Thursday, October 29, 2009

November Newsletter 2009

November 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













By Jonathan Stinson
The Reporter
Published October 10, 2009
CROSSVILLE – The concrete was still being poured and the roof was not quite finished Tuesday at the new Lee Energy Solutions wood pellet plant on Alabama 68 in Crossville, but by the end of the month it will start producing between 65 to 70 tons of wood pellets an hour, according to Davis Lee, the owner of the company.

The plant is part of Lee Energy Solutions who also manufactures furnaces used to heat poultry houses and Lee needed a plant to produce the fuel for those furnaces.

“Really what we’re doing, we’re making wood pellets, but it’s replacing oil,” Lee said. “So, it’s just like having an oil well here in Crossville, Alabama.”

The plant will have about 25 employees and the total venture costs Lee about $7.5 million.

According to Lee the plant was designed with the environment in mind and has a neutral carbon footprint because of the process used when producing the pellets and the way the plant will collect the raw materials used to make the product.

The wood that will be turned into pellets comes from slash, which is the parts of trees that cannot be used for lumber like the treetops, and smaller limbs which are turned into wood chips and delivered to the plant.

The plant then takes those chips and runs them through a furnace to dry them out.

“Wood is 40 to 45 percent moisture, Lee said. “…The reason you make pellets rather than burning chips is because of what I just said, you can’t burn water.”

After the chips are dried out the wood is then compressed into a pellet and the dust particles that are created during the process will go back into the mill and used to fuel the furnace.

“We use very little natural gas,” Lee said. “This is an all green plant,”

Lee is also working with state legislators to help farmers get grants to purchase the furnaces because he says the furnaces are cleaner than using natural gas to heat the poultry houses.

“Each poultry house uses the equivalent of 100 plus barrels of oil a year… it’s a lot of money we won’t have to send to foreign oil producers.” Lee said.

Lee said there were about 125,000 poultry houses in the U.S. and after running some numbers he said it would be just short of $1 billion in oil the U.S. would not have to buy if each of the poultry houses would use the wood pellets for heat.

He said it would also have an impact on the air quality too.

“Each poultry house by using propane or petroleum based heat emits 20–25 tons of carbon a year into the atmosphere. With the wood pellet burning furnace there is zero emission,” Lee said.

For more information people can visit

By M.K. Moynahan
Contributing writer
The average homeowner struggles to keep warm, go green and still keep money in his or her bank account. Should we invest in solar or geothermal heating systems? Burn oil, wood or the various biomass pellets available for home heating? In today's economic climate, consumers have to think of the bottom line. Fortunately, there are many incentives and products to choose from that will ensure consumers spend less on heating if they invest wisely and do their homework.
Less money to burn
Last week, the New York State Energy Research Development Authority reported that oil heat cost an average of $2.57 per gallon in New York state. While this is better than the $4-plus per gallon consumers were paying last year, it still is costlier to heat homes with oil than wood or biomass pellets.
A cord of wood costs between $200 and $250, grass pellets cost roughly $225 per ton and soft wood pellets go for $235 per ton. The average consumer in the area may spend $1,000 or more per month for home heating oil during the winter. Area residents who use wood or pellet stoves spend one-quarter of that.
According to May Miller, owner of Enviro Energy LLC, a Unadilla-based grass and wood pellet manufacturer, 17 pounds of pellets equals one gallon of oil, or roughly $2.04 for pellets compared to $2.60 per gallon.
See HEAT on Page A2
May, along with her husband Robert, son Michael and daughter-in-law, Marylou, started the company last year. The family, Delaware County residents and lifelong dairy farmers, decided to diversify and offer renewable energy sources to area residents, as well as an outlet for farmers to get paid for crops such as ragweed and bad hay for which there was previously no market.
"Basically, we buy overgrown fields. We particularly like goldenrod. We buy this from the farmers," May Miller said. "It gives them a little niche market for crops they couldn't sell before. They bring it right to us."
The crops are then converted into grass pellets, which can be burned in pellet stoves. According to the Millers, the stoves are very "green" in addition to being cost-efficient.
"Pellet stoves produce 90 percent less greenhouse gases than fossil fuels and are 10 times under the EPA emission limits," May Miller said. "It takes 70 million years to grow a crop of gas or oil, 20 to 100 years or more to grow a tree, but only 70 days to grow a new crop of grass."
The company has received much interest in their product and very little negative in way of response.
"It's going extremely well. Everything we produce is selling right out the door," she said.
Miller admits there are some kinks to be ironed out.
"The older stoves are having trouble with ash from the grass pellets," she said. "Because of this, we recommend that people try a bag or two first to see if it's right for their stove."
Miller added the newer stoves available for consumers are equipped to handle the extra ash produced by the grass pellets and are generally multi-fuel burners.
One of Enviro Energy's customers is Cornell University Cooperative Extension of Delaware County. Last year, the organization launched its Grass Bio-Energy Project. According to Mariane Kiraly, a resource educator with Extension, the regional project is slated to run for three years and has received $195,500 funding from Catskill Watershed Corp.
"Grass biomass could be a local energy loop," she said. "We're hoping to bring this research into the community."
A local energy loop, she explained, is one where the product is grown and produced locally and its end-user is the local consumer. Cornell researchers and scientists are seeking ways to reduce the ash produced in stoves and furnaces by grass pellets.
Kiraly said stoves from Quadrafire, Central Boiler, Wood Master and Harman are being tested now. Locally, consumers can see grass pellet stoves at Brookside Hardware in Margaretville. The store will also be a supplier of grass pellets, Kiraly said.
"Grass biomass is a very promising energy source," Kiraly said.
Besides grass, consumers may also use wood and corn pellets in their stoves, but not everyone has a good experience with this process.
Mike Williams of Hobart installed a pellet stove two years ago in his Hobart home. His initial cost for the stove and installation were $7,500.
"It was a waste of money," said Williams. "The stove hasn't worked right since I bought it. I think it was installed wrong."
Williams conceded that when the stove did work, it was very warm and helped offset his oil heating costs, but added that he didn't like the odor it produced.
"When I burned the corn pellets, the whole house smelled like popcorn," he said.
Despite Williams' experience, pellets and pellet stoves continue to sell well locally. In Oneonta alone, more than 1,200 residents use pellet or wood stoves, according to reports in The Daily Star; about 3,400 tons of wood pellets were sold in 2007.
Efficient energy
For area residents who can't or don't want to burn fuel in their homes, there are other efficient alternatives. Ron Tippet of Stamford, owner of ABLY Insurance Agency, is a regional distributor of Eden Pure quartz infrared portable heaters.
The units cost between $400 and $800, use 110 electricity, are energy efficient and warm any room from ceiling to floor. Tippet, who uses the heaters himself, said the heater offsets his oil bill by 30 to 40 percent in the winter.
"I use two in my home and save anywhere from $300 to $400 each month in fuel costs. My electric goes up by only $40 per month," he said.
Tippet added that the units are safe to touch when operational, are thermostatically controlled, will not cause fires and require no maintenance.
Other alternative heating solutions include solar heating systems and geothermal heat pumps. One South New Berlin company specializes in the sales and installation of both.
Great Brook Solar NRG LLC owner Dave Austin said he is "very busy" and has devoted the last 30 years to providing green, renewable resource energy systems to New York residents.
"Great Brooks was established in 1978 for the purpose of providing alternatives to conventional energy sources that have been growing more expensive and more unstable in terms of availability," said Austin. "Our mission as a company is not only to help people save money and raise their standard of living through use of renewable energy, but to provide them a measure of freedom from dependence on centralized energy distribution."
Austin's company is preparing to install two geothermal heating systems next month in Chenango and Schoharie counties. Geothermal heat pump systems tap the constant temperature of the Earth to provide efficient heating and cooling systems. The systems use water-source heat pumps which can be distributed throughout the building.
Heat energy can be extracted from the ground in the winter and in the summer unwanted heat is dispelled from the building and put in the ground. Geothermal benefits include low operating costs, long-life expectancy, no on-site combustion, level seasonal electric demand and simple to use.
Money talks
According to Austin, the cost to install a geothermal system in a residence is between $25,000 and $30,000. The systems can provide 100 percent of the home's heat and hot water. In addition, federal tax credits are available for 30 percent of the cost of the system, with no cap.
Solar home-heating systems typically start at $20,000, and can provide 30-to-50-percent of a home's heat. The same federal tax credit is available for these systems, and New York state also offers a 25-percent tax credit, capped at $5,000. Austin said new homes are better suited for geothermal heat systems, since ducts and equipment layout can be factored in.
Oneonta resident and businessman Nathan Batalion recently got rid of his gas water heater and installed a solar hot water system in his home last week. The system he purchased is from Silicon Solar and was installed by Sophia's Center of New Berlin.
Batalion said he invested roughly $8,000, with tax credits as well as his personal commitment to going green influencing his decision.
"Because of the available tax credits, I will get half of my investment back immediately," Batalion said. "Also, I'll save about $75 per month in gas. In three years, the system will pay for itself."
Jeffrey Gordon, NYSERDA spokesman, said incentives are helping residents decide to take the plunge into alternative heating systems.
"With favorable federal and state tax credits and incentives from NYSERDA, investing in a geothermal heating and cooling systems is becoming a more affordable alternative to reduce dependence on fossil fuels," he said. "Combined with improving energy efficiency in buildings, this environmentally sustainable investment can reduce demand on our electric grid and natural gas supplies and will help Gov. Paterson achieve the goal of meeting 45 percent of the state's energy needs through improved efficiency and renewable energy by 2015."

October 18, 2009 by admin
Filed under World News and Social Issues
Wood pellets for a comfortable winter.
If there’s a wind power station in yard near your house it means that you are an environmentally friendly guy. If you also have a solar power station then there’s no need to worry about your nearer future. In this case you’ll be able to over come any kind of economic depressions. An idea of being completely independent attracts many people in the world now. To my great regret there are a lot of people on the Earth who can’t be even concerned with this because they’ve got other problems which are especially dreadful for them. For example it’s quite evident that there are a lot of people suffering from starvation in Africa now. Unfortunately there aren’t so many possibilities to help them because of the current economic downtime. To say the truth before the crisis wealthy people weren’t likely to help them. Now this problem is simply ignored in most cases. But I think that we’ll be able to help poor people if we succeed to cope with our current economic problems. In this case it will be possible to produce additional wealth for this purpose. I believe that the world isn’t going to ignore this problem any more.
But we are currently concerned with our current financial problems. Most of us have certain difficulties with paying their monthly fees. But this problem can be solved relatively easily. First you should think how to make your expenses much lower. Let’s take into consideration your current ways of heating your home. Perhaps you keep on using conventional methods such as burning wood or gas. Off course this can’t be considered to be rational in this case. You should give up using conventional methods of heating your home right now. If you prepare for winter properly then you’ll be able to catch up with gaining additional income for your needs. I hope that you have understood this idea properly.
I think that some of your friends have already installed wood pellet stoves. Phone them now and have a consultation concerning this. I’m sure that they can share all secrets with you. A wood pellet is a very unique device designed for heating homes. A wood pellet stove is a completely eco –friendly device. Wood pellets are burnt inside of this stove with a considerably high combustion efficiency. It means that this stuff is burnt almost entirely without many by – products. You can purchase about two tons of this stuff. It will be enough for you to spend winter comfortably. Surf online to find all of this. Maybe this fuel is produced somewhere nearby. In this case you’ll have an excellent opportunity to enjoy much lower prices for this environmentally friendly fuel. You’ll be satisfied with this, I think.
Among different energy saving alternatives, we seriously recommend you to read more about wood pellets.
Just a short list of advantages of using wood pellets. They are not high-tech; they do not need huge investments into fancy equipment; they are ecological in the heart of it. Please invest part of your time into finding out more about wood pellets – it is really vital now.

By DAVE GRAM (AP) – 1 day ago
MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — Middlebury College used to heat its buildings with oil, then switched to wood chips. Now it has planted a sustainable and relatively cheap fuel source — willow shrubs _that could help cut demand on the state's forests.
With a nine-acre patch of the fast-growing willows, the college is conducting a biomass energy experiment that seeks to answer the question: What if wood chip-burning heat systems lead to the deforestation of Vermont?
Willows, which grow faster than other trees and branch out when pruned, may be the answer — and may be a resource for other cold-weather states, too. So Jack Byrne, director of sustainability for the college, and business services director Tom Corbin have turned into farmers of sorts, planting tightly packed rows of willows in a field west of Middlebury's campus.
The question of biomass fuel supply has taken on new urgency for the college since last winter, when the exclusive liberal arts school opened a new boiler system that heats about 100 campus buildings, running turbines that meet about a fifth of the college's electrical demand.
The system, in a glass-fronted building in the middle of campus, runs on a "gasifier," heating wood chips and extracting carbon monoxide and other gases that are then burned in the boiler.
"We use our buildings to teach as much as we can," Byrne said. "We wanted students to be aware that when they turn up a thermostat, there's a connection to a tree getting cut down."
The college now buys 20,000 tons of wood chips a year, mainly from loggers operating within 75 miles. That will provide about half the heat used by the campus — the rest comes from heating oil — and reduce Middlebury's $1.5 million annual oil bill by about $700,000, Byrne said.
Byrne said the willow-growing experiment is aimed at a potential problem.
The concern is that if other colleges, institutions, businesses and homeowners follow Middlebury's lead and begin relying on forests for fuel, Vermont's wooded hillsides — already a source of lumber and firewood — could end up being depleted.
"We wanted to anticipate the possibility that our success might encourage increased use of the forests for other biomass systems, and we also wanted to take advantage of another natural resource that we have in abundance in Vermont, and that's open land for use in agriculture," Byrne said.
Joining in the experiment are scientists from the State University of New York's College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse. Tim Volk, a SUNY research scientist whose school had been working with willow for about 20 years, sees a trend developing in willow fuel being used along with traditional wood harvest.
"It's something that's going to start happening fairly quickly in the next few years," he said. "People can start up a small-scale heating system with biomass, using a mixture of willows and low-value wood harvested from natural forests."
These aren't shaggy weeping willows with narrow green leaves like those that grow in wet soil, nor pussy willows with cottony white flower clusters, or catkins. Rather, these tall, skinny saplings can reach 16 feet at harvest.
"We have trials and they're working well from southern Virginia to Minnesota and Wisconsin and as far west as Alberta, Canada," Volk said. The chosen varieties must have a certain amount of cold for proper growth, he added
One challenge for willow is that while it grows faster than other trees, it's slower to mature than traditional farm crops — and getting farmers to plant a crop with a three-year harvest cycle is a hard sell.
But it has some advantages: It can be harvested in winter, when the ground is frozen, so it can be grown on more ecologically sensitive land — near rivers, for example.
The willow saplings, which can grow to about 8 feet in the first year, are cut back to a few inches and then allowed to regrow in a more bush-like way, with as many as a dozen stems, for the next three years. The stems, typically 1-3 inches in diameter, are harvested with a modified corn harvester fitted with a special cutting head.
Willow production can take advantage of Vermont's many farm fields left fallow, no longer needed for corn acres harvested a year.
Still to be answered are questions about the economics of willow as a fuel — that's one of the goals of the Middlebury experiment.
Christopher Recchia, executive director at the Montpelier-based Biomass Energy Research Project, a nonprofit that promotes biofuels, said the best estimates now are that willow would cost more than twice as much as wood chips, currently about $8 per million Btu. Willow would be competitive with wood pellets, which are about $23 per million Btu and oil, about $32 per million Btu.
Adam Sherman, program director for fuels at BERC, praised the work going on at Middlebury, saying the college is "doing the right thing in leaving no stone unturned" in looking for fuel sources for its biomass system.
But Sherman says Vermont isn't in danger of getting to "peak wood," the way some energy experts talk about "peak oil" meaning that supplies of petroleum soon will be declining steeply.
Vermont is 78 percent forested, and its forests add about 13 million tons of wood every year through natural growth, Sherman said. Loggers take about 1.5 million to 2 million tons of that, and could double the harvest without harming the forests, according to Sherman's group.
At Middlebury's willow patch, the experiment is about a year from completion. The first crop will be harvested in the winter of 2010-2011. So far, aside from a bit of blight on leaves on some plants closest to the road, Corbin said the experiment is going well.
"They're doing just what the book said they'd do," he said.

By Julia Bayly
Special to the NEWS

FORT KENT, Maine Peter Pinette is not the least bit disturbed that his new pellet stove seems smarter than some people. In fact, he finds it a bit comforting.

It was created by some smart people, Pinette said of the newly installed Bosch Thermotechnologies pellet burner and boiler system. Its a result of the evolution of technology in this country thats now being directed toward alternative fuels and energy.

Pinette, owner of Rocks Diner, knew he had to do something about his heating bill when oil began flirting with $5 a gallon in northern Maine.

At the time, he was considering converting his system to coal-fired when a customer suggested he check out a new line of pellet burners and boilers coming out of Maine Energy Systems in Bethel.

I went down [in July] to look it over and saw one in [Maine Energy Systems] founders home running all by itself, Pinette said. It was just a sweet unit.

The level of automation is what makes the Bosch system so attractive, according to Pinette.

The system itself is really two units married into one a pellet burner manufactured by the Swedish firm Janfire and the boiler made by the German company Bosch.

Nine months ago this system did not exist, Pinette said. Now its Maine Energy Systems vision to bring them into Maine and New England.

Les Otten, former ski industry mogul and part owner of the Boston Red Sox who invested $10 million of his own money to launch the company, founded Maine Energy Systems in 2007.

Maine Energy Systems began importing the pellet-fueled boilers and burners from Europe last summer.

For Pinette, it was love at first sight.

I asked right off how to get one, he said.

Turned out, since there were no dealers of the systems north of Portland, Pinettes best option was to step up and fill that void.

So earlier this fall he and local plumbing contractor John Plourde traveled to Bethel for a training program on the systems technology and installation procedures.

The first 50 units that arrived in this country were sold right away, Pinette said. In early September we got one of them.

The unit sits in the basement of the diner several feet away from a homemade hopper capable of storing up to 1 ton of wood pellets.

Given the Janfire burners track record, once Pinette fired it up for the first time hell never need to touch it again for six months.

Pinette explained that the burner has an automatic augur-feed system, automatic self-cleaning feature, and in the event of power loss, it rapidly restarts itself when the power comes back on.

We use a lot of hot water here for cooking, doing dishes and cleaning, Pinette said. We are already seeing a savings.

Based on his own analysis of oil needed to heat the diners water, Pinette said he was spending up to $17 a day this summer when oil hit its peak price.

That figure dropped to $7 a day once he converted to wood pellets.

Even if oil goes down below $2 a gallon, this system will save me money, he said. The way prices are right now, Ill probably see a payback in two years.

Pinette said there has been a fair amount of interest in his new boiler-burner unit, and his new venture Aroostook Energy Alternatives is working with Maine Energy Systems to bring the units into the area.

A unit large enough to supply his business hot water needs now runs around $10,000. A residential unit would cost around $9,000.

A typical home installation and setup would probably run around $12,000, Pinette said. I know its pricey, but once its in, the unit is completely automatic and clean with no dust and little ash produced.

In the event of a power outage, the unit shuts itself down and, once power is restored, runs a self-diagnostic and restarts on its own.

As far as any maintenance, Pinette said accumulated ash must be cleaned out, and the inside of the boiler vacuumed periodically.

This is something the homeowners can do themselves or call in a technician, he said. It should be done every two or three tons of pellets.

Pinette is relying on John Plourde for all plumbing installation needs for the system and his own training plus firsthand knowledge of the unit.

We are able to set these up as a team, he said.

As for pellets, despite widespread concerns of shortages, Pinette said he has done the research, and there are plenty of pellets to go around.

In fact, he sees the day in the not too distant future when a truck loaded with pellets backs up to a homeowners basement door and delivers bulk pellets directly into a dry storage hopper.

Maine has approved the units for use with approved chimneys used with oil furnaces, and they are both ASME-certified and UL-approved.

This is not new technology, but it is new to the state of Maine, Pinette said. In many ways we are behind the rest of the world, [and] we need to catch up.

For information on the units, visit

Woodchip power stations are set for a boom. But conservationists are increasingly challenging their green credentials. Special report by Graham Mole
Sunday, 25 October 2009

A plantation of fast-growing blue gum trees, a type of eucalyptus. Critics warn that monoculture forests grown to feed power plants are destroying old-growth habitats
One of the most cherished articles of faith of the green movement – that wood-fuelled power stations can help save the planet – is being increasingly challenged by campaigners and conservationists around the world.
Electricity generated by burning woodchips is on the verge of a global boom. America is planning 102 power stations fuelled by woodchips in the next few years. Europe is reported to be planning a similar, if yet unquantified, expansion. And in Britain, the next three years will see wood-fuelled power station capacity increase sevenfold, requiring, according to the campaign group Biofuelwatch, so much timber that it would need an area 12 times the size of Liechtenstein to grow it.
The power companies say the source will be "sustainable forests", but campaigners and ecologists claim that untold damage will be caused by the burgeoning market for wood. They say that, although traders in the developing world are being tempted to grub up and sell native forests, the chief danger is in the creation of monoculture plantations, where single species of trees are grown in straight rows and little wildlife can establish a home for itself.
They also challenge the "green" assumptions behind woodchip power, claiming that, far from fighting climate change, transporting large amounts of bulk wood across oceans and then burning it will increase carbon discharges by 50 per cent more than would have been caused by burning a fossil fuel like coal.
The power companies dispute the campaigners' science, and most also insist the wood will come from "sustainable sources", as approved and certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council. This non-government body said: "The FSC does not support the conversion of natural forests into plantations." But it added: "Certification may be granted if the forest manager... can demonstrate that they were not responsible for the conversion."
Such flexibility is now drawing fire. A recent article in The Ecologist, headlined "Can we trust the FSC?", read: "The World Rainforest Movement reports that by 2008 the FSC had certified 8.6 million hectares of industrial tree plantations 'despite ample evidence regarding the social and environmental unsustainability of large-scale monoculture tree plantations'... Jutta Kill, climate campaigner at the Forests and European Union Resource Network, says, 'There is a long continuum between an intact forest and short rotation monoculture tree plantation on the other end. It is preposterous to claim these are the same.'"
The FSC claims, however, that "properly managed plantations are essential to stop the destruction of natural forests".
The issue may yet prove just to be a panicky reaction to a radical expansion of wood energy, or it may be a portent of a deep problem. If so, it will echo the evolution of biofuels, initially embraced as a universal blessing before it was realised that native forests were being grubbed up to grow palm oil, and that US farmers would switch from food cereals to fuel cereals, thus causing a world food shortage.
Some campaigners are in no doubt. Almuth Ernsting from Biofuelwatch said: "It's almost unbelievable that we're creating vast areas of monoculture, mile after mile, just to be cut down as fast as they grow, to be shipped thousands of miles to be burned just for people's electricity. It just doesn't make sense. What about all the habitat that gets destroyed along the way?"
Simone Lovera, of the Global Forest Coalition in Paraguay, said: "Europe is going to cook the world's tropical forests to fight climate change; it's crazy." She said her group had obtained a report stating that Brazil is gearing up to meet the European woodchip demand, not by cutting down forests, but by expanding tree plantations by 27 million hectares, mostly of exotic species such as eucalyptus.
Last week, at the UN-sponsored World Forestry Congress in Buenos Aires, the agronomist engineer Hector Ginzo, an adviser to the Kyoto Protocol, stressed that plantations could not be classified as sustainable. He said UN rules "would never allow a plantation of eucalyptus or other fast-growing trees for use as pulp or wood to be considered a sustainable forestry project, because that kind of production favours monoculture forests and the carbon capture is lost when the trees are cut down".
The Global Forest Coalition said that, in South America, tree plantations have had devastating effects on people and the environment, and have nothing like the biodiversity or ecological function of natural forests, whether they are first or even second growth. These plantations, it said, are "green deserts" because of the amount of water they consume, and because of the lack of native wildlife.
Isaac Rojas, co-ordinator of the forest and biodiversity programme at Friends of the Earth International, said: "All over the world, plantations destroy the lands and livelihoods of local communities and indigenous peoples, as well as biodiversity and water resources. They also store less carbon than natural forests."
FoE International and the coalition now want the UN's Committee on Forestry to stop promoting plantations and to urge governments immediately to halt the conversion of forests into biofuel plantations. A UN report issued in March noted that the expansion of large-scale monocultures of oil palm, soy and other crops for agrofuel production has been a major factor in the failure to halt deforestation. It added: "The potential for large-scale commercial production of cellulosic biofuel will have unprecedented impacts on the forest sector."
Janet Larsen, director of research at the Earth Policy Institute, said: "Shipping chips like this is just not the answer. We have been warning about this for some time now. Wind turbines and solar power make much more sense. You need to source biomass from relatively small areas around power plants. Here in the US you can drive for an hour and never see more than one species of tree. We used to have far more natural forest than we have now."
She said the institute had now discovered land in Laos being bought by China to turn into plantations.
The Global Forest Coalition said an examination of international trading companies has revealed a new and growing global industry in wood for energy. UK campaigners at Biofuelwatch said that wood chips and pellets are now being imported from South America, the US, Canada, Portugal, South Africa and Russia, among others. It has also discovered that MagForest, a Canadian company operating in Congo, is starting to ship 500,000 tons of woodchips annually to Europe. The Independent on Sunday was offered 100,000 tons of tropical hardwood and softwood a month by a firm in Ghana, and a British firm is negotiating over supplies from Indonesia, home to some of the world's richest rainforests.
In Europe, small-scale woodchip power plants make use of locally harvested timber and wood waste. In the UK, a government strategy paper on waste said that recovering energy from the two million tonnes of the waste wood available could both generate electricity and save over a million tonnes of CO2 emissions. But such sources will not be able to feed the industry's huge need for wood in convenient bulk deliveries over the next few years. Worldwide, production of wood pellets is set to double in the next five years from the present 10 million tonnes to 20 million.
In recent months, British power companies have said they will build at least six new generation plants to produce 1,200 megawatts of energy, most by burning woodchips. The country's demand for wood will increase more than sevenfold. MGT Power, which is creating a new waste-to-energy plant at Ince in Cheshire and a new woodchip-fired power plant at Teesport near Middlesbrough, then another in North Shields, will be using chips from North and South America. It said it will use crops planted specifically for use as fuel, examples being eucalyptus, pine, willow and poplar. A company statement insisted that it "will never procure fuels that contribute to the loss of areas of protected habitat or areas of high ecological value".
One of the new plants – the world's largest – is now being built at Port Talbot in South Wales, and by 2012 it will supply over half Wales's one million homes, and, claim its owners, Prenergy, displace 3.5 million tons of CO2 emissions a year that would have been produced by older power stations.
The fuel will arrive by sea, largely but not exclusively from America. A company statement said: "Prenergy is committed to obtaining its feedstock from a range of overseas sources." This, it added, would "take advantage of a variety of species with rapid growth rates, and lower delivered moisture content due to rapid post-harvesting drying achievable in more southerly latitudes". The company said its studies had shown that the carbon emitted during shipping of the woodchip represents only about 2 per cent of the total carbon being transported. Other plants are planned for Drax, Anglesey and Teesside, which together will burn 20-30 million tons of wood a year.
Biofuelwatch said: "The land area needed to grow the biomass to power a station the size of Port Talbot ranges from 130,000 to half a million hectares of productive land – an area three times the size of Liechtenstein."
The power firms claim that generating electricity by burning wood emits an equal or lesser amount of CO2 than the quantity absorbed by the trees through photosynthesis in forests. The claim, however, has been robustly denied by Rachel Smolker, a research scientist who works with the Global Justice Ecology Project in the US. She said: "Burning wood is called carbon-neutral, but it's not."
She says that research by the Massachusetts Environmental Energy Alliance, a US environmental group, indicates that burning trees for energy produces 1.5 times as much carbon as coal and three to four times more than natural gas. She added: "Climate change is a huge problem, but some of the plans for fighting it are even more dangerous."

By Pat Dawson / Moscow, Idaho Saturday, Oct. 24, 2009

A mountains of cedar chips
Tracy Ferrero / Alamy
The tall smokestack and the industrial clanking of conveyors in Moscow, Idaho, may look ominously anti-ecological but, the visitors senses are quickly jolted by a fresh aroma reminiscent of a walk-in cedar closet. It is indeed red cedar: tons of chips discarded by a timber mill and trucked in to fuel the University of Idaho's steam plant in the town of Moscow (population roughly 23,000). Thermal biomass provides over 80% of heat and hot water to the campus of nearly 11,000 students. Wood-fueled steam also powers five of the eight chiller units that cool the campus buildings during warm weather. Plant Manager Mike Lyngholm says the process significantly reduces the school's net carbon emissions and saves $2 million a year over natural gas.
"It's pretty much a no-brainer," explains Lyngholm during a tour of the facility. He is an academically trained forester who worked for many years running Northwest lumber mills but now enjoys being perceived as "one of the good guys" for running such a green operation. Idaho's system was a pioneer, coming on-line in 1986, and has been evolving since 2002 under Lyngholm, whose innovations include erecting a large building for stockpiling wood chips for times of supply shortages. The plant also burns campus landscape trimmings and discarded wooden cargo pallets.
Idaho's central boiler is heated by burning wood to temperatures approaching 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, performing on a par with what is called Advanced Wood Combustion (AWC) technology developed in Europe. "AWC is so clean and safe that AWC systems are commonly deployed in the midst of picture-perfect European towns and villages," says Daniel Richter, Professor of Soils and Forest Ecology at Duke University. They are different from ordinary plants that generate electricity by burning wood. In a piece in the journal Science last March, Richter wrote that 90% of the solar energy stored in wood is transformed into heat and power by AWC technology compared to 20% to 40% by simply firing wood. Furthermore, AWC burns so efficiently that it is considered to be virtually carbon neutral
One-third of U.S. energy supplies goes towards heating, making useof electricity, natural gas, oil, coal, propane and some wood. Advocates of technology like AWC argue that one third of that could be provided by modern wood combustion which would eliminate significant outlays for imported oil and cut net contributions of carbon emissions.
Even though such power plants have very little political backing, they have been popping up from New England to the Pacific Northwest. The new technology does have support — for now. Fuels For Schools is a a six-state program funded by federal and state money that helps to retrofit school boilers, switching them from burning oil and gas to wood. Starting in Vermont, it spread westward, giving budget-strapped local districts huge savings, and a way to cut into buildups of forest deadfall that might otherwise fuel wildfires. However, it is now almost out of federal money. Even after the program helped retrofit heating systems in 10 Montana schools, the last state Legislature refused to renew appropriations.
The grade school in Deer Lodge, Montana, recently converted to burning sawmill wastes, allowing its heating gas bill to immediately drop from $6,600 a month to $1,100. Townsend, Montana, schools converted their boilers from propane and oil to wood pellets. The new system is expected to pay for itself in fuel savings, plus selling CO2 emission offsets through The Climate Trust. Meanwhile, Vermont's Middlebury College is completing a central thermal biomass system that will provide heating and cooling, saving $2 million a year on fuel-oil bills, plus generating one-fifth of campus electrical-power needs. Middlebury is planting fast-growing willow shrubs on ten acres hoping it will provide as much as half the woody fuels needed by the new system. Says Duke's Richter: "It's a technology whose time has come."


Atikokan Renewable Fuels is gearing up for wood-pellet production in the new year.

The company plans to dismantle and ship equipment it has sold from the former Fibratech Manufacturing particle board plant next month in preparation for the arrival of new industrial pellet presses.

Atikokan Mayor Dennis Brown said the company told him that presses are to be delivered in January, with March pegged as the plant‘s production start date.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and AbitibiBowater are working with the company to ensure it has a sustainable fibre supply when the plant opens, Brown said Monday.

“Everything sounds good there,” he said.

Thunder Bay businessmen Ed Fukushima and Larry Levchak outlined their plans for the pellet plant last February.

They plan to invest an initial $15 million to convert the particle board plant to produce various conventional wood pellets, and the company‘s patented industrial high-energy wood pellet for use in industrial boilers. The plant would initially employ about 30 people.

Atikokan-area First Nations will participate as independent pellet manufacturers under agreement with Atikokan Renewable Fuels, and in the supply of biomass and wood fibre from area forests for pellet production.

Fukushima and Levchak are also principles in Thunder Bay-based Automation Now, MGM Electric and Mahon Electric, which employ more than 40 people.

They also announced that they will set up an assembly plant in Thunder Bay to manufacture pellet machines for Renewable Densified Fuels-USA and Canada, for domestic and export markets.

The company says pellets could be used as a direct replacement for coal-fired power plants, due to close in 2012 under a provincial government plan. Atikokan and Thunder Bay are both home to coal-fired plants.

If all goes according to plan, the Atikokan Renewable Fuels project would see more than 110 jobs created at the two plants and in spinoff employment, such as timber harvesting.

Gaming the global-warming fight.
By Stefan Theil | NEWSWEEK
Published Oct 24, 2009
From the magazine issue dated Nov 2, 2009

Climate change is the greatest new public-spending project in decades. Each year as much as $100 billion is spent by governments and consumers around the world on green subsidies designed to encourage wind, solar, and other -renewable-energy markets. The goals are worthy: reduce emissions, promote new sources of energy, and help create jobs in a growing industry. Yet this epic effort of lawmaking and spending has, naturally, also created an epic scramble for subsidies and regulatory favors. Witness the 1,150 lobbying groups that spent more than $20 million to lobby the U.S. Congress as it was writing the Clean Energy bill (which would create a $60 billion annual market for emission permits by 2012). Government has often had a hand in jump--starting a new -industry—both the computer chip and the Internet got their start in American defense research. But it's hard to think of any non-military industry that has been so completely and utterly driven by regulation and subsidies from the start.

It's a genetic defect that not only guarantees great waste, but opens the door to manipulation and often demonstrably contravenes the objectives that climate policy is supposed to achieve. Thanks to effective lobbying by American and European farmers, the more cost--efficient and environmentally effective Brazilian sugar-cane ethanol is locked out of U.S. and EU markets. Even within Europe, most countries have their own "technical standard" for biofuels to better keep out competing products—even if they are cheaper or produce a greater cut in emissions. Because the subsidies are tied to feedstocks, there is zero incentive to develop better technology.
Both the International Energy Agency and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have asked Germany to end its ludicrous solar subsidies that will total $115.5 billion by 2013. In theory, these subsidies are designed to create viable markets for climate-friendly technology by bringing down production costs, after which subsidies could be phased out. But Germany's solar program has been a textbook case of how subsidies achieve the opposite of their stated intention. As the share of renewable power has jumped from 3 percent in 2001 to 15 percent now, subsidies per -kilowatt-hour of renewable power aren't going down but up, meaning that clean energy is getting more expensive. Energy economist Manuel Frondel of Germany's RWI Institute says the country's lavish subsidies have blocked innovation and delayed the advent of cost-competitive solar power worldwide. For several years solar-module costs stagnated because German subsidies sucked up global production at virtually any price. Only when Spain decided in 2008 to scrap a similar subsidy scheme it had copied from the Germans did the global solar bubble collapse and costs fall. The German solar case also defies the green-jobs model. The idea is that subsidies create a new industry and a lot of high-tech jobs. Yet Germany's solar producers are downsizing. With little pressure to become efficient and cost--competitive, they are now getting crowded out by Chinese producers.

In truth, green tech is no longer the tender niche industry the public debate makes it out to be. Global wind-turbine production alone is already a $50 billion annual market. And just as the bulk of farm subsidies don't go to farmers, but to agro-conglomerates and food giants, it's not small green-tech ventures but big corporations that are getting the best seats on the green gravy train. DuPont, Siemens, power companies, and investment banks are hungry for a slice of the subsidy pie or the new -carbon-trading market. Defenders rightly point out that fossil fuels get a staggering $500 billion in subsidies each year. Yet 80 percent of these are consumer subsidies in a handful of developing countries such as China, Russia, and Iran, and pale in significance when you account for fossil fuels' much higher share of the energy supply. No one denies the necessary role of governments in environmental policy. But of the 10 most cost-effective and measurable ways for the world to cut emissions, for example, subsidies for renewables don't even make it onto the list. Much more effective is putting a price on emissions, or finding other ways to mandate reductions and letting the market decide which technologies are the best. Here's hoping governments take the point soon.
Theil is NEWSWEEK's correspondent in Berlin.

By Lee Jong-Heon
UPI Correspondent
Published: October 29, 2009
Seoul, South Korea — Can South Korea achieve the ambitious target of cutting back 30 percent of its estimated greenhouse gas emissions in 2020?
"Yes," said Chung Kwang-soo, head of the Korea Forest Service, stressing that his state-run agency is playing a leading role in the nationwide campaign to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and cut consumption of fossil fuels.
"South Korea can realize low-carbon, green growth through forests," he said. "Forests are recognized as sole carbon sinks by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change," the forest chief told a group of foreign correspondents in Seoul.
His comments came at a time when the South Korean government is set to decide on adopting the most drastic target option of cutting 30 percent of estimated greenhouse gas emissions in 2020.
South Korea is expected to produce 813 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2020, up from 594.4 million tons in 2005. The government has weighed three scenarios that seek to reduce emissions by 21 percent, 27 percent or 30 percent of the estimated emissions.
The government is most likely to choose the most drastic option of 30 percent reduction, according to government sources. It will officially announce the decision next week.
South Korea, one of the world's fastest growing carbon emitters, is not obliged to announce emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol. But it has voluntarily come up with the proposal.
Chung cited wood pellets, “clean development mechanism” projects overseas, and palm oil and other biomass resources as the main projects being pushed by the forest service to reduce greenhouse gas emissions blamed for causing global warming.
"Promotion of pellet use as a substitute for fossil fuels will contribute to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions," Chung said. "Wood pellets produce just 8 percent of the greenhouse gases that diesel fuels emit," he said.
Wood pellets are generally made from compacted sawdust and usually produced as a byproduct of sawmills and other wood transformation activities. Ten cubic meters of forest can produce 4.5 metric tons of wood pellets, which can substitute for two tons of crude oil, eventually reducing six tons of carbon dioxide emissions, Chung said.
Heating with wood pellets is an ideal way for farmers to save on heating bills while improving the environment, he said, noting that diesel accounts for 70 percent of fuel use in the agricultural sector. The cost of pellets is just half that of diesel fuel, he said.
"We plan to produce 5 million tons of wood pellets by 2020 – 1 million domestically and four millions overseas," he said. This would cut back 6.7 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
As part of the effort, the forest service is pushing for overseas plantations. It has so far secured land in nine countries, including Indonesia, Vietnam and New Zealand.
As recently as last week, Cambodia agreed to provide 200,000 hectares of land for South Korea's forestation program. The deal was signed during President Lee Myung-bak's two-day state visit to the Southeast Asian country last Thursday.
Earlier this year, Indonesia agreed to provide 200,000 hectares of forestland to South Korea for producing wood for pellets starting in late 2010. "We aim to expand combined overseas forestation land to 1 million hectares by 2050 and have already secured 900,000 hectares," Chung said.
The overseas forestation is also in line with the forest service's efforts to implement the clean development mechanism, a U.N.-endorsed carbon offset project. Under the program, companies can fund emissions cuts in developing countries and in return receive primary certified emissions reductions, which can be used toward emissions reduction targets or sold for profit.
With the help of the forest service, a number of South Korean manufacturers have joined CDM projects overseas to help secure carbon credits. "The afforestation and reforestation CDM would serve to help South Korea win carbon reduction credits," said Park Jong-Ho, deputy director general of the forest service's international division.
Park said South Korean firms have also invested in projects in Indonesia to produce palm oil, soybean oil and rapeseed oil as alternative energy sources.
"The biomass deal is part of our efforts to develop alternative energy sources under a comprehensive plan on climate change," Park said. "We have also carried out desertification prevention programs in China and Mongolia, spending US$11.3 million," he said.

By: Ian Ross

Wood pellets were one fo the potential energy sources discussed at the Harness Biomass conference in North Bay. (Photo supplied)

Northeastern Ontario is being billed as the 'Saudi Arabia of biomass' and delegates who attended a North Bay conference heard of the opportunities and challenges to heat and power the region with this green crude.

About 400 delegates attended the Oct. 22-23 Harness Biomass conference at Nipissing University and heard presentations from industry, government and academic speakers on how to harvest, transport and process millions of cubic metres of forest slash into energy.

The event, hosted by Nipissing's fledgling Biomass Innovation Centre, attracted foresters, loggers, boilermakers, carbon traders, wood lot owners, industry heads and academic researchers from Ontario, the United States and Europe. The Ontario government's open competition for an estimated 10 to 16 million cubic metres of biomass supply has sparked plenty of public dialogue as to whether discarded tree tops and branches can revive the decimated forestry industry and many former mill towns.

The event made some incremental strides toward addressing lingering questions such as what the pricing regime is for biomass, the cost to harvest and transport it to mill sites, what pellet and boiler technology is available, and the biggest question of the overall reliability of supply.

Steve Morrison, vice-president of Sturgeon Falls Brush, said there are challenges of knowing the “true costs” of harvesting and covering transportation costs to end users.

“The jury is still out if it can be done,” he said.

Queen's University professor Warren Mabey called Ontario's Green Energy Act “an aggressive piece legislation” with an “incredibly ambitious target” of creating 50,000 jobs over three years in this emerging energy sector. But there are knowledge gaps in how to economically harvest biomass which will likely make up only 1.6 per cent of Ontario's energy supply. “There's been a lot of talk, but little action,” Mabey said on the fibre supply issue.

The conference also paraded some diametrically opposed views on biomass from district heating concept espoused by Ambrose Raftis, an official with the Green Temiskaming Development Corporation to Ontario Power Generation's more centralized plan to transport and burn wood pellets at provincial generating stations.

“Community energy is smart energy because it is produces energy where it is needed,” said Raftis, who wants to roll out these heating plans to towns across the North to create energy self-reliant communities and local jobs.

“We're proposing a much cleaner, greener approach to generation,” said Chris Young, Ontario Power Generation's vice-president of fossil fuel projects, in laying out the utility's plan to switch its generating stations from coal to wood fibre.

Young is in charge of the future of OPG's four generating plants, including two in northwestern Ontario that must be off-coal by 2014. The plants will have a reduced role in Ontario's power supply.

The Atikokan Generating Station is being converted to burn wood pellets. When operational in 2012, it will require 100,000 tonnes per year of fuel pellets, generally about five per cent of the wood harvested in northwestern Ontario.

He said the public's attitude toward renewable fuels is generally favourable, but there are clear concerns about having a sustainable harvest of forest resources and on the agriculture waste side “that biomass not impact the food supply.”


* Electrabel, Ackermans form renewable energy venture
* First project to convert coal-fired power plant
(Updates after statement from companies)
BRUSSELS, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Belgian holding company Ackermans & van Haaren (ACKB.BR) and energy company Electrabel (GSZ.PA) will join forces to create a new renewable energy company, the two companies said on Wednesday.
Electrabel, the Belgian arm of French utility GDF Suez (GSZ.PA), will have a 73 percent stake in the joint venture, called Max Green NV, and Ackermans the remaining 27 percent.
The venture's first project will be the conversion of the Rodenhuize 4 unit near the northern city of Ghent, from a coal-fired to a biomass power station with a capacity of 180 megawatts.
The project, requiring an investment of 125 million euros ($185.5 million), will start in 2010, with coal being replaced by wood pellets as an energy source. It will produce enough power for 320,000 households, the companies said.
Max Green will examine other renewable energy projects in the future.
The Belgian government has asked GDF Suez, which owns Electrabel, to invest 500 million euros in renewable energy in Belgium from 2010 in return for an extended life for three Belgian nuclear reactors. [ID:nLC213771]
For Ackermans, the venture will form a part of its newly created energy segment, one of five key sectors on which the holding focuses. (Reporting by Antonia van de Velde and Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by David Holmes and Rupert Winchester) ($1=.6740 Euro)


More businesses could be inspired to switch gas and electricity practices as a high efficiency rating has been awarded to new offices in Cardiff.

The building will be used by Stride Treglown architectural services and has been awarded a Grade A Energy Performance Certificate rating of 22 as a result of using photovoltaic panels on the roof and a wood pellet biomass boiler for water and space heating.

As a result, the emissions will be 55 per cent below the maximum allowance for UK buildings and as little as £700 will be spent on the boiler each year.

Gareth Davies, director of Stride Treglown, said: "Our Board challenged me to deliver a new office building in Cardiff that represented our approach to high quality design, was affordable and achieved the highest sustainability rating available."

The addition of cycle lock points and facilities for cyclists to shower and dry themselves could also encourage more employees to leave the car at home when they travel to work each day.

Business could save money by switching off all their computers at night.

Reuters, PlanetArk 29 Oct 09;

Forests are a growing investment prospect as climate incentives place new value on wood chips and standing trees, say fund managers.

An economic recovery will also drive demand for more traditional products such as pulp and lumber, investors say.

Following is a summary of some recent forest fund-raisings and deals.

1. Phaunos Timber Fund

Funds: $550 million

Regional focus: owns and manages 17,000 hectares in Brazil, and land elsewhere in East Africa and Uruguay.

Strategy: Plant on grassland sites. Focus is commercial forestry. "Not in the business of carbon" offsets but wood fuel will in the future be a "huge part" of their business.

Expected returns: 8-12 percent annual returns over 5-6 years

2. South Africa's Standard Bank to launch a fund

Funds: expected A$250 million ($230 million)

Regional focus: Australia

Strategy: sell carbon offsets to companies facing emissions limits under Australia's prospective carbon trading law. Will fund planting and management of 50,000 ha

Expected returns: N/A

3. Oil firm BP

Funds: paying $2.5 million

Regional focus: Australia

Strategy: fund a eucalyptus plantation, and earn a share of resulting carbon offsets

Expected returns: N/A

4. U.S. forest managers Trilogy Green Forest Partners and Westbury Capital Partners

Funds: target $100 million

Regional focus: south-east United States

Strategy: Manage forests for timber and pulp. Also expect growth in wood pellet and carbon offset revenues

Expected returns: exceeding 15 percent over 12-15 years

4. Brazilian beef group J&F, ag. firm MCL, and two pension funds

Funds: created a $600 million capitalised company, Florestal

Regional focus: Brazil

Strategy: supply wood for industrial fuel use

Plant eucalyptus on 335,000 hectares of degraded pastures to supply wood chips for power generation

Also expect to earn carbon credits in the future, given that a hectare of eucalyptus absorbs 12.5 tonnes of carbon per year, executives said.

Expected returns: N/A

5. Clenergen

Funds: raising $30 million

Regional focus: Guyana, India and Ghana

Strategy: planting fast-growing bamboos, trees and shrubs, to produce biomass fuel for domestic and export energy markets

Expected returns: 30-56 percent annual returns over 8 years

(Editing by James Jukwey)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

October 2009 News Letter

October 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















By Lisa Gibson

Posted September 4, 2009, at 8:52 a.m. CST

Several new biomass power plants are in the works including two in the U.S. and one in British Columbia, Canada, on the Lower Nicola Indian Band reservation in Merritt.

The LNIB will own 50 percent of the project and Biomass Secure Power Inc. will own the other half. LNIB will provide the 25 acres on which the plant will be built and BSP will supply engineering expertise to design, build and operate the plant, along with a pellet mill that will be included in the same facility, according to BSP President and CEO Jim Carroll. He declined to release a cost estimate for the project.

Together, the 12-megawatt plant and pellet mill will consume 300,000 cubic meters of pine beetle-infested trees from the area annually, Carroll said.

Ten megawatts from the power plant will be sold to BC Hydro, and BSP also is looking into providing electricity to homes on the reservation, Carroll said. “We want to do that, but it’s a question of metering,” he said. The plan also will provide heat to dry the wood that’s fed into the pellet mill.

The wood pellets will be sold for a profit, although the target market is uncertain. “We haven’t gotten the whole market defined,” Carroll said. The company is in purchasing discussions with European organizations, but would also like to establish a local market.
LNIB has approved construction of the facility on its land and BSP is in the process of securing required environmental permits. “But we’re well within what’s allowed, so that won’t be a problem,” Carroll said. He added that he expects the plant to be on line in December 2010. BSP also is working on developing power plants in Abbotsford, British Columbia, California and eastern Canada, Carroll said.

Adage LLC, a joint venture of Areva SA and Duke Energy, hopes to break ground on a 50 megawatt biomass power plant near Jasper, Fla., in Hamilton County, in early 2010, according to the company, which anticipates a 30-month construction period. The plant will run on 500,000 tons of wood waste per year and is in negotiations with The Langdale Co. to secure a supply. Adage also is in discussions with JEA, a Jacksonville area utility, to secure purchase agreements for the resulting energy. The plant will have the capacity to provide electricity for 40,000 homes.

The facility will be built on a 215-acre site just south of Jasper and will create 400 jobs during construction, along with 125 during operation, according to Adage. The cost of the project is estimated at more than $150 million, funded mostly by Adage, according to Jarret Adams, media coordinator for the company.

Washington state will see a new biomass plant, too, as Northwest Renewable will begin construction next year on a $72.5 million power plant in Longview, according to the company. The 25 megawatt-facility will run on 550 bone-dry tons of forest slash and other wood waste per day with the resulting energy sold to the grid. The plant will be built on a 32-acre site in an industrial park and will create 70 new jobs in the logging and processing industries. The company hopes the plant will be on line by 2011, the deadline to qualify for U.S. DOE tax incentives.

Northwest Renewable, owned by U.S. Ethanol, had previously announced they would build a $100 million ethanol plant at the location, but market fluctuations resulted in a change of plans, according to Tawni Camarillo, communications representative for the company. The food-versus-fuel debate also influenced the hold on the project, she added. “We have not thrown out that project,” she said. “It’s just on a temporary hold.” Construction on the facility had begun when the company decided to put the project on hold.

Northwest Renewable also announced plans earlier this year to build a cellulosic ethanol plant on the same Longview site. It will work well beside the biomass power plant, as the feedstocks will be the same, Camarillo said, adding that there’s plenty of room on the site for both facilities.

Friday, September 04, 2009 9:55 AM
(Source: Erie Times-News) By Tim Hahn, Erie Times-News, Pa.
Sep. 4--CANADOHTA LAKE -- Jim Burgess spent a picture-perfect late summer afternoon splitting wood that he stacked chin-high in neat rows on his Dutch Hill Road farm in Bloomfield Township.
Down the winding dirt road, logger Jerry Van Tassel dropped and dragged out of his 77-acre woods those trees not right for furniture-making, and sawed them into 22-foot sections.
Both men worked Wednesday in anticipation of another profitable cold-weather season for folks who dabble in less-common areas of home heating.
Just how profitable remains to be seen.
A spike in natural-gas and home heating-oil costs in 2007 and 2008 helped fuel a bigger demand for alternative heating systems like wood, pellet and corn-fired stoves and furnaces.
That kept local stove- and furnace-sellers hopping. It also sent business booming for fuel suppliers like Burgess, who sold off all 14 cords of firewood that he had available last fall, and Van Tassel, who said he sold off his firewood as quickly as he put it on the market.
"I never had a log rot away," Van Tassel said.
A significant drop in natural-gas and home heating-oil prices, and the inching down of propane prices, has had a slight effect on area businesses that deal in the other heating methods heading into the upcoming cold-weather season.
Barb Giles, who has sold Hardy Outside Wood Furnaces in Cochranton for 25 years, said her business really took off because of the high fuel prices. But now that those prices are coming down, customers appear to be waiting as long as possible to make a decision on a new heating system, she said.
"It seems like people waited kind of late, and now all of a sudden, they're excited about putting heat in," Giles said. "I think they were kind of watching to see what the fuel prices were going to do."
Dan Herrick, who sells corn-powered heating systems near Cambridge Springs, said his sales are kind of slow because people don't have the funds, and they are confused on what heating system will save them the most money.
Even those with alternative heating systems are keeping an eye on cost.
Bill Milliron, of Rome Township, turned his propane furnace into a backup heating system three years ago when he went with a wood-pellet system to provide primary heat for his Hatchtown Road home.
"The pellets were so much cheaper than the gas prices," Milliron said. "I was getting them for $180 a ton, and was saving quite a bit. It was like $2,000 for propane, and I was getting by on $1,200 for pellets."
Higher demand for pellets, and a shortage of sawdust that goes into making them, helped drive up Milliron's pellet costs to $250 per ton.
Milliron said he's still saving a little bit, but is keeping a close watch on the cost comparison as propane prices come down.
Dennis Weaver, who sells wood, gas, pellet, corn and coal stoves from Harman Stoves locations in Erie and Meadville, said his business is holding its own this year after he was "swamped" with orders when gas and oil prices were high in 2008. He said many of this year's customers are looking for alternatives to propane and electric heat, as the cost of both is still pretty high.
Weaver said he is also seeing a shift toward more wood-burning stoves and furnaces, as some people lost interest in pellet stoves because of a shortage of pellets in 2008. Manufacturers have rectified the problem by installing drying systems that can quickly turn green sawdust into usable product, he said.
"They're going into forests and chopping up branches for sawdust, and they couldn't do that before," said Weaver, who sells pellets for $235 a ton.
Those in the business of selling wood say their supply is strong despite the down economy and a reduction in local loggers.
High demand, a slight decline in suppliers and soaring fuel costs in 2008 drove up firewood costs.
But Dick Schultz of Schultz's Woodpile in Fairview Township kept his per-cord cost at $225 this year because his costs haven't increased over those of 2008.
"We're getting a better response. People want their wood sooner," said Schultz, who has started mailing out his fliers before Labor Day.
Matt Dangle, of Saegertown, known to his customers as "The Firewood Guy," lowered his per-cord cost by $10 from 2008 because of a drop in fuel costs. He said his supply of wood is good and the demand for his cords, which sell between $195 and $205, is "definitely better" than 2008.
"I did twice as much business in August as I did in August of last year," Dangle said.


By Leesha Faulkner (Contact) | Selma Times-Journal

Published Wednesday, September 2, 2009

SELMA Dixie Pellets has closed its doors, but for how long is the question.

The company, which manufactures wood pellets for heating, told about 70 workers Tuesday they should not return to work.

We had an unusual and an unforeseen financial issue that arose yesterday that left no choice but to cease operations, said Bruce Gornto, the plants manager. We no longer have the funds to continue to operate.

Gornto said he is unsure if the plant will close permanently.

Its early, he said. Were working with people to resolve the issue.

Gornto said the company will work with the states rapid response team to help employees.

Rapid response services for employers are coordinated by each state under the U.S. Department of Labor. One of the missions of the rapid response team is to respond to layoffs and plant closings by quickly coordinating and providing immediate aid to companies and their affected workers.

Teams work with employers and employee representatives to maximize public and private resources to minimize the disruptions on companies, affected workers and communities associated with job loss.

Under the program employees may receive career counseling and job search assistance, resume preparation and interviewing skills workshops, information on the local labor market, unemployment insurance, information about education and training opportunities and information on health benefits and pensions.

Local officials said they had made all resources possible available to Dixie Pellets when they heard the news.

Dixie Pellets in Selma ships wood pellets made by compressing sawdust and other wood waste into dense, high-combustion fuel sources. Pollution regulations in Europe to prevent global climate change have seen people and industries on that continent use nearly eight million tons of wood pellets a year to run their factories and power plants or heat houses in neighborhoods.

Dixie Pellets is a private company categorized under pellet mills or mining and manufacturing. It was established in 2006 in Selma.

Dixie Pellets is built on County Road 78 next to the Alabama River on a 25-acre site that once was a state docks grain facility. It opened officially in 2008.

Estimates from its initial year in Selma show the company had an annual revenue of $120,000.

Dixie Pellets was a project of New Gas Concepts, which has engineering operations in Birmingham. Initially the Selma-based plant had expected to ship two million tons of the wood pellets each year.


Replacing an old, inefficient woodstove with a new one that meets environmental guidelines can earn homeowners nearly $2,000 in state and federal tax credits, experts say.

Homeowners who purchase a 75-percent-efficient wood or pellet stove, fireplace or fireplace insert can receive a 30 percent federal tax credit for costs incurred, up to $1,500, says Larry Milligan, owner of Orley's Stoves and Spas in Medford.

"We explain this is not a rebate. But this is a dollar-for-dollar tax credit, and not simply a tax deduction," Milligan says.

In addition to the federal credit, the Oregon Residential Energy Tax Credit program offers a tax credit of up to $300 for installation of qualifying wood or pellet stoves.

Retailers and environmental officials want to make sure the public understands the language of the 2009 economic stimulus legislation, which states the federal tax credit is for "biomass heating appliances," Milligan says.

"Which most people don't understand means their woodstove (or fireplace)," he says.

The bottom line is homeowners can benefit from the tax credits. And everyone will benefit from cleaner air, Milligan says.

"This is great for the public," he says.

Woodstove season will start once cooler weather arrives, and now is the time to make the change, says Rachel Sakata, air quality planner for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality in Portland.

"We want people to burn smart," Sakata says.

Studies show the new stoves improve both indoor and outdoor air quality, says Sakata. Many of the older stoves still in use are not properly installed. This allows smoke to seep inside homes as well as up chimneys, creating air pollution, she says.

"The elderly and children are especially sensitive to particulate matter," Sakata says.

Medford was part of a 10-year study testing the efficiency of the new stoves' high combustion features. The results of that study showed conclusively that environmental woodstoves helped clean up the air, Milligan says.

Results like those in the Medford study have persuaded the government to create incentives such as the current tax credit to get the "dirty burning" stoves out of circulation and replaced with "green" stoves. The high-efficiency stoves burn both hotter and cleaner than noncertified stoves. And they use far less wood, Sakata and Milligan agree.

The new stoves have high combustion chambers which consume both wood fiber and gasses, Milligan says.

"Woodstoves offer the least expensive heat," Milligan says. "We have models that burn for 20 to 40 hours on one load of wood."

Oregonians who heat with wood and pellet stoves can claim a fuel tax credit worth $10 per cord or per ton of pellets. These credits can be added to the federal credit.

The tax credits only apply to new installations in primary residences, Milligan says.

"We've had people come in to us and want to use the credit on an installation in their vacation home. That doesn't work," Milligan says.

Qualifying products include many EPA-certified freestanding wood or pellet stoves, inserts and fireplaces. Homeowners should contact their local hearth appliance dealer to determine which brands and models qualify for the tax credit.

The unit must be fully installed by Dec. 31 to receive the credit for 2009, but the program is expected to remain in place for 2010, Milligan says.

Reach Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or


By WHIT RICHARDSON - Mainebiz New Media Editor

At the end of July, San Diego-based International WoodFuels announced it would open a wood pellet plant in the Waldo County town of Burnham adjacent to Pride Manufacturing Co., the last U.S. manufacturer of wooden golf tees.

The arrangement seems like a win-win. The two companies will share a log yard and operating expenses. The pellet plant, which will create 35 jobs and produce 100,000 tons of wood pellets annually, will use Prides waste wood as some of the raw material for its pellets. Pride, which has been struggling to remain competitive with Chinese golf tee makers, will be able to save money on wood purchasing, enabling it to retain its 145 employees. Pride had been considering a move to China when it approached Matt Jacobson, president of Portland-based Maine & Co., looking for outlets for its waste wood to reduce costs. Jacobson, who is running for governor next year, played matchmaker.

Well be bringing in 25,000 tons a month of logs, says Steve Mueller, president of International WoodFuels, which has offices in Portland. Sharing the log yard with Pride, which has a great staff, master millwrights and experienced operators, sure beats doing it ourselves.

Mainebiz sat down with Mueller to talk about International WoodFuels, its business model, the wood pellet industry and, given recent headlines, just how susceptible to explosions are wood pellet plants? An edited interview ran in the Sept. 7 issue of Mainebiz. A full interview follows:

Tell me how International Wood Fuels arrived at the Burnham site and chose it for your first pellet mill in New England.

Our decision to select the Burnham site really was driven by, how can I put it, pure coincidence that we had been looking for a location in that region that had some infrastructure ideally, not just a blank site. I didn't really want a broken down old saw mill site. We were looking for a site that had good access to [Interstate] 95, that the community was comfortable with cause with plants blowing up and burning down, you're going to want to have some level of confidence in the community and we were introduced by Matt Jacobson through Maine Inc to some folks who have been there for 20 years I believe. They are the only manufacturer of wood golf tees in America. They have a log yard, they bring in whole logs so they were a true, like ourselves, a true processor of sustainably harvested whole log product and they had a lot of skills, have a 140 plus employees so there was a lot of very positive things about the potential for that relationship. We went through a process with them that took about six months to develop a strategic financial set of agreements that would allow them to actually benefit from our being there so that we weren't just benefiting there. It was a symbiotic relationship and benefits. They have a lot skill sets and technical resources: handling a log yard; mill rites; engineering; HR; you know, all the good things that if we went anywhere else it would take a lot of time and effort to create all of that. So it really was, for us, a perfect confluence of the right geographic location, access to pulp wood because we have the major mills not about 30 to 40 miles away so there's plenty of pulp wood available so I thought it was terrific.

Can you tell me a little bit more about what the arrangement is? Will you just be sharing some costs and will you be using the scrap wood that Pride has?

They don't have scrap wood. We take a whole log in and we take the bark off, that's the first thing we do, and it's the same thing that they do. They then will turn that into dowels and then turn that into golf tees, some of the shavings and saw dust material coming out of their process is ideally suited to blend in with ours. Of course, we're taking in about 200,000 tons a year of logs, they're taking in about 60,000 tons a year of logs so you know it's a relatively small portion of our needs but it was an amount of waste material that they were having to sell on the open market and, because it never hits the ground, it stays in closed containers, it's clean material. It will be partially, maybe 10% of our total volume but certainly it will be an important source of revenue for them because we can pay a higher price for it.

So you'll be bringing in much more?

Oh yes.

This is a $20 million dollar project. Can you tell me what kind of savings you're seeing from this arrangement?

It's not saving as much for us, we're just transferring some of what would have been our cost to the staff and operate over to them so the value proposition is really there. Their personnel being used partly for their operations and partly for ours, it just gives them more value. So it was a pretty straight situation that I thought really worked really well for us.

You mentioned the sourcing of the wood. With Maine having such a history with the pulp and paper industry, how would your demand for wood compete with the pulp and paper industry and how is International WoodFuels preparing for that? Is there any conflict there?

You know, public records would indicate that there is about 14 million tons of pulp wood logged in Maine. About half of which goes up to Quebec province. About half stays in the pulp mills in Maine. There are four pellet mills in Maine and we will be the fifth. Together we probably don't take 6%, I mean it's nothing. I mean if you took it on the 14 million it's probably 2%. It's a very inconsequential amount of the overall harvest but I will say it's important to the logging community because we take all year round, we operate all year round and we're a community based facility. We refer to our facilities as community energy facilities because we're creating in the local community a series of products including bagged product for the home, bulk product for schools and hospitals, and of course, we also install our own boilers. We are a part of the harvest program and we're only taking logs from sustainably harvest properties, which frankly is virtually all of what we have in Maine anyway.

Ok, let's talk about wood pellets for a second. Wood pellets have been around, but they haven't had as much focus until recently. What's happened and is the interest sustainable?

Well it goes back to the 1930s when the first pellet plants were built and we, you know America created and started the whole wood pellet industry back in the early 1970s and it migrated to Europe in the 80s and 90s and then came back to America so it's interesting. It's not dissimilar in many respects to wind energy which was started here in the 1990s and then migrated to Europe, became a bigger energy product because of greater subsidies and I think the 12 million tons a year of wood pellets that are currently manufactured and consumed in Europe, by comparison to our 3 million tons in America when we are what, twice the land mass and the same number of population, we probably got 40 times, I don't know what the right number is but probably 40 times the available biomass product. America's just had cheap energy and Europe has long since had subsidies and had high prices for energy so the economics for pellets in Europe were compelling long before oil jumped from $70 to $140, there are almost a hundred, there's 91 pellet plants in America and probably 10 to 15 a year being built, no one's viewed $140 oil is real and we don't view $30 oil is real but anything above about $40 dollars, $45 a barrel of oil puts your home heating oil over $2 and pellets match very nicely to anybody who's, this winter you're paying what $2.30, $2.40 a gallon for heating oil, pellet heating is a better deal.

I know you said not a single pellet produced at the plant in Burnham will leave the state Maine. Is there enough demand in Maine?

Actually, most of the pellets consumed in Maine come from places like Arkansas, Georgia, Wisconsin. I mean, 70% to 80% of all the pellets consumed in the state come from out of state so it's an economic exercise. For people to sell pellets at a hardware store or a home improvement center they need to make some money per ton and frankly the cost of shipping is so high that there's very little margin so you got to create more value and the only way to create more value is don't put it in the truck and drive it for 850 miles.

Can you tell me a little bit more about the International WoodFuels business model?How would you work with commercial and industrial customers?

I think that the fun thing about the business model we started was we didn't really really want to be just in the residential bag product business. We really wanted to create some new markets and the only way to create new markets is to offer different value proposition to the customer so we've been developing a program for the last 12 months to offer metered heat energy, just like your electric bill. Right now you don't even think about it you get your electric bill and you pay it. What we're offering is metered heat energy so that you could put a boiler in an office building, a church, a school, a hospital, and we become the number one boilers so we supply the pellets to we just heat energy, we don't sell pellets and since I've got a manufacturing facility in Burnham, we can easily put 30 or 40 or 50 boilers out there and guarantee heat energy for the next 10, 20 years but at the same time the customer doesn't have lay out $100,000, $200,000 for a system and the customer gets a reduced price if the price of oil rises. So what we've done is we put a floor on it, let's say $2 dollars per a gallon of oil is the floor. As oil starts to go up to $2.50, $2.70 and there will probably be a carbon tax on oil, so next year you'll probably see it at $3.10, $3.25. The customer doesn't pay that price, he pays a lower price in the future so.

You should be able to lock in a price?

It's a floating lock. I mean, it's a guaranteed discount is what it is and the discount just expands the higher price of oil.

A company or any kind of company with any kind of facility would call up International Wood Fuels and say "I'm interested in this" and with no capital costs or anything you would install a boiler and just start supplying them with wood pellets and just they would be paying a monthly bill and that's the model.

You got it.

Are you building this mill on spec or do you have customers already lined up in Maine?

No, we have virtually -- how can I put this? -- 100% of the production capacity of that plant will be fully committed and there is a portion for bag supply to local community based distributors, all of whom have very good names and very good reputations in Maine. There are certainly a number of heat energy customers that are probably another 10% or 15%. We don't even see that there's an issue as to, you know, would some of this be sold, not sold. I think most people have approached pellet manufacturing as a seasonal business. Let's you and I wanted to go and sell barbecues, you'd probably sell them in the summer right? If you want to sell pellets though, you'd sell them in the winter. We don't see the business that way and we see it as a 12 month business with a 8 or 9 month consumption cycle so that we're manufacturing pellets in April, May, June, July and August to make sure they're already presold and already available to the home improvement centers and the Ace Hardware's and the other community, you know the Hannaford's and everybody else who's selling renewable energy fuel product in the winter.

With that amount of demand and the fact that all of the production is already spoken for, is there room for expansion?

I think we're spoken for in terms of market segments and not presales. Our view is that we believe pretty strongly that there is no issue as to whether or not there's a market for it in Maine and whether or not we can sell it in Maine. I think we should serve the community first. It's our trees, it's our community. When people talk about pellet exporting to Europe, you know I look at it and say, first of all it's uneconomic. You can only lose money doing that. Shipping them out of state to you know Massachusetts or to Connecticut or Rhode Island, sure. I can understand that. Maine should be, if we looked two years forward from today, you would have say that Maine will be the Saudi Arabia of New England when it comes to renewable energy heating fuel. Today we're a significant importer and that's criminal. I mean, why are we not, why don't we have 10 pellet plants the size of what we're building? And every one of those employing 40 to 50 people and creating valuable community based jobs. Well the answer is that the economy's been a little tight.

Gov. John Baldacci is fond touting Maine's potential to become the center of the sustainable energy movement. How does Maine stack up among other states when it comes to attracting companies like International WoodFuels?

I'm thrilled to be there. We've basically put our companies entire corporate operation staff based in Portland. I committed out in San Diego to have our business in Maine as a regional headquarters and, though we have a plant that is almost completed in Virginia, and we'll have several other plants in parts of the U.S., I think that Maine will ultimately be our corporate headquarters.

Do you have any future plans right now that you can share?

Well, we're already funded and committed in building, half way through construction in Virginia and that's a 100,000-ton plant and that will be online the first of January. You know, we've got other plans for other locations but there sort of immaterial because that's just part of the, you know the growth cycle is always what it is. It takes time and costs money and we're relatively comfortable that our business in the future will grow based on communities. I'd love to grow more plants frankly in Maine. Maine is really the place where all of this should go.

We talked about the European market for wood pellets being higher. I think it was on your website that I read two-thirds of new construction in Austria is designed to handle wood pellet heating and more than 25% of Sweden's energy is coming from bio fuels, primarily wood pellets. The focus on domestic markets obviously is very important to International WoodFuels, do you see the demand growing? And is it organic or do there need to be some changes, whether with subsidies or federal energy policy, that will create that demand in the domestic market?

That's a great question. I could have paid you to ask that question. We think that the real beauty of this business is this it is not subsidized. It is actually based on the economics of the real world. Of buying round wood, processing it, turning it into a product, putting into a bag or putting it into a truck and shipping it out the door. You know, the demand in the U.S. today is probably, in my estimation, it's not totally universally agreed upon but I think there's between a half a million and a million tons of more demand than production. In America, transport is not easy by rail so 90% of pellets, maybe 95% of all the pellets are currently, we ship them by truck. Truck is relatively inefficient. You're lucky if you get 25, 26 tons on the truck. That truck can only drive a certain number of hours a day before they have to stop so the economics of shipping bagged product long distances is just terrible so what happens is, a really robust, highly professional pellet manufacturer in Washington state can't serve the Northeast cost effectively. If you look at all of New England, you have the alleged four pellet plants in Maine of which there's only two operating today, Corenth and Athens. You've got one in New Hampshire, none in Vermont, none in Massachusetts, none in Rhode Island (it's supposedly coming back online but the last one didn't work), none in Connecticut. Seven, maybe eight in New York, most of whom but for the two from New England Wood Pellets, are in the far western side of the state of New York, so you might as well be in the Rocky Mountains as far as that's concerned to try to get pellets easily into New England. Pennsylvania has got about 8 or 10 pellet plants, Virginia I think we have four. The message I'm getting to is, we have a shockingly few number of pellet plants in a region that contains 50 million people, 30% of whom buy heating oil for their homes so you just do the whole math. We know the state of Maine has like 96% of all homes are on heating oil. Massachusetts is 28%, Vermont it's 30, actually it's a little bit more but there's nobody there. New Hampshire is about 30. So when you look at the numbers where you'd want to be building pellet plants is a) where the timber is and b) where the oil heat market is. And so the strange part is that there's just been no development of those businesses. The export market for pellets for America has been much talked about, very few, there are three primary pellet plants in the United States that export: two very large dedicated exporters don't affect the U.S. domestic market, one modest size 140,000-ton plant, I think it's the second or third largest plant in the United States, in Georgia under contract. One in Mississippi, very small 55,000-ton plant under contract and that's it. End of story. And all four of those plants, I dare say lose money on every ton they ship overseas but because they're contracted business, they lose money but they lose it gracefully I guess. I don't know I never quite figured that out.

I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about the plant in Florida that exports 500,000 tons to Europe. One of the comments from the CEO of Propellets, an Austria-based pellet producer, is that we're looking at a totally artificial market. He said, "No power plant would consider using pellets for one minute if they didn't have to do it." That surprised me and I didn't know if you have a comment on that.

Well, I think that's true. I mean I don't think you're going to put chocolate ice cream in a vanilla milkshake either if you can avoid it. I think most guys running a coal fired power station don't want to throw stuff in there. And the beauty of a pellet vs. a chip for example a wood chip is a pellet is a specified technical product. It's 6% to 7% moisture content, you know, ultra low ash, stores well, flows well. Chips on the other hand are just the opposite. A biomass chip can be 60% wet, could be 30% wet. It's got a lot of ash in it, a lot of bark in it, locks up, bridges up, doesn't move very easily. So I think when you talk to the power industry, yeah, they've been forced into it in Europe. Here in the U.S., the only thing the utilities are being forced to do is to absolutely reduce their CO2 admissions. Now, if you and I were the owners of an industrial coal fired boiler let's say in Massachusetts or in Maine, and we could replace 10% of our coal with wood pellets and reduce our CO2 admissions instantly by 10%, where would we sign up? You know, it's like why wouldn't we do it? Well the answer is there's not one single pound available for that market. So the European market has residential, it has business heating and they have power generation or industrial boiler steam generation from pellets. Here in America, it's 99.999% residential home heating so the home owners, you and me, we want the pellets for our home. We don't want them going off the reservation to Europe or going somewhere else, to Japan.

You just said the vast majority is residential but International WoodFuels is targeting beyond the residential market, you're going to be working with industrial customers.


by Tom Robertson, Minnesota Public Radio

Bemidji, Minn. Canadian-owned Ainsworth Lumber Company permanently shuttered its plants in Bemidji, Grand Rapids and Cook earlier this year, and now those communities are wondering what's next for the huge, idle plants.

Things are tough right now for northern Minnesota's wood products industry. Demand for lumber is near an all-time low. Some entrepreneurs are betting the answers will be found in biofuels and the emerging green economy.

The former Ainsworth plant in Bemidji once churned out a plywood-like product called oriented strand board. Now the factory is eerily quite, except for the high-pitched hum of the overhead lights. But that will soon change.

A Bemidji company called The Idea Circle has purchased the plant and plans to turn it into a bio-energy park for emerging green businesses.

Vice president Robin Larson plans to reuse one of the plant's biggest assets -- a row of huge dryers, once used in the manufacturing process.

"They're 10-feet tall, they're 60-feet long," she said. "There are three of them and they have the capacity today to be able to handle 300,000 tons of woody biomass a year.

Larson said that woody biomass -- including everything from tree limbs, tree bark, and even dead wood -- could be converted into wood pellets. It's a fuel that's become popular for heating homes and businesses in Europe but has so far been slower to catch on in the U.S.

Robin LarsonCompany officials say the former Ainsworth facility is ideal for producing wood pellets or other bio-based fuels. The existing building is 400,000 square feet; about the size of four football fields, all under one roof. There's a railroad spur and a 12.5 megawatt co-generator capable of producing electricity.

This facility might be a good investment, but it's risky for The Idea Circle, a workforce development company that's never invested in a venture this size before.

CEO Mary Eaton is tight-lipped about other potential tenants, but said several enterprises will be up and running by next year. The company is exploring relationships with manufacturers, higher education, research and testing services and other companies interested in using northern Minnesota's forest resources for renewable energy.

Eaton said the political and social climate in the U.S. makes it a good time to invest in renewable energy. She said there may be stimulus money or other government incentives available down the line but for now the venture is being funded by private investors.

Ainsworth OSB plant in Bemidji"It's a calculated risk whenever you do something of this nature, but I do think it's inevitable," Eaton said. "I think in the 70s we went through a crisis and oil prices came down and we all forgot about it. And now we've gone through another couple of crisis and we really believe that the United States is ready to step up and look at alternatives."

Those same green energy ideas are being floated at the other two former Ainsworth plants in Cook and Grand Rapids, both of which are still for sale. A non-profit group called the Itasca Economic Development Corporation might purchase the plant in Grand Rapids. Interim President Diane Weber said wood pellets and other green industries are at the top of their list.

"Oh if not now, when?" Weber said. "With the money that's available these days [and] the incentives for renewable energy companies and green companies, there's never going to be a better time."

Some in the wood products industry are cautious about the pace of biomass energy development. Wayne Brandt is executive vice president of the Minnesota Timber Producers Association. Brandt said he supports bioenergy, but the industry should focus on using the main parts of trees for high value products like oriented strand board, lumber and paper.

Idea Circle CEO Mary Eaton"What we would like to see is the bioenergy markets develop naturally so they are sustainable over time, and not be forced to where the economics don't make sense long term and you have projects starting up and shutting down," Brandt said. "In the case of ethanol, we've seen ethanol plants built that have never run, so we wouldn't want to see that happening in this area."

Brandt said things like wood pellets and other biofuels add value to northern Minnesota's forests, but it isn't enough to save the timber industry from its current slump. That will depend largely on whether the nation's housing construction market makes a rebound.

Dave Brooks
Published: Wednesday, September 9, 2009
When it comes to forests and climate change, the big New Hampshire angle is that we should create more energy by burning trees: making more heat from wood pellets or electricity from biomass power plants.

But maybe we should also be thinking about making "biochar," a version of charcoal.

That, anyway, is the point of view that will be taken at a Saturday conference in Temple, where biochar will be the topic of discussion as a way to fight climate change and help our forests, since it can be used as an energy source, as a fertilizer and as a way to trap and store carbon from the air.

Basically, biochar is wood or other organic material that has been burned in ticular ways, absorbing large amounts of carbon in the process. The temperature, timing and lack of oxygen are controlled in such a way as to cause pyrolysis, a form of combustion in which organic compounds break up and are bound into the resulting clumps of biochar.

Conference on biochar and forests

WHERE: The Lodge at the Pony Farm, 19 Putnam Road, Temple.

WHEN: Saturday, from 9 a.m.–4 p.m.

The conference will feature talks and presentations on making biochar, its present and future role in energy, forestry and fighting climate change.

Cost is $25, open to all. To register, contact Douglas Williams at or 924-7008.

Biochar, which looks like a cross between charcoal briquettes and cooled lava, is a hot topic. I had never heard of it until this spring; now it's all over "green" publications and Web sites, and it had its first major academic/industry conference in Boulder, Colo., earlier this year. It is the subject of much research by both agriculture and energy scientists.

For example, a researcher at the University of Georgia told the United Nations that the U.S. could offset 11 percent of its emissions each year by creating 650 million metric tons of biochar annually and burying it.

Agriculture folks are excited because biochar is a great fertilizer. This is no surprise to those of us with wood stoves, whose ashes are valuable components of compost.

I admit to being a little confused about all this.

Burning wood in forest fires is cited as a source of greenhouse gas, so how can burning wood to create biochar reduce greenhouse gas? And I don't understand how something can sequester carbon and also be a fertilizer, which requires the release of material into the soil.

But then again, if it was screamingly obvious, we wouldn't need conferences to explain it.

Which brings us to Saturday's event, sponsored by the Harris Center for Conservation Education in Hancock.

It will feature David Yarrow, a biochar advocate who has been spreading the word throughout the Northeast; and a Cape Cod blacksmith who is making retorts – vessels in which things can be heated – for creating biochar.

The conference will also feature a bunch of foresters and forestry officials, because of biochar's possibility both as a market for wood products and a source of large-scale fertilizer for woodlands.

Finally, there will be a research director from a Canadian company called Alterna Energy, which makes biochar and similar products from wood and municipal waste.

FERNDALE, WASHINGTON -- (Marketwire) -- 09/10/09 -- Sea 2 Sky Corporation (OTCBB: SSKY), a leading edge Renewable Bio-Energy Company, wishes to update its shareholders with respect to its Biomass and Torrefaction implementation. Torrefaction is a scientifically proven method for improving the properties of Biomass as a fuel. The end result of Torrified pellets is the formation of a solid product that retains approximately 70% of its initial weight and 90% of the original energy content. Sea 2 Sky plans to apply this technology to increase the energy output in Biomass products and to provide a coal like product with significant environmental advantages. Sea 2 Sky is currently exploring and evaluating several alliances pertaining to the Torrefaction method to best position itself and plans to market the Torrefied Biomass to existing coal factories to be co-fired in a pulverized coal boiler.
Torrefied Biomass facts and properties:
- Hydrophobic nature: the material does not regain humidity in storage and therefore unlike wood and charcoal, it is stable and with well defined composition.
- Lower moisture content and higher calorific values as compared to unprocessed Biomass.
- Exhausts less emissions when ignited in end user applications and can be produced in a desired shape and form.
- Higher density and similar mechanical strength compared to the initial Biomass.
- Suitable for various applications as a fuel - in the steel industry, combustion, and gasification.
- Torrefied products can substitute charcoal in a number of applications such as fuel for domestic cooking stoves or residential heating.
- Raw material for manufacture of improved solid fuel products such as fuel pellets, compacted fireplace logs and barbecue briquettes for commercial and domestic uses. Torrefied briquettes have superior combustion characteristic as compared with ordinary briquettes.
- Fuel for industrial uses. Important advantage of Torrefied wood compared to wood is its uniformity. It is as a predictable, flexible fuel with optimum combustion and transport economies. Due to the low moisture content of Torrefied wood, the transport cost is lower and the quality as a fuel better. It is easily packaged and transported thru traditional mechanisms, and thus constitutes an efficient fuel.
About Sea 2 Sky Corporation
Sea 2 Sky Corporation is headquartered in a HUB zone in Ferndale, WA. Sea 2 Sky Corporation is a leading edge Renewable Bio-Energy Company focused on delivering alternative energy solutions to Fortune 1000 companies, governmental agencies and countries around the globe. The Company is continuing to secure the largest concentration of biomass material globally and is backed by a "Special Category Minority Business" which enables it to compete effectively in a substantially growing market. Sea 2 Sky is positioned strategically with alternative energy suppliers of biomass wood pellets to secure long-term supply contracts to develop the products. It is creating a consistent specification that the target markets require to fulfill their energy needs in environmentally sound manufacturing facilities. More information about the Company may be found at
Ferndale start-up Sea 2 Sky Corp. is poised to take its renewable bio-energy business into the big time using a high-heat processs to convert wood and wood fiber into a nonpolluting, high-energy alternative to coal.
The process, known as torrefaction, is a thermo-chemical treatment that incinerates biomass in the 200 to 340 Celsius range (392 to 644 degrees Fahrenheit).
During torrefaction the biomass partly decomposes, but the resulting transformed solid biomass -- in the Sea 2 Sky case called torrefied wood pellets -- has about 30 percent more energy content per unit of mass than its original state, weighs less, is more easily transportable and is virtually pollution-free.
Sea 2 Sky plans to apply this technology to increase the energy output in biomass products and to provide a "coal-like product with significant environmental advantages," it says.
It's "is a scientifically proven method for improving the properties of biomass as a fuel," say Sea 2 Sky officials. The solid product produced retains about 70 percent of its initial weight and 90 percent of the original energy content, but without the harmful emissions of coal.
Basically and probably unscientifically speaking, torrefaction is photosynthesis on steroids. (Photosynthesis is the process that converts carbon dioxide into organic compounds, especially sugar, using energy from sunlight.)
Scientists say photosynthesis stores 5-to-8 times more energy in biomass than humanity consumes from all sources. Biomass is the fourth largest energy source in the world; it is used primarily in less developed countries in such forms as wood waste and fiber, switchgrass and manure.
Non-edible biomass is emerging as a key part of of the alternative energy mix, and Sea 2 Sky has some advantages in positioning itself as a major player in the manufacturer, sourcing and marketing of torrefied word pellets to Europe, southeast Asia and in North, Central and South America.
Wood pellets have many uses for industrial and residential use and are considered to be carbon-neutral when burned. Sea 2 Sky estimates potential market demand of more than $500 million annually.
Earlier this summer the company entered into a 15-year $757 million wood fiber supply agreement with Des Wilson Forestry Ltd. of New Zealand. It will provide Sea 2 Sky with 250,000 tons of wood fiber over the first two years, increasing to 500,000 tons a year for the remainder of the contract.
Sea 2 Sky says the agreement enables the company to serve the international wood pellet market long term, "with Europe and Asia having substantial multi-billion dollar product requirements." The $757 million number is based on the current wood fiber market price of $233 per dry ton.
Sea 2 Sky says the German companies Novus Energy GmBH and RWE AG are "prime examples of companies substituting biomass for coal in Europe." In addition, the largest coal-burning company in the U.S., American Electric Power Inc. of Ohio, is also switching some of its coal plants to run on biomass or a combination of the two fuels.
With the Des Wilson agreement in place, "we have achieved a historic milestone of opening up new markets in the forest industry by harnessing strong international sources of supply in stable democratic states that we can now market," said David Siebenga, its former president and CEO.
Siebenga made the statements before he stepped down as CEO in late August for unspecified personal reasons and was replaced by chief financial officer Erik Odeen. Siebenga remains a company director.
With the supply question resolved, Sea 2 Sky is "exploring and evaluating several alliances" with torrefaction-capable companies and potential users of torrefied wood pellets.
Sea 2 Sky has not identified the companies it is talking to, saying that "several business opportunities have been identified and proposals have been submitted with pending alliances in progress." It also plans to market torrefied biomass to existing coal plants. It could be used by itself or with coal in pulverized coal boilers.
In addition to pursuing and wrapping up the largest sources of biomass in the world, another advantage for Sea 2 Sky is that it is headquartered in a HUB Zone.
The federal Historically Underutilized Business Zone program targets economic development and jobs in urban and rural communities by providing contracting preferences to small businesses. The company's status as a Special Category Minority Business "enables it to compete effectively in a growing market," it says.
Sea 2 Sky organized in April. It trades on the OTCBB (Over the Counter Bulletin Board) as SSKY.
Bill DiBenedetto is a free-lance writer. He can be reached at

By Barbara McRae
Carolina Wood Pellets LLC, a new manufacturing business in south Macon County, is in production after several years of planning and development and has begun selling its product.
Jim Wirtz, general manager, said, "We've been doing start-up for about a month. We've picked up a few people and are starting to hire. Quite a few people have brought us resumes."
The plant produces super-premium hardwood pellets for home-heating applications. The pellets are made from scrap wood obtained chiefly from manufacturing, logging and construction sources.
The processing plant presses sawdust into small, extremely dense pellets. There is no waste. If one ton of wood goes in, one ton of pellets come out, ready to burn, Wirtz said. The plant can produce 10-12 tons per hour.
Owner Steve Smith, a long-time fan of wood-pellet heating, said he hopes to market the product primarily within a 30-40-mile circle, and sees it as an economic benefit for Macon County.
"Everyone in the circle benefits -suppliers, truckers, retailers of stoves, installers and consumers," Smith said.
Wood pellets cost about 70-75 percent less than other fuels, he said. Wirtz added that the price will hold steadier than some other fuel sources. He estimates that a typical household in this area would use two or three tons per year.
With its present capacity, the new plant can produce enough pellets to supply 30,000 households in an average winter. Smith is hoping to expand to twice that.
To take advantage of the fuel, homeowners will need pellet-burning home appliances, which are available in a range of types and sizes, including furnaces and stylishly designed stoves. The stoves have a hopper that holds the pellets and an auger that feeds them into the burner. The operation is controlled by a thermostat. The glass front is self-cleaning, Smith said, and only a little ash accumulates in the ash pan for disposal.
"It gives you the comfort of a wood stove without the hassle," he said.
Pellet appliances are available locally. Smith's retail business, Smith Trading Co., on the Georgia Road, carries the Lennox line of stoves and fireplace inserts. He is working with local contractors on installation of the appliances.

Press photos/Barbara McRae
Owner Steve Smith has worked for several years to get Carolina Wood Pellets up and running. After a month of testing and start up, the plant is now producing hardwood pellets for use in home heating.
Pellet fuel is a biomass product that uses renewable resources and burns cleanly. Its energy-efficiency has been recognized by the federal government, which allows a 30 percent tax credit of up to $1,500 for equipment and installation of these appliances. The incentive will be available through 2010, Smith said.
Though wood pellets are new to many in this area, this technology is widely used in Europe and in the upper Midwest. Smith believes it will catch on quickly here, as people discover the availability and attractiveness of the fuel.
"Some of our biggest allies are people who have used the product before," he said. He himself is in that category. The development of Carolina Wood Pellets reflects his own earlier experience using wood pellets for fuel in Michigan. When he moved to Franklin, he had to give up using the fuel because it was so hard to find.
Smith was also inspired by the heaps of sawdust he accumulated from his log home business. He sees wood pellets as the perfect way to reduce waste, recycle and save energy.
For information about home heating, employment or contracting opportunities, call 524-0625, e-mail or write Jim Wirtz, 81 Riverside Rd., Franklin, NC, 28734. To learn more about wood pellet heating, see


By: Ian Ross

Pete Van Amelsfoort at Powassan's Quality Hardwoods has been experimenting with wood briquettes to fire their kiln boilers after a short run with wood pellets.

Going down the wood pellet path has caused some anxious moments for the folks at Powassan's Quality Hardwoods.

When the price of heating oil, used to fire their 10 drying kilns, peaked at more than a dollar per litre last year, owner Paul Brooks and operations manager Pete Van Amelsfoort decided to take a bold step.

They invested $1 million in a heating system to burn wood pellets by installing two Decker boilers, distribution piping with a 60-tonne silo and a grain elevator-like system of conveyors and buckets.

For a few months, everything was going well. The price of pellets was good at $120 per tonne. Compared to heating oil, the pellets burned so efficiently it appeared using them would save the company $100,000 to $150,000 a year.

About every two weeks, a transport truck loaded with pellets arrived from their supplier in southwestern Ontario.

Then their supplier went bankrupt, forcing Van Amelsfoort to scout for a new source, even as far away as Michigan.

But the price to ship pellets in bulk was going up and the price of heating oil was coming back down. It wasn't economically to keep burning pellets. Luckily for the company, the oil furnace was still kept as a back-up. Van Amelsfoort and his staff decided to switch back.

“The best (wood pellet) price was such that it couldn't beat oil,” said Van Amelsfoort.

But the company isn't gun-shy about staying on the biomass trail. During that short stretch of four months, they realized savings of about 20 to 30 cents per litre compared to heating oil.

In recent weeks, the company is back experimenting with puck-shaped wood briquettes for their boilers. Made of compressed poplar, oak, and maple, they are shipped north from a Toronto supplier.

“It's the same process used to make firewood logs,” said Van Amelsfoort.

Though it forced the company to make expensive modifications to their storage unit to allow the larger briquettes to flow freely, “we're going to make it work,” he said.

Burning renewable fuels dovetails nicely with the company's FSC-certified processes – considered the environmental gold standard for sustainable forestry production – and enables them to trade carbon credits.

Quality Hardwood's wood pellet predicament shines a spotlight on a great unanswered question about the sustainability of Ontario's waste wood fibre supply when the Ontario government finally rolls out the details of its biomass procurement strategy later this year or early 2010.

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) will require a huge amount to make good on the McGuinty government's promise to be off coal by 2014.

The hard numbers of how much biomass is out there, and how it will be shared by big and small industry and community groups, and also the price to harvest and transport it, should play big factors in the future use of this green fuel.

While it's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operational challenges, Van Amelsfoort prefer to look at the big picture.

Powassan sits in middle of a vast breadbasket of fibre being called a Biomass Belt by Nipissing University researchers. It's an area that encompasses Sudbury, West Nipissing, Parry Sound, Huntsville and Gravenhurst.

Van Amelsfoort said there are thousands of hectares of marginal land near the mill -- both private and Crown -- that can be converted to biomass fields. The area is stocked with low-end of the fibre supply that can be fed into co-generation plants or kilns to produce heat that can be used to dry high-end quality fibre.

It remains to be seen how it will all come together to ensure Ontario's quantity of biomass is evenly shared by Ontario Power Generation, pulp and paper producers and the small forestry players.

“It's all infrastructure, logistics and politics,” said Van Amelsfoort.

Hopefully the cloudy biomass picture will become clearer after a two-day conference at North Bay's Nipissing University this fall.

The school's new Biomass Innovation Centre is hosting the event entitled, Harness Biomass: From the Forest to the Marketplace takes place in North Bay, Oct. 22-23.

One of the conference's objectives is to encourage development of a clean tech biomass cluster for heating and energy.

The biomass centre, established last spring, is intended to serve as a catalyst to expand the knowledge base and support the development of clean and green technology in the region. The on-campus expertise draws from the business, economics and environmental faculty.

The conference will cover topics on Ontario's biomass inventory, opportunities and challenges for harvesters and First Nations, the European and U.S. experience, addressing logistics issues, wood characteristics, and a slew of other talks on market opportunities, along with technical and regulatory hurdles.

North American and international experts in forest management, harvesting, logistics, industry use, academic research and government policymaking will be making presentations, including OPG's Chris Young, vice-president of Fossil Projects, who will update the publicly-owned utility's biomass procurement process.

“We'll have a sense of where biomass stands competitively,” said John Nadeau, a Nipissing marketing professor, who will present his findings on what potential biomass users are saying.

A former market analyst for Tembec, Nadeau has been interviewing “large regional organizations” who are potentially big buyers of biomass and is recording their perceived strengths and barriers of using wood fibre for heating and energy. “There is huge industry from industry players.”

Though reluctant to disclose his findings, “anecdotally there is still some concern about sustainability of supply.”

However there are encouraging signs for this emerging industry with a former Tembec sawmill in Mattawa being eyeballed by potential private suitors for a wood pelletizing operation.

“It's creating a buzz and the opportunity is now,” said Nadeau

This conference falls on the heels of an inaugural biomass networking event held last winter in North Bay. This upcoming event will “pull back another layer of the onion to provide a better picture of what to look at.”

For details on conference registration, visit

POMPANO BEACH, Fla.--(Business Wire)--
Cyclone Power Technologies (Pink Sheets:CYPW) announced today that is has
completed development of a working prototype biomass power generator, the first
system of its kind capable of allowing homes, farms and small commercial
enterprises to produce electricity from vegetative waste and byproducts.

Cyclone`s prototype biomass generator is a self-contained, compact system that
utilizes the company`s award-winning Waste Heat Engine (WHE) to produce power
from heat derived from biomass combustion. In the current testing stage, the
company is using wood pellets, but virtually any dry plant matter - including
grass clippings, corn stalks or wood chips - could be burned cleanly and

"We believe our system is truly game changing," stated Allan Brown, Cyclone`s
senior engineer on the WHE biomass project. "Many families, farms and businesses
throughout the world burn biomass to heat buildings and warm water, but being
able to create electricity from the same fuel source in any climate, at any time
of year, offers vast possibilities."

At the heart of Cyclone`s biomass generator system is the patent pending WHE, a
six-cylinder Rankine cycle external heat engine capable of generating up to 15HP
of mechanical power. An attached biomass combustion chamber produces up to 600°F
of heat to run the WHE at peak performance. An alternator or generator then
converts mechanical energy from the engine into as much as 10kW of usable
electricity. The entire system, including engine, heat exchangers, burner,
electrical alternator/generator, and feed hopper is mounted on a pallet for

The company now plans to create a commercial production model of the WHE biomass
generator, which could be sold through home and garden retailers, agricultural
machinery wholesalers, or biomass furnace manufacturers and distributors.

"We are looking for the right partners to bring this product to market," added
Wilson McQueen, Cyclone`s Marketing Manager. "We think the potential for
producing clean energy from recycledwaste and renewable fuels is an extremely
important product to advance environmental sustainability and energy

To view Cyclone`s WHE biomass generator, visit:


Cyclone Power Technologies is the developer of the award-winning Cyclone Engine
- an eco-friendly external combustion engine with the power and versatility to
run everything from portable electric generators and garden equipment to cars,
trucks and locomotives. Invented by company founder and CEO Harry Schoell, the
patented Cyclone Engine is a modern steam engine, ingeniously designed to
achieve high thermal efficiencies through a compact heat-regenerative process,
and to run on virtually any fuel - including bio-diesels, syngas or solar -
while emitting fewer greenhouse gases and irritating pollutants into the air.
Currently in its late stages of development, the Cyclone Engine was recognized
by Popular Science Magazine as the Invention of the Year for 2008, and was
presented with the Society of Automotive Engineers` AEI Tech Award in 2006 and
2008. Additionally, Cyclone was recently named Environmental Business of the
Year by the Broward County Environmental Protection Department. For more
information, visit

Safe Harbor Statement

Certain statements in this news release may contain forward-looking information
within the meaning of Rule 175 under the Securities Act of 1933 and Rule 3b-6
under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and are subject to the safe harbor
created by those rules. All statements, other than statements of fact, included
in this release, including, without limitation, statements regarding potential
future plans and objectives of the company, are forward-looking statements that
involve risks and uncertainties. There can be no assurance that such statements
will prove to be accurate and actual results and future events could differ
materially from those anticipated in such statements. The company cautions that
these forward-looking statements are further qualified by other factors. The
company undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise any statements in
this release, whether as a result of new information, future events or

Cyclone Power Technologies, Pompano Beach
Company Contact
Wilson McQueen, 954-943-8721
Media Contact
Will Wellons, 407-462-2718

By The Mainebiz News Staff
The Finance Authority of Maine today approved a $500,000 economic recovery loan to Geneva Wood Fuels LLC to help the company resume operations after an explosion at its Strong manufacturing facility in early August.
Geneva Wood Fuels, founded in May 2008, owns and operates a 140,000-ton-per-year wood pellet mill in the Franklin County town of Strong. The bridge loan will allow the company to get a jump-start on rebuilding the mill until insurance proceeds from an explosion that damaged the facility are received, according to a press release from FAME.
The company expects to re-employ approximately 30 Maine workers when it's up and running again.
By Jess Siart
Posted: 9/17/09, 2:14 AM EST Section: News

Media Credit: Courtesy of ESF

The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry will use the collective knowledge of its faculty and students to create a carbon neutral campus by 2015.

ESF's Climate Action Plan is made up of 40 initiatives that fall into five main categories: energy conservation, alternative energy projects, green-building energy systems, campus action plans and forest carbon sequestration.

The plan is part of the Presidents' Climate Commitment that ESF President Neal Murphy signed to lower carbon emissions on campuses.

ESF emits 12,500 metric tons of carbon per year and hopes to reduce that number by 110 percent. If this goal is met, ESF will have a negative carbon footprint and take in more carbon than it gives off.

The plan was submitted as part of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education on Tuesday.

"It's important to provide leadership. We want to demonstrate to society as a whole what can be and should be done to improve global environmental health," Murphy said. "We want to demonstrate to the larger community that measures can be implemented to reduce man's impact on the environment while also reducing operating costs."

Energy conservation and alternative-energy projects

ESF's renewable energy department will monitor the energy consumption as changes are made. They will adjust their overall plan toward carbon neutrality depending on their monitored results, said Justin Heavey, a junior environmental studies major who helped spearhead the plan.

"Part of the President's Climate Commitment and ESF's own philosophy is continually monitoring the progress of the plan and making adjustments as necessary," Heavey said.

The university will also renovate several buildings in hopes of making them more energy efficient. Classrooms and research laboratories will start installing new technology, too, said Mike Kelleher, director of renewable energy systems at ESF.

Biodiesel will be used to power ESF's fleet of vehicles. While it is not part of the plan, ESF hopes to one day produce ethanol from wood to fuel its fleet of vehicles, which can run on 85 percent ethanol.

Wood pellets will replace a large percentage of fossil fuel as the source of heating and electricity in several buildings on campus. ESF will use its 25,000 acres of forested property to eventually grow their own pellets.
Researchers will continue to produce biodiesel fuel from cooking oil waste, too. ESF will continue to use the biodiesel as an alternative energy source for its vehicles.

Green-building energy systems and campus action plans

ESF will continue to try to construct buildings in the most sustainable manner possible.

The focal point of this effort will be a new building, which will act as a gateway to ESF's campus and produce more energy than it consumes. ESF has not announced a construction start date for this new building.

The building will be LEED Platinum certified, powered by a wood-pellet steam boiler, backpressure steam turbine, biodiesel micro-turbine, natural gas micro-turbines and a photovoltaic array. Solar-thermal collectors and vertical axis wind turbines may also be used.

The building's heating and power system will be twice as efficient as conventional electricity generation and produce enough heat and power for itself and other buildings around it.

Student involvement

ESF will hold a competition in the spring challenging students to think of additions to the plan.

"We have has a significant amount of faculty and students involved in generating ideas," Kelleher said. "Campus involvement is one of the things that makes our plan so unique."

Students played a large role in the formation of the plan. Since the beginning stages, students have been a part of the Climate Change Advisory Committee and have been encouraged to get involved.

"We didn't rely on any outside consultants. Our plan was put together by faculty and staff and synthesized by a student, which was very important to us," Murphy said.

Heavey, the student involved, balanced class work with helping to put together the plan.

"My job was to string all the projects together into a cohesive plan and quantify the cumulative impact from an environmental, energetic and economic perspective," Heavey said.

Forest carbon sequestration

Despite all the initiatives involved in the plan, ESF will not be able to totally reduce its carbon emissions solely through conventional means. To offset what carbon the university does release, it will manage Charles Lathrop Pack Demonstration Forest in Warrensburg, N.Y.

When trees photosynthesize, they absorb carbon. By maintaining the forest in Warrensburg, ESF will help reduce the same amount of carbon it produces.

ESF's forested properties already take in 37,461 metric tons of carbon equivalent per year, which amounts to more than 300 percent of its actually carbon emissions, Davis said.

4:00AM Saturday Sep 19, 2009
By Isaac Davison
A forestry company is considering legal action after an American corporation incorrectly claimed to have secured a $1 billion deal to obtain New Zealand wood fibre.
Sea 2 Sky Corporation of Washington announced it had signed a contract with Mt Maunganui company Des Wilson Forestry worth US$757 million over 15 years.
Sea 2 Sky claimed that the forestry company would supply it with 250,000 tonnes of wood fibre over the first two years, increasing to 500,000 tonnes a year for the remainder of the contract.
But owner Des Wilson told the Weekend Herald that no such agreement existed.
Mr Wilson said he signed a document which said his company would locate potential sources of fibre in New Zealand that could be used for wood pellet manufacturing.
"All we said was that we would endeavour to find such material. There was no value, there was no volume on that document."
He believed the company might have overstated the significance of the contract in order to boost its share value.
Sea 2 Sky is a newly created renewable bio-energy company. Established in April, it uses a high-heat process to convert wood and fibre into a environmentally friendly alternative to coal.
It said it would turn New Zealand wood fibre into a "coal-like product" with about 70 per cent of its initial weight and 90 per cent of the original energy content, but without the fossil-fuel carbon emissions of coal.
The US$757 million figure was based on a the current wood fibre market price of US$233 a dry tonne.
Sea 2 Sky is based in Ferndale, Washington, near the heartland of America's forestry industry. Company director David Siebenga said that the multibillion-dollar demand for its product from Europe and Asia meant the corporation was looking beyond American forests for suppliers.
He said the company had rapidly expanded its presence in the wood pellet market through the agreement with Don Wilson Forestry.
"[We] have achieved a historic milestone of opening up new markets in the forest industry by harnessing strong international sources of supply in stable democratic states that we can now market."
But Mr Wilson said the misleading claims by the company had made him consider legal action. "My association with these people is absolutely zip."
Mr Wilson, who lives in Papamoa, also controls Taumaranui Saw Milling Ltd.
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