is high right now," Selectman Gordon Preston said. "We're looking for any federal grants to get this place up and running as soon as possible"

Preston said the town has been in contact with the United States Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. He said he is trying to find out what parameters Lakes Region Pellet needs to meet in order to become a "designated energy facility."

Preston said he should hear back in the next two weeks about what exactly is needed to qualify the site as one of these facilities.

"Obama put money aside and told the USDA that he wants money going into energy," Preston said.

According to Preston, if Lakes Region Pellets becomes a "designated energy facility" it could become a catalyst for more jobs in the logging industry. The pellet company currently is paying $20 per ton for logs.

If it can meet certain parameters to be a designated energy facility, those loggers would be matched $20 per ton by the government for providing for a designated facility.

Preston said he recently saw a logger come into town hall to register his equipment for the first time in two years because he had heard that the wood pellet company was in service.

"Within a 25-mile radius there could be $4 million brought in over the course of the year to the area," Preston said. "This is like a giant jigsaw, but all the pieces are around us."

Thinking "green" is something that the Obama administration has encouraged. Wood pellets are made from completely organic matter and wood pellet stoves are becoming popular. As technology advances, the cost of wood pellet heating systems and other alternative energy sources are expected to decrease.

"This is going to be everything for us," said Elaine Swinford, R-Belknap District 5. "It will bring in work for our local residents. It's going to be bringing in locals from the area to work here."

Swinford said that, if the company can get up and running, it wouldn't just provide jobs, it would reduce the town's "carbon footprint". The town has the potential to hook up to the steam line from the generator which could provide the municipal buildings with heat and eliminate their need for heating fuel.

"We're a bedroom community that is ready to get on the bandwagon," Swinford said. "We're on the bandwagon; we just need the instruments."

In April, the N.H. Community Development Finance Authority approved the request from the town of Barnstead for a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant that has been used to expand the business. The money is channeled through the Belknap County Economic Development Council, which loaned the money to Lakes Region Pellets, LLC, so it could purchase equipment and increase job creation.

The cost for the upgrade to make the company fully operational is estimated to be $30 million, some of which the town thinks it can obtain through stimulus funds.

"The town, county and state are all working together," True said. "We're trying to find a way to get this up and running."

RAY MONGEAU/CITIZEN PHOTO GREGORY TRUE, owner and chief operations officer of Lake Region Pellet Co., shows the wood pellet and bedding material that will be processed.
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STRONG -- "Either we're all out of a job, or we have a helluva lot of work ahead of us," Jeff Kennedy said, looking up at the front of the Geneva Wood Fuels pellet plant in the center of town.
Kennedy had arrived to start his 8 a.m. shift Saturday, but instead, he joined the throng of onlookers who had been standing on the street much of the night, watching as firefighters battled smoke and fire in the three-story steel-sheathed mill.
A 1:30 a.m. explosion Saturday in the rear of the building blew most of the structure apart and shook the town awake. Many onlookers drove from towns several miles away after hearing the blast. Windows were either shattered or blown out onto the street below, and doors on the loading dock bulged from the pressure.
Mill managers Jeff and Lucinda Allen said there was little warning that something was wrong.
"It just blew up," Lucinda said that she surveyed the wreckage.
Scott Coolong, whose home is a block from the mill, said his window air conditioner was blown into his living room by the blast. "I looked out the window and saw a ball of fire shoot about 200 feet into the air," he said.
Other bystanders reported feeling their homes shake and that pictures fell off walls. Many said the sound made them think that a bomb had exploded. In spite of the damage, no one was seriously injured.
"One person was working outside in the yard," Strong fire chief Scott Dyar said. "I told the other three who'd been in the mill to go to Franklin Memorial Hospital to make sure they were OK."
A sprinkler system inside the mill probably kept the fire from spreading, Dyar said. Firefighters from several towns worked through the night to keep any further damage to a minimum.
One of those was Ben Guild, who had spent much of Friday evening polishing one of the town's fire trucks for the Wilton Blueberry Festival parade at 9 a.m.
Looking tired, he shrugged casually as he joined other firefighters taking a break from the heat.
"There'll be another parade next year," he said, as he grabbed a bottle of water.
The mill had been shuttered for approximately five years after Forster Manufacturing closed. Chicago businessmen Jonathan Kahn and Benjamin Rose bought the mill and invested several million dollars in equipment and renovations to start manufacturing wood pellets.
Since March, the mill had been operating around the clock with 25 employees to meet the demand for fuel for the winter.
Kahn arrived in Portland and drove to Strong to meet employees at 3 p.m. He listened to discouraging reports indicating the mill would probably have to be razed.
Fire marshals and forensic reconstruction specialists spent the day mapping and photographing the site, and the inside damage was severe.
Kahn looked in disbelief at the 90,000-pound wood chip dryer unit that had been blown off its foundation in the back of the building. The concrete block wall that housed it had exploded into the log yard. Nearly 150 feet away, a piece of solid steel angle iron from the mill had sheared a five-inch poplar tree in half and had cut midway through a 10-inch tree next to it.
"All I can say is I'm so grateful no one was hurt," he said. "And we will rebuild this."


Wood pellet manufactures nowadays mainly focus and emphasise on the wood pellet fuels marketplace, and predominantly the premium wood pellet fuel market. Wood pellets can be used for many different purposes and uses, fuels pellets are one case, however firewood pellets can also be used as animal bedding and even BBQ pellets. Wood pellets are perfect for animal bedding owing to their low dust content.
Customary animal bedding resources such as straw or timber shavings have high dust content, and the dust can cause inhalation difficulty with the animals. Due to the high density of the wood pellets and the fact they are screened prior to sale, means they make very little dust and are highly absorbent. Straw and other biomass raw materials can also be used for animal bedding. BBQ wood pellets are a growing market, as wood pellet BBQ?s offer a greater taste to any other BBQ?s. The reasons for this are the flavours of the wood are infused into the food, giving exceptional flavours.
Also a large variety of woof BBQ pellets are available to modify the flavour to the type of food being set. Flavours include oak, apple and maple to name but a only some. Ask any BBQ expert and they will inform you the best BBQ?s are wood pellet BBQ?s. With wood pellet BBQ?s you can also precisely control the temperature via a thermostat, and employ the BBQ to also smoke or as an oven.
The largest market for wood pellets currently is premium wood pellet fuel, premium wood pellets are the highest grade of wood pellet fuel made from chosen pine, spruce and oak residues. To produce a premium pellet manufactures must meet certain values. The pellets have to have ash content below 1%, and the moisture must be below 10%. The pellets must also include a high mechanical durability to maintain their structure during burning to achieve efficient burning with a high heat value and a smaller amount ash.
Wood pellet prices are dictated by the use of the pellets, and the value and rating of the pellet and the raw matter. Premium pellets require the highest prices, however supplementary grades of wood pellets are available and demand a lesser price point. Lower grade wood pellets are fashioned from a species of wood, which would produce higher ash content. Also wood pellets containing bark will also make a higher ash content dropping the value and worth of the pellets.
Wood Pellet Shortages do accumulate from time to time, mostly in the premium pellet business. The reasons for this are the timber pellet market is constantly growing, and demand sometimes catches supply out. Other issues for the premium pellet market is the feedstock is so definite and comes from timber processing, the wood residues is not constantly available in the quantities necessary.

Gov. Ritter touts 'new energy economy' at Kremmling pellet plant

By Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, Colorado

Gov. Bill Ritter took the opportunity to drive a large loader at the invitation of Confluence Energy plant owner Mark Mathis and plant manager Chris Chamberlain, seen here guiding the governor.
Gov. Bill Ritter has been doing some heavy lifting — and not just with the state's weighty budget.

Ascending a 120,000-pound machine that can lift 90,000 pounds in a single scoop, Ritter sat at the controls of an L-90 log loader on Friday and deftly raised a stack of timber at the Confluence Energy Plant in Kremmling.

“I think I was more nervous than he was,” plant owner Mark Mathis said later.

Asked how he did, Ritter said, “My dad was a heavy-equipment operator, so he was smiling down on me when I got on it.”

Ritter toured Mathis' wood-pellet plant — with all its log stacking, chip storing and pellet bagging — as a way to get the word out about Colorado's potential in a “New Energy Economy.”

“I talk about the plants in Kremmling here and in Walden constantly as examples of Colorado being able to promote a clean energy future,” Ritter said. “At the same time, (we can) change the way we think about consumption or production.

“For us, we see this pine beetle (epidemic) certainly is an extreme problem, a significant challenge. But it also presents us with an opportunity to change the way we consume energy and to do it in a cleaner fashion.”

Confluence Energy and its competitor Rocky Mountain Pellet Mills in Walden may be the only pellet manufacturers in the country that process their products directly from whole, unwanted trees.

The pellets, used in stoves to heat homes, are considered carbon-neutral sources of energy.

But biomass energy represents only a sliver of Colorado's overall energy-economy portfolio. The state has yet to attract endeavors such as an ethanol plant that uses woody biomass, which would help to address the roughly 2 million acres of dead trees in the state, providing a cost-effective alternative to fossil fuels.

Canadian bio-refining company Lignol Energy Corp. and Suncor Energy nearly pursued an $80 million cellulosic ethanol plant in Grand Junction but backed out in January due to the uncertainty of credit markets.

“There is still the capability to have that industry here,” Ritter said. “I don't think that conversation is over.”

But one of the challenges is the state's lack of an industry in timber harvesting, Ritter added.

About two years ago, Colorado-based Range Fuels Inc. took its cellulosic ethanol production plans to Georgia instead of its home state — forsaking Colorado lodgepole for Georgia pines.

“Thanks to Georgia's environmentally sensitive stewardship of its forests for the past 50 years, Range Fuels can take what is traditionally considered a waste product and turn it into a source of transportation fuel,” Range Fuels CEO Mitch Mandich was quoted as saying in

“What can we do to drive this mechanism to create demand in this state?” Mathis said he asked the governor to consider.

His pellet manufacturing plant, like John Frink's in Walden, was “completely privately funded,” and harvest of trees for pellets has taken place on private lands. The two plants combined will produce more than 200,000 tons of wood pellets a year, providing enough heat for more than 60,000 homes and businesses.

But the challenges are stacked as high as Grand County's log piles.

Confluence and Rocky Mountain compete with oil, coal and natural gas to provide consumers' heat.

In order to keep costs competitive, the manufacturers look to government officials for their influence on stimulus dollars, for example, or negotiations with the U.S. Forest Service.

Accessing trees by way of federal salvage sales is too costly for the pellet industry, Mathis said, so the cost to pellet consumers could go up when material harvested on private lands run out. And transport of materials would be more efficient if his biomass enterprise could have access to rail.

“Let's not waste this,” Frink said. “People across the country would love to have this resource that Colorado has.”

“We will continue to look for ways to promote pellets as a viable fuel source and increase demand for these products,” Ritter said.

— Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail

Company prepares to start on CO2-neutral wood pellet energy plant in Camden
By Associated Press
5:01 AM CDT, August 13, 2009
CAMDEN, Ark. (AP) — A company that plans to invest $180 million in a facility that will produce wood pellets and use them to generate energy is preparing to start work in Camden.

Phoenix Renewable Energy says the plant will be CO2 neutral and that byproducts will be recycled into their natural states. The company is holding a groundbreaking Thursday morning at its 44-acre site at the Port of Camden.

Phoenix says it can produce wood pellets and generate electricity at competitive prices.

Actual construction is to start next month.


SAULT STE. MARIE, MI - Lake Superior State University, a place already known for research in various fields of study, is the site of a new research project for alternative fuel sources.

The multi-phase project, led by LSSU biology department head Gregory Zimmerman Ph.D. with help from Justin Wilson, a senior environmental science major from Sault Ste. Marie, is studying the potential of reed canary grass pellets as an environmentally friendly and economical heating fuel, as well as a possible economic stimulant for the Eastern Upper Peninsula.

The grass being used in the study is known as reed canary grass, an abundant but weedy species in the EUP considered by many to be a problem due to its aggressive growth.

The first phase of the study wanted to prove the grass's practicality as a pellet fuel.

The recently completed second phase demonstrated how the grass could be made into small pellets as fuel for heating spaces such as a house.

Both phases have shown the grass pellets to have several potential benefits.

"Reed canary grass is a sustainable source of heating fuel, does not compete with food production and, compared to the use of fossil fuels, reduces the release of greenhouse gases," said Zimmerman, who added that he hopes the rest of the study will confirm the grass pellets' numerous advantages over current fuels such as propane.

To make the grass into pellets, Zimmerman harvested reed canary grass from a local field last November.

He chose this time period so that the grass was dead, allowing nutrients to move back to the soil and requiring no further energy for drying.

The collected grass was then ground into quarter-inch particles in a hammer mill.

The grass, along with various additives, was then sent through a small pellet mill driven by the PTO of a tractor.

After the grass was turned into pellets, the pellets were used in a multi-fuel stove.

The result of these grass pellets appears to be an effective and environmentally friendly source of heat.

Zimmerman and Wilson tried a variety of recipes to discover which additives would give reed canary grass pellets characteristics similar to those of wood pellets.

After multiple trials, the two recipes which produced the best results were not what one might expect.

One recipe mixed reed canary grass with spent brewer's grain, which was grain used during the beer-making process at Tahquamenon Brewery.

Another recipe called for the grass to be mixed with a small amount of fryer grease from LSSU's Quarterdeck cafeteria and corrugated cardboard.

Although time-consuming and difficult at points, Zimmerman said the recipe experimentation was essential to the success of making these pellets.

Zimmerman also acknowledges the generosity of the staff at LSSU's physical plant as a reason for the study's accomplishments.

The current location of the project and where the process of making pellets occurs is the garage behind the university's physical plant.

The staff of the plant has allowed Zimmerman and Wilson access to the garage during the course of the project in addition to other logistical help.

Zimmerman has been grateful for the staff's help through all phases of the study and says that they deserve a "big thanks."

The first two phases of the study were funded by the Biomass Energy Program of the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor, and Economic Growth.

Although he is preparing for the third phase, Zimmerman has already found one major economic advantage based on results from the first two phases.

"Based on an average of six fields in the EUP, three acres of reed canary grass would make enough pellets to replace 800 gallons of propane."

He said that he hopes the next phase, which could also be funded by a grant, will show that grass pellets are competitive with wood pellets while confirming the cost of making and using the pellets to be much less expensive than propane.

The ideal situation of study for this phase would involve a co-op of area farmers sharing the cost of a "pelletizer" and the effort taken to market the reed canary grass pellets to area residents and businesses.

He believes that keeping the co-op local could reduce transportation costs to ship the pellets and could also reduce the cost of heating for farmers, businesses, and residents.

In addition to planning the next phase of the study, Zimmerman and Wilson have been busy demonstrating how well reed canary grass pellets work to various community organizations.

LSSU's Board of Trustees, local conservation groups, and visitors to the Sault Ste. Marie Farmers' Market are just some of the area residents who have seen how these pellets work in a multi-fuel stove.

Future plans for Zimmerman and Wilson include continuing their demonstrations to residents throughout the area.

They will also repeat the pellet-making process in the fall.

For more information on upcoming demonstrations by Zimmerman and Wilson, or for information on how the project is moving along, keep checking LSSU's website for updates at


It's been almost a decade since the International Paper Plant outside Camden closed down, but the site is now the planned location for Phoenix Renewable Energy's Camden facility.
"We're building a 20 megawatt CHP plant, that's combined heat and power. And we're producing 370,000 tons of wood pellets that are made out of southern yellow pine," says Stephen Walker, the Director of Development for Phoenix Renewable Energy.
He says the plant will burn wood scraps for energy and use that energy to produce wood pellets for export to Europe.
Walker explains, "In Europe, the European Union, a lot of the utilities over there burn the wood pellets in place of coal. In essence, they understand that it is carbon neutral."
For the first time in 30 years, the Camden Port will be put to use.
A $4.7 million investment will get old equipment replaced and ready to ship up to 370,000 tons of wood pellets down the Ouachita River to New Orleans and then overseas.
Camden Mayor Chris Claybreaker says, "I've been trying to get some additional traffic on the river since 1994. And this is the first real big opportunity that we've had since Cross Oil started using the river some ten years ago."
Once built, the plant will employ about 60 Arkansans at salaries at or above $35,000.
James Lee Sillman, Executive Director of Camden Economic Development says, "This is big not only for Camden and Arkansas, but for the United States. It's going to help us wean ourselves off of foreign oil and make us more energy independent."
Phoenix isn't ready to divulge the locations of the other plants, but a source tell Today's THV that Benton is on the short list.

By Thomas Content of the Journal Sentinel
Posted: Aug. 10, 2009

An energy efficiency study by the Energy Center of Wisconsin found that spending $350 million a year would enable the state, by 2018, to:
• Save more than $900 million on energy costs a year.
• Reduce utility greenhouse gas emissions by 1.3 million tons a year.
• Reduce electricity sales by 13%.
• Avoid construction of at least 2,200 megawatts of new generation. That's almost as much power as We Energies generates at its largest coal plants, in Pleasant Prairie and Oak Creek.
• The Energy Center of Wisconsin will host a Webinar from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Sept. 23 to discuss the study
Energy writer Thomas Content keeps you current as you adapt to changes in the world of energy, climate change and efforts to build a greener economy.

Wisconsin should explore tripling its funding for energy efficiency programs because the payoff would be nearly $1 billion a year in annual energy cost savings for consumers, a new study says.
Several of the state's largest business groups have raised questions about the study's findings, however. They are concerned about the higher utility rates business customers would have to pay to fund energy efficiency programs, many of which are targeted at homeowners and renters instead of businesses.
The study by the Energy Center of Wisconsin echoes recommendations made last year by a state global warming task force appointed by Gov. Jim Doyle.
That study suggested that tripling or quadrupling funding for energy efficiency would help the state reduce energy use and emissions linked to global warming, and help mitigate the higher costs consumers would have to bear for electricity produced by burning coal and other fossil fuels.
The new study finds the state could spend $350 million a year on energy efficiency programs - compared with $124 million today - but the payoff would be much bigger for electric ratepayers, said Susan Stratton, executive director of the Energy Center, a nonprofit energy research think tank in Madison.
"The comparison shouldn't be to what we're spending today but with what we would have to build if we didn't do efficiency," she said. "This will help avoid or delay building new power plants, which have high price tags."
But the higher funding levels for Focus on Energy and other programs could prove too tempting to the Legislature every two years when seeking to balance the state's budget, said Todd Stuart, executive director of the Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group, a group representing large energy-intensive manufacturers.
"Large energy consumers are concerned that this could not only add a couple percentage points to their bills in a time of recession, but also because it would be too big of a target for balancing the state budget," Stuart said. He noted that $100 million in ratepayer funds were diverted from energy efficiency programs earlier in this decade.
"In the latest state budget, an $18 million fee was added to your electric bill to pay for district attorneys," Stuart added.
The Wisconsin study, conducted by the independent Energy Center in conjunction with the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, found that Wisconsin could save considerable amounts on energy through a massive campaign to retrofit buildings to become more efficient.
The study envisions expansion of pilot programs that are getting under way in Milwaukee neighborhoods. Entire neighborhoods could be retrofitted through the use of energy advocates, who would try to ease the process associated with making home upgrades that would reduce energy use.
A pivotal recommendation may be the one with the most impact on the pocketbook. Under one scenario, energy-efficiency programs would pay for 90% of the cost of insulation and other work needed in a home.
Now, incentives offered by Focus on Energy repay about 30% of the cost to plug air leaks through insulation injected into walls, insulation added to attics and other energy-saving changes recommended after an energy audit.
The state study is the latest of several recent reports, including one published by the National Research Council, that look at the potential of saving on energy use as a strategy to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Two weeks, ago, the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. published a study concluding the United States could reduce its energy bill by $1.2 trillion by 2020 through an investment of $50 billion a year in energy efficiency. For the average electricity user, the study's executive summary states, such a move would result in an 8% increase in energy costs, but the efficiency gains would reduce bills 24% by 2020.

By Associated Press
2:25 PM CDT, August 16, 2009
McCOMB, Miss. (AP) — Work is at a standstill at a proposed wood pellet plant in Pike County.

The plant was expected to be complete in September, but county supervisors say little has been done beyond dirt preparation.

Supervisors have approved payment of $266,132 and $10,000 for building a rail spur to the site. The payments will come from $223,132 in Community Development Block Grant funds and $53,000 in a county match.

Indeck Energy Services, of Buffalo Grove, Ill., planned to open the $11 million Indeck Magnolia Biofuel Center in Magnolia. The mill would convert logs, chips and tops into pellets for use as fuel.

In previous meetings, county administrator Andrew Alford says Indeck officials told him they had encountered banking delays.


Information from: Enterprise-Journal,

By Jenn Smith
Updated: 08/19/2009 11:40:29 PM EDT

The home heating market is still running hot and cold.
Though oil prices, a contentious issue during the last heating season, have dropped dramatically, experts in every energy market advise consumers to purchase fuel with caution.
Despite the summer heat, local fuel and utilities providers said they’ve been fielding inquiries about home heating costs on a daily basis.
"The general question is what do you think [the market] is going to do this winter. If I knew that, I could retire tomorrow," said Bob West, owner of West Oil Company in North Adams.
Last year, the oil industry and consumers took a severe blow when mid-year oil prices shot up to well over $100 per barrel then came crashing down more than 50 percent during the winter heating months, leaving consumers stuck with locked-in rates.
So far this year, as prices for oil and other types of fuels seem to be more stable, last month’s state data put home heating oil at $2.39 per gallon, about $2 less than it was last year. The data puts propane at $2.24 per gallon.
Between July 29 and Aug. 11, the average price for regular gasoline jumped from $2.53 per gallon to $3.84 per gallon, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report.
The natural gas industry is projecting an oil equivalent price of less than $2 per gallon for the upcoming heating season.
But Berkshire Gas spokesman Christopher Farrell said that figure is still to early to
base a purchase on.
"Usually customers don’t start focusing on heating needs until the first frost," he said.
Bill Spinney, manager of C.S.C.F. Distributor in Lenox, which deals equipment and fuel sources for pellet, coal, gas and wood stoves, said pellets are about $280 per ton there.
"Most of our customers already bought them earlier this year and stored them for the next year. With pellets, the best time to buy is in the spring," said Spinney.
He said the cost for pellets increased from $250 last year, mostly due to availability. Though it’s too early to tell, two explosions of pellet mills in Maine, back in April and on Aug. 8, may trickle down to effect the availability of wood pellets in the northeast.
Although firewood isn’t his main business, Richard Robert of Hinsdale Timber said he has delivered cut, split green wood throughout the summer.
"We’ve been busy with firewood and we expect to stay that way," he said. Hinsdale Timbers charges $140 per cord with a minimum purchase of two cords.
When it comes to making decisions on heating fuel this season, experts say customers should take the time to evaluate their options.
"All energy numbers go up together," said Bob West of West Oil.
"I think there’s always a concern, and I think those people who are concerned about costs should evaluate their risk-tolerance," said Joe Rose, president of the Propane Gas Association of New England.
He suggests that consumers look at fixed-rate or cap rate programs and, when applicable, fill fuel tanks between now and the end of September, while the prices are still known to be low.
West added that consumers should also research the various state and federal fuel incentives that offer rebates and tax breaks for residents who use efficient heating.
"My only recommendation to anybody is conservation," said West. "We’ve done great things with it so far in this country. Look at how efficiently you’re heating. That’s where the big savings is."
To reach Jenn Smith:
(413) 496-6239

Associated Press
8:00 a.m. CDT, August 22, 2009

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. - Many northern Michigan residents consider reed canary grass a noxious weed. Researchers at Lake Superior State University are testing its usefulness as a renewable heating fuel.

Gregory Zimmerman heads the biology department at the Sault Ste. Marie school and says he sees potential in canary grass as a practical alternative to propane and other fossil fuels.

Reed canary grass is fast-growing and abundant in the eastern Upper Peninsula.

The first phase of Zimmerman's work tested the grass's practicality as a pellet fuel. Phase 2, which recently ended, looked at burning small pellets for applications such as home heating.

The Biomass Energy Program of the state Department of Energy, Labor, and Economic Growth has been paying for the research.

Zimmerman said he is pleased with the results so far and plans to move ahead with further feasibility studies.

"Reed canary grass is a sustainable source of heating fuel, does not compete with food production and, compared to the use of fossil fuels, reduces the release of greenhouse gases," he said.

Zimmerman harvested reed canary grass in November from a nearby field and used it to make burnable pellets.

Zimmerman and student assistant Justin Wilson tried several recipes to find which additives would give the grass pellets characteristics like wood pellets.

Two mixtures that proved particularly effective used spent brewer's grain from Tahquamenon Brewery and fryer grease from a university cafeteria.

"Based on an average of six fields, ... three acres of reed canary grass would make enough pellets to replace 800 gallons of propane," he said in a statement.

The next step, Zimmerman said, is to see if grass pellets are competitive with wood pellets and cheaper than propane.


On the Net:

U.S. Department of Agriculture page on reed canary grass: nary-grass.pdf
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What can be done with the millions of U.S. forestland acres devastated by the mountain pine beetle? Biomass power applications are an attractive option, but action must be taken before the trees lose their value.
By Anna Austin

In just a few years, the mountain pine beetle has devastated millions of acres of American forestland. Particularly notorious in the Western U.S. and Canada, the bark-devouring insect has destroyed nearly 8 million acres of trees.

Insect infestations are nothing new and outbreaks occur regularly in nature. However, the current pine beetle epidemic is worse than any in recorded history. Loss of sustainable forests and wildlife habitats are just a few of the possible consequences of the beetle infestation as they leave dead and dying trees in their wake. Leaving these impacted forests untouched increases the chances of wildfires and downed power lines, endangering the communities in these areas.

The pine beetle infestation has prompted many people who are interested or impacted by the issue to recommend swift action be taken. Congress wants to develop a plan and welcomes ideas from those familiar with the pine beetle infestation. On June 16, the House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands and Subcommittee on Water and Power, held a joint oversight hearing to strategize how to utilize the affected wood and protect the West. A number of congressional members from western states, representatives of the U.S. departments of agriculture and the interior, state and local officials, and business owners testified, stressing the epidemic’s negative and potentially devastating impacts. Many stressed the importance of allowing the biomass industry access to the pine beetle-damaged wood. Now with several ideas on the table, Congress is tasked with formulating a strategic plan to responsibly and efficiently manage the materials.

Developing a Plan

During his testimony, U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., said there are more than 633 miles of electrical transmission lines in Colorado in areas of dead or dying trees, and more than 1,300 miles of electrical distribution lines at risk from falling trees or fire. “A large fire could destroy many of these lines, causing power outages for months,” he said.

Salazar added that he and several other Colorado lawmakers have introduced legislation that includes different approaches to tackling the problem, and are currently working on a bill they had planned to introduce this summer.

Several senators are working on similar bills. Recently, U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., introduced a comprehensive plan to address the pine beetle epidemic, which has infected much of South Dakota’s Black Hills National Forest and the surrounding area. The main thrust of Thune’s plan is to create a market for biomass removed from federal forests, which is prohibited by the current Energy Bill. Thune wants the biomass definition in the Energy Independence & Security Act of 2007 to be expanded to include biomass removed from federal land, a move that many others in Congress support, including U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo.

During his testimony, Polis said a properly crafted, specific and responsible definition for woody biomass within a renewable energy standard has a significant and positive role to play in helping fund wildfire mitigation projects, and would relieve the backlog of projects that the U.S. Forest Service is waiting to have funded.

“This definition can also mean that we see an expansion of cleaner and less carbon-intensive energy sources, like wood pellet heating, that will help combat one of the primary causes of the beetle epidemic—climate change,” he said. “Whether including woody biomass in the definition of renewable energy and thus allowing for incentives under a renewable energy portfolio standard, or through the growing prevalence of blue stain wood products as a decorative building material, creating new market demand for the dead and dying trees provides hope to the communities who want to see fuel reduction effort moving forward.”

Polis added that wood products, wood pellets, small-scale energy projects and other local businesses can play a key role in mitigating the damage and lessening the danger from the outbreak.

In addition to pine beetle plan, Thune also helped draft the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, as part of the 2008 Farm Bill, which provides payments for the delivery of biomass, including woody biomass removed from federal forests, to biorefineries or biomass power plants. His pine beetle plan calls for full implementation of BCAP from 2009 through 2012, and an extension of the program through 2016.

In mid-July, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., introduced legislation to reform forest management in Montana, which promotes common sense logging to thin beetle-killed trees. In Montana, the pine beetle has increased the mortality rate of mature trees in state national forestlands two-fold in just one year, from 734,500 acres in 2007 to 1.8 million acres in 2008.

Time-Sensitive Issue

Even with the many pending plans and bills, time is truly of the essence. “We’ve got to get to these materials in a timely manner,” says Mark Mathis, Pellet Fuels Institute Government Affairs and Commercial Fuel Committee member. “The biggest hurdles are accessing the materials—there’s a lot available, but the tools are not in the tool box, so to speak, at a legislative level,” he tells Biomass Magazine. “At a certain point, the [trees are] prone to blow over, and when they do, they rot dramatically faster and any value from the wood is removed.”

Posted By Len Gillis
Posted 1 day ago

Ontario's failing forestry industry could get a much-needed and positive jolt if all the right factors come together for Ontario Power Generation (OPG).
OPG vice-president Chris Young told the Timmins Chamber of Commerce this week that forestry could provide the fuel needed to allow OPG to get into using biomass as one of the new fuels to provide electrical energy in the future.
Young, who is in charge of business development for fossil-powered projects for OPG, says the demand comes in light of the fact that coal will be outlawed as en energy source in Ontario by the end of 2014.
Biomass is organic matter such as wood pellets that can be used to heat steam boilers that drive electrical generators.
Young told the chamber audience there are several good reasons why OPG is looking at biomass
He said OPG has half a dozen plants that currently burn coal, or a combination of coal and gas. But the 2014 regulation means those plants could be mothballed unless a suitable substitute is found to fire up the generators.
Young says the plants “still have life left in them and still could be used for something beyond coal.”
“So why biomass?” Young asked. “Biomass is renewable energy. It's green energy. It's on demand when you need it. Biomass has no net greenhouse gasses, so effectively it is global-warming friendly if you will,” he said.
“There is a great opportunity for a made-in-Ontario industry in the forest products and agricultural sectors,” Young said.
“It makes use of an asset the people of Ontario own and an asset that still has life,” he added.
Young admitted there were lots of challenges for creating any suitable biomass industry.
“First of all, biomass is going to be an expensive fuel. It's more expensive than coal,” said Young. He added there is no fuel supply infrastructure yet set up Ontario. That means creating some sort of a massive processing plant that can take raw wood fibre and process it into condensed pellets on such a scale that it would be economically feasible.
“So we need capacity to be installed and we need to build the infrastructure for transportation to go with that,” said Young.
Young added that the chemistry of biomass pellets shows that some slag could occur in the biomass boilers resulting in less energy being produced. However, he did note that a test run of biomass on the Atikokan Generating Station was positive.
“We achieved 100 per cent output on Atikokan using biomass fuel, using wood fuel, last year so that demonstrated what can be done,” said Young.
He added that once the biomass is burned, OPG needs to figure out what to do with the ashes, saying that putting the ash in a landfill is not a suitable solution.
In other considerations, Young said agricultural products may also be used as biomass, but he said that could raise issues of food versus fuel. He said OPG would not use any food product for fuel. He said studies are also underway to use algae as biomass, but those are not yet complete.
Young says there have been about 80 “expressions of interest” across Ontario, some from Northern Ontario, to help OPG achieve biomass as a viable fuel source.
He added that biomass is “a positive economic opportunity for Ontario.”
Young says one of the key challenges will be educating the public and marketing biomass as an environmentally friendly and sustainable fuel source.
Although the Timmins audience seemed receptive to the idea of forest products as a source of biomass there were questions of whether there would be grants or incentives for such things as processing and transportation.
Article ID# 1710383