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)

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