Sunday, April 4, 2010


March 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





































Vermont Press Bureau - Published: January 31, 2010
MONTPELIER – Pleas for cleaner, "greener" oil came from a different source last week – fuel dealers.

Vermont's oil-heat industry and renewable-energy advocates make odd bedfellows. But the groups stood united Thursday in support of a proposal to spruce up the No. 2 oil used in nearly 140,000 Vermont homes.

Lowering sulfur content and adding biodiesel to heating-oil blends, they said, will improve energy efficiency and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

But for fuel dealers, it's also about long-term financial survival. As the sector watches more environmentally friendly fuel sources encroach on its market share, industry leaders are asking lawmakers to help put heating oil on the crest of a green energy wave.

"One hundred years ago, people realized it made more sense to heat with oil than with coal or wood," said Matt Cota, executive director of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association.

"If we want to be around for another 100 years, we need to create a cleaner, more efficient product."

As it stands, heating oil can't very well advertise its green credentials. Alternative fuels – natural gas and wood pellets among them – emit less pollution. And efficiency-minded policymakers have offered federal incentives to encourage their use.

Oil dealers want in on the action, and industry representatives are pursuing region-wide legislation they say would elevate the fuel's green status.

"If we want to claim the mantle of the cleanest heating fuel out there, we need to get this ultra-low-sulfur fuel with the biodiesel blend," Cota said. "If we're in a legislative and political environment in which less environmentally friendly fuels are not receiving incentives, and people are getting incentives to switch away from us, we need to fix that part of the equation."

The low-sulfur and biodiesel components of that equation aren't really connected. But they represent parallel paths the industry must follow to achieve its new goal. The only way to get there, Cota says, is through a regional mandate that would set new standards for heating oil used in Northeast states. The six New England states, combined with New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, consume more than 80 percent of all heating oil used in the nation.

"It's up to the industry to demand cleaner, greener fuel, because people do have a choice out there in the marketplace," Cota said. "If policymakers want people to consume cleaner fuel, we need the ability to provide it to them, and the only way to do that is a Northeast mandate."

High sulfur contents in heating oil, according to Bob Hedden, executive director of the Oilheat Manufacturers Association, compromise efficiency by gumming up the works in boilers and furnaces. To illustrate his point Thursday, Hedden produced a plastic tray filled with ugly brown chips of crystallized sulfuric acid.

"This is the stuff we're trying to get rid of," Hedden said, telling lawmakers it came out of a heat exchanger. "This is what happens when you burn sulfur."

The stuff accumulates quickly even in top-shelf boilers and furnaces, and consumers pay around $100 for an annual system tune-up.

Perhaps more importantly, Cota and Hedden said, sulfur residue prevents consumers from availing themselves of condensing technologies that can increase efficiency by as much as 6.5 percent.

Hedden and Cota are asking Vermont lawmakers to adopt a bill that would require maximum sulfur contents of 15 parts per million, well below the 3,000 to 5,000 parts per million now found in much of the heating oil used in this state. Since Vermont alone doesn't have the market power to alter refineries' decisions, the legislation wouldn't take effect until surrounding states approved similar laws.

They face some resistance, though, from the petroleum industry. Joe Choquette, who represents the American Petroleum Institute in the Vermont Statehouse, said oil refiners aren't opposed to making the low-sulfur transition. But the timeline, and ultra-low-sulfur contents, spelled out in the House legislation, he said, are far too aggressive. Choquette said eliminating sulfur from heating oil – which constitutes about 10 percent of all diesel fuel used in the United States – will require significant capital expenses.

"It's not often my friend (Cota) and I disagree," Choquette said. "And we're not at odds with the oil-heat industry per se, but I do urge you to go slow with this bill."

Waiting until 2018, and setting a content goal of 50 parts per million, Choquette said, would make more sense.

"It would allow us to make investments in a logical timeline and achieve a goal we all want to get to," he said.

Refineries already produce ultra-low-sulfur diesel, thanks largely to the kind of sweeping legislation Cota and Hedden are seeking. An EPA standard established earlier in the decade mandated that all on-road diesel meet the 15 parts per million threshold. Diesel for off-road vehicles – tractors, skidders or other nonregistered vehicles – can't have more than 500 parts per million.

The second prong in the proposed legislation requests a minimum biodiesel content of 5 percent by 2013. Proponents concede that there's currently no way to supply the tens of millions of gallons of biofuel that would be necessary to replace 5 percent of the 6 billion gallons of heating oil used annually in the Northeast. But they say it's an achievable goal.

"It's a chicken-egg problem," Hedden said. "We have the technology. What we need now is a mandate so we can commercialize, something to give people comfort to spend huge amounts of money to build the next generation of biofuel stocks."

The request has thrilled biofuel supporters in Vermont, who say the mandate could jump-start the state's budding biodiesel industry – which would likely rely on crops including soy, sunflower and canola.

No one knows exactly how much biofuel was produced in Vermont last year, but educated estimates put the number at about 76,000 gallons. Netaka White, biofuels director for the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, estimates total production capacity, however, likely exceeds 4 million gallons. Getting there, he said, would require the kind of mandate the oil industry is seeking.

"A number of primarily economic factors are going to have to come into play, and this mandate is one of the keys to provide the market signal," said White, also secretary of the board of directors at Renewable Energy Vermont, an organization that has offered its support for the bill. "It would be the biggest single trigger that's happened in the six or seven years I've been working in this field."

Cota says the new biofuel market would decrease U.S. reliance on foreign oil, and White says it could create an untold number of new jobs in the agricultural and science fields in Vermont and New England.

Vermont lawmakers opted to shelve the proposed legislation pending relevant news from Washington, D.C., regarding the extension of biofuel tax credits that expired at the end of last year. But they will draft a resolution offering their support for new sulfur and biofuel standards. Cota will present the resolution to Washington, D.C., lawmakers at an oil-heat summit next month.

"We know we need to get there, and we know we need a regional mandate to get there," Cota said. "It could be state-by-state legislation. It could be a federal mandate. However we do it, we need this to get done."

Newswire Services
January 31, 2010
Terrace, Canada -- The City of Terrace and General Biofuels Canada have reached an agreement on terms to purchase property for a wood pellet facility in Terrace, British Columbia. General Biofuels Canada will be utilizing wood supply obtained throughout the region to manufacture premium wood pellets. The wood pellet facility will be operating with an initial capacity of 150,000 – 200,000 metric tonnes per year, growing to a capacity of up to 500,000 metric tonnes per year in the next several years. David Smith, Vice President of Corporate Development of General Biofuels, states: "General Biofuels Canada is committed to developing a significant presence in the wood pellet industry in northern British Columbia. We´re excited to be working with the City of Terrace and look forward to a successful project." General Biofuels Canada hopes to start construction by the middle of 2010, with production starting in 2011. The plant will employ an estimated 30 people, with additional indirect employment in fibre supply and transportation.

Terrace (immediate area population 18,580) and the surrounding Skeena Valley are located in a hybrid coastal-interior rainforest on the Skeena River, approximately 115 kilometres from its mouth at the Pacific Ocean. The lush forests in the area consist primarily of cedar, hemlock and balsam. Though historically, logging has been the main industry, Terrace has become the commercial hub of northwest BC and now supports other industries such as tourism and mining. Seven First Nations groups live around the surrounding area and contribute significantly to Terrace´s economy and culture.

Located in British Columbia, General Biofuels Canada is a producer of premium wood pellets. General Biofuels Canada is committed to long term relationships in the northwest region and scalable business practices, and is focused on leveraging underutilized fibre supply and ensuring the sustainable management of forests. General Biofuels Canada´s first pellet plant will be located in Terrace, British Columbia.

General Biofuels´ mission is to create the fuels to reduce greenhouse gasses globally. We use non-food sources, from non-food-producing, sustainably managed lands to produce bio-fuels. Our fuels supply a full range of demand, including transportation (bio-diesel), electric generation (bio-fuel and bio-mass), and heat generation (bio-mass). General Biofuels aims to operate a network of facilities supplying sustainably harvested fuels to energy consumers around the globe.


By Tom Gocze
Special to the NEWS

The other day my wife received a nice color brochure from a company that makes a heating device that is sold on TV infomercials. It is being sold by a famous TV home improvement guy — not me.
This device has been around for about five or six years and aggravates most people who know something about heating and thermodynamics.
The centerfold of the brochure has an in-depth discussion of how such a wonderful device was discovered. It seems that a guy who lived in a farmhouse had a piece of specially cured copper — not regular copper, but specially cured copper — standing near his coal furnace.
You might find this hard to believe, but it got hot. And it stayed hot for a while.
The inventor experimented with the cured copper until he invented this new kind of heater.
Since he had a large family, he took great efforts to invent a heater that would not cause a fire, radiation or burn, and would not create carbon monoxide.
It is so safe and benign because it uses a light inside a copper pipe — specially cured, I am told — to heat the pipe. It then blows air over the pipe and heats the room.
This is basically an electric heater. It heats air by electricity. The specially cured copper is a lot of silly sales hyperbole.
But, dear reader, you say that “real” people are saving half their heating bills by using this device.
And you are correct. They do save perhaps half their heating bills — by turning down their thermostats for the central heating system and using this wonderful device to heat the room where they hole up for the winter.
Couldn’t you do this with, say, a conventional electric heater or perhaps a fancy electric heater, say with a remote control, or maybe an electric fireplace made by the Amish? Oops, another infomercial. Sorry.
Well, yes, and you got that answer from someone who is nowhere near as well known as the guy selling these things.
If you want to spend $300 to $400 on an electric heater, God bless you. Just remember that the most expensive electric heater I could find locally was $79 and it can do the same thing.
Of course, you can use a wood stove or pellet stove, turn down the thermostat and save even more money. But then you have no specially cured copper tubing.
OK, so I still have room to write more about heating.
I have been struggling most of the winter with some wood pellets that are laden with ash. I do not understand why, but someone made a fairly ashy batch of wood pellets and I bought a ton of them.
While trying to use these pellets up and vacuuming my shop pellet stove out the other day, I had a lot of time to reflect and research pellet quality and resources.
And I have a few conclusions:
First, before I buy another full ton of pellets, I will try a half dozen bags to see how they burn. Feedback from other people who use pellets helps with this plan, since batches can vary, apparently.
Second, the cheapest pellets are not necessarily the best. I suspect they cost a dealer about the same, but given some of the antics I have gone through with bad pellets, a little more cost per ton is not a big deal, given better performance and less maintenance.
Third, check with local pellet stove dealers to see what works best in their stoves. They do this every day and usually have years of experience.
Lastly, I hate to say this, but it seems there is a learning curve with pellet production. If you are going to try pellets from a new enterprise, ask them about a return policy if you get stuck with a ton of crummy pellets. I believe, though, it is a lot simpler to make sure you do a small test with a couple of bags than to have to return 2,000 pounds of pellets. That almost makes specially cured copper heaters look good.


An important part of the province’s coal-phaseout strategy rests on Ontario Power Generation’s ability to run its existing coal plants on biomass fuel, such as wood pellets produced from forest residue and small, quick-growing trees.
This biomass option is often forgotten, overshadowed by the aggressive deployment of wind and solar farms and natural gas facilities. But it’s attractive for a number of reasons, most obvious being the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The calculation of that potential was part of a University of Toronto-led study published recently in the journal Environmental Science & Technology and commissioned by OPG. Based on a full “cradle-to-grave” analysis that took into account resource extraction, transportation, processing and final fuel combustion, the study found that using 100 per cent wood pellets instead of coal reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 92 per cent.
Even compared to an efficient combined-cycle natural gas plant, burning wood pellets emits 78 per cent fewer emissions. “So one wouldn’t want to become reliant on the natural gas option,” study co-author Heather MacLean, a professor of environmental engineering at U of T, said in an interview.
Now, the study makes one major assumption here, which is that “the CO2 resulting from the combustion of the bio-based resource is exactly balanced by the carbon incorporated during regrowth of the forest during the time period considered.”
In other words, we have to expect that the woody material is harvested from Ontario forests in a sustainable way, and that new trees sprouting up will vacuum the carbon released from older trees that were burned as fuel. This will require strict government regulation that – and I know this concept is somewhat novel – is actually enforced.
Same goes for the use of biomass pellets made from switchgrass, leftover corn cobs and other agricultural residues, which OPG is thinking of mixing into its wood pellet fuel. MacLean says these biomass sources be the focus of her next study.
So when will the first coal-to-biomass switchover take effect? OPG is making some solid progress. Its 230-megawatt Atikokan plant is on target to start burning 100 per cent wood pellets in 2012, and the first of what’s expected to be three or four units at Nanticoke could follow a year later. Studies continue for the Lambton and Thunder Bay plants.
The plan has received much support – from industry and environmental groups alike – because it allows the province to continue using a paid-for asset (the coal plant) in a way that uses a carbon-neutral fuel, which also dramatically reduces sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate emissions.
“We would anticipate the retrofitted plants would still have 10 years of solid service easily available to them,” said Chris Young, OPG’s vice-president of fossil products. “This can be a step,” he added, “on the path toward purpose-built biomass in Ontario, new assets likely deployed on a more decentralized basis.”
The job-creation and grid-management aspects are also worth touting.
The supply chain required to feed the beast, so to speak, could potentially create hundreds, even thousands of jobs in regions of Ontario most desperate for them, including many aboriginal communities. People will be needed to harvest the biomass, transport it, and convert it into fuel pellets.
Moving to biomass will also preserve some jobs at coal plants that are kept in full or partial operation. This excludes the engineering work created during retrofitting of the power plants. These are jobs that simply wouldn’t exist in Ontario if we kept burning coal, since supply of that fossil fuel comes from outside the province, including western Canada and West Virginia.
As for grid management, the new retrofitted plants are going to be “peakers” that, like some natural gas plants, can help manage the output from renewables like wind and solar. They will help fill the power gap when the wind blows less – that is, they can ramp up -- and can reduce their output when it’s a sunny and windy day.
“We believe these plants will be able to do what they do today (with coal) in terms of ramping,” says Chris Young, OPG’s vice-president of fossil products. And every megawatt of biomass power that can do it represents a megawatt of natural gas plant that doesn’t need to be built or relied on.
And what will this biomass power generation cost? The U of T study estimates about 12 cents per kilowatt-hour, roughly double the price of using natural gas based on today’s unusually low price, but competitive with nuclear and other renewables such as wind. That said, the comparison excludes any impact carbon prices might have on the natural gas option.
Also, if natural gas prices return to the levels they were in the summer of 2008, the gap with biomass pretty much closes. So let’s knock on wood and hope that OPG can pull this one off.
By Matthew Preusch, The Oregonian
February 01, 2010, 9:08AM

The utility is considering replacing all or part of the coal it burns at Boardman with Biomass.A recent study concludes that burning biomass in place of coal, such as Portland General Electric is considering for its Boardman power plant, can be cost-effective.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, looked at replacing all or part of the coal supplying power plants in Ontario, Canada, and it found that co-firing with wood pellets and coal was a realistic way to reduce a plant's greenhouse gas emissions.

A mix of 90 percent coal, 10 percent pellets would increase the cost of electricity from the two test plants' by 0.6 and 0.9 cents per kilowatt hour, the study says, while significantly reducing the amount of climate-changing gasses they produce.

"If 10% co-firing were to be implemented in all coal (plants) in the United States and Canada, electricity generation from biomass could contribute approximately 4% of annual generation of the two countries (185 of 4660 TWh), reducing GHG emissions by 170 million metric tons/year, 5% of emissions from the two countries’ electricity sectors," the study says.

"The results suggest that electricity produced from biomass in existing coal GS should be considered, along with other alternatives, as a means of achieving near-term GHG reductions," it says.

But there are limits to how many pellets forests can sustainable supply, the study cautions.

01 February 2010
The UK! London
People installing wind turbines, solar panels and other low carbon technologies to generate their own energy will benefit from a reward scheme announced by the government today.
The new Feed-in Tariff (FIT) and Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) schemes unveiled by Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Miliband MP, mean households with renewable technologies will receive cash payments for every unit of energy they produce themselves, rather than by using conventional fuels like gas and mains electricity.
Which? has advice on how to buy solar panels, how to install a wind turbine and how to create a more energy efficient home. You can also read our reviews of a range of energy saving appliances as well as energy saving light bulbs and home electricity monitors.
Money for energy
The cash incentive is offered in addition to savings bill payers should expect as a result of using renewable technology.
According to the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the FIT means a household with a well-sited 2.5kW solar photovoltaic (PV) panel could get a reward of up to £900 from the excess electricity they generate but don’t use, as well as a further £140 a year saving on its electricity bill.
The FIT will start in April 2010 and will be followed in April 2011 by the RHI – flagged by the government as the first scheme of its kind in the world to encourage low carbon heating technology, such as ground source heat pumps and biomass (wood pellet) heating systems.
Currently around 5.5% of electricity and less than 1% of heat comes from renewable sources – both figures will need to rise dramatically if the UK is to hit the 15% target for 2020. It's claimed small scale renewable installations, like those on people's homes, could meet 2% of electricity demand in 2020.
For more energy saving advice, see our guide to cutting your energy bills.
Renewable energy pay back time
Which? energy researcher James Tallack said: 'A secure, affordable and environmentally-friendly supply of heat and power is vital for our health and wellbeing.
'We welcome such a strong financial incentive for consumers to generate their own power, as well as the obvious environmental benefits, but the high price of renewable technologies remains a barrier for all but the very well-off.
'For example, even with savings of £1,000 a year, at current electricity prices it’ll still take around 14 years to get your money back on a solar panel.'

By Patrick Cliff / The Bulletin
Last modified: February 01. 2010 5:07PM PST
The Sisters School District may be the first district in the region to install a biomass heating system at one of its schools, and it might be able to do so without making any upfront investment.
In the past, school board members have been supportive of using biomass — wood pellets, in this case — to heat its buildings, but the immediate cost of about $125,000 to install a new boiler was too high as the district struggled with tight budgets. The school board is scheduled to consider the new plan at its Wednesday night meeting.
If the school board approves the plan, the district will begin with the high school’s heating system, which is its costliest and so has the largest potential savings.
Backers of the plan say it would eventually save the district thousands of dollars while benefiting the environment.
No initial cost
The new plan would allow the district to pay for the system over several years. In three years of researching biomass systems, this is the first time that Director of Operations Leland Bliss has found a way to pay for the system with no initial investment.
“We’re looking for a way to do it so it’s not going to affect any of the budget,” Bliss said. “We want a program that’s no cost to the district.”
Under the new approach, the district would pay a set fee to Energyneering, a local biomass company. The fee would be equal to the district’s current heating costs at the high school of about $60,000 per year. No contract has yet been signed and so details might change, Bliss said.
After about 10 years, the district would own the system, according to board member Glen Lasken. At that point, the district would pay only for the wood pellets and, depending on heating oil costs, could save tens of thousands of dollars a year.
“In the long run, it’s a cost- saving measure,” Lasken said. “That’s probably the driving force.”
Lasken said the board had not yet decided whether to support the plan, but that he hadn’t found any issues with it.
“We need to ask if there is any risk, if anything happens to the company involved. Are there any hidden costs?” Lasken said. “I don’t see any significant problems.”
Bliss said the stable costs would be an immediate benefit for the district. With its current system, the district uses diesel, the cost of which can fluctuate from day to day, Bliss said.
If the board agrees to the biomass plan, the district could more accurately project what its high school heating costs would be, Bliss said.
“We could budget a price and not have the volatile fuel prices jumping,” he said.
Rare company
The system would put Sisters in rare company. Schools in Enterprise and Burns are the only ones in Oregon with biomass systems already in place, according to Phil Chang, a program administrator at the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council. COIC has advised the school district as it looked for biomass options.
The biomass system would help the district both save money and use renewable energy, Chang said.
“It’s a highly effective and appropriate use of wood for energy,” Chang said. “It lets (the district) do a good thing by getting renewable energy online.”
Using biomass can also help the local economy, according to Chang.
With a heating oil system, much of the money spent leaves the state, he said. A biomass system can use local wood that would otherwise go to waste, such as sawdust from mills and waste left from forest thinning projects.
“If the school district buys locally produced wood pellets, all of the money stays in the community and is circulated in the community,” Chang said. “We’re stopping the leakage of that (energy) money.”
Patrick Cliff can be reached at 541-633-2161 or at

February 2, 2010

Mitsubishi and Weyerhaeuser may be getting into the biomass business together – a business that some think can keep old coal-fired plants burning longer and cleaner.
Mitsubishi and Weyerhaeuser have entered into a partnership to investigate the potential of biomass and possibly build bio-pellet production facilities in the U.S., reports Reuters.
The bio-pellets would be derived from wood from sustainably managed forests, then sold to utilities and industrial users.
Converting coal plants to run on a mixture of coal and wood pellets is cost-competitive and reduces emissions, according to a new study, reports the New York Times.
If wood pellets were used for 10 percent of the biomass/coal mix at all U.S. and Canadian coal plants, the same amount of electricity could be produced, with a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 170 million metric tons each year.
That would be equivalent to 5 percent of emissions from the two nations’ utility industries, according to the article.


Canadian Bio-Coal Ltd. vice president Bill McIntyre spoke to two dozen forest industry stakeholders about bio-coal last week. Those are wood pellets on the left, compared to his product, bio-coal, on the right.
Forest industry stakeholders heard about another way last week to create value-added wood products from the local forest.
Bill McIntyre from Canadian Bio-Coal Ltd. told people that, just as the name of his company suggests, wood waste can be turned into bio-coal.
“I think that we have a system that is going to help or has the potential to rejuvenate our forest industry,” said McIntyre, the company’s vice president of marketing and sales.
McIntyre also noted that greenhouse gas emissions were significantly reduced in making bio-ocal.
The microwave targeted energy technology would heat waste wood and turn it into biocoal, which is then used in fuel and thermal power generating plants.
McIntyre said the main market for biocoal is in coal-fired electric-generating companies in Europe.
“What we’re interested in is in the waste wood, that material that is left in the forest,” McIntyre said, explaining that any type of fibre, like pine, spruce, hemlock, cedar, wheat straw, rape seed, oats, or even branches, could be used in the process.
“We want to take a fibre that has no value really, and turn it into a value-added product.”
There are business opportunities in B.C., McIntyre said.
A good plant location needs road access, easy fibre delivery and it should be near a railroad or port.
The fibre requirement for a standard-size plant is 400,000 cubic metres per year and that a 15-year supply of material is needed for the facility to be viable.
One 25-ton per hour plant requires only 3.5 acres for a site and costs between $13 to $18 million to set up, with yearly operational costs estimated at $4.6 million per plant. McIntyre said the company will deliver the equipment on three flatbed trucks, and mobilize and install the equipment onsite in 10 days.
The system is fully automated, which means each plant would only need to employ around 14 or 16 people. This doesn’t include people needed for harvesting the fibre, transportation or other services.
Mayor Dave Pernarowski said the city will be able to use the information to investigate opportunities in the future.
“Any opportunity to look at alternative forestry technology is of interest,” he said.
No plants have started up in the province as of yet, but McIntyre is expecting announcements to be made soon.


By Jennifer Runyon --
Source Article

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.

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 its 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 plants 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. Its 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 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 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 Pellets 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.

By Greenbang on Wednesday, 3rd February 2010

What’s one relatively quick and effective way to cut the carbon footprint of coal-fired power plants? A team of Canadian and Japanese researchers believe they have an answer: switch at least part of the power plants’ fuel from coal to biomass.
Currently, coal-fired electricity generation is responsible for about 20 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Yet coal-based power plants could keep generating energy cost-effectively and reduce climate-altering pollution significantly by using a fuel blend of coal and wood pellets instead, according to a new study led by Heather MacLean, an associate professor in civil engineering at the University of Toronto.
“Biomass utilisation in coal (generating stations) should be considered for its potential to mitigate (greenhouse gases) from the electricity sector in the near term,” MacLean and her team write in the study. “Climate change is a critical issue, and delaying the implementation of abatement measures will be costly.”
Completely replacing coal with wood pellets has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 91 per cent for a coal plant, and by 78 per cent for natural gas combined cycle power plant, the researchers report. The switch also reduces emissions of nitrous oxides (by 40 to 47 per cent) and sulphur oxides (76 to 81 per cent).
However, even burning a mix of 10 or 20 per cent wood pellets with coal — co-firing — carries significant benefits, both in reducing greenhouse gas emissions reductions and in increasing the cost of electricity at a price that’s competitive with retrofitting coal plants to reduce emissions. And that’s without factoring in the possible additional cost to coal power if a cap-and-trade system were to be enacted.

4 February, 2010
Weyerhaeuser and Mitsubishi Corporation have signed a strategic memorandum of understanding to explore the possibilities of collaborating in the biomass-to-energy business.
The parties are particularly interested in assessing the feasibility of a commercial-scale wood pellet production facility in the US by 2011.
Depending on the success of the study, more facilities could follow in aspiration to become a world class bio-pellet producer.
Mitsubishi currently operates two bio-pellet facilities in Japan and is actively involved in the management of Vis Nova Trading GmbH, a major pellet producer in Germany.
“We have the opportunity to enhance the value of Weyerhaeuser timberlands by converting residuals from our forest management activities into a new revenue stream,” said Weyerhaeuser CEO Dan Fulton.

Veteran congressman shares his ideas as he listens to community leaders
Jim Oberstar’s annual January visits to International Falls give him bragging rights in Washington D.C.
“Anybody can come to International Falls in the summer,” he says with a wide smile at one of his stops during a full day of meetings and interviews Thursday.
When the congressman enters a room, people want his ear and are there to listen to him. Time is built in for the congressman’s unscheduled chats, his aids joke, because they have come to anticipate these asides during his visits to Borderland.
But, as Oberstar notes, more importantly than the ability to brag about facing below-zero temperatures on a visit to the Icebox of the Nation, the veteran of more than 34 years in Congress says the visits allow for an exchange — he hears about the challenges faced by this border community, and Borderland leaders listen to his opinions and ideas.
“As many trips as I have made to International Falls, there is always something more to learn,” he said. “But I also know the history — some lessons from the past — that I can draw upon, and I also have experience in economic development... and traveling to other communities elsewhere I see what other towns have tried, what has worked, what has not worked. I have some ideas I can contribute to the process.”
As Oberstar rushes into the office of Einarson Flying Service, where his charter plane awaits him Thursday afternoon, he pulls from his bulging briefcase a clear plastic bag of wood pellets.
“Aren’t these something,” he says of the pellets given to him by staff of Northland Distributing, which is importing Italian stoves that use the pellets as fuel. He toured the business’s new facility among the other stops on his visit.
Oberstar also toured the Highway 11 East Border Patrol facility now under construction and the Border State Bank building on Highway 11-71. The congressman met with International Falls city officials and with members of the International Falls-Koochiching County Airport Commission. He also had some time for interviews with the area’s media representatives.
Oberstar pointed to an initiative launched by city officials to organize an economic summit, similar to one conducted five years ago in the community.

“It has to be locally driven, it has to be the community’s initiative, but I think we’re on track to bring together” the U.S. Economic Development Administration, Canadian National Railway, Northwest Airlines, Voyageurs National Park, the Federal Aviation Administration, Minnesota Department of Transportation, labor unions, foreign trade zone staff, stake agencies — “it needs to be a bigger initiative than was done five years ago,” he said.
Oberstar asked Falls Mayor Shawn Mason to develop an agenda and decide what the community wants to gain by conducting a summit.
Oberstar said he will take back to Washington the concerns of airport officials about issues raised by U.S. Customs about the airport.
“They say we can’t service these inbound flights because they don’t have enough room,” Oberstar explained. “They can only accommodate 15 people at a time. That has meant loss of business, opportunities, not only perspective, but actual. For corporate jets flying the great circle route, this is a great place to stop; celebrity aircraft can come in, it’s a quiet place, not under the glare of television, refuel, and pass through customs.”
Asked about Haiti, Oberstar grows solemn and opens a folder with photographs of the country taken in October when he returned for a reunion of the cadets to whom he taught English more than 50 years earlier. Oberstar lived in Haiti from May 1959 to December 1962. He was employed as an English language instructor for students of the Haitian Military Academy.
He’s stayed in touch with many of his students, some of whom are now officers in the Haitian military.
The earthquake allows the impoverished country to rebuild in a way that will protect the people and buildings from further natural disaster, he said.

Written by Ricki Normandin
With advanced technology, alternative energy's ugly stepchild is getting a mainstream makeover.

"I'm surprised at how much of energy policy and media is focused on biomass for cellulosic ethanol and electricity generation," says biomass thermal expert Scott Nichols. "I'm not sure that's the smartest policy long term."

Nichols, president of New Hampshire-based BioHeatUSA and board of directors secretary for the Biomass Thermal Energy Council, is a biomass thermal advocate. "It's the common man's energy source - affordable and very powerful," he says.

In an audio conference presented by Biowood Energy in December, 2009, Nichols outlined the potential of biomass thermal as a local and regional renewable energy solution. He detailed how this is being realized through the use advanced and proven technology.

Thermal energy accounts for about one-third of America’s energy use - transportation takes up 29 percent and electric power generation 40 percent. But electric generation using biomass falls far short of the energy conversion efficiency biomass thermal provides.

Nichols cited the example of the Schiller power station in Portsmouth, NH, a coal plant conversion project. He thinks it will do great things for air quality and the forest industry - it will use 400,000 tons of wood chips per year or about 20 percent of New Hampshire's forest economy - but biomass electricity is only 25 to 30 percent efficient in terms of energy conversion. In contrast, co-generation or heat production alone is 70 percent efficient or more.

In the case of cellulosic ethanol, production rates are about 75 gallons per BDT, resulting in an output of 6.5 million BTUs per ton of biomass - half the available energy in a ton of wood pellets.

Coming in from the cold
In cold climates such as the northeastern U.S., 75 percent of residential energy is used for heating, 25 percent for electricity. Biomass energy is important because it's available locally and regionally. Using biomass solves a lot of local and regional forestry and economic issues.

"Using biomass more, and properly, enhances the value of timberlands and decreases development," says Nichols. He adds that resource sustainability is essential. "We must make sure the limited supply of biomass is used appropriately - if used faster than it grows, it's not only not sustainable, it's also not carbon neutral."

The USDA “Billion Ton Report” estimates that a billion tons of biomass replaces 30 percent or more of the country’s petroleum consumption and there are 368 million dry tons of sustainable woody biomass in forest lands alone available for energy uses. Forest Energy Associates estimates that current use at 50 million bd. (bone dry tons) annually is one-seventh of what's available. But as more biomass energy goes mainstream, more pressure will be put on the resource.

Biomass vs solar
The choice for alternative energy at the residential or small commercial level is often between biomass and solar energy. If you do the math, says Nichols, biomass wins out.

Compared to a solar photovoltaic system, a biomass boiler can make 8 times more energy per year for the same installed cost. There's about a 40-year payback for a solar photovoltaic system (without rebates and tax credit). An equivalent biomass thermal system offers a 5 to 10-year payback.

In northern climates, a biomass boiler installed for $12,000 and burning five cords of wood or five tons of pellets will create the same amount of energy in one year as a 12.5 KW solar photovoltaic system costing eight times as much.

Nichols says it's "frustrating" that in the U.S., residential wind and solar energy installations are eligible for a 30 percent tax credit with no cap while there's a $1,500 cap for biomass energy.

The nitty-gritty
Once the "ugly stepchild" of renewable energy, says Nichols, "biomass is entering the mainstream by making whole system installation and appliances seamless, convenient and comfortable."

Issues like ash residue, fuel supply and storage, safety, emissions and availability have not just been overcome. Currently, most of the technology comes from Europe but Nichols sees no reason why it couldn't be made in North America.

Here are some of the options:

Fully automatic pellet boilers (shown above)
This game-changing technology brings biomass to an operational level similar to oil and gas boilers, says Nichols. It's reliable and self-maintaining enough to replace existing oil, gas or coal residential or small commercial heating appliances without a backup system.

Available systems can include automatic feeding from bulk storage - a vacuum draws pellets through a hose from a larger bin into the boiler as needed. The system is self-lighting, self-cleaning (chamber and heat exchanger tubes) and can have multiple safety features (airlocks, sprinklers, air intake sensors, etc.). Minimum owner interaction is required to run it.

The boiler works best with premium and super premium pellet fuel which reduce ash removal. It can be ganged with other boilers and the whole system run automatically.


Sky-Hi Daily News

Six months ago, Gov. Bill Ritter visited the Confluence Energy wood pellet plant in Kremmling, bringing attention to what he hoped would become a major player in the nation's “New Energy Economy” and the next-best solution to Colorado's beetle kill crisis.

Today, the plant in Kremmling, like many across the nation, are struggling just to stay alive, according to founder and CEO Mark Mathis.

“There is a glut in the pellet industry nationwide,” Mathis said. “Very few — if any — plants are running. We are at one-third speed and there's only one other currently running. It's not just Colorado, it's nationwide.”

Shelves at retail stores are stocked, but the product is not moving. The storage yards at the plants are at capacity. Enough 40-pound bags of wood pellets were produced at Colorado's two plants last year to serve the region for the next four years. If the market doesn't grow quickly, more people are going to lose jobs and plants are going to close permanently.

Historically, the Colorado region has used 50,000-60,000 tons of the product per year, Mathis said. The two plants combined are producing 200,000 tons annually.

“Walden opened at the same time as us and there is simply not enough demand in the region to justify two large facilities,” Mathis said. “The upshot is that we're the only viable plant in the region right now.”

Production at Rocky Mountain Pellets in Walden recently shut down.

“We are still going through and selling off what inventory we've already built,” said John Frink, owner/vice-president of RMP. “We have a good 20 (employees) coming in a day.”

At full run, the plant normally employees about 50 people, Frink said.

The hope, it seems, lies overseas. Wood pellets — cylinders of dried, shredded wood — can be burned alongside coal in existing power plants and are a less-expensive way to generate electricity than windmills or solar panels.

The process of burning the pellets is generally considered to be carbon neutral since trees would emit the carbon naturally when they die and decompose, allowing pellets to meet the European Union's stringent renewable energy source requirements.

As Europe's demand for wood pellets increases, the United States has become a major exporter of renewable energy. New pellet plants have opened across the southeastern United States, with factories sprouting in Florida, Alabama and Arkansas in the past year, according to an article published in the Wall Street Journal last July.

The capacity of the three newest plants in the Southeast more than doubled the pellet production in the United States in a single year.

Prior to 2008, there were about 40 pellet factories nationally, producing about 900,000 tons a year, primarily for heating homes. The three new plants in the Southeast alone have the capacity to producing 1.25 million tons of pellets per year. Additionally, five new plants have gone up in the Rocky Mountain region in the last four years, Mathis said.

The United States isn't the only country jumping on the pellet production bandwagon. Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Vietnam, Canada and South Africa are also exporting pellets to Europe.

Flat demand
But, here at home, demand has flatlined. Pellets are more expensive than coal, and unless states start increasing regulations for renewable energy sources, demand isn't likely to increase at home anytime soon.

Tom Pierro, owner of Legacy Building Specialties in Granby, has been stocking his shop with high-end pellet stoves and products for the last few years. Offering a delivery service that forklifts 1-ton pallets directly into customers' garages, Pierro thought he would see a lot of business in the winter months, given that he's the only local retail outfit to stock pellets.

Not so. He has a steady 25-30 customers for the pellets, but only sells a handful of stoves and hasn't seen much of an increase since he started supplying the product.

Pierro had a hard time even getting one of the local plants to stock his store.

“Initially, neither wanted to sell locally because they had so much business back east,” he said. Eventually he got a call back from Rocky Mountain Pellets in Walden and now he stocks their product, although both plants seem more interested in his business these days, he said.

The cascading combination of factors that has flooded the market with pellets has left plants like Walden and Kremmling high and dry.

The collapse of the energy market from $147-per-barrel oil 18 months ago down to $40-per-barrel oil in 2009 took the focus off alternative fuels, Mathis said.

“Fifteen months ago, you couldn't open the paper without hearing about global warming,” he said. “The pellet market is driven by economics. The economy crashed and burned. People can't afford to spend $3,000 to $4,000 to put a new stove in their house when they're wondering if they'll even have a job tomorrow.”

Despite that, Mathis remains optimistic.

Of the 34 people he employed at the peak of production, Mathis said Confluence has only laid off about seven employees. The plant is still running at about a third of its capacity, which is better than some pellet factories are doing.

“We'll get through it,” he said. “We have jobs to protect. We understand that people have car payments and mortgages. We're doing everything we can to stay afloat, and that includes me not taking a paycheck until we get our heads above water.”

Frink said the Walden plant's staff is working hard to develop new products, from landscape materials to animal bedding, and new uses for the pine beetle kill.

“Our goal is to use the resource,” he said. “We hope to get through as many trees as possible. It's a huge resource this state has and we don't want to see it go to waste.”

They are stockpiling trees with hopes of launching back into production as early as March or April.

Mathis said his focus is on growing the market.

“We need to rally support and find greater, larger, industrial applications for renewable energy,” he said.

And, if it comes down to it, Mathis said he'll personally walk into the region's Home Depot stores and ask managers why they are importing pellets from out-of-state rather than carrying a local product to reduce their carbon footprint.

“We need to be as aggressive as we can to make sure we earn that business. We're trying to drive loyalty, to create jobs here in Colorado and to use the resource that's available out our back door.”

— Reid Armstrong can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610 or

Must have been a very recent meeting in DC about the BCAP program-interesting twist in Maine to extend the program in the form of tax credits?

2/5/10 | 13 comments

By Mal Leary
Capitol News Service

AUGUSTA, Maine — Farmers and woodland owners in Maine can benefit from a new federal subsidy program that Gov. John Baldacci says will pump about $150 million into the state over the next two years through the Biomass Crop Assistance Program paid for with funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
“[These are] payments for material that is sold to qualified biomass facilities for the production of heat, power, biobased products and advanced biofuels like the cellulosic ethanol project in Old Town,” Baldacci said in an interview. “This is really some good news for the state.”
The governor said there was some discussion of the program at a meeting he attended Wednesday at the White House with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden. Baldacci said details of the program became available Thursday when the rules were published in the Federal Register.
“We have 19 million acres of forestland,” Baldacci said. “We have the second highest number of biomass facilities in the country after California. This can be a very significant program for Maine.”
He said the federal payments are aimed at assisting the producers with the cost of collection, harvest transportation and storage of the biomass materials that qualify under the program. The matching payment is at a rate of $1 for each $1 per dry ton paid by the conversion facility to suppliers, up to $45 per dry ton, for a period of two years.
“This can be a real shot in the arm for the state,” Baldacci said.
The program is flexible, covering suppliers of wood chips to the state’s seven wood-to-electricity plants and suppliers of materials such as fats, oils and greases for the making of biodiesel fuel. In all, 26 facilities, including paper plants in Lincoln, East Millinocket, Rumford, Skowhegan and Westbrook, are listed as conversion facilities in the state by federal officials.
Suppliers need to sell their materials to a qualified conversion facility in order to receive the federal subsidies.
“This is going to be a real help in developing more facilities in the state,” Baldacci said. “This will help in our effort to provide more green jobs in the future.”
The program is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Secretary Tom Vilsack said the Biomass Crop Assistance Program is one of the programs pushed by Obama to encourage more green jobs across the country.
“As the Obama administration continues laying the foundation for a stronger, revitalized economy, biomass has great potential to create new, green jobs for American workers,” Vilsack said in statement. “Biomass also has important environmental benefits to produce cleaner energy and reduce greenhouse gases.”
While the program is funded with one-time stimulus money, Baldacci is hopeful it can be extended in a different form as a tax credit program in the future. He met with U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, on Wednesday in Washington and discussed the tax credit proposal she is co-sponsoring.
“It would elevate the tax credit for biomass to the same level as other renewable energy sources,” the governor said. “It is only half that level now.”
Baldacci said the subsidies followed by the improved tax credit would be “a big boost” for the efforts to convert the Millinocket paper mill from oil fuel to biomass fuel.
Snowe said current tax policy is “illogical” and the legislation she is co-sponsoring would provide help to Maine companies after the one-time subsidy money runs out.
“Providing equity for biomass incentives for our pulp and paper industry will spur job growth, reduce the consumption of fossil energy, and reduce carbon emissions,” she said in a statement. “It is exactly the tax policy that will keep our industry competitive and begin to curtail carbon emissions and I am pleased to work with the governor to enact this critical policy.”
Baldacci said the rules implementing the program become final in 60 days, when Maine suppliers will be able to start applying for the subsidies.

Effective immediately, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program is on hold in all states. Local FSA offices will no longer accept new applications for Collection, Harvest, Storage and Transportation (CHST) matching payments.

Effective immediately, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program is on hold in all states. Local FSA offices will no longer accept new applications for Collection, Harvest, Storage and Transportation (CHST) matching payments.

The USDA proposed new rules for the program on February 4. A 60-day comment period follows the announcement. After the comment period, the USDA will develop a more final set of implementation standards. Once these rules are announced, applications for the program will once again be accepted. For applications received prior to the suspension of the program, payments will continue through March 31.

The new rules highlight the fact that the 2009 implementation--based on the Notice of Funds Availability--was a sort of rapid prototyping. It allowed the USDA to get a small version of the program up and running so it could evaluate the effects of the program on markets, the total cost of the program, and whether the program accomplished its goals. It appears the process was successful.

Proposed New Rules:

The most significant proposed change is to the amount of the payments themselves. In the original rules, suppliers to any facility that produced electricity either for sale to the grid or for its own use were eligible for a dollar for dollar matching payment, up to $45/ton, for every dry ton of delivered eligible material. The new rules recognize that this payment amount would make the program cost prohibitive--an estimated $2.1 billion in 2010 alone.

The new rules offer three options for structuring payments.

1. A dollar for dollar per bone dry ton (BDT) matching payment EXCEPT for suppliers of facilities converting wood wastes and residues into heat or electricity for their own use. Suppliers to these facilities would receive dollar for dollar matching payments on eligible materials used to produce heat or electricity ABOVE the facilities historic baseline. This payment structure would incent the idea of "additionality," driving more renewable energy production rather than rewarding those who have been producing renewable energy for years, sometimes decades.

2. A tiered approach where suppliers to biofuels facilities would receive the dollar for dollar per BDT matching payment, not to exceed $45/BDT. Suppliers to facilities producing heat, power, renewable energy or biobased products would receive a lesser amount, roughly $16 per BDT or an amount based on the value of lower carbon emissions. This payment structure would incent biofuels production over other types of renewable energy.

3. A dollar for dollar per BDT matching payment for all facilities based on production above an historic baseline. The full payment, up to $45/BDT, would go to new facilities and facilities like schools, and public buildings that convert from fossil fuel use to renewable biomass, for eligible materials showing exceptional promise and innovation, and for consumption above a baseline. Payments would be reduced for facilities that do not increase production over their historic levels. This structure would also incent additionality, but it would also provide some level of payment to those who have historically produced their own heat and electricity from biomass.

In our last issue, we described the advocacy efforts of the Composite Panel Association (CPA) to remove from the eligible materials list the mill residues used by composite panel makers. While the new rules are not final, it appears efforts by the CPA have been successful. The proposed new rule precludes payments for mill wastes and residues already used for the production of higher value products.

Other rule changes are likely to get less feedback:

* Originally, suppliers were eligible for matching payments for up to two years after they filed their first application; under the new rules, the two-year clock starts ticking when suppliers receive their first payment.

* The original rule called for measuring the moisture content of each load of biomass; the new rule accepts industry standards for measuring moisture content, including random sampling and the use of historical statistical data.

* The proposed rules slightly modify the requirement for "arms-length transactions." The program still precludes payments for "related-party transactions" but allows facility stockholders or cooperative members to participate.

* The original rules required that forest biomass be harvested in accordance with a forest stewardship plan. The proposed rule has expanded the types of plans acceptable to include the American Tree Farm Program, the Sustainable Forestry Initiatives Program and State Best Management Practices Programs.

With a proposed cost of $2.1 billion per year, pausing the program to ensure the government gets it right will be welcome news to many. And for those who will be adversely affected by the new rules, the comment period is critical. The CPA has demonstrated that the USDA is willing to listen and act when an entire industry is being disadvantaged.

We think it unlikely that new applications for payments will be accepted before June, a potential disadvantage to suppliers who have already received their first payments and have set the two-year clock in motion. If you are in this category, we recommend you take advantage of the comment period and provide feedback asking for the 2-year period be suspended as long as new applications are not being accepted.

An important part of the provinces coal-phaseout strategy rests on Ontario Power Generations ability to run its existing coal plants on biomass fuel, such as wood pellets produced from forest residue and small, quick-growing trees.

This biomass option is often forgotten, overshadowed by the aggressive deployment of wind and solar farms and natural gas facilities. But its attractive for a number of reasons, most obvious being the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The calculation of that potential was part of a University of Toronto-led study published recently in the journal Environmental Science & Technology and commissioned by OPG. Based on a full "cradle-to-grave" analysis that took into account resource extraction, transportation, processing and final fuel combustion, the study found that using 100 per cent wood pellets instead of coal reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 92 per cent.

Even compared to an efficient combined-cycle natural gas plant, burning wood pellets emits 78 per cent fewer emissions. "So one wouldn't want to become reliant on the natural gas option," study co-author Heather MacLean, a professor of environmental engineering at U of T, said in an interview.

Now, the study makes one major assumption here, which is that "the CO2 resulting from the combustion of the bio-based resource is exactly balanced by the carbon incorporated during regrowth of the forest during the time period considered."

In other words, we have to expect that the woody material is harvested from Ontario forests in a sustainable way, and that new trees sprouting up will vacuum the carbon released from older trees that were burned as fuel. This will require strict government regulation that -- and I know this concept is somewhat novel -- is actually enforced.

Same goes for the use of biomass pellets made from switchgrass, leftover corn cobs and other agricultural residues, which OPG is thinking of mixing into its wood pellet fuel. MacLean says these biomass sources be the focus of her next study.

So when will the first coal-to-biomass switchover take effect? OPG is making some solid progress. It's 230-megawatt Atikokan plant is on target to start burning 100 per cent wood pellets in 2012, and the first of what's expected to be three or four units at Nanticoke could follow a year later. Studies continue for the Lambton and Thunder Bay plants.

The plan has received much support -- from industry and environmental groups alike -- because it allows the province to continue using a paid-for asset (the coal plant) in a way that uses a carbon-neutral fuel, which also dramatically reduces sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate emissions.

"We would anticipate the retrofitted plants would still have 10 years of solid service easily available to them," said Chris Young, OPGs vice-president of fossil products. "This can be a step," he added, "on the path toward purpose-built biomass in Ontario, new assets likely deployed on a more decentralized basis."

The job-creation and grid-management aspects are also worth touting.

The supply chain required to feed the beast, so to speak, could potentially create hundreds, even thousands of jobs in regions of Ontario most desperate for them, including many aboriginal communities. People will be needed to harvest the biomass, transport it, and convert it into fuel pellets.

Moving to biomass will also preserve some jobs at coal plants that are kept in full or partial operation. This excludes the engineering work created during retrofitting of the power plants. These are jobs that simply wouldn't exist in Ontario if we kept burning coal, since supply of that fossil fuel comes from outside the province, including western Canada and West Virginia.

As for grid management, the new retrofitted plants are going to be peakers that, like some natural gas plants, can help manage the output from renewables like wind and solar. They will help fill the power gap when the wind blows less -- that is, they can ramp up -- and can reduce their output when it's a sunny and windy day.

"We believe these plants will be able to do what they do today (with coal) in terms of ramping," says Chris Young, OPGs vice-president of fossil products. And every megawatt of biomass power that can do it represents a megawatt of natural gas plant that doesn't need to be built or relied on.

And what will this biomass power generation cost? The U of T study estimates about 12 cents per kilowatt-hour, roughly double the price of using natural gas based on today's unusually low price, but competitive with nuclear and other renewables such as wind. That said, the comparison excludes any impact carbon prices might have on the natural gas option.

Also, if natural gas prices return to the levels they were in the summer of 2008, the gap with biomass pretty much closes. So let's knock on wood and hope that OPG can pull this one off.

A small and profitable Minnesota biofuels company is planning to expand their production of wood pellets for the barbeque, heating and animal bedding market from their present production level of 80 tons/week to 280 tons/week, and to start manufacturing 350 tons/week of wood shavings.

Importantly, this company has contracts for both products.

When this expansion is completed, the company will create 20 new jobs and provide a much needed boost to the economy of the local community.

By combining proprietary equipment and manufacturing techniques, the company plans to create a corporate identity that is synonymous with excellent pricing, reliable supply and excellent product quality.

With the flexibility of being able to produce several products under nearly identical manufacturing techniques, the company intends to create a strategic approach that will eliminate the seasonality often present in both the pellet and shaving industries. They are willing to pay a high rate of return on a modest short term investment, and may consider offering an equity position in the company.

For more information, please contact John Youngquist at 608-712-7042


An $827,000 geothermal heating system at the French River Hatchery near Duluth has been broken and inoperable since shortly after it was installed more than a year ago.
The system worked for nine days after going online in November 2008, hatchery officials said. Then it failed. In the 14 months since then, no modifications have been made to the system, and state officials don’t know how to solve the problem.
Any solution could be expensive, said hatchery manager Fred Tureson of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, perhaps several hundred thousand dollars.
Just who would pay for those changes is not clear.
You can see the problem with a look at the system’s filters, coated with tiny bits of organic matter.
“The problem,” Tureson said, tapping a filter, “in my opinion, is the design.”
DNR officials say they’re working with the engineering consultants who recommended the system. But nobody has been to Duluth to work on the problem in more than a year.
DNR officials have met with the engineering consultants, Ulteig Engineers, based in Fargo, N.D., but they have maintained they are not responsible for the problem, Tureson said.
Ulteig communications manager Fred Hudson declined to discuss specifics of the issue.
“What we can say is we’re working with the state on a resolution,” Hudson said.
Meanwhile, Tureson and Peter Paulson, a DNR architectural supervisor in St. Paul, will travel to Hibbing today to consult with an independent engineering group, Tureson said.
Warming Lake Superior’s water so it can be used at the hatchery always has been a costly proposition. Water comes out of the lake at 33 to 39 degrees during the winter and must be warmed into the low to high 40s so that trout can be raised there.
Water is warmed at the hatchery in huge boilers heated by fuel oil or wood pellets. A feasibility study in 2002 determined that a geothermal heat-pump system could reduce energy costs significantly.
“Initially, it was supposed to pay for itself in 11.8 years,” Tureson said.
That projection was made based on full production at the hatchery, long before the DNR began thinking about shifting some rainbow trout production to another state hatchery where the water isn’t as cold. The agency decided just last month to do that, in part to save money on energy costs.
The DNR paid for the heat-pump system with bonding money approved by the Legislature, said Linda Erickson-Eastwood, fisheries program manager for the DNR in St. Paul. Fisheries license dollars and Minnesota Trout and Salmon Stamp revenues were not used to pay for the project.
Sediment situation
The problem seems to be sediment in the water.
“They didn’t take into account there was light sediment or silt in the water — fish waste or maybe some food waste that doesn’t break down,” said Roy Johannes, DNR aquaculture and commercial fish health consultant.
But that should not have come as a surprise, according to Tureson.
“From day one, we explained to everyone involved that where they were going to collect the water and extract the heat, that’s going to be the dirtiest water in the system,” he said.
The problem, Tureson said, is that at the point where water is collected for heat extraction, it carries its peak load of sediment. Somehow, the heat from the water must be extracted before that point, Tureson believes. But that would require significant changes.
The DNR has consulted with the Minnesota attorney general’s office about pursuing a lawsuit over the stalled project, Tureson said. But no legal action is planned at this time.
“We’re trying to work through it in other ways,” said Scott Pengilly, an information officer with the DNR in St. Paul.
Meanwhile, the heat-pump system sits idle. The water at French River Hatchery is heated as it has been in the past, by wood pellets or fuel oil, whichever is most economical.
Tureson said the failure of the heat-pump system and the shift of rainbow trout production to the Spire Valley Hatchery near Remer, Minn., were unrelated.
“The heat-pump failure had nothing to do with shifting some of the [Kamloops] production to Spire Valley,” Tureson said.
That shift is projected to save the DNR about $75,000 a year in hatchery costs. In addition, upcoming retirements at the hatchery are expected to bring total savings to about $200,000 a year, Johannes said.

Curran Renewable Energy shipped its first pellets to a Quebec client this past July, with a twist.
Written by Scott Jamieson

Making pellets from roundwood may seem like black magic to most of Canada’s growing forestry biomass sector, but for Pat Curran it’s all in a day’s work. It’s also a no-brainer. Driving into the yard at Curran Renewable Energy’s recently started pellet mill, the logger and forestry entrepreneur points to several piles of wood chips and summarizes his rationale for investing $10 million in one of North America’s first green-wood pellet plants.

A John Deere wheel loader puts green chips into a hopper feeding the first Andritz Sprout hammer mill with 5/8” screens. The hammer mill is enclosed to reduce noise for local residents.
“We could see where the local pulp wood market was going, especially for the less desirable species. Here’s a case right now where I have no market at all for the chips that are sitting there, except the hardwood. I also have a tremendous inventory of tree length piled in the woods waiting for us to get running here so we can chip it. We’ll let nature suck some of the moisture out a bit while we wait. We had to find an alternative for some of our volumes like this if we were going to have a future.”

Curran, along with his brothers Tim and Lee, have owned and operated Seaway Timber Harvesting for over two decades now. It is a large bush chipping and transport company perched on the Canadian border in Massena, New York, with established roots in the state’s private forestland market and 15,000 acres of its own. Getting fibre and harvesting it has never been a major issue for the Currans. Lately, however, markets have been. A key client, Domtar’s pulp mill just over the border in Cornwall, Ontario, shut down in 2004, but even before that, currency fluctuations were wreaking havoc for a logger paid in Canadian dollars. While Domtar’s mill in Windsor, Quebec, has since become a key client for Seaway Timber Harvesting, the dramatic industry downturn over the past three years has limited other outlets.

“We’ve been looking at pellets as a way to diversify our markets for a few years now, but it’s new to us, and a big investment, so it has taken a while to get off the ground. It’s a good fit with our existing operation, and we’re big believers in the future of renewable energy in this area.”

Curran Renewable Energy is an entirely separate company owned by the three brothers, along with a 10% equity stake by the New York State Power Authority “spec fund”.

“Basically, the investment is $10 million. We financed most of it, which was an adventure in itself. It amazed us how much money disappears up front just in financing charges. We put in some money ourselves, and the spec fund matched that to $1 million and took a 10% equity position, which we have the option to buy out. You’re looking at a company with lots of debt and not so many assets.”

The automated bagging line from Hamer has been designed for a quick change-over between pellets and mulch, with the latter entering via an outside infeed system.

A Peterson 4710B grinder with colouring unit works at Seaway Timber Harvesting’s main yard. The pellet mill’s bagging line has been designed to handle mulch as well, giving access to new markets.
Location, location, location
In fact, the Currans are sitting on a few key assets, albeit not the kind you can slide into a balance sheet. First, they have transportation and chipping infrastructure established that allows them to bring the fibre in at as low a cost as anyone. That includes seasoned crews and relationships with area landowners. They are also integrating the pellet fibre operation with an established forest products operation and markets.

“Our relationship with Domtar Windsor is key. They have been a big factor in our survival over the past few years, and we won’t do anything to risk that. We will do what it takes to meet our fibre commitments there. But our crews have extra capacity right now in this market, and so we can use that to feed the pellet plant. That means that making pellets from green wood makes sense to us where it may not to others.”

Finally, the operation is sitting on the doorstep of one of the most vibrant residential pellet heating markets in North America. As far back as July 2008, shortages of wood pellets for the coming winter became front-page news in newspapers from Maine to New Hampshire and Massachusetts. As a result, Curran Renewable Energy has built its plant with these regional residential and small commercial markets in mind.

The plant itself has been built in Massena’s industrial park right on the edge of town. It sits alongside a rail line, and future plans may well include a spur if an industrial bulk market develops.

“That’s what we hope, to give us a mix of the two markets, but for now the focus will be on the market for bagged pellets, including local sales right from the plant. We don’t expect to move a lot of pellets locally, since the population just isn’t here. On the other hand we’ll be moving a lot of trucks through town to get here, so it’d be nice to offer the local market a consistent supply of pellets in return.”

Unlimited Design
As a logging and chipping company with very little manufacturing expertise, Curran Renewable Energy turned to outside help for plant design and equipment selection. Still, the process was not without early hiccups Curran says, admitting that his eagerness to get going almost cost the young company. Fortunately the curious mechanic and logger in Pat came out just at the right time and allowed for a timely change of direction.

“At one point we were set to buy a used drum dryer from the southern United States, and just to be sure, I went to a local hardware store and bought a wrench set to open it up and have a look. It was warped like a banana inside. So I called John Lundell at Energy Unlimited to ask about fixing it, and when we went through all the costs of pulling it out, shipping and repairing it, it made more sense to buy new. At that point I started checking some of what I had been told, and pretty soon after, John was handling the project.”

Energy Unlimited eventually assumed close to a turnkey relationship, providing design and equipment selection advice, handling mechanical installation and start-up, and even supplying much of the conveying and drying gear. The mill handled site prep and concrete work for the plant that will target 100 tons per year.

“The first thing John (John Lundell of Energy Unlimited) asked me was where we wanted our fire,” Pat Curran recalls. Fire and explosion protection has thus been given high priority, with a Firefly AB system installed front to back.
The process starts in the woods, where Seaway Timber’s fleet of Morbark and Peterson flail debarker/chippers turn the region’s mixed wood diet into pulp chips. “The chips coming here are identical to those we make for the pulp market, so it’s very flexible. We can send the chips to either depending on markets.” Chips are moved to either Seaway Timber’s reload yard in Chateauguay, New York, for shipment to Windsor in Manac trailers loaded for heavier Canadian weights, or to the pellet mill. Bark goes to Seaway’s garage and office site in Massena, where a Peterson 4710B with colouring system makes landscape mulch.

Once the chips hit the pellet mill yard, the incoming vans are weighed on scales re-purposed from a company gravel pit and then go to a Columbia tipper. From here a Cat wheel loader feeds a hopper bought used from the shuttered Domtar mill in Cornwall. “Aside from this piece of used equipment, it’s all new gear,” Curran adds.

The hopper feeds the first hammer mill, an Andritz Sprout model with 5/8" screens contained in a stand-alone building. “We’re right in town at this location, so we’ve done what we can to try to isolate the noise,” he explains.

This fibre then goes to a 13 x 16 foot Baker Roman triple pass rotary dryer supplied by Energy Unlimited along with one of the supplier’s own burner units. From the dryer, fibre is conveyed to cyclones, passing through the first of a series of Firefly AB spark detection sensors. Spark detection and fire mitigation has been an emphasis at the plant since day one.

“One of the first things John (Lundell) asked me was ‘where do you want your fire’. So we designed to handle that possibility throughout the plant. The detection system we put in was a little more expensive than others we looked at, but we felt it covered more in the plant.”

The Firefly system gives the plant full coverage, starting with sensors between the dryer and cyclones and ending just ahead of the bagging storage silos. To avoid false alarms, the sensors are insensitive to daylight. Yet to make sure all potential risks are managed, the infrared sensors pick up both “dark” embers (those between 250 and 700 degrees Celsius that can still ignite the dry meal) and what we more traditionally think of as sparks (above 400 degrees Celsius). If an incident occurs, the system uses a full-cone spray that is able to handle the high-volume flows typical of pellet mill conveying systems.

Fibre is sent from the cyclones to the second hammer mill, another Andritz Sprout model with 1/4" or less screens. From this point the meal goes either to a bag house to feed the pellet mills or to the burner to heat the dryer. For start up, the plant brought in some animal bedding to fuel the burner, an exercise that gave Curran Renewable Energy other ideas.

“We’ve left a spot for a shaving line just outside the dryer,” Curran says. “We wanted to have an outlet for our dry meal if our pellet inventories ever get too high, and animal bedding is a good market here. But we saw that the bedding we were buying was actually very close in quality to the meal we’ll be making pellets with, so we hope we can avoid putting a shaver in altogether.”

Energy Unlimited’s original role was to install the burner and triple-pass rotary dryer, but the company ended up managing the design, mechanical, and start up for the whole project.

The plant design includes three Andritz Sprout pellet mills, with room for a fourth should it be needed. The pellets go to a MilPro (Law-Marot) cooling system, Andritz shaker screen, and then to the silos. The plant is designed to make pellets on a 24/7 basis.
Once inside the main building, pellets are made by three Andritz Sprout pellet mills. Room has also been left for a fourth down the road if needed. Pellets go to a MilPro cooling system from Quebec’s Law-Marot, through an Andritz Sprout shaker screen and then are sent across the yard to a solitary agricultural-style storage silo from Kramer Metal Products. Again, the designers left room for a second silo down the road if cash flow allows.

Throughout the process, the plant maintains two distinct fibre sources, allowing the Currans to offer its clients Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified pellets. “Whether it helps us time will tell, but I believe it will. Unlike lumber that gets covered up, people will be accessing their pellets for heating daily or weekly, and they’ll see that label. We’re getting enquiries already, so I think it will be a factor for us down the road.”

Pellets are bagged on an automated line from US supplier Hamer Inc., including a robotic palletizer and a plastic wrap turntable. “We have some work to do on the latter to make the packages more windproof. We want the pellets to be completely protected before they get to the consumer, and the system isn’t doing the job we want as of yet. We’re adding a cover ourselves for now.”

The line was also designed on rails so that it can be slid back several feet to allow the plant to bag mulch as well. Mulch is brought in via an outside infeed, bagged, and then follows the line just as pellets would.

“We figure we can bag all our pellets on a 24/7 operation in just eight hours on this line, so we’ll have time to bag the mulch too. We’ve been in the coloured mulch market for years, but this allows us to bag the product and sell into different markets. It will also allow us to back an inventory ahead of winter, so that when the garden centres start looking for bags in the early spring we’re not struggling with piles of frozen mulch.”

Changeover takes less than an hour, but in future they are hoping to add extra pellet storage silo capacity so they can run pellets for a full week before switching.

“So far the line runs well. We’ve done 20 bags per minute with mulch and we know with pellets it will go easier.”
Pellet inventory will be stored inside the rest of the 30,000 square foot building ahead of shipping. The company has also added four new Manac flatbeds to handle some of its own distribution. In the end, Curran feels that becoming a reliable, consistent heating supplier will be crucial to growing the wood pellet business in general.

“There is already interest and demand for wood pellets for heating in this part of the country, but regardless of what anyone thinks, we need a surplus to make this market work; not a glut, but a surplus. And for us that means everything from the fibre to delivery. Our focus starts on the fibre, and we believe that access to fibre will be a big factor going forward. Customers will be relying on me, and just like our traditional logging operations, some kind of inventory will be important to handle the surprises.”

And from what he’s seen of pellet manufacturing, surprises will not be unheard of. The mill originally hoped to start running in January, but a series of delays eventually pushed things back to late June. Curran says it’s not like they’ve been trying to make pellets since then, just fine tuning the design and dealing with unexpected delays.

“We’ve been working the kinks out of the flow, but just parts inventory has been a learning curve. We know what we need on hand to keep the chipping business running after all these years, but we haven’t built up a similar must-have inventory here yet. We had a faulty 500-hp motor go down on one of the hammer mills that cost us two days, and then no sooner did we fix that than a 1-hp motor failure cost us another two. As soon as cash-flow allows, we’ll be stocking critical items like that.”
Yet already the Currans have done what many logging operations in Canada have only been talking about – turned a lost customer base and excess fibre into a new biomass business opportunity. •

Feb. 8, 2010, Olympia, WA – John Deere and Adage LLC, a bioenergy joint venture formed between Areva and Duke Energy, have announced an alliance to bring technology and process innovation to the fuel supply for sustainable woody biomass power projects. This alliance will combine Adage’s technical expertise with John Deere’s forestry expertise to create a sustainable and reliable electric power offering to customers in the U.S. Northwest and elsewhere in the United States. The first project to be developed as part of the alliance will be Adage’s proposed facility in Mason County, Washington, about 130 km west of Seattle.

The project involves collecting, bundling, and transporting branches and other wood debris from regional logging operations to the Adage biomass power facility. Deere makes all of the forestry equipment used to gather and bundle the wood debris. Through this and future projects, John Deere and Adage seek to expand the use of woody biomass and raise public awareness about its promise as an environmentally sustainable and beneficial energy source.

The Mason County project will deploy Adage's reference plant design, which uses advanced environmental controls to minimize air emissions and water use. The proposed 55-MW facility will provide enough power for more than 40,000 homes. The $250 million initial investment will create more than 400 direct jobs during construction and more than 100 direct jobs during permanent operation. Adage plans to begin construction in late 2010.

Adage and John Deere anticipate executing a formal contract later in 2010.


The EU resolution to use more than 20% of renewable energy by 2020 has prompted quick development of wood pellets manufacturing in Europe, Sweden and Germany. Industry experts forecast rapid pellets usage growth in Denmark and UK within following 10 years.

International financial crisis and strict credit limitation did not influence wood pellets demand and investments in pellet plants. In some countries the world financial crisis have positively influenced over the biomass industry sector development, as politicians have often promoted bio energy and pellet heating industry application.

Forest industry, timberland owners and forest resources sector weak research in past years have driven a lot of attention to bio energy sector. Most of the companies interested in bio energy sector have historically been in the business connected with oil exploitation and energy generation of fossil fuels.

The biggest development of biomass sector has taken place in Europe mainly due to EU resolution to use 20% of renewable energy by 2020.

Actually, Sweden is the biggest wood pellets user, which used 20% of manufactured wood pellets amount. In order to correspond with the demand of fast growing market, the country made approximately 1.6. million tons in 2008 and imported 300.000 more from other European Countries and Canada. Wood industry professionals detect no signs of sector slow down and forecast annual growth between 8-10 % in following years.

Europe currently has 450 plants the pellets manufacturers and plans to build more within following years. Industry professionals forecast the biggest biomass usage in UK, Sweden and Germany, as well as investments in domestic energy sector and imports increase.

Wood sector experts inform that pellets prices have the tendency to grow within past seven years. Swedish prices have always been much bigger than the prices in Central Europe, but in 2009, this country encountered the biggest prices decrease due to prices similarity at Germany and Australia. Industry experts expect wood fiber costs increase related with operational costs growth and this may result in pellets prices growth after few month crisis.
Sweden consumes 20% of wood pellets worldwide and demand is growing.


Pacific Bioenergy CEO Don Steele announces expansion of the company's Prince George pellet plant to replace coal at power plants in Europe. He said the pellets in the container beside him represent the energy equivalent of about three gallons of gasoline.
Tom Fletcher/Black Press

By Tom Fletcher - BC Local News
Published: February 15, 2010 3:00 PM
Updated: February 15, 2010 3:05 PM
VANCOUVER – A deal to ship an additional 2.4 million tonnes of wood pellets to Belgium over the next 10 years is only the beginning of growth in bioenergy and other clean power development in B.C., Premier Gordon Campbell vowed Monday.
The expansion of pellet exports from B.C. waste wood will finance a $24 million expansion of Pacific BioEnergy Corp. production in Prince George, to be completed this fall. The pellets, mostly from beetle-killed trees in the Prince George region, are being purchased by GDF SUEZ to burn in its European thermal power plants that are being converted from coal.
Campbell and Energy Minister Blair Lekstrom joined industry officials at the Olympic international media centre to unveil the pellet deal and two other investments, to mark Clean Energy Day. They indicated there are more announcements like this to come.
"We have every intention of undertaking new investment partnerships in infrastructure to encourage and enable clean modes of transportation such as electric, hydrogen and natural gas vehicles," Campbell said. "We will support investment in new technology such as fuel cells and cellulosic ethanol."
University of B.C. president Stephen Toope announced a partnership with Nexterra Systems Corp. and General Electric for a demonstration project that combines Nexterra's wood waste gasification technology with GE's latest gas engines at UBC's Vancouver campus.
Officials say the project will produce steam to replace natural gas for heating buildings, as well as enough electrical power to supply 1,500 homes, while surpassing Metro Vancouver's air quality standards.
Nexterra CEO Jonathan Rhone said the facility will be housed in a building made of cross-laminated timber, a new product that will allow wood construction up to 10 stories high.
Toope said UBC is going to create a "living lab" at its Vancouver and Okanagan campuses to develop and commercialize research into sustainable energy. The objective is to make both campuses carbon neutral, with more high-density on-campus housing and waste management innovation, he said.
Vancouver-based venture capital firm Chrysalix Energy also announced its energy limited partnership fund has grown to more than $100 million, and is on target to reach $150 million by the end of March.
Investors in Chrysalix include French-based Total Energy, Kuwait Petroleum, Mitsubishi and Shell.

By Emily Devlin, Sentinel and Enterprise, Fitchburg, Mass.
Feb. 17--FITCHBURG -- Local and state fire officials worked to identify the cause of a fire inside a Creative Biomass warehouse on Tuesday, after Fitchburg firefighters responded to a call at around 3:10 p.m, according to Deputy Chief Kevin Curran.
"They're really not suspecting arson. However, they're trying to figure out what did happen," Curran said.
Three employees saw a "very quick flash fire," Curran said, before fleeing the warehouse and calling the Fire Department.
Creative Biomass is located at 22 Kimball Place, just off River Street.
The fire likely originated in a wood-pulverizing machine in the rear section of the warehouse, Curran said. The wood product the company uses to create its home heating wood pellets caught fire, which spread to other areas, Curran said.
The state Fire Marshal's office was on the scene carrying out an investigation just before 6 p.m., along with Fitchburg firefighters.
Curran said Creative Biomass employees would monitor the warehouse overnight, to watch out for any fire resurgence.
"They think they have a probable cause," Curran said.
Curran declined to provide further details, citing the ongoing investigation.

18 February 2010
Pacific BioEnergy Corporation and GDF SUEZ will support a $24 million expansion of Pacific BioEnergy's existing wood pellet production facilities in Prince George, BC, Canada.
Pacific BioEnergy and GDF SUEZ have formed a joint venture to own and operate the wood pellet plant.
In addition to its minority interest in the joint venture, GDF SUEZ has also agreed to purchase 2.5 million tonnes of wood pellets for its electrical generating facilities in Belgium over the next decade.
The expansion project, expected to be complete in the autumn of 2010, will see annual wood pellet production double to 350,000 tonnes.
The expanded wood pellet plant will also utilize more mountain pine beetle killed wood and other waste wood from the forests surrounding Prince George.

European subsidies push demand for wood pellets as U.S. biomass program is being retooled

By Gordon Hamilton, Vancouver SunFebruary 19, 2010 2:06 AM

The growing demand for energy from biomass is a boon for wood pellet producers but it threatens to drive up costs for the existing pulp and paper sector, says a report by the International Wood Markets Group.
In its monthly report, the Vancouver research firm says the wood biomass energy industry is being driven forward by government subsidies and policies that are already having the unintended consequence on existing users of the low-valued wood waste. Pulp and composite wood board producers are competing for the same fibre, driving up their costs.
Global pellet production was 14 million tonnes in 2008, the latest period for which figures are available. Production is expected to hit 18 million tonnes by the end of 2010.
Demand is growing as fast as the supply, hitting 22 million tonnes by 2014. Demand is being driven by aggressive biomass energy targets set by European Union countries, the Wood Market report states.
B.C. Forests Minister Pat Bell said the European subsidies -- aimed at encouraging energy plants that use fossil fuels to switch to biomass -- have benefited B.C. but the province has no intention of doing the same thing here.
"I am not beyond taking advantage of what another country might do," he said.
The European subsidy is a boon to this province, he said.
B.C. produces one million tonnes of pellets a year, mostly for the European market, from nine pellet plants. Three more are on the drawing board.
In Europe, the subsidies have already affected other users of low-end wood fibre, Wood Products vice-president Gerry Van Leeuwen said in an interview. Some producers have shut down operations, and there are concerns in the U.S. that the federal Biomass Crop Assistance Program could create an artificial market for residual wood there, robbing the composite panel industry of its fibre supply.
The U.S. program is being retooled after wood panel producers, who use the same low-end wood products as pellet producers, complained that they would be put out of business.
The U.S. program would have given the energy side a subsidy of $1 for every dollar they spend on biomass, effectively doubling the price of wood waste.
Bell also said the province has no intention of offering subsidies.
"As we are looking at where we would try to attract pellet businesses or other bioenergy facilities we always factor into account fibre supply. We know the value of a strong pulp sector and strong oriented strand board sector and others," he told The Sun Thursday.
Russ Horner, former chief executive officer of Catalyst Paper, said green energy policies are shifting the ground beneath the pulp and paper sector here.
It's not wood chips, which the industry uses for making pulp, that are the issue; it's bark waste from sawmills, called hog fuel, that the pulp sector burns for energy that is going up in price, pushing up costs of production for pulp producers.
"We have the interesting phenomena in B.C. where we are pelletizing wood and shipping it all the way to Europe," he said in an e-mail to The Sun.
"One has to ask why we don't make electricity with it here.
"One reason, but not the only reason, for shipping the pellets to Europe is that there are greenhouse gas credits [i. e., money] available to consumers that make it economic to burn the pellets in Europe."
State officials and industry experts say a combination of forests, Georgia Ports and a one-of-a kind research facility could make the region a renewable energy leader
Posted: February 20, 2010 - 12:16am

Ross Hardin, senior adviser for the Herty Foundation, holds a wood chip, right, which has 50% moisture and a pellet which has only 8% water. (Steve Bisson/Savannah Morning News)

By Lesley Conn
WHEN ROSS HARDING TAKES STOCK of the millions of acres of Georgia timberland spread across the state, he sees a new Gold Rush coming. And Savannah, he and others believe, is perfectly poised to supply all the equipment and technical expertise to all the prospectors rushing toward those tree-laden acres.
Harding is a senior adviser at the Herty Advanced Materials Development Center in Savannah.
The Herty Center helps international and national clientele develop new fuels and new manufacturing processes to convert pine and hardwoods into biomass fuel, whether ethanol or the increasingly sought-after wood pellets.
There's fuel in those trees. There's fuel, too, in the region's plentiful marsh grasses and perhaps even in the wood scraps the logging industry leaves behind.
And because of a combination of factors, there is international interest in getting to those fuel sources first.
"It's a very large market that's been gaining momentum over the last couple of years," Harding said. "We don't see Chatham County getting wood-pellet production facilities here, but we do within 100 miles of us. Savannah would be the place for a corporate headquarters and would provide a research base and logistics support. That's good news for Savannah. We'd supply the picks and shovels for everyone building the gold mines."
That interest is already reaping benefits for Herty, which has doubled its customer base in the past four years "and we would expect that to continue," Harding said.
Herty is looking to build a new facility triple the size of its current one.
"The Herty foundation is bustling with activity right now, and a lot of it is in the area of wood pellets," he said.

Austria awaits
The rush for Georgia's forestry fuels is why key members of Savannah's economic development community - such as Georgia Ports' board Chairman Steve Green, Mayor Otis Johnson and Alderman Larry Stuber - are headed to a renewable energy conference in Wels, Austria, in 12 days.
Potential customers are waiting - customers who would increase shipping out of the ports and create new jobs in the region and in Savannah.
Jill Stuckey, the state's director for the Center of Innovation for Energy, will be a guest speaker at a forum where she will boast of resources such as Georgia's 24.7 million acres of forests, the resources of The Herty Center and the Savannah and Brunswick Georgia Ports locations. She also is planning to meet with European companies wanting to build wood-pellet production facilities in the region and to coordinate meetings between them and Savannah city officials.
"Savannah not only has port resources, but they also have Herty. They help pellet companies find the best, low-cost way to produce a quality product, so many companies go to them to develop new techniques," she said. "So I find myself in Savannah a lot these days."

Driving the market
A combination of factors is sending European companies here.
Countries that are part of the European Union made initial agreements under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That spurred interest in burning wood pellets, which are carbon-neutral, but also can be used directly in coal-burning plants.
New environmental measures call for EU countries to reduce their fossil-fuel consumption 20 percent by 2020, said Devon Dartnell, biomass program manager for the Georgia Forestry Commission.
"That's what's driving the interest," he said. "There are investors all around the world who recognize Georgia is sitting on a tremendous market in these forests."
The ports are nestled just east of vast forests, and Savannah also offers Herty, Dartnell said. No other facility like it exists in the country, and no other state can provide that combination of materials and services, he said.
Georgia has three wood-pellet plants, including a state-of-the art FRAM Renewable Fuels facility in Appling County, Dartnell said. FRAM's corporate headquarters is in Richmond Hill. The company employs 42 people, three in Richmond Hill.
Three more large-scale plants are planned in south Georgia, including a German-owned plant in Waycross and an equally large one in Brantley County, about 100 miles south of Savannah.
The Waycross and Brantley pellet plants are expected to each bring construction investments of more than $100 million.
Harding recognizes the same factors, and points to a third: As the Obama administration is moving toward renewable energy, European markets are rushing to secure U.S. facilities to keep their supply lines secure.
"The demand in Europe for that material is so great and the price in the U.S. is so competitive, it's created an opportunity to ship to these European countries," he said. "Pelleting is a way to move that fuel cost-effectively. That, plus the ports, makes Savannah an ideal place."
So what's the big fuss about wood pellets? Shipping trees or even wood chips isn't as efficient. Both have too much moisture content. The pellet process uses pine, hardwood or other raw wood material, which is cut, dried and pressed to remove water. A wood chip might be 50 percent water; a pellet about 8 percent. The final product looks a lot like hamster food. It's also twice as dense as the original wood, meaning overseas shipping is more efficient.
Pellets' uniform size also helps the fuel-burning plants maintain even temperatures and burn rates.

SOURCE: The Herty Advanced Materials Development Center


by Lee Clair and Pete Fordham, Norbridge Inc.
The U.S. energy portfolio for power generation was largely consistent during the past 30 years. Coal was king, and natural gas, nuclear and hydro were leading ladies in fueling the country’s appetite for electricity generation.
But times are changing. Fossil fuels are under attack, and green is the new watchword. Renewables are the rage, and wind and solar are the beauty queens of a new generation. They get much of the attention and much of the press.
Meanwhile, there is another player in the emerging race to fuel America’s future ready to emerge as a leading lady for the future. That’s biomass.
Biomass is renewable organic matter such as wood and wood waste, agricultural crops and residue, animal waste, aquatic plants and organic components of municipal and industrial wastes that can be used as a fuel or energy source. It’s a homegrown energy resource.

Biomass is green—the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change considers it carbon-neutral—and already used more than most people know.
In 2008, biomass accounted for about 1.4 percent of U.S. power generation and about 15 percent of renewables generation (see Figure 1).
While still a small piece of the U.S. power picture, biomass-fueled power production was nearly equal to wind, solar and geothermal power production combined.
And it’s projected to grow rapidly. While utilities have traditionally been small players in biomass-fueled generation, they are forecast to increase their production of power from biomass tenfold between 2008 and 2020, potentially resulting in the use of 120 million to 60 million tons of dry biomass annually.
Why biomass? It has multiple advantages over other renewable options:
• Facilities can be developed anywhere—not just in regions where it is sunny or windy,
• Facilities fueled by biomass can run all the time, not just when sun is shining or wind is blowing,
• It can be used for power or heating, and
• It can support the local economy (forest products or agricultural industries).
Renewable energy portfolio standards (RPS) are also a significant factor in the biomass future. About 35 states have committed to RPS, generally a percentage target for renewable fuels by a specific target date, and more states are considering RPS legislation. Congress is also considering federal renewables legislation: 20 percent by 2020. Cap-and-trade legislation being actively debated on Capitol Hill also could spur additional use of renewables.
Understanding the Biomass Future
To better understand biomass growth and potential challenges facing biomass use, Norbridge Inc. interviewed managers at 16 utilities and generators and state regulators in 17 states. Companies interviewed included four of the top 10 publicly traded utilities, represent 27 percent of total U.S. electric utility revenue and 44 percent by market capitalization and have plants operating in 27 states. States were selected to get regional representation as well as include states with and without RPS (see Figures 2 and 3).

The study found that utility and state interest in biomass is high (see Figures 4 and 5). Interest was driven particularly by government mandates (e.g., state RPS), government incentives, scarcity of other renewables in their geography and the desire for fuel diversification. Some states have funding or tax credits available to support biomass initiatives: Alaska has a renewable energy fund of $100 million; Connecticut has a Clean Energy Fund funded by ratepayers; Missouri has a $5-per-ton wood energy tax credit, and Oregon has a 50 percent business energy tax credit.

Utilities and states are discussing numerous potential project conversions. Most plants will have less than 100-MW capacity, though one 300-MW plant was cited. One utility expects 5 million to 10 million tons of biomass consumption by 2015. Wood and agricultural sources were cited as the biomass fuels of choice, often to be co-fired with coal. Nonpelletized and pelletized wood were mentioned most.
Biomass study interviewees cited multiple challenges (see Figure 6). Access to biomass supply and fuel cost are seen as the most pressing issues for utilities. Similar concerns were cited by state officials. Fuel transportation and logistics are also of significant concern. Fuel characteristics differ markedly from coal, with significant impacts on transportation, handling and storage requirements.
Modal selection was the leading expected transportation and logistics challenge among utility participants in the study. There are expected to be more modal options, and they are expected to be less clear than is the case today with fossil fuels. Transportation solutions also are more likely to be multimodal. There is also some concern about the increased truck traffic from biomass. Transportation and logistics challenges were the leading concern for the states interviewed.
The Sourcing Shuffle
While the market and supply chain for carbon-based fuels have been in place for many years, the opposite is true for biomass. Biomass as a mass market fuel is just beginning to be envisioned, and many challenges exist for potential users, particularly related to biomass sourcing.
For example, few large-scale providers and production facilities exist. Defined transportation lanes, service parameters and rates also do not exist yet. There are multiple agricultural and wood-based fuel options, including a range of purpose-grown/primary sources and residual/secondary sources, in addition to solid-waste derivatives. Torrefaction can be used to make biomass denser and less susceptible to moisture, but this approach has not been used widely. At this point, there are many more questions than answers.
Recently, Norbridge assisted a major utility to address these types of questions (see Table 1) and analyze the issues, options, required investments and implications of converting part of its coal capacity to raw or processed biomass at three power plants. In so doing, it assessed agricultural and forest products-based fuel options and an array of transport and storage options.
A key finding was that biomass is different from coal in important ways, including sourcing, transportation and storage and handling. Sourcing is unlike coal, with suppliers often composed of start-up businesses or established companies new to energy. Origins are likely to be numerous, with fragmented volumes, and the industry is still at the stage where production locations and plant sizes can be influenced or changed based on user needs. There are multiple fuel options with a range of specifications for British thermal unit (BTU) content, size, ash, moisture, sulfur, chlorine and nitrogen levels. BTU content is lower than coal, particularly eastern coal, so higher quantities will be needed to meet specific energy requirements.
Storage and handling needs are also different. Certain biomass types, including wood pellets, are susceptible to moisture, resulting in the need for indoor storage. Biomass also typically has moderate to low durability, so it must be handled carefully to prevent product breakdown and can be combustible. Different types of storage will also need to be considered—silo vs. warehouse—and different storage locations might be required (biomass production locations, intermediate sites, e.g., ports and generating stations) to manage inventory effectively.

The ability to supply biomass at the scale envisioned is also unclear. Several large wood pellet facilities are operational in the Southeast, but they mostly target the European export market. These are some of the largest biomass-producing facilities, but compared with a coal mine, most are very small. In addition, land requirements to grow the necessary biomass will increase significantly, with tens of millions of acres potentially needed by 2020.
Boilers and Biomass
While some biomass generating facilities are built new, many power generators are evaluating conversions of existing coal-fired units to co-fire biomass and coal. Biomass characteristics are different from the coal burned today, including moisture, BTU, alkaline and pollutant content, likely driving significant modifications to existing boilers.
Different biomass types have different characteristics, necessitating a variety of potential boiler solutions. For example, pellets can have moisture content of less than 10 percent, while raw wood-based biomass can have a moisture content of 50 percent.
Many coal-fired units being considered for conversion are more than 40 years old. Hence, major modifications, or even entirely new boilers, might be necessary. Biomass fuel likely will require either fluid bed or bubbling fuel bed combustion systems.
Converting coal to biomass might impact equipment efficiency, reliability and steaming rate. Based on the biomass to be burned and required boiler modifications, the impact could vary. The type of combustion system could impact steam rate and efficiency. Fuel characteristics such as moisture content, ash content and alkaline content, among others, also will impact performance. Different fuel mixes also could cause scaling and slagging at different rates.
Each boiler being evaluated for conversion requires a detailed assessment because of inherent differences across multiple boiler types and ages. Following this assessment, detailed evaluation determines the capabilities and modifications necessary to burn the defined biomass fuel. The cost of making boiler modifications, or conversion to a new biomass firing system, hinges on the results of these evaluations, as well as characteristics such as:
• Potential remaining life for plant equipment,
• Equipment arrangement,
• Maximum potential heat input,
• Cycle thermodynamics,
• Available space, and
• Environmental requirements (including required permits).

Implications for Power Generators
Biomass can play an increasing role in the fuel mix of power generators, but there are multiple uncertainties to consider on a mostly blank slate.
With numerous companies exploring options and potential shortages of available supplies, timely assessment of these issues can provide a significant advantage over competitors. Being a first mover in this emerging area can ensure that the right biomass supply is available at the right cost. It also can ensure that needed boiler modifications are done in a timely fashion.
Local biomass supply likely will be viable only for certain utilities, such as those near forests in the Southeast or in the agricultural areas of the Midwest, and likely only in quantities needed for small power plants.
For many population centers in the Northeast and Midwest, biomass will have to come from farther away, creating further complexities to be evaluated.
Lee Clair is a partner at Norbridge Inc., an independent, multispecialty consulting firm that creates tailored fuel and transportation-related solutions for its clients’ initiatives related to biomass, coal and other energy options. Reach him at
Pete Fordham is a principal at Norbridge Inc. Reach him at

The Fulton Sun

Callaway County farmers planning eligible energy-efficient upgrades who don't mind filling out an application can seek a state grant worth up to $5,000.

It's a chance for farmers to receive some of the federal stimulus money that must be administered through grant programs administered by state agencies.

Dorothy Green, district clerk for the Callaway County Soil and Water Conservation District in Fulton, said "this is a good program for farmers. It's a great way for them to save some money."

Green said she has information in her office about the program but the grant decisions are made by the Department of Natural Resources in Jefferson City.

The grant will pay up to 75 percent of the cost of equipment to be purchased for the improvements. Farmers receiving the grant would pay the remaining 25 percent.

Installation costs are not included in the grant proposal.

Green said the best way for farmers to apply is to go on-line and fill out a form. A printable form also is available but the on-line version goes directly into the database of the state agency administering the grants.

The deadline for applying for the grant is April 20, 2010.

As part of federal stimulus money to Missouri, the U.S. Department of Energy last year approved $57,393,000 in stimulus funding to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

The DNR in Missouri set aside $3 million of this money specifically for Missouri farmers who want to make energy efficiency improvements to their farming operations.

If a farmer fills out an application and receives a grant, they will be required to sign a contract to purchase the equipment.

In the on-line application, more than one page must be filled out. The on-line form cannot be saved to a home computer to work on later. Most find it helpful to print a version of the application and fill it out by hand before entering the information into the on-line application.

The information is available at local Soil and Water Districts or from the Department of Natural Resources Energy Center at (573) 526-1723. Only the approved application will be accepted.

Applicants should provide as close of a cost estimate as possible.

Eligible projects include energy-efficient equipment and hardware. Time and labor is not eligible for cost-sharing reimbursement. After receiving grant approval, equipment purchased prior to signing a contract is not eligible.

Applicants are asked to provide a short narrative describing a proposed project. They are asked to include the cost of equipment, the estimated energy savings per year, documentation or calculations to support the cost estimate, the estimated payback in years and the type of equipment that is desired for purchase.

Grant recipients will be selected by a technical review panel using several factors, including energy saving potential and feasibility.

Examples of energy-efficient equipment and systems eligible for the 75-25 matching grants worth up to $5,000 are:

* Solar powered water pumps or solar powered chargers for electric fences.

* Insulated watering tanks and frost-free waterers for cows, sheep and horses.

* Global Positioning System, or GPS guidance systems for tractors, combines and sprayers.

* Irrigation improvements making the system more energy efficient.

* Dairy improvements, including vacuum pumps, fans, compressors, etc.

* Swine or poultry facility improvements for cooling fans.

* Grain drying equipment for both burner and fan retrofits or a new system.

* Lighting upgrades, motion sensors and systems for existing buildings. Purchase of replacement light bulbs does not qualify.

* Conservation tillage equipment. This could include combine straw spreaders, planters, bedders, ridge-till cultivators, coulters for no-till corn, tool bars and drills. Tractors and combines are not included.

* High efficiency electric motors for a variety of applications.

* Biomass furnaces and boilers are covered under a separate energy center program. Eligible systems include furnaces that burn wood, wood pellets, corn and large bales of hay or straw for other than poultry house heating.

How do we as a nation and local community satisfy our ever-growing demand for energy? Is it possible without destroying the air and water on which we depend? President Obama warns we are falling behind China and other nations in developing tomorrow’s energy sources.
By: Tony Cuneo and Jeff Borling, Duluth News Tribune

How do we as a nation and local community satisfy our ever-growing demand for energy? Is it possible without destroying the air and water on which we depend? President Obama warns we are falling behind China and other nations in developing tomorrow’s energy sources.
So what are the right investments? And what happens to our economy if we don’t make them?
We know the status quo continues levels of pollution we can’t sustain and continues to send dollars out of our community — often to multinational corporations and countries that act in clear conflict with our values. Knowing this helps highlight issues of great concern, but it also helps us open our eyes to great opportunities.
Over the past months, more than 120 community leaders have been engaged in a planning process to identify opportunities for us in tomorrow’s economy. The Green Jobs planning process has focused on creating jobs in our community that will provide sustainable employment. These are jobs that can pay living wages and help move Duluth toward a clean, vibrant economy. Working groups are writing action plans in energy production, food systems, the “built environment,” transportation and natural resource protection.
The Energy Production Work Group has been particularly compelling. Nationally, much discussion has centered on solar and wind opportunities, and certainly those opportunities exist here. But added to that locally is increased recognition at how well we are positioned to benefit from biomass, specifically wood pellets. The energy production group has found we can begin tackling the important questions in ways that create jobs and enhance the local economy.
After the oil embargos of the 1970s and 1980s, America returned to cheap and dirty oil and coal. We discounted our experimentations with biomass fuel as unnecessary. We developed the initial technology but then left it on the shelf in favor of cheap and dirty fossil fuels. In parts of Europe this wasn’t an option. Europeans continued to push technology and made absolutely amazing strides.
Wood pellets and biomass fuels became an important heat source. Now, the majority of residential and commercial buildings in Sweden are heated without fossil fuels.
Our environmental benefits are clear: Reducing reliance on coal and oil and replacing it with an abundant local source of energy reduces dependence on strip-mining operations in Appalachia and the need to extract oil from sensitive environments. What’s more, today’s technology to burn wood pellets offers a substantial reduction in climate-changing pollution.
What makes this idea exceptionally compelling is its potential impact on our region’s economy. Biomass pioneers in New England point to research showing that only 3 percent of the money residents invest in fossil-fuel heating impacts their regional economy. The biomass industry, meanwhile, sees 75 percent of all funds re-circulated locally.
There are more than 4 million residential households in Minnesota and Wisconsin; 13 percent are heated with oil or propane. At today’s prices, those households spend more than $7.5 billion on two of the dirtiest fuels around with only 3 percent of that money having an impact on creating local jobs. Think of the impact if 75 percent of that $7.5 billion helped to create jobs for our friends and neighbors.
The potential impact of converting our public and commercial buildings to wood-pellet heat is even greater. Members of the Green Jobs Energy Work Group are exploring opportunities to tie larger buildings and residential customers into biomass-fueled heat systems. There is even a study exploring the opportunity to get the Steam Co-op in downtown Duluth to kick its nasty coal habit.
Already in our community we are finding success. Thanks to efforts across the region, several new wood-pellet mills are considering Minnesota and Wisconsin for future expansions. Currently, Swedish boiler producers and other equipment providers are signing agreements with local manufacturers. No doubt more can be done, and we hope all will join the community discussion about how to do it.
Tony Cuneo is co-chairman of the Green Jobs Planning Process, is director of policy and planning at the A.H. Zeppa Family Foundation, and is a Duluth city councilor. Jeff Borling is chairman of the Energy Production Work Group of the Green Jobs Planning Process and is the director of Itasca Business Development for the Area Partnership for Economic Expansion, or APEX.


Staff Report
Published March 8, 2010
A Port of Georgetown-based energy company has exported its first shipment of wood briquettes, a renewable energy source, to Europe.
Carolina-Pacific hosted its first ship call and sent 5,000 tons of its product to Scandinavia.
Wood pellets and briquettes are quickly becoming a high-demand commodity overseas, driven by a European Union policy that requires its member countries to use renewable sources to generate 20% of the electric power supply by 2020.
Carolina-Pacific, which focuses on renewable energy, signed a 20-year contract last summer with the State Ports Authority to ship through Georgetown and to establish a manufacturing operation at the site.
As part of the deal, Carolina-Pacific is occupying more than 100,000 square feet of warehouse space at the port to support its manufacturing and exporting business.
03/09/2010 03:45 PM ET
The proposed fines are the result of an inspection of the Geneva Wood Fuels plant in Strong after an explosion last year.
The U.S. Labor Department is proposing $27,000 in fines against a Maine wood pellet mill after an explosion last year at the plant in Strong. The explosion damaged the Geneva Wood Fuels mill, but no one was injured.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, says an inspection of the plant uncovered six "serious" violations of workplace safety standards, most stemming from inadequate handling of combustible dust.

Inspectors found that the plant's wood pellet processing system was faulty, exposing employees to potential dust explosions and fires. Authorities say a spark-producing shop vaccum was found in one area, and employees were not properly trained to protect themselves from the explosive properties of wood dust.

The agency says combustible dust -- fine dust particles suspended in the air -- can cause catastrophic explosions, and since 1980, hundreds of workers have been killed or injured in such explosions across the nation.

Geneva Wood Fuels has 15 days to comply with or contest the proposed fines.


Several Programs Can Provide Individuals and Businesses with Tax Credits

Going green is the current rave. When was the last time you looked at a newspaper or magazine without noticing businesses advertising their green products or policies?
Aside from the benefits to our environment, going green offers other benefits — green cash at tax time. Businesses that acquire certain ‘energy property’ are eligible to claim a tax credit for up to 30% of the cost of such property.
Individuals can get a credit against their federal income tax for certain energy-efficient improvements made to their home. A tax credit is different from a tax deduction in that it directly reduces the amount of tax you will pay, as opposed to a deduction that reduces the taxable income from which you will pay income taxes.
This means that, if you have invested in making your business or home more energy-efficient, you can directly reduce your tax liability or get an additional refund. What follows is a broad overview of the business and home credit-eligible items that you should look for that effectively reward you for going green.
Business Energy Credit
Business energy credits can be claimed by an owner of depreciable or amortizeable energy property that meets one of the required tests and is property constructed, reconstructed, or erected by the taxpayer, or acquired by the taxpayer if the original use begins with that taxpayer. The following is a list of credit-eligible items. Since these items tend to be very specific, contact your tax advisor for additional information.
Credit-eligible Items
Solar-energy property is used to generate electricity, heat, or cool a structure, or provide solar heat process.
Solar-illumination property (equipment) uses solar energy to illuminate the inside of a structure using fiber-optic distributed sunlight, but only for periods ending before Jan. 1, 2017.
Qualified geothermal-energy property (equipment) uses the ground instead of the outside air to provide heating, air conditioning, and hot water. These systems must meet certain energy ratios to qualify for the credit.
Qualified fuel-cell property converts a fuel into electricity using electrochemical means.
Qualified microturbine property is property that satisfies numerous conditions, and must not be for any period after Dec. 31, 2016.
Heat and power-system property is property comprising a system that satisfies various conditions including simultaneous or sequential generation of electrical power.
Qualified small wind-energy property is property that uses a qualifying small wind turbine to generate electricity. Qualified small wind-energy property does not include any property for any period after Dec. 31, 2016 and uses the ground or ground water as a thermal energy source to heat or cool a structure (for periods ending before 2017).
Qualified geothermal heat-pump system is equipment that uses the ground or ground water as a thermal energy source to heat a structure or as a thermal energy sink to cool a structure.
Computation of the Credit
The credit equals 30% of the basis of each energy property placed in service during the year for items 1, 2, 4, and 7 above and 10% for items 3, 5, 6, and 8. The energy percentage does not apply to the portion of the basis of any property that is attributable to qualified rehabilitation expenditures.
The basis of the property on which the credit is claimed must be reduced by 50% of the energy credit (even if the full amount is not used in the current year). The credit is claimed by completing IRS Form 3498 when filing your tax return.
Non-business Energy Credit
Individuals can also benefit from some very generous incentives. Consumers who purchase and install specific energy-efficient products in their principal residence can receive a tax credit for 30% of the cost, up to $1,500, for improvements made to their home through Dec. 31, 2010. Second homes and rentals do not qualify for this credit. The credit is limited to improvements on existing homes, so new construction and additions are not credit eligible.
Credit-eligible Items
Insulation: Typical bulk insulation products can qualify, such as batts, rolls, blow-in-fibers, rigid boards, expanding spray, and pour-in-place. Products that reduce air leaks may also qualify, as long as they come with a manufacturer’s certification statement. This includes items such as weather stripping, spray foam, caulk, and house wrap. Labor costs to install such materials are not eligible for the credit.
Metal and asphalt roofs: Metal roofs with appropriate pigmented coatings and asphalt roofs with appropriate cooling granules that also meet ENERGY STAR requirements are eligible. However, roof coatings are not eligible for the tax credit. The roofs that are eligible are ‘reflective roofs.’ Reflective roofs are not for everyone. They will provide the most benefit in hot, sunny climates where air conditioning is used often. Only material costs are credit-eligible.
Windows and doors: This includes skylights, sliding glass doors, garage and storm doors. Windows and exterior doors have to be energy-efficient, meaning they have a U-factor of 0.3 or less. The U-factor is used to measure the heat transfer through the object, and determines how well it insulates. The lower the U-factor, the better it insulates. Again, only material costs qualify for the credit.
Heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC): Efficient natural gas, propane, and oil furnaces and water boilers are all eligible for a tax credit. Each of the furnaces must have an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rate of 95% or more, and each of the hot-water boilers must have an AFUE over 90%.
Stoves that use biomass fuel qualify. Biomass fuel includes agricultural crops and trees, wood, wood waste and residues (including wood pellets), plants, grasses, residues, and fibers.
Advanced main air-circulating fans qualify. This is an efficient fan, or blower motor, that blows the air from your furnace through the duct system. The fan must use no more than 2% of the furnace’s total energy. Central air conditioners that meet certain energy efficiency ratios are also eligible. Installation costs of HVAC-eligible items also qualify for the credit.
Residential Energy-efficient Property Credits
The residential energy-efficient property credit provides a 30% credit for the cost of qualified geothermal heat-pump property, solar-electric or water-heating property, small wind-energy property, and fuel-cell property placed in service prior to Dec. 31, 2016.
In contrast to the non-business property credit, there is no limit on the credit. Also, labor costs and some on-site preparation costs are eligible for the credit. The property does not have to be installed in your main home to qualify for this credit. Therefore, a vacation home will qualify. However, rentals do not qualify.
Credit-eligible Items
Geothermal heat pumps that use the earth’s natural heat to generate heating and cooling qualify if the system meets certain energy-efficiency ratios.
Small wind turbines that collect kinetic energy from the wind and covert it to electricity, providing power to the home’s electrical system. They must have a nameplate capacity of no more than 100 kW to qualify for the credit.
Solar energy systems: Solar water-heating systems must have at least half of the energy generated by the ‘qualifying property’ come from the sun. Systems must be certified by the Solar Rating and Certification Corp. or a comparable entity endorsed by the government of the state in which the property is installed. The credit is not available for expenses related to the heating swimming pools or hot tubs. The water must be used in the dwelling.
Solar-power-generating systems must provide electricity for the residence, and must meet applicable fire and electrical code requirement.
Fuel-cell property or electrochemical cell devices capable of deriving electrical energy from chemical reactions. The system must have an efficiency of at least 30% and must have a capacity of at least 0.5 kW. This credit applies to your principal residence only and is limited to $500 per 0.5 kW of power capacity.
Both the non-business energy property credit and the residential energy-efficient property credit are claimed by completing IRS Form 5695 when filing your tax return. These credits are non-refundable credits, so they cannot reduce your tax liability below zero. Be sure to save your receipts and the manufacturer’s certification statement for your records.
In addition to federal tax incentives, some consumers will also be eligible for utility or state rebates, as well as state tax incentives for energy-efficient homes, vehicles, and equipment. Each state’s energy-office Web site may have more information on specific state tax information. Please see the ENERGY STAR page on federal tax credits for energy efficiency for more details on federal incentives, and the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency for information on federal, state, local, and utility incentives. n
Colleen Berndt is a senior tax manager with Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C. Working primarily with for-profit entities, She specializes in multi-state and consolidated tax returns, as well as complicated tax issues; (413) 536-8510.

Pristine Power is poised to develop five bioenergy plants throughout North-Central B.C., if key policy barriers can be removed.

Pristine Power executive vice-president Harvie Campbell was one of the guest speakers at Bioenergy: Solutions for Community Sustainability, a bioenergy conference hosted in Prince George last week.

Campbell said Pristine, which has developed 5,000 megawatts of clean power projects around the world, is developing projects in Mackenzie, Burns Lake, Fort St. James and Merrit.

"Bioenergy development has significant potential in B.C.'s north and interior," Campbell said. "The Mackenzie project is contracted (by B.C. Hydro) but struggling to get going. This and dozens of other projects are held in abeyance until the rules of the road are clarified."

Independent power producers operate like small utilities, he said, and their revenue is fairly fixed. Whether that electricity can be generated at a profit is based on the cost of the inputs.

"It's not so much about access to fibre as who bares the risk and cost of harvesting that fibre," Campbell said. "B.C. Hydro needs clear direction and a mandate on how to address the risk management aspect of bioenergy projects."

Sawmill residues, roadside debris from logging activities and degraded pine beetle stands are the primary inputs for the proposed power plants, he said. If a sawmill shuts down and cuts off the supply of residues, those input costs can go from $20-30 per megawatt to $70-80 per megawatt, he explained.

"In Williams Lake (at the bioenergy plant) the cost of fibre is 100 per cent flow-through to B.C. Hydro," Campbell said. "All natural gas plants the cost of gas is 100 per cent flow-through to B.C. Hydro. We're not looking to invent something new here."

The three 30 megawatt plants planned for Burns Lake and Fort St. James would each cost $120 million to develop and create approximately 72 full-time jobs 12 at the plant and 60 harvesting, transporting and managing the fibre.

"It's a new revenue stream for the local mill. And with many of these projects there's a heat component as well," Campbell said. "It's really down to what happens if that mill shuts down."

The 65 megawatt project in Mackenzie could begin construction in six months, once the supply risk issue is resolved. The other three project could likely begin within 12 months, Campbell said.

"Victoria is working very hard to figure out those rules of the road. (But) we've been waiting for phase two of the bioenergy call for, what, 18 months."


University Park, Pa. -- Blending biomass into the coal stream that feeds electricity-generation plants offers the opportunity to reduce harmful emissions and create a market for renewable fuel, according to a biomass-energy expert in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.

And Pennsylvania power-plant operators have a big incentive for co-firing coal with biomass they buy from farmers, noted Daniel Ciolkosz, senior extension associate in agricultural and biological engineering.

"The state's Alternative Fuels Portfolio Standard is a state mandate that requires, among other things, that 18 percent of Pennsylvania's electricity be generated from renewable or alternative energy sources by 2021," he said. "Biomass co-firing is one of the most promising ways to meet that standard."

Pennsylvania farmers and foresters interested in growing biomass such as switchgrass and small-diameter trees as energy crops soon are likely to have eager buyers for their products, Ciolkosz suggested.

"Several experiments have shown the feasibility of co-firing biomass with coal, including tests at the Shawville power plant in Clearfield County and the Seward power plant in Westmoreland County," he said. "The most common type of facilities for co-firing are large, coal-fired power plants. However, other coal-burning facilities, such as cement kilns, industrial boilers and coal-fired heating plants, are good candidates for co-firing as well."

One of the reasons biomass is well suited for co-firing with coal is that both biomass and coal are solid fuels, Ciolkosz said. Therefore, equipment designed to burn coal can burn biomass as well. However, several differences between biomass and coal -- such as biomass's typically higher moisture content and its propensity to clog equipment when burned -- have scientists scrambling for solutions to allow co-firing.

"The chemical composition of coal is different from that of biomass," he said. "Most notably, biomass has a higher hydrogen and oxygen content, and less carbon than coal."

As a result, biomass tends to generate less energy than coal -- about two-thirds as much.

"Biomass also tends to be less dense than coal. Pulverized coal is nearly seven times denser than baled straw. This means that fuel-feed systems will need to handle and deliver much higher volumes of fuel if co-firing is used.

"One of the possible methods for reducing these problems is to convert the biomass to charcoal, which has a consistency similar to that of coal, or to densify biomass fuel into hard pellets or briquettes that may be more compatible with a combustor's fuel-handling system," Ciolkosz said.

Farmers and foresters should be aware that co-firing may create a massive market for biomass. Currently, Pennsylvania uses approximately 57 million tons of coal per year. If 5 percent of the fuel were replaced with biomass, it would amount to 4.4 million tons of biomass per year.

"That would nearly triple the current rate of biomass use for energy," Ciolkosz said. "Consider a 1,000-megawatt power plant, which is a typical large plant by today's standards. Co-firing at a 5 percent rate would require approximately 245,000 tons of biomass per year, which would require about 50,000 acres of high-yield production."

Ciolkosz suggests that farmers and landowners consider securing long-term supply contracts from power producers, which could reduce the risk associated with growing biomass crops -- especially perennial crops such as grasses or short-rotation woody crops, which require several years before they are ready for harvest.

"When we consider the buyer's perspective, the main benefit of co-firing is that it reduces pollution from the power plant," he said. "Biomass is virtually free of sulfur and mercury, which leads to reductions in emissions that are proportional to the amount of biomass being used."

Because biomass also is essentially carbon neutral, Ciolkosz expects power plant operators will soon want to burn it for energy.

"When you consider the growing levels of concern and regulation surrounding the release of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels, even a 5 percent reduction in emissions can make the difference between meeting or missing an emissions target set by the government."


Duke Energy plans to run two of its coal-burning power plants partly on wood, a switch that will help the utility meet North Carolina's green-energy law.

Duke has asked the N.C. Utilities Commission to register its Buck plant in Rowan County and Lee plant in Williamston, S.C., as renewable-energy facilities. The plants would burn sawdust or wood chips with coal.

Apart from electricity, the plants will generate renewable energy certificates. RECs are tradable commodities that represent 1 megawatt-hour of energy made from sources such as the sun, wind or, in this case, wood wastes.

Duke would use the RECs in future years to show compliance with the state law. North Carolina requires utilities to generate a rising portion of their electricity from renewable sources between 2012 and 2021. They may also apply certificates proving the electricity was produced with renewable fuels.

North Carolina is rich in organic wastes that can be turned into energy sources. Biomass, as it is called, now produces 4 percent of N.C. energy, but experts say it could produce another 10 percent with existing resources.

Duke has already signed agreements to buy electricity generated from landfill gas, a form of biomass, in Durham and Greenville, S.C. It has partnered with the French nuclear services company Areva to turn waste wood into energy.

Duke tested "co-firing" sawdust and wood chips at the Buck plant last summer, and chips at the Lee plant for the last half of 2009.

Wood made up 5 percent to 20 percent of the fuel in those tests, spokesman Jason Walls said.


HAMILTON , OH— After wrapping up two major projects in other parts of the county, the Butler County Port Authority is gearing up to offer stimulus bonds to help fund two Hamilton-area projects.
Greenwood Fuels, which would supply the wood pellets to help fuel SMART Papers’ recently completed $30 million co-generation facility, is currently completing the financing necessary to receive $5.7 million in Recovery Zone Facility Bonds from the port authority to help fund its venture.
The funds were made available through the federal stimulus package, said Mike Campbell, director of the port authority during the agency’s monthly meeting Tuesday, March 16.
Greenwood would manufacture the wood pellets from waste paper to be used as fuel by SMART Papers, he said. Financing paperwork should be received by the port authority no later than May 15 to be considered for the available bonds.
Financing paperwork is also pending for the Riverside Riverwalk project in Hamilton. The recreational wellness facility has been allocated $8.6 million by the port authority to develop the facility by Riverside Tennis Club in Hamilton, Campbell said.
Paperwork must be received before the funds can be distributed, he said.
Roland Lutz, owner of Riverside, could not be reached for comment on the project Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the port authority has completed demolition of Middletown Regional Hospital in Middletown, which received a $1.8-million grant through the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund for remediation of the site.
In addition, the agency has completed facilitation of $8.6 million in loans to Intelligrated of West Chester Twp. The funds allowed the port authority to acquire the 282,000-square-foot manufacturing building currently in its name and leased to Intelligrated so it can shore up more capital. The port authority will revert ownership to the company once the debt is repaid, said Joe Magdich, chairman of the agency.
“We were glad to help,” he said.
Contact this reporter at (513) 705-2843 or


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LADYSMITH, WI -- 03/23/10 -- According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration's Annual Energy Outlook for 2010, the use of renewable wood biomass fuels is set to hit 790 trillion BTUs in 2010 and 2011 -- the equivalent of nearly 136 million barrels of oil. This high demand may mean a shortage in available wood biomass products, such as wood pellet fuel, for retailers.
In response to the projected high demand, Indeck Ladysmith, LLC, the manufacturer of Indeck Energy Premium Wood Pellets, is offering a limited pre-order discount to retailers who order inventory before April 30.
"We understand the pressure that retailers are under," said Mike Curci, Indeck Ladysmith BioFuel Center plant superintendant. "With such high projections for the upcoming season, our goal is to ensure that retailers have the inventory to meet demand."
Indeck Energy will be offering their Premium Grade wood pellets at special pre-season pricing, while supplies last, until April 30, after which the price will increase. By ordering before April 30, Indeck Energy can guarantee retailers delivery in time for the upcoming buying season.
Indeck Energy offers a high quality, Premium Grade wood pellet that delivers significantly lower ash content than the one percent specified by the Pellet Fuel Institute.
"Indeck Energy's wood pellets are manufactured from locally grown hardwood," said Scott Freier of Freier's Electric and Heating, Inc., of Hudson, Wis., a retailer who stocks Indeck Energy Wood Pellets. "The pellets have an ash content of less than one percent, produce a high 8,500 BTUs of heat energy and have very low moisture content. They are a Premium Grade pellet."
Retailers who pre-order wood pellets before April 30 will lock-in the low, pre-season, wholesale price.
To pre-order Indeck Energy Wood Pellets or to become a retailer contact Nunzio Maniaci at 1-847-520-3212.
For more information about this release:
The Indeck Ladysmith BioFuel Center is owned by Indeck Ladysmith, LLC, a subsidiary of Indeck Energy Services, Inc. Indeck Energy Services, Inc. is a privately held developer, owner and operator of renewable and conventional energy projects. As one of the few remaining privately held independent power producers, it has grown into a full-service energy company that offers biofuels production and electrical generation facilities. The company was established in 1985 and is headquartered in Buffalo Grove, IL.
Ryan Wilkinson
e: Email Contact
t: 330.655.5020
e-fax: 330.319.8015

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