Thursday, December 31, 2009

JANUARY NEWSLETTER 2009

WOOD PELLET NEWSLETTER
January 2010
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

PSJ PORT APPLICATION OUTLINES REGIONAL IMPACT

• HISTORY IN THE MAKING? NEW MUSEUM TAKES FIRST DELIVERY OF CARBON NEUTRAL FUEL Bristol, Eng.

• WOOD PELLET MAKERS EYE EASTPORT Maine


• LOGISTICS JUST GOT BETTER!

• CA-BUSINESS-MAN PAUL DAILEY HAS BEEN MEETING WITH POTENTIAL INVESTORS IN CALIFORNIA, NEVADA AND OREGON TO SECURE THE REST OF AN ESTIMATED $10 MILLION TO BUILD A WOOD PELLET MILL.
• BCAP TO BOOST BIOMASS HARVEST

• TORREFACTION PLANT IN BRAZIL

• ECO FRIENDLY VISIT TO BARNSTAPLE COLLEGE

• BYRD SAYS COAL INDUSTRY MUST
CHANGE

• ENLIGNA US TO DEVELOP A WOOD-PELLET MANUFACTURING PLANT AT THE FACILITY.

• STATE LOOKS TO REGULATE OUTDOOR FURNACES, PA

• ECONOMIC STIMULUS IS AT WORK IN FERGUS FALLS, MN
• GOVERNMENT TURNS DEAF EAR TO NOISE COMPLAINTS
• PELLET FUELS INSTITUTE ANNOUNCES FUEL STANDARDS PROGRAM

• UPGRADES PLANNED AT THE PORT OF EASTPORT HAVE PIQUED THE INTEREST OF TWO WOOD PELLET PRODUCERS.

• CAN CARS RUN ON TREES?

• PLANS FOR PELLET PLANT GET STATE FUNDING

• NORTH AMERICAN PELLET INDUSTRY PUSHES SAWDUST AND CHIP PRICES UP

• HOW TO HELP A FAMILY WHO LOST EVERYTHING

• MARKET OPENS FOR TIMBER PELLETS OVER COAL

• HIGH NATURAL GAS PRICES HAVE HOMEOWNERS LOOKING TO OTHER HEAT SOURCES

• OVER 50 EAGER BARBECUE ENTHUSIASTS ATTEND FAST EDDY’S CHAMPIONSHIP COOKING CLASS

• ENERGY EFFICIENT WOOD PELLET PLANT BEGINS OPERATIONS IN DEKALB COUNTY

• DECLINE IN HOUSING MARKET HITS FORESTRY INDUSTRY HARD

• BOARD PLANS FOR NEW FAIRPLAY SCHOOL COMPLEX

• WOOD PELLET PLANT ANNOUNCED IN UNION CO. ARK

• GAS COULD BE THE CAVALRY IN GLOBAL WARMING FIGHT

• REPLACING COAL WITH BIOMASS

• KNOCKANDO TRUST SCOOPS LAST OF CASH NEEDED FOR RESTORATION






PSJ PORT APPLICATION OUTLINES REGIONAL IMPACT


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December 01, 2009 06:43:00 AM
By Tim Croft / Florida Freedom Newspapers
PORT ST. JOE - The ripple effect from an operational port in Port St. Joe would enhance the economic prospects for the Northwest Florida region, as outlined in an application for a federal stimulus grant.
At a time when unemployment in the county is near 10 percent, a number many surrounding counties are familiar with, and short-term economic hopes are pinned to a hospital and an estimated 90-plus jobs at opening next March as well as a biomass plant and 200 construction jobs next year, the Port Authority’s vision, though longer-term, provides an even bigger bang for the buck.
Tied as it is to the creation of a “green” industrial park along the Intracoastal Canal just north of a proposed biomass plant currently in permitting, the Port Authority envisions an operational port that will create 334 direct jobs in the county and 336 in the extended region during construction. Other employment related to port construction would add 615 jobs in the region.
After construction, 26 direct permanent jobs in the county and 40 more private sector jobs in the region would be the result of an operational port.
As for the industrial park, the location of which is no accident given the proximity to the port, construction could mean 1,635 direct jobs and 2,748 related jobs in the region.
The private sector businesses expected at the park once construction is completed are expected to create 82 direct permanent jobs and another 137 jobs in the region.
These would be jobs paying more than $37,300 annually, or roughly $7,000 above the county’s average annual salary.
“This project will create an immediate regional economic stimulus through the construction period and will create well-paying permanent port and port-related jobs in the public and private sectors once construction is completed,” the application indicates.
There is considerable weight being thrown behind the Port Authority’s application for a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program grant.
Part of the American Reinvestment and Renewal Act (ARRA), these stimulus funds are specifically targeted at seaports. The Port Authority seeks funding of $39.1 million.
Congressman Allen Boyd, Sen. Bill Nelson, state Sen. Al Lawson, state Reps. Marti Coley and Jimmy Patronis, the county, municipalities, Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Council are just a sampling of those who have provided letters of support to the Port Authority’s application.
There are also several developments that have helped drive the TIGER grant application and the creation of the green industrial park.
One is the widening of the Panama Canal to accommodate the larger and larger cargo ships being built and put into use around the world.
An opening for trade with South and Central American countries, as well as those in the Caribbean, is there for one of Florida’s 14 deepwater ports, the only one of the 14 not yet developed into an operational port.
The Port Authority is also expecting the governor and Florida Cabinet to sign off next month on a land swap that will finalize the near-50 year lease the Port Authority has on land north of the old mill site and owned by the St. Joe Company.
St. Joe is swapping land near the St. Joseph Bay Buffer Preserve and elsewhere in the county in exchange for the state submerged lands that would allow the Port Authority to expand and enhance its access to the federally-designated shipping channel.
The Port Authority, as part of its lease for the land north of the mill site, also has secured a shorter term lease for the mill site bulkhead to facilitate quicker development through, in connection to its existing barge bulkhead along the Intracoastal canal, generation of a revenue stream on a more accelerated timeline.
Math is also in the port’s favor. According to a Florida Department of Transportation report, state investment in seaports yields $6.90 per $1 of investment.
The “green” industrial park dovetails with the port project.
Gulf County was selected by Florida’s Great Northwest, a regional economic development organization, as a potential site for one of several such parks in the region.
That vision began to take shape with the arrival – on a separate track – of the biomass plant proposed for the old Materials Transfer site along the Intracoastal Canal.
The governor has made a transition to providing at least 20 percent of the state’s energy needs through renewable energy in the next decade a priority. There is also a national push toward renewable energy sources, a driver in the Port Authority’s application as well as Florida’s Great Northwest desire to create “green” industrial parks in the region.
“Florida’s commitment to developing alternative fuels and making this country independent of foreign oil within 10 years is particularly clear in Northwest Florida, which is being called the ‘go-to region’ for biomass energy plants looking for a home,” detailed a August 2009 article in Florida Trend magazine.
Particularly when a park will be home to plants or companies that will make advantageous use of the region’s natural resources, specifically forests.
Wood pellet production and shipping – along with ethanol, aggregates and other cargo – figures prominently in the future of an operational port in Gulf County and could be a feature of an industrial park. Forest residue and fast-growing grasses are key fuels for the biomass plant.
A final piece has been an understanding between the Port Authority and the Genessee & Wyoming Railroad concerning interest in a rail connector between the port and industrial park that would ultimately lead to connection to intermodal centers to the north.
“This project – the construction of a deepwater green energy port and rail connection to a nearby Green Energy Industrial Park – will deliver (federal and state) programmatic results, stimulate the regional economy by expanding economic activity and job creation, and achieve long-term public benefits …,” the application reads in part.
The TIGER grants funds would effectively carry the Port Authority through the second phase of its development.
Construction of the port components on the 60-acre tract north of the old mill site, including dredging of a turn basin, bulkhead work and upland improvements as well as construction of a rail connector between the port and industrial park would be the big ticket items.
Engineering and surveying costs would also be underwritten along with contingency and construction inspection and engineering fees.
“Receipt of the TIGER grant funds will not only result in the near-term impacts and benefits of construction expenditures, but will also result in deepwater seaport capability by late 2011 and the anticipated permanent jobs and economic benefits (detailed in the application),” the application summarizes.
The application was submitted in September. A final determination – and Port Authority officials are cautiously optimistic of receiving the grant – will come soon after the first of the year.
The Port Authority is pursuing environmental permitting for its proposed development and the entire project is expected to be completed by February 2012, depending on funding.


HISTORY IN THE MAKING? NEW MUSEUM TAKES FIRST DELIVERY OF CARBON NEUTRAL FUEL


Posted by The Editor on Dec 1st, 2009 and filed under GREEN BRISTOL, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
Bristol’s new city history museum is preparing to take its first delivery of wood pellets – fuel for the newly installed biomass boiler which the council hopes will reduce the museum’s carbon dioxide emissions.
The green boiler is part of a number of measures designed to improve the museum’s energy efficiency, including solar water panels on the roof of the museum.

Fuel of the future? Wood chips release same amount of CO2 as absorbed when growing
The wood fuelled boiler will provide “carbon neutral” heat to the museum instead of traditional gas or oil boilers. The wood fuel – while still releasing CO2 when burned – only emits the same amount of CO2 as was absorbed when the sourced trees were growing.
And the amount of CO2 released is roughly equal to the amount that would have been released by the natural decay of the wood.
Biomass boilers have already been installed at Blaise Castle Nurseries, Netham Sports Pavillion and Florence Brown School as part of the 10:10 campaign: which targets a 10% drop in CO2 emissions by the end of 2010.
Paul Isbell, Energy Manager at Bristol City Council, said: ”The installation of a biomass boiler at the new museum will not only help reduce Bristol and the city council’s CO2 emissions, it will also help to educate visitors to the museum on how these technologies can help to combat climate change and inspire Bristol residents to see what they can do to reduce their own carbon footprint.”

WOOD PELLET MAKERS EYE EASTPORT

By The Mainebiz News Staff
Yesterday
________________________________________
Upgrades planned at the Port of Eastport thanks to $4.5 million from the recently approved transportation bond have piqued the interest of two wood pellet producers.
The producers, one local, recently contacted the port to express interest in shipping there, now that the port has the funds to build a bulk conveyor system, according to The Quoddy Tides. The $4.5 million is part of the transportation bond approved by voters in November. Eastport Port Authority Director Chris Gardner said the authority hopes to start construction on the conveyor system next spring and finish by the summer, and may seek a line of credit from a bank to fund the project, since the bond funding won't be issued until next summer.
The port has been looking to diversify its cargo to offset the uncertainty of its primary customer, Domtar Corp., which closed its Baileyville pulp mill in March and then reopened in June. The port was able to secure a handful of wind turbine shipments this summer, and the conveyor system would allow the port to handle bulk shipments of loose cargo like gravel and salt, Gardner told Mainebiz in April.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009
LOGISTICS JUST GOT BETTER!
Michigan Wood Pellet Fuel can now offer 100 ton train cars of wood pellets. Previously, we were only able to provide 95 tons per car. Now that we have a new load pattern for one ton units, we can stuff 100 units into a 60' high cube rail car. We stack the units three high in the car, where before we stacked 1.4 ton units two high. Many of our customers would rather stock the one ton units and many consumers find it easier to buy one ton units. Let us know if can provide you a quote to your destination. These photos were taken after the car traveled 850+ miles, not one torn bag!











CA-BUSINESS-MAN PAUL DAILEY HAS BEEN MEETING WITH POTENTIAL INVESTORS IN CALIFORNIA, NEVADA AND OREGON TO SECURE THE REST OF AN ESTIMATED $10 MILLION TO BUILD A WOOD PELLET MILL.


Business-man Paul Dailey has been meeting with potential investors in California, Nevada and Oregon to secure the rest of an estimated $10 million to build a wood pellet mill.

If he can line up enough investors, Dailey said he could finalize a sale agreement with Douglas County for the approximately 12-acre Bolin Island plot north of town.

The state Land Use Board of Appeals recently upheld Douglas County Planning Departments decision to remove a dredge spoils zone at the industrial site. Dailys optimistic the land use appeals process soon will be behind him.

Were looking pretty good. We still have some things to do, but thats a big hurdle out of the way, said Dailey, who owns a sawmill up Smith River.

Jan Tetreault, a Loon Lake resident, and Roseburg resident Richard Sommer appealed a county Planning Department decision in June to remove the 4-acre dredge spoils overlay at Bolin Island.

The appeal was sent to LUBA when county commissioners refused to hear it. LUBA found the countys removal of the overlay is warranted, since county engineer Rob Paul reported earlier this year theres no room for dredge spoils.

Its full. Its done, said coastal planner Jonathan Wright.

The underlying land also does not have an estuary designation, making it developable industry land in the countys master plan.

County commissioners will decide in December whether to eliminate the review process for removing a dredge site overlay. A site that is determined full by an engineer could be closed without a chance for public review or an appeal.

Dailey said he would accept a legitimate appeal, but, The process was being used to block development of an industrial site. The process was being abused.

He still will need building and environmental permits.

The mill would process byproducts such as sawdust and logging residue into fuel pellets. The proposed mill would employ between 25 and 30 people, he said.

Im way anxious to get this going, he said.


BCAP TO BOOST BIOMASS HARVEST

It will take time to determine if the Biomass Crop Assistance Program is a success. In the meantime, despite questions and concerns, the list of eligible biomass projects is growing by leaps and bounds.
By Anna Austin

A crucial question for farmers when weighing the benefits of growing biocrops or collecting ag residue is “What’s in it for me?” Not knowing if there will be a market for these crops has been the biggest deterrent for farmers when deciding to grow and harvest switchgrass, wheat straw, corn stover or other biomass crops. Farmers also have to consider the cost of harvesting, transportation and storage.

On the flip side, there’s also been uncertainty on the part of end users of the biomass materials, regarding whether the materials will be too costly or consistently available.

To alleviate those concerns, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program was created in the 2008 Farm Bill to provide financial assistance to eligible material owners providing biomass to facilities that convert or propose to convert biomass to heat, power, biobased products or advanced biofuels. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the cost of the program will top out at $70 million, including $14 million in 2009 and 2010, and $21 million during each of the remaining two years of the program.
Since its inception, to say the program is popular would be an understatement. As of the end of November, the qualified biomass conversion facility list was at 250, ranging from pellet producers to biomass power plants to pulp and paper mills.



Although the program has been received positively for the most part, it hasn’t escaped criticism. In August, the USDA Farm Service Agency began accepting comments on the draft programmatic environmental impact statement (EIS) on BCAP to collect suggestions on the program and any ideas for rulemaking, and plans to release more program rules later this year.

Meanwhile, the program continues to gain momentum. Jonathan Groveman, USDA FSA public affairs specialist, says the overwhelming interest in the new program has been the greatest surprise with inquiries coming from all levels and sectors of the biomass industry.


Taking Off

“The best part [of BCAP] has been hearing from all the innovative start-up facilities trying to figure out how they fit into the program and to get the indirect benefits, such as a small tree farm that is installing a hydronic unit to power its operations,” Groveman says. He adds that it’s been a surprise to learn that many facilities already in operation, during pressing economic times, see their indirect benefits as a way for them to move toward more efficient bioenergy production. “Eligible material owners (EMOs), too, appear to see their direct benefit as an opportunity to make their operations more efficient, such as using mobile briquetting which cuts the bulk and cost of transporting biomass,” he says.

One of the aspects of the program that might have led to its popularity was the easy application process. Applying to the program wasn’t difficult, says Gerry DeNotto, president of Indeck Energy Services. Indeck Energy has two biomass conversion facilities in BCAP—a 16 megawatt wood-to-energy plant in Alexandria, N.H., and a 90,000 ton per year wood pellet plant in Wisconsin. “The [initial] rules came out piecemeal, although, I must give the FSA credit for getting them out quickly,” he adds.
So far, the list doesn’t include many facilities in the Midwest, which is touted as the country’s agriculture belt. Groveman points out that it’s important to remember that while a biomass conversion facility may be located in one state, the eligible material may come from several states. “The initial trend of sign ups for qualification of the biomass conversion facilities came from the forestry and paper industry and now a variety of sectors are beginning to submit applications,” he says. “We’re receiving applications from schools and universities, smaller entrepreneurial start-ups, various biobased product and advanced biofuel producers and cooperatives.”

Most bioconversion facilities that have applied to the program have qualified, only a few facilities have been turned away because the facilities convert only ineligible materials or there were no conversion processes, according to Groveman. “Several facilities have been unable to qualify based on their inability to provide environmental compliance with federal, state or local laws,” Groveman says. “Many applications have had to be returned for deficiencies, meaning they were incomplete.”
If an application is returned, however, the applicant may reapply. “And most have reapplied, or intend to apply when licenses and permits are in place,” he adds.


Questions and Concerns

As with any new program, kinks in the BCAP program still need to be worked out. Charlie Niebling, general manager for BCAP qualifier New England Wood Pellet and chairman of the board of directors for the Biomass Thermal Energy Council, believes BCAP will benefit the pellet industry in the Northeast, as it is a critical revenue enhancement for wood suppliers, many of whom are struggling in the down economy. However, Niebling says he has a healthy skepticism about subsidy programs such as BCAP because markets often adjust quickly to the presence of subsidies, and the benefits of the program diminish as a result. “I’m also concerned about what happens in two years when most current EMO’s no longer qualify to participate,” he says. “Will they be in a position to adjust their businesses to the absence of the subsidy at that time? I think all companies participating in the program have to keep expectations realistic and not view BCAP as a panacea.”
Across the biomass industry, questions have been raised, such as whether using wood waste or residue should count as eligible material, as most established conventional facilities most likely already have established suppliers of woody biomass. The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy says funding is being used to pay for existing biomass supplies used for renewable energy, rather than focusing on the BCAP program goal of helping to jump-start the growth of new biomass energy crops. IATP recommends that perennial and multiple-species biomass feedstocks be a focus and, if funds allow, then annual crops in a resource-conserving crop rotation.

A commodities manager for a qualified ethanol facility employing a biomass gasification system told Biomass Magazine that though the goal of the program has been made clear, he’s not sure if they’re “doing a great job in meeting that goal.” He says he’s also had questions about the 0 percent moisture rule in the BCAP.

“No other crop assistance program that I’m aware of has had that requirement,” he says. Under BCAP, payments for the sale and delivery of eligible material to a qualified facility rate $1 for each $1 per dry ton, limited to a maximum of $45 per dry ton. For example, 45.3 actual tons of biomass with 11.6 percent total moisture content has a dry ton equivalent of 40 tons, and so the EMO would get paid only for those 40 tons.



Seth Voyles, manager of government affairs for the Pellet Fuels Institute, says there are also concerns with the popularity of the program, which could be a problem because the money allocated might not be enough—and the dollar for dollar won’t be achieved because of the high amount of people applying for the money.

As the debate over the effectiveness of the program continues, most view the biomass-focused program as signaling a change in the energy focus of the federal government.


Future of BCAP

BCAP’s incentives are likely to give farmers contemplating growing biomass crops the final push needed to do so, and established woody biomass suppliers struggling with the downturn in housing markets may be able to regain their footing. Additionally, the program’s many indirect benefits are being realized.

“The pellet industry is looking at it optimistically and supportively because one thing we’re worrying about is feedstock, especially with suppliers,” Voyles says. “Feedstocks have been hard to come by. Realistically, for the pellet industry, prices will be the same or just a little lower, but on the positive side, with pellet mills signing up people will want to sell to them because they have the potential to get that dollar for dollar.”

A proposed rule for full BCAP implementation is expected after the EIS is complete sometime in November, and full implementation of the program is expected in 2010. Until then, those working toward commercialization of innovative renewable fuel and energy technologies utilizing biomass can rest a little easier knowing that realizing a secure, steady feedstock supply in the future is a near certainty, and those planning to provide the materials are poised for steady demand.

More information about BCAP can be found at www.fsa.usda.gov. BIO

TORREFACTION PLANT IN BRAZIL
VEGA PROMOTIONAL SYSTEMS, INC. (PINKSHEETS: VGPR) announced today it has entered into a Joint Venture Agreement to build a biomass production facility in the South American country of Brazil. The name of the venture is Biomass of the Americas, LTD.
The Joint Venture Project will utilize special alternative energy technology called torrefaction. Torrefaction converts most forms of biomass waste into thermally treated biomass powder that is then turned into bio-coal briquettes for shipment to the end user.
There is a tremendous demand from European and American pulverized coal plants capable of burning bio-coal as a green fuel to meet carbon cap and trade regulations and renewable portfolio standards for power generation.
Bio-coal has a high energy density of over 10,000 BTU's per pound and is considered a renewable energy fuel that meets the Renewable Portfolio Standards and renewable energy credits in the United States. The retail price of the bio-coal in the United States is between $135 and $145 per metric ton. In Europe, the price is approximately $100 per metric ton higher than the price in the United States.
The cost to build the Brazil facility will be approximately $11 million (USD). When completed, the facility will generate approximately $7 million in annual revenue. The Company's plan is to begin construction during the first quarter of 2010.
Biomass of the Americas, LTD plans to expand into other South American countries once the Brazil plant is operational.
The Company will provide additional details concerning the site of the facility in Brazil as soon as lease negotiations are completed.
View this release in video format: http://www.vodnewswire.com/vodnewswire/news/vegapromosystems-20091203/

ECO FRIENDLY VISIT TO BARNSTAPLE COLLEGE
dave.tanner@archant.co.uk
04 December 2009


PUPILS from Horwood and Newton Tracey School discover what the under floor heating looks like at the Petroc Eco House.
PUPILS from Horwood and Newton Tracey Community School have visited Petroc in Barnstaple to find out more aboput being environmentally friendly.

The Year 6 pupils have been studying the topic "Saving our World" and researching ways in which they can reduce their carbon footprint and have produced persuasive letters and posters to encourage others to adopt green ideas.

Their school has recently benefitted from a new wood pellet boiler/heating system and sensor activated lights have been installed.

So to help them learn more the Environmental Technologies department at the college in Barnstaple opened its doors to show the students energy efficient methods of construction, sustainability and materials, among other things.

They also got to tour the college's increasingly well known Eco House to found out more about what makes it so environmentally friendly and what it would be like to live in an eco house with its hosts of energy saving measures.

"It is always a pleasure to meet young people with such an enthusiasm for knowledge," said Neil Hookway, Head of School for Architecture, Construction and the Built Environment.

"The students' incisive and informed questions impressed me, it was a real pleasure to meet such an energetic and enthusiastic group of young people.

BYRD SAYS COAL INDUSTRY MUST CHANGE
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd says the American coal industry must change, as it has changed before, and that it's time to "speak the truth" and "have an open and honest dialogue about coal's future in West Virginia."
In a major commentary published Thursday, the West Virginia Democrat also said the suggestion that health-care reform should be blocked until the coal industry's demands are met in Washington is "beyond foolish" and "morally indefensible." Some leaders, including the head of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, have advocated such a tactic.
The longest-serving member of Congress in United States history called on coal industry leaders to stop using Washington and the permitting process for mountaintop removal mining as a scapegoat.
"Scapegoating and stoking fear among workers over the permitting process is counter-productive," Byrd wrote. "Public anger toward federal regulatory agencies can damage the state's ability to work with those agencies to West Virginia's benefit."
He also said accusations of a deliberate effort in Washington to eliminate the coal industry are ridiculous, because the country has no immediately available alternate energy supply to replace it. "That is a stubborn fact that vexes some in the environmental community, but it is reality," he wrote.
Coal generates half the electricity used in the United States today and about a quarter of all energy consumed in the world.
But Byrd differentiated between the coal industry as a whole and mountaintop removal mining.
"It is also a reality that the practice of mountaintop removal mining has a diminishing constituency in Washington. It is not a widespread method of mining, with its use confined to only three states. Most members of Congress, like most Americans, oppose the practice, and we may not yet fully understand the effects of mountaintop removal mining on the health of our citizens," he wrote.
Byrd also said the coal industry must acknowledge the growing body of evidence on climate change.
To be part of any solution, one must first acknowledge a problem," he wrote. "To deny the mounting science of climate change is to stick our heads in the sand and say "deal me out." West Virginia would be much smarter to stay at the table.
"The truth is that some form of climate legislation will likely become public policy because most American voters want a healthier environment. Major coal-fired power plants and coal operators operating in West Virginia have wisely already embraced this reality, and are making significant investments to prepare," he wrote.
Byrd pointed out that the coal industry has changed before, notably when it comes to mechanization. He noted that despite record coal production in West Virginia in recent years, the number of the state's coal miners has decreased from more than 62,000 to about 22,000.
"The future of coal and indeed of our total energy picture lies in change and innovation," he wrote, adding that several projects in the state already have attempted to find new or modified ways to produce energy. Those include a carbon capture and sequestration plant in Mason County, wind power projects, a biofuel refinery and wood-pellet plants.
"Change has been a constant throughout the history of our coal industry. West Virginians can choose to anticipate change and adapt to it, or resist and be overrun by it," Byrd concluded.
"One thing is clear," he said. "The time has arrived for the people of the Mountain State to think long and hard about which course they want to choose."
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.




ENLIGNA US TO DEVELOP A WOOD-PELLET MANUFACTURING PLANT AT THE FACILITY.


WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. - (Business Wire) In a move that further establishes the Port of West Sacramento as a hub of environmentally friendly manufacturing and shipping operations, the West Sacramento Planning Commission last night approved a conditional-use permit for Enligna US to develop a wood-pellet manufacturing plant at the facility.
The plant will produce about 170,000 tons of wood pellets annually to be used as a coal substitute at power plants, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Pellets will be exported to Asia, Canada and Europe but Enligna also expects growth in U.S. demand.
The plant initially is expected to generate revenue of up to $1.1 million annually for the Port and employ 35 people.
Enligna also will operate a cogeneration power plant at the Port, producing electricity for its own manufacturing operations, with excess power being sold back to the grid or to other Port tenants.
“This next-generation clean energy project is a good fit with the Port of West Sacramento’s green growth strategy,” said Lutz Glandorf, president of Enligna U.S., Inc. “Our project will use waste wood from orchards in the region and help provide an environmentally sound alternative to burning of wood debris in nearby National Forests. We are excited at the potential of this project as a model to provide green jobs in the region and offer a constructive path to cleaner energy production.”
The wood-pellet facility will replace a fertilizer-importing operation that is leaving the Port in March 2010, with wood chips being stored in a section of the Port’s grain elevator and an additional 12-acre site.
Enligna expects to start wood-pellet production by the end of 2010 followed within months by the co-generation operation.
“We’re very excited about moving forward with the Enligna project, which is the most recent in a series of steps we’re taking to further diversify our operations and attract cargos that support sustainable energy production,” said Mike McGowan, chairman of the Sacramento-Yolo Port Commission.
Enligna’s facility also is expected to provide additional regionwide environmental benefits.
“We support the concept of the wood-pellet operation, which helps make forest thinning more economically viable, increases the use of renewable biofuels for energy production, and reduces the probability of devastating wildfires that destroy habitat and watersheds, and produce harmful emissions,” said Mark Brown, Vegetation Program Manager for the U.S. Forest Service-Tahoe National Forest.
Port of West Sacramento
Mike Luken, Manager, 916-371-8000
or
Endicott Communications
Gene Endicott, 916-719-7214

STATE LOOKS TO REGULATE OUTDOOR FURNACES, PA
By TIFFANY WRIGHT
Daily American Staff Writer


Saturday, December 5, 2009 9:23 PM EST
Residents may have to find another source to heat their home or make changes to their outdoor furnaces if proposed regulations by the state Department of Environmental Protection is approved.

The Pennsylvania DEP could adopt rules that would regulate the use and sale of outdoor wood furnaces.

“Currently there are no regulations at either the state or federal level for these types of facilities,” said John Repetz, a spokesman for DEP. “There are health concerns about the matter. There’s a very fine material that comes out of the smoke that could cause health problems deep inside the lung tissue and cause respiratory and heart problems.”

Complaints from neighbors who deal with the smoke and smell also were taken into consideration when proposing the regulations.

“Another thing that comes into play is that even though it’s labeled an outdoor wood burner people are using them as incinerators and burning other types of debris like animal carcasses and tires.”

The regulations would require furnaces that are sold to meet stricter air emissions standards. There are also specific requirements regarding the location of the furnace: they would have to be installed at least 150 feet from the nearest property line, and must have a permanently attached stack that extends at least 10 feet above the ground and at least two feet above the highest peak of the highest residence located within 150 feet of the furnace.

For residents with existing furnaces they must also have a permanently attached stack at least 10 feet above the ground, but the stacks must be at least two feet above the highest peak of the highest residence located within 500 feet of the furnace.

The proposed regulations would also require that furnace owners burn only clean wood, wood pellets from clean wood, home heating oil, natural gas or propane fuels.

The DEP’s Environmental Quality Board is currently collecting public comments on the issue until Jan. 4.

Somerset resident Dave Flick has submitted his comments regarding the issue to local political leaders like State Rep. Carl Walker Metzgar Jr. and Sen. Richard Kasunic. He recently attended a public hearing in Pittsburgh to present his opinions.

Flick said he is not in favor of the proposed regulations because some of the property stipulations do not seem feasible for rural areas.

“One of the big concerns is, depending on how much terrain there is, you have properties that are not causing a problem or not a nuisance because they are up wind ... and you might have a stack height of 70 to 80 feet in the air. It’d be nearly impossible to erect a stack like that on top of a furnace,” he said.

Also, smoke stacks that high would be difficult to clean regularly, he said.

Flick’s solution is for local municipalities to assess outdoor furnaces, rather than make a state-wide regulation.

“The state of Pennsylvania should not just try to rubber stamp a furnace under one law,” he said.

He thinks outdoor furnaces at rural household should have more lenient regulations than those in a borough or more developed town.

Jack Biancotti, Somerset Township secretary, thinks that the state should impose general guidelines, but let each municipality determine the specific rules.

“They have to tailor the regulations to suit their own individual circumstances,” he said.

Somerset Township has had an outdoor furnace ordinance since March 2006. He said the supervisors wanted to be proactive since at the time outdoor furnaces were becoming more popular.

“We were looking at this as a way of heading off some potential problems,” Biancotti said. “We have a mixed residential situation here where we have some areas that are rural and open and some that are very closely developed houses. Outdoor furnaces are most appropriate in wide open rural areas, but can create a nuisance for neighbors in highly developed areas.”

Jefferson Township enacted an outdoor furnace ordinance a year ago because of a limited number of neighbor complaints, according to township secretary Melanie Peters.

“We got sample ordinances from DEP and some other townships that already had an ordinance and we modified it,” she said.

Repetz said if DEP’s regulations should pass the state ordinance would take effect. If a local municipality has its own ordinance that is more stringent than the state, then the local ordinance would take precedence.

If the regulations pass, businesses that sell furnaces would be required to notify customers of the new rules and keep sales records for five years.

Matthew Stairs works for Twin Springs Heating in Somerset, which is also a distributor of Mahoning Outdoor Furnaces, and he said, it would not be difficult to keep sales records.

He does not think the regulations seem feasible.

“Some of the requirements are ridiculous. The circumstances don’t work for everybody,” he said. “I believe that a case by case regulation would be much better.”

But Stairs did say if the regulations are enacted it will help business.

“If anything it would help. That’s what we’re hoping,” he said.

Furnace owners say the alternative energy source is a way to save money, and Stairs agrees.

“We just did an installation for a family in Lincoln Township who was spending more than $6,000 for heating oil a year. And they were heating their home at 60 degrees,” he said. “We did their complete installation for around $7,000 and they’re able to burn wood they cut down on their farm. In a few years the furnace pays for itself.”

Flick said state regulations could prove to be a hardship for some families.

“I think there’s a lot of rural families in Pennsylvania that have limited needs and this is the only form of heat they can afford,” he said.

Once the public comment period ends the regulations could be revised. It then must be approved by a technical advisory committee and the Environmental Quality Board.

“If everything goes correctly it could be approved by late spring or early summer,” Repetz.

(Tiffany Wright may be contacted at tiffanyw@dailyamerican.com. Comment on the online story at dailyamerican.com.)




ECONOMIC STIMULUS IS AT WORK IN FERGUS FALLS, MN
By Lauren Radomski (Contact) | The Daily Journal
Published Saturday, December 5, 2009


By Lauren Radomski
Daily Journal
Nearly 10 months after Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a Fergus Falls family is seeing stimulus dollars at work in their household.
Jessica Sundheim, her husband, Matyas, and their daughters have lived in Fergus Falls since 2005. After the passage of the stimulus bill, Sundheim, 31, said she was skeptical about where the money would end up, but hopeful the legislation would create jobs. She thought of some of her high school classmates having difficulty finding work, despite graduating from elite, private colleges.
Since moving to Fergus Falls, Sundheim has worked at A Center for the Arts and The Market, working opposite Matyas’ schedule at Schwan’s to reduce childcare costs.
When applying for heating assistance this year, the couple checked a box indicating their interest in the Weatherization Assistance Program, which provides low-income families with energy-efficient household improvements free of charge. The program received $5 billion to distribute nationwide as a result of the stimulus bill.
Locally, the program is administered by the Otter Tail Wadena Community Action Council (OTWCAC).
The Sundheims, whose 1885 home had no insulation, had applied for participation in the Weatherization Assistance Program the past few years with no success. This year was different. The Sundheims’ acceptance into the program meant their home was evaluated by an inspector, who made recommendations about potential improvements. Contractors came to the home to prepare bids, which were submitted to the OTWCAC. By the end of October, the family had insulation, a new furnace and a water heater, ending their reliance on a wood pellet-burning stove and electric heat.
Now their natural gas bill is less expensive than the pellet stove and their water bill is down, too.
“We keep it cold now just because we’re used to that,” Sundheim joked.
Sundheim began to look into stimulus funding for students in early summer, around the time that work began to replace the Concord Street bridge, located near her home. A sign attributing the bridge work to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act prompted her to research what else the legislation funded.
Sundheim had considered attending M State in 2006, but decided not to apply after learning there was little in the way of federal dollars for students. When she met with college officials this summer, the situation looked more promising. The stimulus provided $8.7 billion for Student Financial Assistance, which includes Pell Grants and Federal Work Study.
Sundheim filled out the federal student aid form online and learned she qualified for a Pell Grant, as well as some state funding. Her grant covers the entire cost of her tuition at M State, where she is a full-time student scheduled to graduate in December 2010. A separate grant through the college assists with childcare costs.
Managing the grant applications requires patience and organization, Sundheim said.
“You have to have all of your ducks in a row,” she said. “It’s like a part-time job, applying for school.”
Yet Sundheim says it was worth it. So far she hasn’t run into any serious snags or catches.
“It was pretty straight forward as far as what I was told I could expect and what I actually received,” she said.
Sundheim plans to follow her M State education with an online ministry and theology program. She recently shared her family’s experience as part of Minnesota Public Radio’s Public Insight Network.

GOVERNMENT TURNS DEAF EAR TO NOISE COMPLAINTS
Not just annoying, it's a health hazard

By Hillary Nelson Monitor columnist
________________________________________
December 06, 2009 - 12:00 am

What if I told you that you and your family were being exposed every day to something harmful, even deadly? Something the World Health Organization has identified as a major health hazard that can cause hypertension, heart disease, hearing loss and mental health problems. Something that can produce an effect like ADHD in your children, can interfere with their learning, can stress them out so much they're prone to illness. Something that even at very low levels can cause such chronic sleep deprivation that every year in the United States tens of thousands of people nod off at the wheel or have serious accidents at work.
And what if I told you this dangerous something is easy to detect and easy to control? Wouldn't you expect there'd be federal and state laws against it? Wouldn't you expect - no, demand - government officials at all levels, from your local board of selectmen all the way up to the president, do something about it?
No, it's not a chemical additive to plastic or the latest variation of influenza. It's not obesity or diabetes or second-hand smoke. The health hazard I'm talking about is noise.
Noise is simply unwanted sound, the kind of sound that interferes with whatever it is you want to be doing. There are thousands of scientific studies showing that noise can be as harmful as toxic chemicals in water and smog in the air. In fact, the federal government used to treat noise like other kinds of pollution; there was once an Office of Noise Abatement and Control at the Environmental Protection Agency.
These days however, citizens with complaints about noise often find it difficult to get a sympathetic hearing from government officials. In Center Barnstead, where the noise from a newly-opened wood pellet plant has been waking townsfolk at all hours of the night, complaints about the racket have been met with skepticism. Selectman Gordon Preston recently told the Monitor, "Two miles away, you can hear it and detect it. Whether that makes life unbearable is another matter."
Why is it that noise pollution, which has been proven
to be as dangerous as any other kind of pollution, isn't taken very seriously by people who should know better? At least some of the problem can be traced back to Ronald Reagan, who came into office in 1980 promising deregulation and smaller government.
The Office of Noise Abatement and Control was an easy target. It had plenty of enemies among interest groups who hated the idea of noise regulation, from manufacturers to motorsports enthusiasts to concert promoters. And though back then we knew a few obvious truths about noise - that long-term exposure upwards of 85 decibels would cause permanent damage to hearing (just ask Pete Townshend) - we didn't understand at the time that far lower levels of noise could be dangerous in more nefarious ways. In 1982, Ronald Reagan succeeded in having ONAC defunded.
For 30 years the federal government, with the exception of some limited traffic and aviation issues, has been out of the noise-protection business, leaving noise control up to state and local governments. Unfortunately, this also means there's been a dearth of U.S. government-sponsored research, which means that even when local governments attempt to craft noise ordinances, they're often working with research and standards developed in the 1970s.
Old rules
And there's plenty that old research and those old standards fail to address. Take the issue of decibels, for instance. Decibels measure the pressure caused by sound waves moving through the air. It's important to remember that the amount of noise dBs represent is not additive, but logarithmic. This means that for every 10 dB increase, the sound pressure increases by a factor of 10. Zero dB is the smallest sound the human ear can detect. Ten dB is 10 times as much sound pressure as 0 dB, while 20 dB represents 100 times more, 30 dB is 1,000 times more, and so on.
The relationship of decibels to the human experience of noise, however, is approximate at best. Basically, for every 10 dB increase, a person will perceive twice as much noise. For instance, if the sound of a quiet rural night averages 30 dB, the sound of someone talking (around 60 dB) is about eight times louder. Which explains why it's hard to sleep in a hospital when the nurses start chatting outside your door.
Some people are more sensitive to sound than others and are disturbed by relatively low noise levels. Sensitivity to noise also depends on where you live and the time of day. Urban dwellers are used to higher levels of background noise than are people who live in the country. Indeed, it's possible that many folks who choose to live in the country do so because they're more sensitive to noise. Wherever you live, people are more sensitive to noise at night than during the day and are more easily disturbed by it, especially when trying to sleep.
Too, our brains are hardwired to respond to some kinds of sounds - high pitched ones like babies crying, car alarms and jets taking off for, instance - with a flood of stress hormones, even if the decibel level of the noise is quite low. Low bass rumbles, the kind that rattle your car windows when the guy with giant speakers pulls up next to you, cause a similar response.



PELLET FUELS INSTITUTE ANNOUNCES FUEL STANDARDS PROGRAM

Pellet Fuels Manufacturers Are Encouraged to Participate In New Pellet Fuel Standards Program


With over 2 million tons of pellets warming American homes during heating season, the Pellet Fuels Institute (PFI) saw a need to provide a system to grade and standardize fuels produced by nearly 100 pellet mills throughout North America.

The PFI recently passed new, more stringent fuel standards requirements, along with a quality assurance program that will help homeowners match the pellet fuel they purchase with their appliance. This program will also provide consumers with more consistent and accurate information about the fuel they buy.

This standard system has been developed by PFI members and other non-member manufacturers to ensure that the industry remains a strong and viable participant in heating fuel and to provide a higher level of certainty regarding fuel quality to the consuming public.

We encourage all pellet mills to join us in providing consumers with the best possible fuel labeling so they can feed and operate their pellet stoves with confidence.
said Jeff Thiessen, PFI President. Participation in the standards program does not require membership in PFI.

A quality pellet fuel is a clean burning fuel and produces minimal smoke, making pellet home-heating appliances the lowest emission solid-fuel burning heating product available today. Clean-burning (at least 75% efficient) pellet fuel appliances qualify for the 30% federal consumer tax credit.

Pellet fuels are an integral part of home heating with a renewable resource, said Ken Lynn of Anderson Hardwood Pellets, one of the pellet mills participating in the program. Because of that, we believe it is important to educate consumers about pellet fuels and provide a way for them to see the quality of pellet they are purchasing. PFIs standards program does that by providing labeling for fuels that have been tested and registered.

Woodgrain Millwork in Prineville, Oregon, and Curran Renewable Energy of Massena, New York have also joined the standards program and recognize the need to ensure product quality in order to create a high level of purchasing comfort for consumers and their advocates.

Pellet mills participating in the standards program will be labeling their bags with a PFI standards program label indicating the following:

1.Their mill is a registered participant in the standards program

2.The grade of fuel contained in the bag, ash content, BTUs, type of material and if it contains any additives.

3.These labels ensure that the fuel has been tested in accordance with the PFI fuel standards specifications by an independent testing laboratory that has registered with PFI.

The Pellet Fuels Institute, located in Arlington, Virginia, is a North American trade association promoting energy independence through the efficient use of clean, renewable, densified biomass fuel. For more information about pellet heat, contact the Pellet Fuels Institute at (703) 522-6778 or www.pelletheat.org.




UPGRADES PLANNED AT THE PORT OF EASTPORT HAVE PIQUED THE INTEREST OF TWO WOOD PELLET PRODUCERS.


Two wood pellet producers, one locally based and one from outside the region, recently contacted the port of Eastport to indicate their interest in shipping through the port, following the passage of the transportation bond issue in the November 3 statewide election that will provide $4.5 million for a bulk conveyor system at the Estes Head terminal.

Port Director Chris Gardner, at the November 16 meeting of the port authority board, said the bond issue funds may not be available until next summer, so a line of credit from a bank might be considered so that engineering work can be done before then. Gardner hopes that construction may begin next spring, with the project completed by the summer. He said additional funds will be sought if necessary for the project.

A storage yard for wood pellets or other bulk cargoes will be located behind the Rubb warehouse, and that warehouse could be used for storage. Gardner noted that a proposal for another warehouse at the port is included in a Maine Port Authority request for federal stimulus funds. He suggested that a wood pellet company might have to assist with building a new warehouse for wood pulp if the Rubb warehouse is used for pellet storage. "We don't want to handicap ourselves with being a one-trick pony," Gardner said, referring to the need for the port to be able to handle the two different cargoes.

Skip Rogers, general manager of Federal Marine Terminals (FMT), said that FMT realizes that marketing the conveyor system to potential customers has to be the focus of FMT's marketing plan.

Rogers attended FMT's marketing meeting in South Carolina and also met recently with the Domtar Corporation concerning shipments from its Baileyville mill. Domtar is predicting that the port will be handling a ship a month with 32,000 or more metric tons for the Far East and a ship every other month for Europe. With 18 ships for the year, the port could break the 400,000-ton mark next year.

Rogers said that Domtar does not expect that the so-called black liquor federal tax credit will be renewed after the end of this year. The tax credit was cited by Domtar in a letter sent to its employees as one of the primary reasons the Baileyville plant was able to reopen in June. However, Rogers said that Domtar is "happy with the price of pulp in the world market" and believes it is sufficient to keep the mill operating. Rogers noted that not only is the pulp market presently strong, the weak U.S. dollar is helping with exports overseas. Gardner added, "We're expecting 2010 to be a stable year."

Although additional wind blade shipments have not materialized for this year, Gardner is hopeful that the market will come back and that shipments may be possible during the latter part of next year.

Gardner reported that discussions are continuing with Cianbro Corporation concerning the proposal to work on a 350' x 250' oil drilling platform in Eastport. The breakwater is no longer being considered for the work, as a 60-foot depth is needed all of the time. The Estes Head pier might be used, as there would be up to 25 days a month when it would be open, and Cianbro may be willing to work around the shipping schedule. Cianbro is still negotiating with Transworld, the owner of the platform, for the work, which could take up to six months.

The port is planning to purchase a new tugboat, the Abaco, that is in New York. The tug will replace the Pleon, which the port authority is selling.

by Edward French



CAN CARS RUN ON TREES?
Christopher Helman, 12.11.09, 06:00 AM EST
Ethanol upstart KL Energy thinks so. And they might (just might) be right.

HOUSTON -- Ethanol is, for the most part, a federally funded boondoggle that wastes piles of taxpayer money, mountains of corn and lakes worth of groundwater to make a transportation fuel vastly inferior to petroleum-derived gasoline both in energy content and portability.
Congress in 2007 mandated that by 2021 the nation use 36 billion gallons of ethanol a year--roughly one-third of our transportation needs. Right now, we're at roughly 11.5 billion gallons a year. Meeting the mandate without massive subsidies will take some serious scientific genius--especially when it comes to devising an economic way to make cellulosic ethanol out of trees and other plants we don't eat. Most of the nation's 1,500 or so biofuel upstarts will fail. The ones that survive will have figured out a better way to crack the cellulosic nut.
One of those might (just might) turn out to be KL Energy. Based in Rapid City, S.D., KL has devised what it says is a better process to make ethanol out of wood chips. The process, says Chief Executive Steven Corcoran, lends itself to small plants that could be built for $40 million in areas with plentiful low-cost waste wood (like Colorado forests ravaged by the mountain pine beetle and produce 5 million gallons of ethanol a year. Contrast that with corn-based megaplants that gin up 50 million to 100 million gallons a year.
Corcoran in 2007 raised $9 million in capital to build KL's first commercial-scale plant in Upton, Wyo., which can make 1.5 million gallons of ethanol a year. Too soon to tell if KL's process will survive in the long run, but it is interesting, and at all-in costs of roughly $3.50 a gallon, almost (gasp!) economic.
First, some basics. In making ethanol out of wood, a key differentiator is in how to break the wood into its three constituent parts. The good stuff, cellulose (which contains easily fermented glucose) is melded with hemicellulose (made of less useful sugars) and lignin (kind of like the rubber cement that holds it all together).
To break up the lignin and separate the hemicellulose from the cellulose, ethanol processors pretreat the wood with chopping, grinding and baths in high-pressure steam or sulfuric acid. The resulting mush gets fed in slurry form to enzymes, which break it down into sugars. Those are then fed to yeast bacteria--thus producing the fermentation that yields ethanol. The more cellulose broken out of the wood, the more ethanol comes out the other end.
KL, which perfected its process on lignin-rich Ponderosa pines from South Dakota's Black Hills ( BKH - news - people ), doesn't use any chemicals or acids. Its wood chips are first fed into a 400-degree steam cooker, then subjected to a patent-pending mechanical process that KL's chief scientist David Litzen calls axial shear. An analogy: think of a pencil, where the lead in the middle is the cellulose fiber, surrounded by unwanted lignin and hemicellulose. "We want to get the lead inside, so instead of chopping the pencil up perpendicularly and exposing just the ends, we strip the wood casing off the outside and expose the length of the lead," says Litzen. That gives the enzymes (which KL purchases from Novozymes) more surface area to react with.
Litzen, who used to work for Royal Dutch Shell ( RDS - news - people ), has put his experience with petrochemical plants to work, making sure that steam used in the pretreatment process is recycled in other stages.
Sounds good so far, and there's more. The powdery lignin, once separated from the cellulose, is a very useful substance in its own right. Pound for pound lignin contains nearly as much energy as coal. Which makes sense, considering that it's the stuff that coal is made of (lignite coal is soft brown coal formed from geologic pressures on forests that died millions of years ago).
Because KL's process does not chemically alter the lignin with acids, it can be formed into pellets and burned in wood pellet stoves. Acid-treated lignin emits sulfur dioxide when burned. The lignin pellets, says KL, have 20% higher energy content (for the same weight) than wood pellets. And powdered lignin can be added to pulverized coal for burning in power plants.


KL has been in discussions with wood pellet makers like Confluence Energy (see story, Turning Dead Trees Into Green Heat.) to build a plant in Colorado, where beetles have killed millions of acres of lodge pole pines. KL's Corcoran also says he's in talks with interested parties in Europe and Colombia. "Our vision is that one of these plants would be the core element of a community energy center" that could provide a local, sustainable source of both transportation and heating fuel.
It's a nice dream, but what about the cost? Corcoran says a $40 million plant fed with 100,000 tons of trees a year will generate roughly 5 million gallons of ethanol for an all in cost of roughly $3.50 per gallon. Strip out the capital costs, and operating costs are about $1.50 a gallon (enzymes are about 40 cents of that). This assumes no government subsidies at all.
Those are not terrible economics. But KL will need some helping hands to survive. The company, which has shares that trade over-the-counter, posted a net loss of $5 million on $3.5 million in revenue in the nine months through September. KL's fate could be improved if it manages to get some funding from either the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Department of Energy, which has some $500 million to distribute for biofuels. It will take more subsidies than that to get the U.S. to 36 billion gallons a year by 2021.

PLANS FOR PELLET PLANT GET STATE FUNDING
By JESSICA COLLIER, Enterprise Staff Writer
POSTED: December 10, 2009
TUPPER LAKE - An investment company looking to build a pellet plant in Tupper Lake will use a $76,500 grant from the state to develop a business plan to engage investors. It hopes to become a significant employer in the region.
The Long Lake-based Adirondack Woodsman's Pellet Company LLC plans to work with timber harvesters and employ sustainable harvest practices as it seeks to start up a commercial wood pellet manufacturing facility in Tupper Lake, according to a press release from Gov. David Paterson.
The company plans to create 20 to 40 local jobs, according to the proposal it submitted.
The grant is one of 18 the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority announced Tuesday to help support the development of new, clean-energy businesses and the expansion of existing ones across the state. It requires an equal match from the business.
Adirondack Woodsman's Pellet Company was one of nine proposals to receive money in its round of funding, beating out 41 other applications.
The company's project scored well with the panel that evaluated the proposals because it didn't just meet the criteria for the grant but also meets broader economic goals of NYSERDA, the governor and the state, said a NYSERDA spokesman.
The project aims to help replace outdoor wood boilers and petroleum heat, which have adverse health and environmental effects, with pellet stoves, which are cleaner and greener. Penetrating the North Country market with pellets is important to the state's environmental goals, the spokesman said.
Additionally, the panel was looking to distribute funds equitably across the state, and it was likely there weren't many proposals from the North Country, the spokesman said. The wood pellet project was the only one from the North Country to receive money in the two funding rounds announced Tuesday.
The money will be distributed in the form of milestone payments. The company, which negotiated and agreed upon a contract with NYSERDA, will submit paperwork as it meets certain objectives, and NYSERDA will process the documentation and send out a check, the spokesman said.
---
APA pre-application
Though the Enterprise could not confirm it was the same project, Long Laker Claire Leonardi met in October with representatives at the state Adirondack Park Agency in a pre-application meeting to discuss what it would take to build a wood pellet mill in the Industrial Park in Tupper Lake.
APA spokesman Keith McKeever said the meeting was short and mainly consisted of Leonardi getting information about the APA permit application process. APA representatives provided her with an application, and the agency hasn't heard anything since, McKeever said.
Leonardi was out of the country and wasn't available for comment.


NORTH AMERICAN PELLET INDUSTRY PUSHES SAWDUST AND CHIP PRICES UP
14 December, 2009
The North American wood pellet industry has grown six-fold from a capacity of just over one million tons to more than six million tons in the last five years, according to the North American Wood Fiber Review.
And, it adds, this expansion has caused sawdust and wood chip prices to rise in the regions experiencing the most dramatic growth, including western US and Canada.
It is thought that the US south will become the leading pellet-producing region in North America – it will have produced around two million tons this year – with much of the investment in the region being driven by the export market to Europe.
Sawdust prices in the US north-west have risen from US$28/odmt in 2004 to US74/odmt in late 2008, before falling to an average of US$64/odmt in the third quarter of this year. These price increases are likely to be seen in other regions that are experiencing rapid expansion of their pellet industries.
The Timber Industry Magazine: Progressive House, Maidstone Road, Sidcup, DA14 5HZ, United Kingdom E- ail: mjeffree@ttjonline.com Website: www.ttjonline.com Fax: +44 (0)20 8269 7844

HOW TO HELP A FAMILY WHO LOST EVERYTHING
Comments 0 | Recommend 2
December 14, 2009 4:42 PM
Tanya Mendis
A Catoosa County, TN family is picking through the ashes after losing their home, their pets, and their eight grandchildren's Christmas presents.

As homeowner Mark Scott looked on helplessly. firefighters tried to save his house on Pine Grove Road yesterday, but the blaze kept re-igniting.
Scott says the fire started in a wood pellet stove, and quickly spread through the rest of the house..
The family did not have insurance. Scott says they tried several times to insure the home, but were denied.
"I never in my life would've dreamed that something like this would happen to me," Scott says. "You see it all the time but you just don't think it'll happen to you and trust me, it'll happen to you if you're not careful."
Scott says he tried to be careful. He bought a wood pellet stove just a few weeks ago, thinking it was more the cost efficient and safer choice.
We found Scott today, picking through the burned remains with his wife Barbara and their son. There wasn't much more than a lone pair of children's shoes.
"I got up this morning, I was ready to go and it was just.. the world had ended. I had nothing," Scott says.
But Monday, the Scotts did see a sign of life: their pet cat that they thought had died in the fire, was frightened, but still alive.
And then, there's been the random acts of kindness.
"Some people came by and a fireman brought me some money and handed it to me and said, you gonna need it," says Scott.
It's a reminder to the Scotts that not only is the Christmas spirit still alive, but also that the things that mean the most are the ones that can't be replaced.
"To know there's people still out there that cares enough this time of year to help, you know, it's a good feeling," Scott says, fighting back tears. "I mean, it's... It helps, it really does."

Many of you at home have said you would like to help the Scott family this holiday season. A fund has now been set up at Gateway Bank and Trust in the name "Mark and Barbara Scott." There are three locations in North Georgia. The number to the Fort Oglethorpe branch is 706-861-5550.


Market opens for timber pellets over coal
Posted Wed Dec 16, 2009 9:34am AEDT
Updated Wed Dec 16, 2009 11:00am AEDT
A new type of timber processing mill could be on the horizon for Tasmania.
Emissions legislation in Europe gives companies carbon offset benefits for burning wood instead of coal.
Forest Enterprises Australia says it is considering the market for a pellet mill using waste from its Tasmanian operations.
Industry Analyst Robert Eastment says the state's timber-rich resource makes it ideal to spearhead the push into the pellet market.
"They are short of wood they don't have anywhere near sufficient wood to burn to be able to meet the European targets."
"So they're going to be down in places like Tasmania looking around buying the wood, and the wood is shipped out, but instead of woodchips it's wood pellets," he said.
HIGH NATURAL GAS PRICES HAVE HOMEOWNERS LOOKING TO OTHER HEAT SOURCES
By Marilyn Forbes, FOR THE DAILY COURIER
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
With falling temperatures comes the rising costs of heating bills, whether it be oil or natural gas to warm people's homes.
Home heating oil prices spiked last year, with a barrel of crude oil rising to almost $100, settling in at $98.74. What that meant to the average consumer was a huge rise in home oil heating. Natural gas prices also were increasing, so many homeowners sought to obtain alternate heating sources, purchasing radiator-style self-contained oil heaters, electric heaters, wood and coal burners and duel heating units that burn wood or corn pellets.
"Last year we had a lot of sales," Gretchen Loughlin, manager of Tractor Supply Co. said of heating units burning wood, coal and wood pellets. "The sales went up about the same time that the gas prices went up."
The newer multi-fuel units became big sellers in the fall of 2008, with homeowners seeking less expensive ways to keep warm over the winter months. This year, they seem to be just as popular.
"We sell a lot of the multi-fuel units," Loughlin said, adding that two types are popular -- those that use either wood pellets or corn pellets and those that burn wood pellets or coal. "We sold a lot of those last year and they are still selling this year."
Consumers are finding that the pellets needed to fuel these units are more plentiful than ever, too, with retail stores now offering supplies and even the heating sources.
"We have been selling the wood pellets like crazy," Mt. Pleasant Wal-Mart manager Bob Mathers said. "We always do well in sales in that area."
Heating oil companies, however, have taken a hit, with sales going almost as low as the temperature.
"We saw a significant drop-off last year," Dina Stewart of Top Oil said. "A lot of people are converting back to wood and some are now using heating sources like electric space heaters."
Stewart said that the average household purchases between 200-400 gallons of heating oil annually, but some consumers are stopping by the main facility to purchase enough oil to heat their homes on a weekly basis.
"We see a lot of customers coming in to buy 5 or 10 gallons (of heating oil)," Stewart said. "Once the cold weather sets in, we'll see a lot more."
Coal experienced a comeback, with local coal yards recording record sales in 2008. More of the same is expected this year.
"Our business was way up last year," said Brian Woy of Kingston Supply in Latrobe, which sells coal directly to consumers. "We were up 200-300 percent. We always have our steady customers and people have also been switching from wood to coal."
Consumers are also looking to purchase products that meet IRS guidelines to earn up to $1,500 in tax breaks.
"People have really been interested in switching to the multi-fuel units because they can then get the tax credit," Loughlin said. "It can be a bit of an investment at first, but they pay for themselves in one year."
"I think that it just comes down to people are now looking for the best way to heat their homes, looking for their least expensive option," Woy said.

OVER 50 EAGER BARBECUE ENTHUSIASTS ATTEND FAST EDDY’S CHAMPIONSHIP COOKING CLASS

Fifty-six barbecue enthusiasts gathered recently to learn secrets of winning barbecue from two barbecue competition circuit champions; sponsored by Cookshack, Inc., award-winning Oklahoma manufacturer of barbecue equipment.
Ponca City, OK (PRWEB) December 17, 2009 -- Fifty-six people from across the United States, Canada and Singapore gathered in Ponca City recently to learn the secrets to championship barbecue from two of the greatest professional barbecue cooks in the nation.
The intensive, hands-on event was hosted by Cookshack, Inc. at its manufacturing facility in Ponca City, Okla., where the company manufactures high-end smoker ovens and charbroilers.
Participants learned how to smoke-cook barbecue for cook-offs, restaurants, catering operations and backyard barbecuing. Using the meats, sauces and seasonings provided by event sponsor Cookshack, class members prepared and smoked a variety of meats in Fast Eddy’s by Cookshack smokers.
Class instructors, Ed “Fast Eddy” Maurin and David Bouska, Butcher BBQ, shared their secrets of championship barbecue with backyard chefs, restaurateurs, caterers and professional competitors.
Maurin, inventor of the original Fast Eddy’s smokers, is a veteran contest winner with dozens of trophies to his name. In late 2003, he joined with Cookshack in the manufacturing and marketing of the Fast Eddy’s by Cookshack line of 100 percent wood pellet-fired smoker ovens.
Bouska, an Oklahoma meat processor, started competing under the team name Butcher BBQ in 2006. As of mid-September, 2009, the team was ranked third in the nation by the Kansas City Barbecue Society. His team has accumulated numerous championships and dozens of overall top 5 finishes.
Cookshack (www.cookshack.com) manufactures smoker ovens for commercial, home and competition use under the brand names of Cookshack and Fast Eddy’s by Cookshack. The company, which is privately held, has an industry-wide reputation for its high quality products and exceptional customer service. In business for almost 50 years, Cookshack ships its products worldwide. Commercial equipment is NSF approved and ETL or UL listed; most stainless steel models are USDA approved. Residential equipment is UL listed. Cookshack’s products are proudly made in the U.S.A.


Germany's experience
How Effective Are Renewables, Really?

By Jens Lubbadeh and Anselm Waldermann


An offshore windpark off the coast of Germany.
The last 10 years have seen massive amounts of taxpayer money invested in renewable energies in Germany. Growth in the industry has been rapid. But has the development been universally good? SPIEGEL ONLINE takes a look at those renewables with promise -- and those which might flop.
It was all very small when it began. A couple liters of biodiesel here, a small wind turbine there. Maybe a few solar panels with an output just enough to run a pocket calculator.
But then April 1, 2000 came along. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's government had been in office a mere year and a half. But on that day, a law came into power that was to completely alter the German energy market. The rather unwieldy name: Law for the Promotion of Renewable Energies -- EEG for short. Later, the law regulating biofuel quotas was added, as was another measure governing the use of geothermal power. The aim was clear. The fuel, electricity and heating markets were to be revolutionized.

And the new laws were effective. High government subsidies massively increased the demand for wind turbines and solar panels. Germany was soon transformed into an ecologist's paradise.
In the 1990s, the energy market was simple. Germans got their power from coal-fired power plants or nuclear facilities. They filled up their tanks with conventional fuel and heated their homes with oil or natural gas. But the last decade has seen a radical shift. Green power became popular, drivers switched to biodiesel and homeowners changed over to wood pellet heating.
Coal and nuclear power still dominate the market, as do oil and gas. But the tectonic shift has begun: Each year, the share of renewables rises. Indeed, electricity from renewable energy sources already supplies 15 percent of Germany's electricity needs. In some German states, wind power supplies more than 35 percent.
Yet, far from all questions surrounding renewables have been answered. When, for example, will renewable energy sources be able to survive without subsidies? Will they continue to grow? Will we be able to develop a way to store energy generated from the wind and sun? It seems clear that, whereas some energy sources will prosper, others are destined for failure.
SPIEGEL ONLINE takes a look at the individual forms of renewable energy, examines the technology behind them and examines their chances on the open market.
Part 2: Wind Power
The past 10 years have been the decade of wind power. At the end of 1999, wind turbines generated 2,875 megawatts. By the end of 2008, that number had skyrocketed to 23,903.
The Principle
Wind is everywhere. Temperature differences in our atmosphere set gigantic masses of air in motion and the energy involved in those shifts can easily be captured with the help of rotor blades. Using the principle of electromagnetic induction, a generator can transform the circular motion of those rotors into electricity.


The rotors of the largest wind power facilities now reach a diameter of over 100 meters, and they are set on top of 200-meter-tall towers. Indeed, the height of the towers greatly increases efficiency because it allows turbines to take advantage of higher-speed and more consistent winds. Should these facilities achieve 40 percent efficiency, a single wind turbine can generate between two and five megawatts -- enough to supply electricity to 4,000 homes. One German company has manufactured a wind turbine that supplies six megawatts.
The Market
Germany now gets more of its energy from wind power than from hydro-electric sources. Last year, wind power supplied Germany with 7 percent of its electricity. In states like Saxony-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, wind power's share was well over 30 percent. "State subsidies have really worked when it comes to wind power," Hubertus Bardt, an expert with the German Economic Institute in Cologne, told SPIEGEL ONLINE.
Wind power is relatively cheap. The EEG mandates that energy companies buy wind power for 9 cents per kilowatt-hour -- not much more than the price for conventional power on the electricity markets. "Wind power is the most economical of the renewable energies," says Bardt.
But the market is not immune. Higher steel prices have meant that the EEG has had to be altered to increase the amount paid for each kilowatt-hour of wind energy. "The fall in prices we have seen during the last decade has been unfortunately reversed," says Bardt.
The Potential
In one study, scientists calculated that wind power could produce many times the amount of energy needed globally. In theory, wind power could produce up to 1.3 million terawatt hours of energy per year -- against a global energy consumption of just 15,666 terawatt hours, according to the International Energy Agency. That's just 1.2 percent of the calculated potential of wind energy.
Experts believe that the wind energy branch is going to grow dramatically in the future -- primarily offshore. Offshore wind parks have the dual advantage that they take advantage of stronger sea winds and are not as disruptive as they are on land.
Offshore wind parks are generally several kilometres off the coast. The gigantic facilities are anchored to the sea floor, with large parks containing up to 100 generators. A high-tension cable can efficiently deliver the energy generated over long distances.
The German government foresees a capacity of 20,000 to 30,000 megawatts from wind parks in the North and Baltic Seas by 2030. Such an output would represent the equivalent of 20 to 30 nuclear power plants, assuming an optimal wind supply. The first of those parks, known as Alpha Ventus, located 45 kilometers off the coast near Borkum, has recently gone online. Its 12 wind turbines produce 60 megawatts -- enough to power 50,000 households.
On land, things don't look nearly as rosy. "In Germany, those areas with sufficient wind have already been built up," says Bardt. In addition, numerous citizens' groups have ramped up their protests to wind parks in recent years. One potential solution to this problem is known as "re-powering" -- a term meaning little more than re-equipping existing onshore wind parks with newer, more efficient turbines. The German Wind Energy Association thinks that re-powering has a huge potential and predicts that by 2020, a quarter of German electricity needs will be met with wind power.
But do wind parks have a negative effect on wildlife? While research by the nature conservancy group NABU has found that the number of birds killed by wind power generators is relatively small compared to those killed by automobile traffic, there is little data for offshore wind parks. A 2003 study by Germany's Federal Environment Agency looked at the risks of offshore parks for fish and birds, but was unable to produce reliable conclusions.
Wind power, though, has a potentially bigger problem: It is unreliable. The wind doesn't always blow, and when it does, it sometimes blows too hard for the facilities to harness it. Furthermore, there is as yet no good way to store excess energy produced by wind power, meaning that if strong winds are blowing at a time when consumers are using little electricity, much is wasted.
In addition, the wind blows stronger in northern Germany whereas the most energy is consumed in the west and the south of the country. New power lines stretching across the country are necessary -- which will drive up costs for the consumer. As a result, wind energy will remain just one element in Germany's energy mix. The hope is that long term the share will grow. Prices will go down as technology improves, and subsidies may soon be unnecessary. "In the next decade, wind energy will likely become economical," says Bardt.
Part 3: Photovoltaic
The Principle
In solar cells, the energy of the sun's rays are transformed directly into electricity. The advantage is that even small solar cells can generate power on a localized level. Every roof is a potential mini-power plant and can produce electricity even in a country like Germany, which is not exactly known for its sunshine. Larger facilities, however, only make sense in sunnier climates, for example in deserts where there is plenty of space for the panels to be installed.
The Market
Solar power plays a much smaller role in Germany energy mix than wind power does. Its share of the country's energy needs is lower than 1 percent and the energy-conversion efficiency of mass-produced solar panels is between 16 and 20 percent.
Nevertheless, Germans spend a lot of money on solar power. The installation of photovoltaic facilities generated a turnover of €6.2 billion in 2008 against just €2.3 billion spent on new -- and much more efficient -- wind power facilities.
The difference also makes itself noticeable in the price per kilowatt hour of power generated. The EEG mandates that power generated by solar panels be purchased at 43 cents per kilowatt hour, against just 9 cents for wind power. "From an economic standpoint, photovoltaic is much less attractive," says Bardt.
But generous subsidies have resulted in marked growth in the photovoltaic market. From 2001 to 2008, the production of solar power has risen from 76 gigawatt-hours to 4,300 gigawatt-hours. Solar panel manufacturers in Germany, however, have profited relatively little from the growth, with producers in China and elsewhere flooding the market.
The Potential
Solar power has huge potential. The sun, after all, is free, and there are plenty of roofs to put panels on. The problem is the costs. The facilities already installed will require an additional €27 billion for maintenance, and each year, new panels are installed.
There is plenty of silicon available, the resource necessary in the production of solar panels, but production is difficult. That means depending on the type of panel and the amount of sun in the region where it is installed, it takes between four and nine years before it produces as much energy as was used in making it. Subsidies, on the other hand, mean that the facilities have generally paid for themselves after just four years. The life span of a solar cell is between 30 and 40 years.
The situation, of course, would be dramatically improved if the solar modules could be produced more cheaply. And recent years have shown that the process is underway. Just last year, prices fell by 25 percent, a trend driven primarily by Chinese manufacturers.
Should solar power one day become as cheap as conventional electricity, it would be nothing short of a revolution. Consumers would no longer have any reason not to buy solar panels and demand would explode -- meaning that solar power would begin to play a substantial role on the energy market. But most experts believe that it will be decades before such a process takes hold.
Part 4: Solar-Thermal Energy
The Principle
It seems so simple: mirrors collect and concentrate the sun's rays to heat water. The resulting steam is then used to power turbines. The technology is uncomplicated. The difficulties such as those inherent in nuclear energy and CO2 sequestration don't exist, and it has been used for decades. The first solar thermal plant was built in the 1980s in California. But when oil prices fell once again, solar thermal energy slipped into the background. Now with climate change on everyone's agenda, it is experiencing a renaissance.

The jewel of that renaissance is the Desertec project, a concept developed by a group of scientists that envisions gigantic power plants in the Sahara Desert that could, in theory, provide enough electricity for the entire world. High tension lines are to transport the power across the Mediterranean to Europe.
The Market
Solar thermal power plants for the production of electricity make little sense in Central Europe, where there is simply not enough sun. Large facilities would, however, make sense in regions such as southern Spain, North Africa or the Middle East.
Despite having been around for decades, the technology, with an energy-conversion efficiency rating of 15 to 20 percent, is not yet as efficient as coal or nuclear. A kilowatt hour of solar thermal electricity costs between 14 and 18 cents. But improvement is in sight, with experts predicting that technological improvements will sink the cost to below 10 cents per kilowatt hour by 2020.
When it comes to heating, however, the situation looks different. Solar collectors like those used in solar thermal plants can be used to heat water which can in turn easily be used to heat homes. Still, solar energy remains something of a niche product on the German heating market, while oil and natural gas remain dominant.
But solar thermal plays a subservient role even within the renewable energy sector of the German heating market. In 2008, it was responsible for 4,131 gigawatt hours of heating energy whereas biomass -- primarily in the form of wood pellets -- accounted for 97,108 gigawatt hours.
The Potential
When it comes to heating homes, solar thermal facilities remain too expensive to make much headway. Should costs ever drop far enough to make them affordable without state subsidies, demand will surely rise.
But even then, solar thermal can never completely replace more conventional heating systems -- after all, one would like to have hot water at night as well. Experts envision a home heating model that uses wood pellet heating for day-to-day needs, augmented by solar thermal to cut costs.
Large solar thermal power plants in sunny countries, on the other hand, have huge potential. Should Desertec in the Sahara Desert ever become reality, for example, then huge quantities of power could be generated by solar thermal technology. And for the moment, it looks like progress is being made. In October, a number of industrial and financial heavyweights joined forces to create the Desertec Industrial Initiative. The goal: by 2050, the project hopes to supply 15 percent of Europe's energy needs. The costs, however, are high. The power plant itself will cost some €350 billion with an additional €50 required for a new and efficient grid.
Part 5: Hydroelectric Power
The Principle
Flowing water, like wind, contains enormous quantities of energy which can be transformed into electricity with the help of turbines. The problem, however, is that in most cases, the water must be dammed, which creates disadvantages for both humans and the natural world.


The Market
Around 5 percent of Germany's power comes from hydroelectric facilities. The biggest advantage is that the process produces reliable energy around the clock. As opposed to wind and sun energy, hydroelectric power does not vary with the weather nor is storage a problem. Furthermore, it is relatively cheap. Most power plants need no state subsidies to be able to compete on the open market. Many, in fact, existed long before the EEG came into existence.
The Potential
In Germany, there is virtually no room for the construction of further hydroelectric power facilities. Almost all German rivers have been dammed and have been for quite some time. But outside Germany's borders, there is still room for improvement. Huge hydroelectric power plants are currently under construction around the world, many of them in developing countries. Many of these projects, however, have a questionable reputation, as immense new dams flood huge land areas. Often entire towns disappear under the waves, and their residents are forced to move elsewhere. Environmental standards are likewise often ignored.
Part 6: Bioenergy
The Principal
Burning wood for heat, just like in the good old days, seems particularly attractive in times of high oil prices. Wood pellet heating has developed such that it is now just as comfortable as oil or gas. Indeed, the days of stoking your own fire are a thing of the past, now it is fully automatic. Still, the units need to be cleaned and serviced every few months.




Bio-energy can also be used to power automobiles. Biodiesel or ethanol has the advantage that, when burned, the fuels only release as much CO2 as the plants used to make them absorbed out of the atmosphere when growing. A perfect cycle that doesn't harm the climate one bit. That, at least, is the theory. When it comes to biofuels, practice often looks quite a bit different, particularly given the fact that forest land is often cleared to plant crops used in the production of biofuels.
The production of wood pellets, however, has in general been more sustainable. For the most part they are produced using wood waste that would otherwise be simply thrown away. But wood pellet heating also releases fine dust particles that can lead to respiratory disease.
The Market
Biomass is one of the most important renewable energies in Germany. Biogenic combustibles (usually wood) and fuels (biodiesel for example), biogas and combustible bio-waste make up some 73 percent of all renewable energy used in Germany. Wind power, by comparison, provides 14.9 percent.
The greatest advantage is that biomass is essentially stored energy. When one wants to set that energy free is a matter of choice -- as opposed to wind or solar energy. Plus, biomass plays a role in all energy markets: wood can be used for heating; bio-fuel can be used in cars; and biogas can be used to generate electricity. A further advantage is that they reduce dependence on foreign sources of energy.
The Potential
Recently, bio-energy has come in for intense criticism. The central question is whether the burning of biomass is really as environmentally friendly as it appears at first.
Forestry worker and author Peter Wohlleben has pointed out that it is not just the trees in forests that function as carbon sinks. The ground too absorbs CO2. Which means that when trees rot, not all of the CO2 they contain reaches the atmosphere -- some of it remains in the ground. In other words, when one burns wood, more CO2 is released than otherwise would have been. Furthermore, increasingly all parts of trees are being used, from the roots to the very tips of the branches -- a process which robs the forest floor of vital minerals.
The production of bio-fuels is perhaps even more problematic. Crops needed to produce bio-fuels require space -- space that can also be used for the production of food. A moral dilemma quickly becomes apparent: Can one justify using corn for the production of fuel when others need that corn for food? The early years of the bio-fuel boom were characterized by euphoria. That enthusiasm, however, has largely waned.
An additional problem is represented by the sheer amounts of space necessary to slake the thirst for energy. Were Germany to meet all of its gasoline and diesel needs with biofuels, it would require cropland greater than the area of the entire country. The same is true were all Germans to heat their homes with wood pellets. Imports would be necessary -- which would quickly destroy the ecological advantage of wood pellet heating. The CO2 balance of the process is strongly linked to how far one must transport the wood. In addition, were wood from rain forests to be used in the production of wood pellets instead of carefully managed forests, the method would contribute to further deforestation and destruction of one of the world's most important carbon sinks.
The CO2 balance of biofuels is also worse than it appears at first glance. Indeed, a recent study conducted in the US found that biofuels actually do more damage than traditional fossil fuels. The reason: in order to meet the growing demand, forests must be chopped down, resulting in a disappearance of CO2 sinks. Furthermore, the fertilization of biofuel crops results in the release of N20 into the atmosphere, a greenhouse gas that is much more damaging than CO2. Plus, the entire process is inefficient. Energy is lost in the process of transforming plants into liquid fuel. It would be much better just to burn the plants and use the resulting heat to heat homes or to power turbines, thus producing electricity that could be used to power electric cars.
Scientists, though, are still reluctant to abandon the dream of biofuels. Second generation biofuels are to be produced by plants that cannot also be used for food and which can grow in poorer soil -- where food crops can't. Plants such as the oil-rich Central American native Jatropha are seen as a possible solution as is agricultural waste. Algae may also play a larger role in the future of biofuels.
But technological problems remain. Transforming agricultural waste into biofuel is a complicated procedure. The cell walls of plants are made of cellulose. These molecules must first be broken down before fungus or bacteria can produce alcohol. One can either use chemicals in the process, or micro-organisms. But finding the right "superbug" to do the job has proven difficult -- standard yeast can make no progress against cellulose. So far, the low yields obtained from the process make it unlikely that this type of bio-fuel will be able to compete anytime in the near future.
Part 7: Geothermal Power
The Principle
Our Earth is a gigantic heater. The core of our planet, 6,000 kilometers below the surface, is several thousand degrees Celsius -- an inheritance from the time when the Earth came into being. In addition, radioactive processes maintain that temperature. One can tap into that energy by drilling deep into the Earth's crust. In some places, one must drill up to five kilometers deep, but in others, the heat is much closer to the surface.



The Market
Geothermal power plays but a niche role in Germany's energy mix with just a 0.2 percent share of the renewable energies market and 2.4 percent of the heating market.
But the advantages are huge. The heat from deep within our planet can be used around the clock and, in theory, could fulfil Germany's entire energy needs. But the problem lies with the technology. In Germany, one has to drill hundreds, or even thousands, of meters down to access geothermal energy -- which drives costs up.
Other countries have an easier time of it. Iceland, for example, covers most of its energy needs with geothermal energy.
The Potential
In theory, the potential is endless. But the problem is the costs. As long as the drilling technology remains as expensive as it is today, geothermal will not play a major role in Germany's energy mix.
In addition, geothermal drillings are risky. They can occasionally cause minor earthquakes and, should the ground settle, nearby buildings are endangered. In the southern German town of Staufen, for example, the effects can be seen, with numerous buildings having cracked in recent years following geothermal drillings. In Wiesbaden, by contrast, water flowed out of the ground for days as a result of another geothermal project. "That doesn't have to be the case everywhere," says Bardt, "but the uncertainty remains."

ENERGY EFFICIENT WOOD PELLET PLANT BEGINS OPERATIONS IN DEKALB COUNTY
By Associated Press
2:47 PM CST, December 18, 2009
HUNTSVILLE, Ala (AP) — A wood pellet manufacturing plant has begun operations in DeKalb County.

The goal of the plant is to generate up to 116,000 tons of carbon-neutral energy a year to heat chicken houses.

The owner of Lee Energy Solutions, Davis Lee, told the Huntsville Times he expects his plant be producing at full capacity next month. Lee Energy Solutions of Guntersville brought the plant in Crossville online Monday.

The $8 million factory includes a pellet dryer that's fired by wood scraps from the pellet-making process. Lee said electricity is provided by a hydroelectric dam.

He said it takes about the same amount of natural gas to turn on the dryer as is used to fire up a barbecue grill.


DECLINE IN HOUSING MARKET HITS FORESTRY INDUSTRY HARD
By Patti Drapala
MSU Ag Communications
MISSISSIPPI STATE –The overall value of Mississippi’s 2009 timber harvest failed to reach $1 billion for the first time in 16 years, but unlike other crops, extreme weather was not the reason.

New housing starts dropped off sharply because of the current economic downturn. The decline in demand for lumber caused the 2009 timber harvest value to fall below the billion-dollar mark.
(Photo by MSU Ag Communications/Scott Corey)
The estimated 2009 harvest value for timber is $817 million, down a steep 24 percent from 2008’s value of $1.08 billion. Blame one of the worst years ever for forestry and forest products on the dismal housing market.
“The No. 1 wood product in Mississippi is saw-timber, which is used to manufacture building materials,” said forestry specialist James Henderson of the Mississippi State University Extension Service. “With the decline in housing starts, there was a decline in lumber production that inevitably led to the decline in timber harvest value.”
When new construction falls off, many mills have no choice but to cut back production or lay off workers. Some went out of business.
“Many mills could not operate at capacity because the demand for mber was running behind what they needed to cover production costs, overhead and salaries,” said David Jones, Extension forest products specialist. “The mills that stayed open had to run skeleton crews so they could minimize the cost of start-up when the market improves.”
Timber landowners could not find many mills in a good position to buy.
“At least 11 mills in Mississippi closed this year,” Jones said. “That’s 10 percent of the mills that were operating at the beginning of 2009. If people aren’t building houses, no one’s buying lumber.”
The forest industry has a significant impact on Mississippi’s economy, generating more than $17.4 billion and providing 18.5 percent of the state’s jobs.
“The sheer number of people who work within the forest products industry affects employment, the economy and the landowner who is dependent upon selling timber,” Jones said. “Without forest products, there are no forestry opportunities.”
About 78 percent of Mississippi’s 18 million acres of forestland belongs to private, nonindustrial owners. Timber companies own about 10 percent, and the remainder is public land managed by state and federal governments. “
Timber companies are increasingly reliant upon private owners to manage the forests we have in the state and supply raw materials,” Henderson said.
Most materials harvested from these forests go into the manufacture of lumber and wood products for buildings. The current economic recession and the tightening of bank standards for loans have significantly reduced the number of housing starts in the construction industry. The rate of new starts in 2005 was 2.5 million units. In 2009, the rate fell to 529,000 units, a decline of 73 percent.
Lack of harvesting caused a decline in stumpage volume, which also affected the amount of severance taxes paid by landowners.
“It’s no surprise that stumpage volume for pine saw-timber is 27 percent below what it normally might be without the decline in housing starts,” Henderson said. “Severance tax collections are down considerably from last year, too.”
Despite a bleak year, there is some good news within the forest industry.“The decline in existing homes may spur new construction if consumers start buying again and homes are not available,” Henderson said.”
The first-time homebuyer tax credit enacted by Congress also has helped the forest industry. The tax credit, which was to expire at year’s end, has been extended to April 2010 and expanded to include all homebuyers.
If prices for timber get back on track in 2010, many landowners will again start harvesting and selling timber. Some mills could be back in business or increase their volume capacities.
An increase in consumer spending also could improve the economic outlook for timber. Many raw forest materials are manufactured into liners, boxes and packing materials for a variety of consumer goods. When consumers increase their spending, wholesalers and retailers buy these products to ship goods.
“We may not care about the box that the product came in, but the people at the mill do,” Jones said.
In the future, landowners may have a new market for timber during an economic downturn. Researchers are investigating the conversion of forest biomass into sources for alternative energy and fuel.
In some cases, this is already being done when power plants burn wood pellets or a combination of wood fiber and coal to generate electricity. Wood energy could eventually replace some markets for pulpwood and paper.
“We will probably have fewer mills that produce conventional wood products, such as paneling and flooring,” Jones said. “The ones that exist may be producing materials that can be processed into bioenergy and biofuel.”
12/18/2009 5:20:00 PM Email this article • Print this article


Layout for school complex A design layout for the new school complex shows the library, pre-school building, gym, Midway Building, and district offices in brown, the elementary school in blue to the right of the gym, the middle/high school in blue to the right of the Midway Building, and space for administration, music, art, stage and lockers to the right and up from the middle/shigh school space. (Design by Denver-based Larson Incitti Architects)

BOARD PLANS FOR NEW FAIRPLAY SCHOOL COMPLEX

By Josh Paul Seidler-Correspondent

Park County School District Re-2 Board of Education members were happy to hear at their meeting on Dec. 14 that planning is still on track for the school facilities upgrade and renovation, despite the fact that a different parcel of land will have to be sought for athletic fields and the release of funds is slow in coming.

Megan Walsh, a member of Fairplay's Facilities Committee and representing Catalyst LLC, reported: "The good news is we're making great progress on the project."

Contracts have been written to hire Denver-based Larson Incitti LLC as the architectural firm and Centennial-based Saunders Construction Inc. as the general contractor.

Currently the contracts are under legal review. In the meantime, Larson Incitti is moving ahead with preliminary schematic drawings and is assembling a consulting team.

Not much else can be done, however, until funding becomes available. Half the cost of the $30 million project will be funded by bonds paid for by the tax increase approved by Park County voters this past November on ballot issue 3A. But that money is not liquid.

The other $15 million will come from a state grant of funds from BEST (Building Excellent Schools Today), which is Colorado's matching funds initiative to fortify the state's school infrastructure.

But the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) will not release BEST funds until the project has met certain criteria. Fulfilling this rigorous checklist, known as COP (Certificates of Participation), is what Walsh and Catalyst are focusing on right now.

Walsh advised the school board against having the architect generate full plans until the BEST funds are released because if, for some reason, the money didn't come through, the school district would be responsible to pay for a significant six-figure dollar amount from their own budget.

"We believe this is probably the most responsible way to look at it," Walsh said.

She is aiming for a funds release date of March 2010. As of this week 60 percent of the required documentation had been turned in, putting Re-2 ahead of any other districts applying for BEST funding. Still, that means the architectural drawings, etc. will not be done until mid-summer 2010.

"Unfortunately we will not capture this upcoming building season," acknowledged Re-2 superintendent Charles Soper.

Athletic fields

Soper also said he wanted the public to know that they are facing some land issues with the project. The ballot issue, as well as the BEST application, originally included the purchase of "Spur Tract A," a parcel of 24 acres adjacent to the South Park Recreation Center. That land was to be the site of new athletic fields included in the plan. But now the CDE has decided that the athletic fields should be located on no more than 12 acres. The landowner is unwilling to subdivide the land, so, despite an attractive price and the fact that they would not have to use expensive Fairplay water on that site, the district will have to look elsewhere for land.

Laura Wedow, a parent and taxpayer, spoke up and urged the board to do whatever it took to continue the momentum gathered during the past month.

"Either be willing to make the tough decisions that we need or stand aside for someone who will," she said.

Walsh encouraged everyone, however, when she said, "We still believe that the schedule is achievable for the dates requested, and we are doing some creative thinking with the general contractor to see how we can layer and sequence things. It's a competitive market. People need references. People need to push up their sleeves and do a good job; so I feel confident."

Biomass

renewable energy

Another requirement that must be met by a school district in order to get BEST funding is that the improvement plan must be environmentally friendly. In this case, a high-performance certification build will be required. Walsh recommended that the Re-2 district follow the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) methodology to achieve certification from the Colorado Office of the State Architect.

In part, she recommended this because LEED allows for various kinds of renewable energy sources, including bio-mass boilers.

Foss Smith, another member of the Facilities Committee, addressed the issue. He said design work should begin in January by a Sweden-based company named Osby Parca. Smith said they chose Osby because, by far, European countries currently have the best biomass technology, and the Osby boilers can run on wood pellets, wood chips, or other sawmill by-products. Also, Osby specializes in high- power boilers in series, which would be ideal for Fairplay's spread-out school campus.

The Facilities Committee is looking into a logistics system for the biomass fuel. Smith said that the most cost-effective fuel would be wood pellets, as they work out to around half the cost of propane (the current energy source in the schools), as measured by British thermal units produced. But that's only if they can be obtained within 10-15 miles of the school. Wood chips would be a cheap alternative if they could be found within 60 miles of the school.

School board communication

The school board also discussed a number of policy changes in order to address concerns in the district regarding communication. First, the board members took advantage of a recent opportunity to attend the Colorado Association of School Boards annual convention at The Broadmoor hotel in Colorado Springs.

"It's important to see that there is a really good support system out there," said board member Beth Burke.

Second, the board approved adding 10 minutes to each monthly meeting when a member of the South Park Education Association would be able to bring up any concerns or questions they might have.

The SPEA is a voluntary membership organization of teachers, student teachers, and other support professionals. Also, Soper addressed a concern regarding two homes owned by the school district.

District-owned houses

Fairplay resident John Mayer was present at the meeting, and wondered why "the school board wants to hang on to these properties for dear life."

The properties in question are two residences in the town of Fairplay that the school district has owned for many years. One is a double-wide trailer at 525 Clark St. that has been available for use by the high school principal or other staff as needed.

The other property is a house at 681 Clark St. that was meant for the superintendent to live in, and, in fact, which Charles Soper has been living in.

Soper said that neither property is on the tax rolls, so there are no property taxes, and both properties are insured under the district's general insurance, so there is no specific property insurance to be paid on them. He said that although the district does pay the utility bills, they amount to an average of $250 per month per property but that amount is more than offset by the $500 per month that he pays in rent.

Nonetheless, Soper said, "Because of the controversy surrounding the property, when my lease is up in June, I no longer care to live there."

Soper made a recommendation to the board that they immediately put the double-wide trailer up for sale and then in June, when the lease on 681 Clark St. is up, that they put that property up for sale as well.

The proceeds from the sales would not have an immediate impact on reducing the county's budget deficit, however, because the monies would have to be deposited into the capital reserve fund and not the general fund.

Board member Sue Linton recommended keeping the properties as an asset, at least until the real estate market rebounds.

The board decided to table further discussion until January, when it would have some market comparisons on the properties and more information to make a decision.

Makeup days,

bonuses and CSAPs

To close out the meeting, Soper brought up the need to schedule makeup days for those missed due to H1N1 flu, requested $50 Christmas bonuses for district employees, and addressed controversy regarding the Colorado Student Assessment Program tests, or CSAPs.

He said that the CSAPs are still in place until he hears otherwise. "If I hear something official, I'll be the first to let you know," he said.



WOOD PELLET PLANT ANNOUNCE IN UNION CO. ARK

Sunday, December 20, 2009 6:15 PM CST
A company that makes wood pellets says it plans to open a Union County facility and eventually hire 150 workers.


NexGen BioMass will sell the wood pellets to markets in Europe, where the pellets are used as fuel.

Officials say the first phase of refitting a Georgia Pacific plant near El Dorado will take about four months. NexGen says it will take about six months before full production can be reached.

A similar plant was announced in August in nearby Camden.

Information from: El Dorado News-Times, http://www.eldoradonews.com



GAS COULD BE THE CAVALRY IN GLOBAL WARMING FIGHT




AP – In this photo taken Dec. 15, 2009, workers for Atmos Energy tend to a natural gas drilling sight in Grapevine, …
By MARK WILLIAMS, AP Energy Writer Mark Williams, Ap Energy Writer – Mon Dec 21, 11:40 am ET
An unlikely source of energy has emerged to meet international demands that the United States do more to fight global warming: It's cleaner than coal, cheaper than oil and a 90-year supply is under our feet.
It's natural gas, the same fossil fuel that was in such short supply a decade ago that it was deemed unreliable. It's now being uncovered at such a rapid pace that its price is near a seven-year low. Long used to heat half the nation's homes, it's becoming the fuel of choice when building new power plants. Someday, it may win wider acceptance as a replacement for gasoline in our cars and trucks.
Natural gas' abundance and low price come as governments around the world debate how to curtail carbon dioxide and other pollution that contribute to global warming. The likely outcome is a tax on companies that spew excessive greenhouse gases. Utilities and other companies see natural gas as a way to lower emissions — and their costs. Yet politicians aren't stumping for it.
In June, President Barack Obama lumped natural gas with oil and coal as energy sources the nation must move away from. He touts alternative sources — solar, wind and biofuels derived from corn and other plants. In Congress, the energy debate has focused on finding cleaner coal and saving thousands of mining jobs from West Virginia to Wyoming.
Utilities in the U.S. aren't waiting for Washington to jump on the gas bandwagon. Looming climate legislation has altered the calculus that they use to determine the cheapest way to deliver power. Coal may still be cheaper, but natural gas emits half as much carbon when burned to generate the same amount of electricity.
Today, about 27 percent of the nation's carbon dioxide emissions come from coal-fired power plants, which generate 44 percent of the electricity used in the U.S. Just under 25 percent of power comes from burning natural gas, more than double its share a decade ago but still with room to grow.
But the fuel has to be plentiful and its price stable — and that has not always been the case with natural gas. In the 1990s, factories that wanted to burn gas instead of coal had to install equipment that did both because the gas supply was uncertain and wild price swings were common. In some states, because of feared shortages, homebuilders were told new gas hookups were banned.
It's a different story today. Energy experts believe that the huge volume of supply now will ease price swings and supply worries.
Gas now trades on futures markets for about $5.50 per 1,000 cubic feet. While that's up from a recent low of $2.41 in September as the recession reduced demand and storage caverns filled to overflowing, it's less than half what it was in the summer of 2008 when oil prices surged close to $150 a barrel.
Oil and gas prices trends have since diverged, due to the recession and the growing realization of just how much gas has been discovered in the last three years. That's thanks to the introduction of horizontal drilling technology that has unlocked stunning amounts of gas in what were before off-limits shale formations. Estimates of total gas reserves have jumped 58 percent from 2004 to 2008, giving the U.S. a 90-year supply at the current usage rate of about 23 trillion cubic feet per year.
The only question is whether enough gas can be delivered at affordable enough prices for these trends to accelerate.
The world's largest oil company, Exxon Mobil Corp., gave its answer last Monday when it announced a $30 billion deal to acquire XTO Energy Inc. The move will make it the country's No. 1 producer of natural gas.
Exxon expects to be able to dramatically boost natural gas sales to electric utilities. In fact, CEO Rex Tillerson says that's why the deal is such a smart investment.
Tillerson says he sees demand for natural gas growing 50 percent by 2030, much of it for electricity generation and running factories. Decisions being made by executives at power companies lend credence to that forecast.
Consider Progress Energy Inc., which scrapped a $2 billion plan this month to add scrubbers needed to reduce sulfur emmissions at 4 older coal-fired power plants in North Carolina. Instead, it will phase out those plants and redirect a portion of those funds toward cleaner burning gas-fired plants.
Lloyd Yates, CEO of Progess Energy Carolina, says planners were 99 percent certain that retrofitting plants made sense when they began a review late last year. But then gas prices began falling and the recession prompted gas-turbine makers to slash prices just as global warming pressures intesified.
"Everyone saw it pretty quickly," he says. Out went coal, in comes gas. "The environmental component of coal is where we see instability."
Nevada power company NV Energy Inc. canceled plans for a $5 billion coal-fired plant early this year. That came after its homestate senator, Majority Leader Harry Reid, made it clear he would fight to block its approval, and executives' fears mounted about the costs of meeting future environmental rules.
"It was obvious to us that Congress or the EPA or both were going to act to reduce carbon emissions," said CEO Michael Yackira, whose utility already gets two-thirds of its electricity from gas-fired units. "Without understanding the economic ramifications, it would have been foolish for us to go forward."
Even with an expected jump in demand from utilities, gas prices won't rise much beyond $6.50 per 1,000 cubic feet for years to come, says Ken Medlock, an energy fellow at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in Houston. That tracks an Energy Department estimate made last week.
Such forecasts are based in part on a belief that the recent spurt in gas discoveries may only be the start of a golden age for gas drillers — one that creates wealth that rivals the so-called Gusher Age of the early 20th century, when strikes in Texas created a new class of oil barons.
XTO, the company that Exxon is buying, was one of the pioneers in developing new drilling technologies that allow a single well to descend 9,000 feet and then bore horizontally through shale formations up to 1 1/2 miles away. Water, sand and chemical additives are pumped through these pipes to unlock trillions of cubic feet of natural gas that until recently had been judged unobtainable.
Even with the big increases in reserves they were logging, expansion plans by XTO and its rivals were limited by the debt they took on to finance these projects that can cost as much as $3 million apiece.
Under Exxon, which earned $45.2 billion last year, that barrier has been obliterated.
The wells still capture only about a quarter of the gas locked in the shale formations. Future improvements could double that recovery rate. Bottom line: this new source of gas supply in Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, New York and other states holds out the promise of as much as 2,000 trillion cubic feet of supplies. It is estimated that the U.S. sits on 83 percent more recoverable natural gas than was thought in 1990.
"The question now is how does this change the energy discussion in the U.S. and by how much?" says Daniel Yergin, a Pulitzer Prize winning author and chairman of IHS CERA, an energy consultancy. "This is domestic energy ... it's low carbon, it's low cost and it's abundant. When you add it up, it's revolutionary."

REPLACING COAL WITH BIOMASS
When thinking about retrofitting coal boilers or building biomass power plants from scratch, utilities should consider all of their options.
by Jennifer Runyon, Managing Editor
New Hampshire, United States [RenewableEnergyWorld.com]
Spurred by renewable portfolio standards, impending carbon legislation and public concerns about the environment, utilities across the U.S. are considering how they might lower emissions and incorporate more renewable energy into their electricity generation mix. And while wind, solar and other types of renewable energy plants remain on the table as options to explore, one choice they may already be familiar with is biomass.
"Many utilities are probably quietly exploring this option getting ready for what may be coming out of Washington. If it's cost effective to do, I suspect many of them are going to do it."

-- Charlie Niebling, General Manager, New England Wood Pellets
If a utility already burns coal, it may be able to convert some or all of its coal-burning plants to biomass plants.
“No question that the utilities in the U.S. are starting to take a serious look at this,” said Charlie Niebling, general manager at New England Wood Pellets, a wood pellets manufacturer. “I think it’s being driven by the prospect of passage of a carbon cap-and-trade bill that will fall heavily on the utility electric generation sector,” he said.
Converting a coal-fired power plant into one that uses biomass is precisely what First Energy plans to do. Last April the utility announced plans to repower its coal-fired R.E. Burger Plant Units 4 and 5 using biomass. Ultimately, the plan is for the 312 MW plant to be powered by up to 100 percent biomass. However, the plant also is being designed with co-firing up to 20 percent coal.
First Energy spokesperson Mark Durbin said the utility is making the switch as a result of a Consent Decree involving the Department of Justice, Environmental Protection Agency and several other parties. “At Burger, we had three choices: install scrubbing equipment, shut it down or repower the plant with another fuel source,” he said.
Repowering the plant with biomass seemed like the best option because it would not only help the utility keep jobs but it would also allow the utility to meet some of Ohio’s renewable portfolio standard goals—with a baseload power source to boot. “Biomass power is continuous and not dependent on the sun shining,” said Durbin. “It can be dispatched when you need it.”
First Energy subsidiary First Energy Generation Corp. is developing the project, which has a cost in the ballpark of $200 million.
Engineers from First Energy traveled to Belgium, Sweden, Denmark and Holland this past spring to visit and learn from existing biomass projects. The system at Les Awirs in Belgium is a retrofitted 80 MW pulverized coal power plant that was converted in 2002 to use biomass as its sole fuel. The utility, Electrabel, uses pelletized recycled forestry/wood waste that is then pulverized before being fed into the power plant’s former pulverized coal boiler. This is a system similar to the one being considered in Ohio.
When complete, the Burger plant will be among the largest biomass power plants in the U.S. Since a project of this size hasn’t been done in the United States, challenges do exist, said Durbin. While the company already has in place equipment and systems to monitor particulates and nitrogen oxide emissions, it will need to solve a number of problems before getting the project off the ground. One problem is storage.
“Coal can get wet, get snowed on,” said Durbin. By contrast, biomass needs to stay dry. Durbin said the company plans to source biomass much in the same way it sources coal: from the best supplier. That may involve using wood chips and/or waste wood and processing it in a manner similar to the way coal is processed, or it may involve sourcing pellets. It’s also possible the company would use organic material such as switchgrass. “We are still working through the logistics,” said Durbin.
What About Heat?
For now, First Energy Generation plans to use the biomass to produce electricity alone and not harvest waste heat for cogeneration or combined heat and power (CHP). And that’s a problem, according to Dan Richter, professor of soils and forest ecology at Duke University.
“If we burn wood for electricity only, about three to four logs need to be burned to recover the energy contained in one. If heat and electricity are recovered with advanced wood combustion (AWC) technology, we can capture three to four times the energy that is recovered when burning wood solely for electricity,” he said.
Richter said AWC technology is widely deployed in Europe with plants achieving up to 90 percent efficiencies from burning biomass. Interestingly, four of the five plants that First Energy Generation engineers visited in Europe are combined heat and power (CHP) plants, even though the Ohio plant will generate electricity only.
Richter and a consortium of experts in the forestry and energy industry believe that burning wood solely for electricity wastes sizeable amounts of thermal energy.
“When we do calculations on how much wood is available in the nation and we look at potential supplies for energy we find that there’s just not enough of it to waste,” he said. “But if we can use it efficiently — capturing 70, 80, 90 percent [of the embodied energy in wood] — then wood does become a pretty interesting source of renewable energy that the country isn’t really aware of yet.”
The group authored an op-ed, Rekindling Wood Energy in America, published on RenewableEnergyWorld.com in June in which they stated, “Wood is widely used for solid-wood and paper products, and is critical to forest biodiversity, water and soil quality, recreation and carbon sequestration. For all these reasons, common sense indicates wood must be used as efficiently as possible.”
What’s a Utility to Do?
To use AWC, any burning of biomass must capture and use the heat created in the process. Richter points to college campuses, small towns and urban areas across the country that are using this type of technology through CHP systems; in essence, using biomass to generate electricity as well as to heat and cool buildings in a centralized location.
Richter said that siting is one of the keys to take advantage of AWC technology. “Siting is so important to be able to technologically capture the heat as well as to ensure supplies of the biomass energy itself,” he said.
In other words, people or industries need to be near the system to take advantage of the biomass-generated heat. There also needs to be enough woody biomass nearby to ensure that transportation isn’t an issue.
But what about utilities that are converting coal-fired plants that are not sited in such a way so that they could harvest heat?
“What they might do is think about developing an industrial park around the plant,” said Richter.
Benefits Abound
In western Massachusetts another company is preparing to build a wood-fueled power plant. Russell Biomass is proposing a 50 MW plant on the former home of the Westfield River Paper Co.
According to Peter Bos, project developer, the Russell Biomass plant will use wood from 40 or 50 different wood suppliers. The suppliers will provide wood chips from untreated wood that comes from land clearing and tree removal, stumps, waste pallets and municipal as well as private woodyards that receive clean waste wood.
Bos said New England has quite a bit of waste wood. While the company has yet to sign a purchased power agreement, it is talking with investor-owned utilities and municipal power companies in Massachusetts and elsewhere in New England.
The project is not without opponents, with groups protesting everything from air pollutants to the impact the waste heat will have on salmon populations in nearby rivers. To address this opposition, Bos said the company simply must provide the facts clearly and consistently, again and again. He said this biomass plant is the tightest permitted biomass plant in New England.
“If the others are safe — and there are others at schools and hospitals across New England — then ours is the safest.”
Like First Energy’s plant in Ohio, the Russell Biomass plant (pictured left) will not use CHP technology, instead using biomass to create electricity at an efficiency rate of 25 percent. The heat won’t be harvested in any kind of district heating scenario; “it’s just not a good location for that,” said Bos. However, using the 85-degree cooling water that exits the plant to heat a greenhouse is an option that has been discussed.
With or without CHP, New England Wood Pellet’s Niebling believes we’ll see more utilities looking at biomass power.
“Many utilities are probably quietly exploring this option getting ready for what may be coming out of Washington,” he said. “If it’s cost effective to do, I suspect many of them are going to do it.”

KNOCKANDO TRUST SCOOPS LAST OF CASH NEEDED FOR RESTORATION
Landmark Moray mill on target for new life
By Emma Christie
Published: 29/12/2009
DELIGHTED: Jana Hutt in front of the crumbling Knockando Woollen Mill. Gordon Lennox
More Pictures
A decade of hard work has paid off for fundraisers at a Moray mill after they reached the £3.5million target needed to restore the landmark.
The Knockando Wool Mill Trust was given the final £96,000 it needed by the Scottish Government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (Cares) and will start work by the end of January.
Chairwoman Jana Hutt said yesterday she was delighted that work could finally begin, but admitted there was still a long way to go before the project was completed.
The mill has manufactured cloth continuously since 1784 but is in need of major investment to secure the dilapidated building.
Campaigners started fighting for funding a decade ago and the project was propelled into the limelight in 2004 after being featured on the BBC TV show Restoration.
Ms Hutt said: “The TV programme was a great springboard for us. It showed so many people the treasure we have here and its potential for future generations.”
The project has gone from strength to strength ever since, with funds coming from a range of sources, including £1.3million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, more than £1million from the European Commission and £280,000 from Historic Scotland.
It also received £53,000 from Scottish Natural Heritage, £60,000 from the Robertson Trust and cash from smaller charities and trusts, including the Climate Challenge Fund, which paid for wool insulation.
Ms Hutt said: “Now we can get contractors going so they can have a good look at the site. It will probably be the end of January when physical work begins. It’s very exciting. The whole site will be reborn.”
The project, due to be completed by 2012, will conserve the property as a sustainable working mill, create a visitor centre and pay for an education officer at the site for five years.
The final grant from Cares will be used for three wood-pellet boilers to provide a modern heating system run on locally produced fuel.
Ms Hutt said it was important to ensure the mill used natural energy supplies – including the original waterwheel.
“Green energy was always part of the plan and wood-pellet heating will be our main source of heat for the mill, workshop and visitor centre,” she said.
“Power from the millwheel will be incorporated in the energy system as soon as we can. It was local water power that led to the site being a mill in the first place, and soon we will be turning again.”
Steven Watson, who runs the Cares grant scheme, said the pellet system would ensure the mill maintained a good environmental record. “Choosing wood pellets will ensure a very low-carbon footprint for the heating in all the buildings,” he said.
Mr Watson said the boilers could run on pellets made in Banffshire, Aberdeenshire or Ross-shire.
Speyside Glenlivet councillor Pearl Paul said it was great news that the trust had finally reached its target.
She said: “I’m really delighted for them. They’ve worked really hard to get to this stage and a start in January would just be great. It’s going to be quite an important tourist attraction.”
Fellow councillor Michael McConachie echoed her sentiments.
“I think it’s a very worthwhile project and it could bring tourism to the area,” he said. “It will also help keep the old skill of weaving going.”

Read more: http://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/Article.aspx/1541969?UserKey=#ixzz0b5hDwV3w

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