Sunday, January 30, 2011

G Brown Newsletter for Jan 2011

January 2011
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

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Sunday, Jan. 02, 2011
The Associated Press
McCOMB, Miss. -- Pike County supervisors hope to buy back a piece of property that had been the planned site of a multimillion dollar wood pellet plant.
Board attorney Wayne Dowdy told the Enterprise-Journal newspaper that he filed a civil lawsuit last month seeking authority to buy 16 acres the county sold to Indeck Magnolia LLC.
The county wants to but the land back for the original purchase price of $128,400, as stipulated in the original purchase agreement.
• Link:
Indeck Energy Services of Buffalo Grove, Ill., bought the land in 2008 with plans to build a $17 million plant to make wood pellets for fuel.
The plans never materialized and the lot remains vacant. However, Indeck reportedly spent at least $1 million on the project.

Supervisors have filed a civil lawsuit in chancery court seeking authority to buy back 16 acres they sold for a proposed wood pellet mill, board attorney Wayne Dowdy said Thursday.

Dowdy filed the suit Dec. 22 on behalf of supervisors against Indeck Magnolia LLC. The suit requests court permission to buy the land back for the original purchase price of $128,400, as stipulated in the original purchase agreement.
Indeck Energy Services of Buffalo Grove, Ill., bought the land on Highway 51 North, Magnolia, from the county in 2008 with plans to build a $17 million plant that would have employed 20 people and made wood pellets for fuel.
The plans never materialized and the lot remains vacant. However, Indeck reportedly spent at least $1 million on the project.
“We’ll have a greatly improved piece of property,” said board of supervisors president Gary Honea.
The original purchase agreement allowed supervisors to buy back the property if the mill was not in operation within two years.
“Indeck has failed or refused to construct and operate the wood pellet manufacturing facility contemplated on the property within two years as contracted by the parties,” the suit says.
County administrator Andrew Alford said the $128,400 will come from the general fund cash reserves.
A Community Development Block Grant paid for a rail spur on the site, and Indeck funded a $291,000 extension, both of which are owned by the county.
“It’s been a lot of site work done,” said Britt Herrin, executive director of the Pike County Economic Development District. “They (Indeck) went in and put in water and sewage lines. There are fire hydrants hooked up. The soil’s been compacted where the buildings were going to be. They basically got the beds for a road in. There’s even a storm sewer in there.”
In September, county officials reported that Indeck was negotiating with another company to sell the property. Herrin said Thursday that supervisors are better off owning the land so the county can market it.
“Our position is it’s a great asset and we need somebody on there to create jobs,” he said. “And we need to be in the driver’s seat to make that happen and not be at the mercy of a company in Illinois.”
In filing the suit, “we just felt owning the property we could make things happen a lot quicker, and we could protect our investments, and most importantly, serve the wishes of the taxpayers of Pike County,” Herrin said.
“There are not many sites that have that level of development, with a rail spur ready to go and a switch in and compacted soil and the water-sewage lines. That’s a really unique asset. I think that’s something we can really capitalize on.”
Herrin said Indeck had hoped to sell most of the wood pellets in the United States, but that market never materialized.
Meanwhile, Herrin said he has had representatives from three companies look at the site.
“I hope there’s a wood pellet mill that goes on there, but I think we need to look at all our options,” he said.


Wisconsin Power & Light has received approval from the state Department of Natural Resources to expand tests of biomass fuel at WPL's coal-fired power plant in Cassville


By: Judy Newman -- State Journal

Wisconsin Power & Light has received approval from the state Department of Natural Resources to expand tests of biomass fuel at WPL's coal-fired power plant in Cassville.

Since late 2009, the Madison utility company has experimented about a dozen times with burning a mixture of up to 20 percent biomass, for periods ranging from several hours to two weeks. With the DNR's approval, biomass will be able to make up as much as 50 percent of the fuel mix during test periods at the Cassville plant in 2011.

Most of the biomass involved so far has been wood chips, WPL spokesman Steve Schultz said. Pellets of agricultural waste, such as corn stover, and switchgrass also have been used. Schultz said the relative cost and efficiency of the biomass are still being calculated.


An audit report issued on December 9th by the USDA's Office of Inspector General (OIG) finds wide-ranging problems in the way the Farm Service Agency (FSA) administered the Collection, Harvest, Storage and Transportation (CHST) component under the new Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). FSA spent a total of over $243 million on the CHST portion in 2009 and 2010.

Based on a review of 12 county office operations in four States, as well as overall administration of the program at the national office, OIG found problems including inconsistent application of program provisions across State and county offices, varying methods for measuring biomass moisture content levels, inconsistent use of program forms, and data errors.

Click this link (PDF) to read the full audit report including OIG's recomendations and FSA's response to the report.


An Atikokan wood pellet production facility that could create about 150 jobs in this region cannot move forward because of provincial delays


Source: Tb News Watch

An Atikokan wood pellet production facility that could create about 150 jobs in this region cannot move forward because of provincial delays, said the facilities owner.

Atikokan Renewable Fuels is converting the old Fibre-tech facility in Atikokan into a wood pellet manufacturing facility. Ontario's wood supply competition was originally supposed to conclude in the fall, but now announcements aren't likely until early 2011.

Atikokan Renewable Fuels partner Ed Fukushima said until Northern Development Mines and Forestry Minister Michael Gravelle makes the much anticipated announcements surrounding the provincial wood supply competition, everything is at a standstill.

"We've made a major investment in the plant in Atikokan and all we're doing now is heating up a big empty building and paying property taxes on something we can't do anything with," said Fukushima. "So we need (the province) to get their act together and get us into business."

He added that major potential users have been forced to walk away from negotiations with the company because supply of the pellets could not be guaranteed.

Minister Gravelle originally said announcements on wood applications would start in October, but has since said those announcements would be delayed until sometime early in 2011.

"I understand the frustration, I really do," Gravelle said. "But we need to be able to do this in a fair and proper fashion. I'm very optimistic that we will be able to have some good news (in the new year)."

Atikokan Renewable Fuels also has a bid for the contract to supply pellets to the Atikokan Generating Station. The power station is switching from coal to bio-mass as a fuel supply.

By Lisa Gibson | January 04, 2011

Iowa State University is considering cofiring with biomass in its coal-fired combined-heat-and-power plant after conducting a series of successful test burns over the summer.

Armed with newly-compiled results from a four-month biomass test burn, Iowa State University representatives will discuss the parameters and requirements of permanent biomass utilization with the state Department of Natural Resources.
Together with NextGen Biofuels Inc., the university cofired biomass in its coal-fired combined-heat-and-power plant over the summer. Working with both wood pellets and wood chips, the test burns started at 5 percent biomass and jumped up to 10 percent and 15 percent, according to Rob Ravlin, NextGen president. Pellets were also tested at a 20 percent blend. “[The tests were] very successful,” he said. “If the will is there, we can immediately displace a large percentage of coal in existing boilers without any capital investment required.”
The tests in ISU’s boiler combined biomass carrying a Btu value of 7,800 per pound with a blend of western Kentucky and southern Illinois coals at 11,800 Btu per pound. They showed an 11.5 percent reduction in sulfur dioxide; a .5 percent reduction in carbon dioxide; a 24.2 percent reduction in particulate matter; and a 6.5 percent reduction in carbon monoxide parts per million. Not surprisingly, though, the tests also showed a 3 percent increase in nitrogen oxide, as biomass is a more volatile fuel source than coal, Ravlin said. The results will vary from boiler to boiler and with coal type, he added.
“I would agree the tests were successful,” said Jeff Witt, assistant director of utilities at the university. “We obtained the information we need to say yes we can do this.” The decision on whether to move forward will depend on what requirements the DNR outlines for permanent cofiring, as well as the cost to the university, as biomass is currently more expensive than coal, Witt said. “Based on data, I don’t think it’s going to be an issue with the DNR,” he added. Ravlin echoed that same sentiment. Later this month, Witt’s team and NextGen will present an assessment of the findings and DNR’s requirements to the university administration, which will make the final decision.
Witt intends to permit the CHP plant to burn up to 15 percent biomass, using 2-inch minus wood chips instead of pellets because of their cheaper cost. That means, though, that the chips will need to be sized appropriately for the plant’s processes. “Our goal is to blend this fuel with existing fuel handling systems,” Witt said, adding that chips too large or small will pose problems. “There’s a window there of what we need.”
“We are using these tests as an incubator to jump-start the local biomass market to supplement or eliminate the imported biomass,” Ravlin said. Fortunately for the company, the tests have garnered attention from many local utilities looking to reduce emissions, he added.


By Jennifer Keefe
Wednesday, January 5, 2011

DOVER — With prices of just about everything seeming to increase these days, heating oil is no exception.

For anyone filling up their fuel tank right now, the cost per gallon is significantly higher than it was at the beginning of the season, having recently surpassed $3 with the average cost about $3.18 per gallon of oil, and up to $3.32 for propane.

"We started the season at numbers more like $2.40 a gallon ... and suddenly we're up over the $3 mark at $3.09," said Joel Bobbett, sales manager with Simply Green Biofuels. "We don't like to see prices go this high."

At the state Office of Energy and Planning, program manager Joe Broyles said there are several contributing factors to the rising costs, including recovery of the global market, a high demand for energy across the world, a relatively weak dollar, and futures contracts bought and sold on the stock market that factor into home heating oil prices.

"The source of raw material (crude oil) is the biggest driver of cost," he said. "We're looking at global markets here."

Some people are turning to alternative forms of energy to combat their monthly oil bill. Charlie Niebling, general manager at New England Wood Pellet, said while there isn't data available for numbers of wood pellet stoves sold, consumers are shifting toward the alternative.

"Consumers ... their sensitivity to energy prices is definitely heightened as a result of the run-up in heating oil prices," Niebling said. "With heating oil pretty consistent over $3 per gallon, there's no question consumers are aware and it's a painful thing to write a check to your oil company these days."

He said pellet fuels are at historic lows pricewise due to a "saturated market" of new manufacturers that came into play after the cost of oil peaked in 2008.

A story by The Associated Press said new census figures show fewer people in Maine are heating their homes with oil than at any point since 1980, which coincides with an increase in Mainers using wood to heat their homes. However, Maine Energy Director John Kerry told AP he doesn't believe the change is permanent.

But wood burning stove sales in New Hampshire — at least at Fireplace Village in Merrimack — haven't seen much of an increase because of oil prices.

"The major driving force this fall has been the available tax credit for solid fuel appliances like wood stoves," said Dave Phinney, Fireplace Village manager. "I think there are people who have bought stoves to minimize use of oil, but oil prices have been pretty steady since the fall."

Prices have remained lower than the staggering $4 per gallon that hit consumers in 2008 and 2009 before the "bottom dropped out" and lowered to just more than $1 in the winter, said Bobbett.

"That was a different time," he said, adding consumers have been switching to Simply Green — which holds prices fairly in line with average fuel costs — because it offers an alternative option.

"What we've been finding is usually around this time, people's interest in alternative energy really comes into play," he said. "What people want to know is are they supporting something that has a biofuel content. They're saying, 'I want to do something different with my heating oil.'"

But for consumers who are sticking with oil heat, another concern beyond price is how to pay. Industry experts say with price fluctuations, people are less interested in "locking in" to a set price early in the season without a budget program that adjusts the cost if prices go down.

"There's been a growth of the budget program" that allows consumers to pay as they need oil, Bobbett said.

And people tend to make decisions about switching from oil heat to an alternative source in the off season, Niebling said, before cold weather forces another fill of the oil tank.

"Unless there's a significant spike (in oil costs) midwinter, you wouldn't see a lot of people switching over in the winter months," he said.

Broyles said oil prices are also determined by temperature — the colder the weather, the higher the demand.

"It isn't always the case that the price of heating oil will go up in the winter and down in the summer," he said. "And there's no way to tell what's going to happen next with the price."

Bill clarke
Canadaeast News Service

DALHOUSIE - Officials at the Port of Dalhousie say they are disturbed that Canadian National has decided to discontinue rail operations on the Dalhousie branch and could begin removing track any time after April 1.
A letter, addressed to town administrator Christy Arseneau, says that there are other factors that "will determine the exact timing for the dismantling of the railway infrastructure."
The first of these is a signed agreement between CN and the "New Brunswick Ministry of Transport" (properly, the Department of Transportation) that extends the deadline for the province to acquire the rail line until April 1. "If the province elects to acquire the railway line, the railway infrastructure would remain in place and not be dismantled," says the letter from John Brayley, manager, Network Strategies, Montreal.
The second factor is "recent discussions with the Port of Dalhousie (that) have identified the possible construction of a bio-diesel facility at the Port of Dalhousie." The letter says that "CN has made a commitment in place until the port receives a definitive response from the senior levels of government with respect to the funding for this new venture" and that "if the project were to move ahead, the railway infrastructure could be used to serve the new facility."
Chris Winchester, the port's general manager, said that he's disturbed that CN is not giving them an opportunity to move ahead with projects they are "chasing." He said that the bio-fuel project is very close.
He also said that, because of uncertainty about the future of rail service, the port lost a contract that would have brought significant traffic to the branch line and the port.
Brian Hyslop, port manager, said that if they get the bio-fuel project, it will save the rail line for years to come and create 150 to 200 jobs, as well as contributing to the town's tax base.
He said that they have been talking to a biomass company that is looking for a place to locate in the Maritimes.
"At least they could have kept the line active until April 1," Hyslop said. "That's all we were asking."
The most recent traffic over the line is a large piece of electrical equipment consigned to NB Power. The flat car was sitting on a Dalhousie siding on Tuesday.


January 03, 2010
Source: 2G-Cenergy
Earlier this year the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh (UWO) decided to build the first dry fermentation anaerobic bio-digester in the nation, which will convert yard and food waste into biogas. The renewable energy facility is designed by BIOFerm Energy Systems, a leading expert that delivers a wide array of turnkey energy solutions using biomass and organic waste as the primary feed stock.
The 370 kWh biogas CHP cogeneration system, to be supplied by 2G-CENERGY, will be located on Dempsey Trail, adjacent to the Witzel Avenue Campus Service Center at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. UWO owns and operates the biogas and cogeneration plant.
According to information from 2G-CENERGY, the plant is expected to produce 4183 MW of thermal energy and 3071 MW of electricity per year, to be utilized by the University Campus, with any excess power sold to the grid. The combined heat and power plant uses the 2G® optimus® 370BG, an optimized MAN® cogeneration gas engine fully integrated into the unique 2G® biogas cogeneration technology package, especially developed for biogas operations. The plant is fully containerized and will be supplied as an “all-in-one” and “connection-ready” module. Benefits over conventional gas engines include much higher efficiency, reliability, durability, extended life, and less maintenance cost.
2G®’s output-optimized cogeneration CHP (combined heat and power) modules have been installed at more than 1500 biogas plants around the world. “This is the first dry anaerobic bio-digester plant in the United States, and the management of BIOFerm, as well as the University Executives at UWO, searched the market for the most reliable and proven biogas CHP cogeneration technology available. They selected the 2G product, and we are pleased with this decision," says Michael Turwitt, President & CEO of 2G-CENERGY Power Systems Technologies Inc. “When you invest millions of dollars in a biogas production facility, you don’t want to take chances when it comes to converting valuable biogas into electrical and thermal energy. For a project like this there is no room for trial & error, and the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, with their partner BIOFerm, concluded that our technology is the most proven, reliable, and cost-effective solution," Michael Turwitt adds.
The increased degree of reliability and electrical efficiency is crucial for successful biogas plant operations. “At the end of the day, every additional percent of increased efficiency makes a huge contribution to the overall project bottom line, resulting in more profitability and a much better economy for the system operator,” says Christian Grotholt, President & CEO of the 2G Group of Companies.
Extremely successful in Europe for many years, dry fermentation biogas facilities are becoming increasingly popular in the USA. Utilizing high solids organic waste (25% solids or higher) this technology produces biogas through a specialized process. Biogas production from low cost organic waste streams enables operators to generate on-demand, carbon-neutral energy while controlling rising energy costs and reducing their carbon foot print.
The 2G biogas combined heat and power (CHP) plant -- the first genuine biogas cogeneration plant of this kind to be operated by UWO -- has enough capacity to power a large portion of the University Campus. An extension is planned for 2012.
“2G biogas CHP systems have proven their value and reliability to more than 1500 operators. We are proud to partner with BIOFerm and the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh as they continue to install generating capacity using the renewable energy resources of Wisconsin. As the U.S. market for biogas power continues to develop even further, 2G-CENERGY will continue to create clean energy jobs in America. We are planning to establish our fourth 2G production plant right here in the U.S. as soon as the market volume will increase to a sustainable level,” explained Michael Turwitt.
Just a few weeks earlier, the City of Guelph decided to purchase a 2G natural gas fueled cogeneration system to be installed at the West End Community Center in Guelph, located 100 miles N.W. of Buffalo, NY. The 2G cogeneration system was selected for its outstanding quality and unique design features which include “best-in-class” optimized high efficiency gas engine technology, factory designed, with fully integrated heat recovery system, and unique container module enclosure. This 400ekW CHP system was sold and will be serviced by 2G’s exclusive Canadian Distributor EPS Ltd.
Besides being more efficient, 2G® cogeneration systems with low-emission generation capability are designed and manufactured “connection ready.” All plants are fully factory tested and come as complete modules. This allows for extreme fast and cost-effective installation, increases product reliability, and assures trouble-free operations.

JANUARY 05, 2011 08:15 EST
EASTPORT, Maine (AP) -- A $7 million expansion of the port facilities in Eastport will help Maine provide wood products that will be part of a European biomass push.

Port Director Chris Gardner says port officials are also working with several different companies to export chips, wood pellets, stone and crushed rock.

The expansion will add 12 acres of flat loading space, a new warehouse and a state-of-the-art conveyor system to load and unload ships.

The port set a record last year by handling more than 400,000 tons of cargo, its most productive year ever.

Maine Senate President Kevin Raye of Perry tells the Bangor Daily News the expansion represents a true partnership between the state, the federal government and the Eastport Port Authority.


Information from: Bangor Daily News,


HOUSTON, Jan. 5, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- International energy pricing agency Argus today launched North American wood chip assessments. This expansion into US and Canadian wood chip pricing complements Argus' coverage of US wood pellet prices and its broader European biomass indexation.
"Argus understands the global significance of renewable fuels, and we are pleased to be at the forefront, providing transparency to emerging biomass markets," Argus Media chairman and chief executive, Adrian Binks said.
The US and Canada are two of the world's largest producers and exporters of wood chips, which are increasingly used to fuel power plants and district heating systems – either alone, with wood pellets or co-fired with coal. Growing demand from the North American market has prompted Argus' recent decision to provide weekly industrial wood chip price assessment.
Prices for new delivery locations include fob and cif assessments for metric tonne and short ton values. Including cif and fob delivered values to terminals that often serve as export facilities reflects the increased importance of these locations as sources of wood chips for both export and domestic North American markets. Publishing prices in dollars per short ton as well as dollars per metric tonne reflects trade in both export and domestic markets.
The new prices are for cargoes loading at, and shipments delivered to:
• Portland, Oregon (includes Longview)
• Tacoma, Washington
• Vancouver, British Columbia
• Mobile, Alabama
• Morehead City, North Carolina
• Sheet Harbor, Nova Scotia

Wood chip and pellet price assessments are published in Argus Biomass Markets, a weekly report that provides market commentary, news and analysis of power generation economics. Specifications for wood chips and wood pellets are listed in the methodology for Argus Biomass Markets on the Argus website.
For further information please contact: Tammy Tiedt in Houston at +1 713 429 6309, or
About Argus Media
Argus is a leading provider of price assessments, business intelligence and market data on the global crude and products, natural gas, coal, electricity, emissions and transportation industries. It is headquartered in London and has offices in Houston, Washington, New York, Portland, Calgary, Johannesburg, Dubai, Singapore, Tokyo, Beijing, Sydney, Moscow, Astana, Kiev, Santiago and other key centres of the energy industry. Argus was founded in 1970 and is a privately held UK-registered company. Learn more at

Written by Argus Media

Jan. 3, 2011, Washington, D.C. – U.S. fossil-fuel-fired power plants and oil refineries will be subject to federal greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards by the end of 2012, a key government official says. The official spoke as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) laid out its timeline for establishing New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for greenhouse gases. The technology-based standards for the utility sector will be addressed initially, with a proposal due on July 26, 2011. A final rule will be adopted by May 26, 2012. The regulations would mainly affect oil and coal-fired electricity generating units, the assistant administrator for EPA's office of air and radiation Gina McCarthy said in a call with reporters.

Standards for refineries will be proposed by December 15, 2011, with final regulations due by November 15, 2012. Before proposing the standards, EPA intends to consult with industry representatives and other stakeholders to determine what standards can be set based on technology that is available and cost-effective, says McCarthy. But NSPS “allow a lot of flexibility,” she says. NSPS are used for a wide array of sectors and pollutants and apply to new major sources of emissions and existing major sources undergoing major modifications. Although the requirements will immediately affect new greenhouse gas sources, EPA does not expect existing facilities will be affected until 2015–2016, McCarthy says.

States can delay or weaken federal performance standards if they can show that meeting them would be physically impossible, cost-prohibitive, or otherwise overly arduous. Local air regulators have latitude to delay implementing the standards for up to three years by taking into account factors such as the remaining useful life of existing plants undergoing major modifications. But state regulators can also tighten and speed such standards.

The NSPS are separate from the greenhouse gas permitting rules that will take effect on January 2, 2011. Beginning next year, state air regulators must consider greenhouse gases when drawing up air permits for large new or modified sources and determine what qualifies as best available control technology for the pollutants on a project-by-project basis.

The timeline is part of a settlement of two court cases filed by several states and environmental advocacy groups. EPA was initially petitioned to take this action in 2006. A second petition was filed in 2008, after the Supreme Court in 2007 upheld the agency's authority to regulate greenhouse gases. Those cases had been put on hold while EPA developed such rules as greenhouse gas emissions standards for light-duty vehicles and the permitting rule for large stationary sources. But the agency has agreed to address the greenhouse gas NSPS, as it was petitioned.

Many conservatives have declared they will use their increased presence in the new Congress to attack, and even block, many EPA rulemakings. This could be accomplished by slashing the agency's funding next year or retracting some of its regulatory authority. U.S. representative Fred Upton (R-Michigan), who will head the House Energy and Commerce Committee, called the plan a “Christmas surprise” that “marks a crescendo in the EPA's long regulatory assault against America's energy producers.”

January 10, 2011 04:30 PM Eastern Time
GOFFSTOWN, N.H.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--As homes heating with oil are facing record-level heating bills, consumers heating with wood pellets are suddenly realizing record savings.
“the efficiency gains of space heating with pellet stoves can be significant - often 20% or more”
This January, Popular Mechanics introduced “the high tech, carbon-neutral alternative fuel of the future” - wood. Providing environmental and economic benefits, and a level of convenience unmatched by traditional wood stoves, over a million US homes now heat with a wood pellet stove. “The savings have never been greater,” notes Jon Strimling, President of
Unlike when oil peaked in July 2008, the current high oil costs are now directly impacting consumers’ heating bills during the coldest months. The average residential heating oil price of $3.34/gallon is the highest January level in history, according to the US Energy Information Administration. With a typical Northeastern home requiring 855 gallons of fuel oil, this has driven heating costs up above $2,800 – a budget-buster for most households. At the same time, wood pellet costs have actually fallen to the lowest levels in years.
Consumers use pellet stoves to heat central living areas of their house, which helps them save in two ways. First, the pellets are significantly cheaper than oil per unit of heat output. But as importantly, houses are often heated more efficiently with pellet stoves because the heat is supplied directly to the primary living areas, with peripheral areas and bedrooms running cooler.
With a ton of pellets retailing today at below $250, consumers are buying heat at the equivalent of $2.08/gallon for fuel oil, even before factoring in efficiency gains. At the same time, “the efficiency gains of space heating with pellet stoves can be significant - often 20% or more” noted John Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat, a non-profit organization dedicated to making clean biomass heat a viable option for people of all walks of life. Factoring in this additional savings, using pellets to heat can be equivalent buying oil for as little $1.67/gallon.
"Wood pellets are expected to be much more stable than oil prices in coming years, but equally important, wood pellets are a local, renewable fuel that helps this country be more energy independent and creates jobs here at home," said Ackerly.


The International Herald Tribune
January 10, 2011

The defense appropriations law signed by President Barack Obama contains a little-noticed ''Buy American'' provision for Defense Department purchases of solar panels - a provision that is likely to dismay Chinese officials as President Hu Jintao prepares to visit the United States next week.
Crafted mainly by House and Senate conferees during a flurry of activity at the end of the lame-duck session of Congress, the provision, which was signed into law Friday, is written in a way that particularly prevents the Defense Department from buying Chinese-made solar panels. The provision is also carefully worded to help it comply with the free trade rules of the World Trade Organization, which would make it hard for China to ask a W.T.O. tribunal to overturn the provision, trade lawyers said.
China has emerged as the world's dominant producer of solar panels in the past two years. It accounted for at least half of the world's production last year, and its market share is still rising rapidly.
Chinese leaders have strongly criticized ''Buy American'' provisions in the past, particularly a provision in Mr. Obama's economic stimulus package in early 2009 that applied to government procurement of steel and some other construction materials.
But China required in late spring 2009 that virtually all of its $600 billion economic stimulus be spent within China, not just for construction materials.
Chinese officials in Beijing and Washington did not respond Saturday or Sunday to requests for comment on the solar panel provision.
While the United States and Europe have focused on subsidizing buyers of solar panels, China has emphasized subsidies for solar panel manufacturers. It then exports virtually all of its panels to the United States and Europe, often helped by the American and European consumer subsidies.
The solar panel provision in the defense appropriations comes as Mr. Obama has ordered a broad investigation into whether Chinese export subsidies and local content requirements have violated W.T.O. rules. That investigation resulted in the United States' starting a W.T.O. case against alleged Chinese wind turbine manufacturing subsidies late last year.
U.S. trade officials said then that they were still examining other Chinese clean energy subsidy policies to decide whether to file further W.T.O. cases.
The solar panel provision was in the initial defense appropriations bill passed by the U.S. House. The House version had a simple requirement that the Defense Department buy solar panels made in the United States.
The U.S. Senate, which has been more leery of interfering with free trade, had no comparable provision, and many people, even in the solar panel industry, did not expect the final law to have the provision.
But the conference of House and Senate leaders ended up retaining the House provision and modifying it, by adding legal language to require that it also comply with previous U.S. trade legislation. Two prominent trade lawyers said in e-mails that that meant that in practice, the legislation required the Defense Department to buy solar panels from any country that had signed the W.T.O.'s side agreement on government procurement, as earlier U.S. trade laws required compliance with that agreement.
Virtually all industrialized countries have signed the side agreement, which requires free trade in government purchases. China vowed to sign it as soon as possible when it joined the W.T.O. in November 2001 but has done little since then.
Two prominent trade lawyers said over the weekend that the United States was within its rights to discriminate against Chinese solar panels in military procurement.
''The W.T.O. Government Procurement Agreement allows signatory countries, including the United States in its Defense Department contracts, to favor goods from countries that have signed that agreement over countries that have not,'' said Carolyn Gleason, a partner at McDermott Will & Emery in Washington who is one of the best-known litigators of W.T.O. cases.
Alan Wolff, a former senior U.S. trade official who is now the chairman of the trade practice at Dewey & LeBoeuf in Washington, said that it was hard to understand China's resistance to signing the agreement.
''There would be a clear benefit both for it and its trading partners,'' he said.
Inland Chinese provinces and cities have strongly lobbied Beijing not to sign the agreement because they want to retain the legal right to continue steering government contracts to local companies, said a trade policy adviser to the Chinese government who insisted on anonymity because of the political sensitivity of the issue.
The ''Buy American'' provision in the 2009 economic stimulus legislation also has a little-known clause allowing purchases from other countries that have signed the Government Procurement Agreement, and not just from U.S. suppliers.
Ocean Yuan, the chief executive and president of Grape Solar, a company headquartered in Eugene, Oregon, that distributes mainly Chinese solar panels but also U.S., Japanese and Taiwan-made panels, said that imported panels typically cost 20 percent less than American-made panels.
Mr. Yuan predicted that the new legislation would have a big effect on the U.S. solar panel market by encouraging Chinese solar panel manufacturers to establish factories in the United States. ''This policy will certainly have a negative impact on the imported solar panels from China, which have lower cost overall due to lower labor,'' he said.
Grape Solar sold $500,000 worth of Chinese-made solar panels to the U.S. military shortly before Christmas but expects that future contracts will probably specify U.S.-made panels, Mr. Yuan said. The U.S. military is a rapidly growing market for renewable energy products after finding it extremely expensive and frequently dangerous to ship large quantities of fuel into remote areas of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The legislative provision was welcomed by SolarWorld, a German company that is one of the biggest manufacturers of solar panels in the United States and which has not followed the example of most manufacturers in moving production to China. ''As a long-standing and still-expanding American manufacturer of solar technology, SolarWorld is heartened that the U.S. government and military clearly grasp the critical role of domestically produced solar technology in the country's national-security future,'' said Bob Beisner, managing director of the company's U.S. subsidiary in Hillsboro, Oregon, which is already installing U.S.-made solar panels in military facilities at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The defense appropriations bill also requires that the military conduct an immediate review of its needs for rare earth metals; 95 percent of the world's supply comes from China.
Rare earths are essential for a wide range of military hardware, from missiles to sonar. The Defense Department has been studying its contractors' reliance on Chinese supplies for more than a year. A draft report shared with congressional aides last autumn had a preliminary conclusion that rare earths were very important but suggested that the department's contractors continue to be allowed to buy them wherever they wanted.

The company will operate a molding extrusion facility specializing in wood pellets

In case you were wondering, and we've had a couple of calls, about what that big green building behind Out-a-Bounds is going to be you are not alone. The building will house a company called Isabella Pellet.

This company will operate a molding extrusion facility specializing in wood pellets. According to the Pellet Fuels Institute Pellet fuel is a renewable, clean-burning and cost stable home heating alternative currently used throughout North America. It is a biomass product made of renewable substances - generally recycled wood waste. There are approximately 1,000,000 homes in the U.S. using wood pellets for heat, in freestanding stoves, fireplace inserts, furnaces and boilers. Pellet fuel for heating can also be found in such large-scale environments as schools and prisons. North American pellets are produced in manufacturing facilities in Canada and the United States, and are available for purchase at fireplace dealers, nurseries, building supply stores, feed and garden supply stores and some discount merchandisers.

In short, pellet fuel is a way to divert millions of tons of waste from landfills and turn it into energy.

Later this week we plan a second post on this project detailing the approval process for the project. It marks the first time that Lake Isabella has used the conditional rezoning process with a project.

Posted by The official blog of Lake Isabella Village Manager Tim Wolff

Construction is expected to begin in 2011 with product deliveries scheduled for early 2012
Contact: Robby Johnson, Marketing Manager

Advanced discussions are underway to form a joint venture between German Pellets USA and Westervelt Renewable Energy, LLC, which would fund and operate a commercial-scale wood fuel pellet production facility in West Alabama. The pellets will be produced from Southern Yellow Pine material for export and domestic markets.

Construction is expected to begin in 2011 with product deliveries scheduled for early 2012. The companies estimate the plant will initially produce 250,000 metric tons of wood pellets per year, expandable to 500,000 metric tons per year.

"The availability of renewable Southern Yellow Pine in West Alabama, where our landholdings are significant, makes this an attractive location for our initial production facility. With our history of success in manufacturing, we are eager to enter this business and intend to become a dominant player in this market sector," said Alicia Cramer, Vice President of Business Development for The Westervelt Company.

"This opportunity affords us access to additional wood resources, expands our international supply chain, and supplements our existing sources of supply. The complementary skills and resources of the partners will make us a formidable competitor in international markets," said Peter H. Leibold, Chief Executive Officer of German Pellets GmbH.

Additional details will be released when the joint venture is finalized and the site selection process is complete.

(13 January 2011)
The ENplus certification system for wood pellets already implemented in Germany will be introduced across the whole of Europe in 2011. The relevant decision was made in mid December by the European Pellet Council (EPC) in Brussels, Belgium. The technical prerequisites for the introduction were met as part of the latest EPC meeting, including approval of a joint manual to uniformly regulate all measures associated with quality assurance. ENplus certification essentially represents watertight quality assurance along the whole chain from producer to end customer and at the same time covers trade and transport companies.

For Immediate Release: January 12, 2011
Media Contact: Carrie Annand at (202) 470-5367;


WASHINGTON, DC – President and CEO of the Biomass Power Association (BPA) Bob Cleaves today applauded the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision to delay carbon dioxide (CO2) regulation of biomass facilities for three years. During this time, the EPA will classify biomass as a "Best Available Control Technology" and will provide states with policy guidance on how to support this decision.

In a letter sent today to Congressional supporters of biomass, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson stated, “As you know, biomass can be part of a national strategy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, and efforts are underway to foster the expansion of renewable resources and promote biomass as ways of addressing climate change and enhancing forest management.”

The deferral by EPA will allow the agency more time to examine and monitor the science behind biomass power’s carbon neutrality. The Biomass Power Association is hopeful that the agency will conclude that biomass power – when done right – is a reliable, renewable energy source.

Bob Cleaves, President and CEO of the Biomass Power Association, issued the following statement:

“The members of the Biomass Power Association and I are strongly encouraged by the EPA’s decision to delay regulation on biomass for the next three years. The agency’s statement that certain biomass ‘such as waste materials whose inevitable decomposition will result in greenhouse gas emissions anyway’ confirms what we at BPA have known all along: the use of wood waste materials and agricultural residues for biomass energy have a beneficial carbon impact and should be embraced as a renewable energy source.

“EPA’s announcement today completely validates the important contribution our members make in fighting climate change through renewable energy generation, and we will look forward to working with EPA to create a predictable, science-based approach to this issue.”

Biomass power is a $1 billion industry with 80 facilities in 20 states and provides over 14,000 jobs nationwide. Power plants are predominately located in rural communities, creating thousands of jobs and producing millions in revenue for small towns. Biomass power is a clean and abundant source of electricity that will allow states to pursue even more aggressive goals for increasing their use of renewable energy in the future.

Contact Carrie Annand at (202) 470-5367 or

The Biomass Power Association is a member-driven organization with the goal of increasing the use of biomass power and creating new jobs and opportunities in the biomass industry. As policymakers at every level explore ways to lower greenhouse gases and reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, BPA is the leading advocate at the state and federal level for a strong commitment to clean, renewable biomass energy. Members include local owners and operators of existing biomass facilities, suppliers, plant developers and others all across the U.S. For more information please visit

The competition for wood raw-material in Europe has been intensifying the past few years as sawmills, wood-panel manufacturers, pulpmills and bio-energy facilities expanded capacity during 2006 and 2007 and therefore increased the usage of roundwood and wood residues. Lately, the pulp market has weakened resulting in lower demand and prices for pulpwood in all countries in Europe. However, the decline has been less pronounced in markets where the pellet industry has a strong presence.

The increased demand for biomass from the energy sector has not only had an impact on prices of residual chips from sawmills (wood chips, sawdust and shavings) but also of small-diameter logs, which have increasingly been utilized for energy generation. These developments have been particularly prominent in Germany and Sweden the past year. In Germany, prices for sawdust, wood chips and hardwood logs have converged during 2008 and 2009, and were in the first quarter practically the same (measured in dry tons), as reported in the Wood Resource Quarterly.

Viridis Energy Inc.
Alternative Energy

Third quarter (3Q10) results were up nearly 33% sequentially from last quarter (2Q10) but below our expectations. The Company attributes the lower than anticipated sales mainly due to lower volumes as only September had winter season sales and dealers avoided building up new inventory until demand was clearer. A positive surprise came in the improved gross margins which increased to a robust 36.0% compared to 21.9% in 2Q10. Based on the recent underperformance in volumes there are risks that the Company will not meet their projected growth in sales volume that accompanied their increase in scale. To factor in this risk, we are revising our price target downward to C$0.80 to account for lower estimates, higher capex in FY11 and equity dilution due to the Monte Lake acquisition and recent private placement. We reiterate our Buy rating on the stock.

VRD recently acquired a pellet materials producer and a pellet manufacturer as part of its strategy to vertically integrate. As a result, VRD now controls the entire product lifecycle of its wood pellets.
Customer base includes retail stores Ace Hardware, True Value, Timber Mart and Do-it-Best. The Company is looking to penetrate “big box” stores, including Lowes and Home Depot, as well as international markets, such as Asia and Europe.
VRD currently supplies more than 5% of B.C.’s wood pellet output to North American customers. B.C. is the largest producer of wood pellets in Canada.
VRD has entered into exclusive contracts with the British Columbian government to use the cheap, nearly endless supply of beetle-kill wood to make wood pellets.
The retail market for wood pellets is around $700 million, and the global market for wood pellets is projected to grow to $130.5 billion over the next 5 years.
Value Proposition
Recent acquisitions have bolstered VRD’s position in the rapidly growing wood pellet/biomass industry. Wood supply is cheap and virtually limitless due to beetle infestation in British Columbia forests, and competition remains low. Management projects revenue growth of almost 600% over the next four years to $40 million in FY13. RedChip Research Price target is $1.00. Overview
Viridis Energy Inc. (“VRD” or the “Company”) is a Vancouver, Canada-based green technology company operating in the biomass space. The Company, through its acquisition of Vancouver-based Cypress Pacific Marketing, a wood pellet distributor, in 2009 and British Columbia-based wood pellet manufacturers Westwood Fibre Products Inc. and Monte Lake Forest Products Inc. in 2010 has transformed into a full-fledged vertically integrated wood pellets company. The main use of wood pellets is as an alternative fuel for heating and providing biomass fuel to utility companies. The Company markets its wood pellets products under the Okanagan pellets, Clean Burn, Dragon Mountain and Surefire brands. VRD has 250 active customers comprising retail chains (Ace Hardware, DoItBest, TruValu) and distributors and focuses on the Northeast region of U.S. and East Canada and has aggressive growth plans to expand throughout the North American market. As of December 31, 2009, Cypress employed 9 full-time employees.

Posted: Thursday, January 20, 2011 10:58 am
Wallowa County Chieftain | 0 comments
The Environmental Protection Agency has promised the emerging biomass industry a three-year exemption from strict new Clean Air Act carbon emissions regulations. EPA administrator Lisa Jackson responded Jan. 12 to Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley’s request for the temporary exemption to begin by July 1 and a two-year scientific review to account for the environmental benefits of biomass fuel.
The EPA will use information from the scientific review to propose a new permanent policy regarding biomass facilities emissions and expects the final policy before the expiration of the three-year exemption, according to Jackson.
“Today’s decision marks a victory for rural Oregon, timber communities, and the future of the industry in our state,” Merkley noted. “increased production and use of home-grown, American biomass energy will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create jobs here in Oregon.”
The exemption for biomass comes at a time when the cost of heating oil has reached record levels. The average price of residential heating oil is at the highest January level in history at $3.34 per gallon.
At the same time, the cost of wood pellets has decreased and more than one million homes have converted to heat with wood pellets.
With the cost of wood pellets at $250 per ton, consumers are purchasing heat at the equivalent of $2.08 per gallon for fuel oil, according to a Business Wire report.
“Wood pellets are expected to be much more stable than oil prices in coming years, but equally important, wood pellets are a local, renewable fuel that helps this country be more energy independent and creates jobs here at home,” John Ackerly, president of the Alliance for Green Heat, said.


MILWAUKEE -- Gov. Scott Walker scrapped plans Thursday to convert a power plant to run on natural fuels such as wood chips and paper pellets, a move that could save up to $100 million but drew stern criticism from at least one environmental group.

The decision affects the Charter Street Heating Plant on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. Its coal-fired burners will be retired next year and were to be replaced with two boilers that run on natural gas and a third that would burn biomass, state officials said.
However, Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch said only the natural-gas burners will be installed.
"We have decided not to proceed with the biomass boiler in order to save the state taxpayers money," he said in a statement. The savings would come from avoiding construction costs of about $100 million, he said. It was not clear whether the third planned boiler would be replaced or the two natural gas boilers would produce enough power on their own.
Jeff Plale, an administrator for the state Division of State Facilities, said Walker and Huebsch realized there were cheaper ways to meet the university's heating needs while still being environmentally friendly.
"Natural gas is a clean source of energy, certainly cleaner than coal," Plale said. "That plant is going to be a whole lot cleaner than it is today. Couple that with being able to save $100 million during a very difficult budget and I think the people of Wisconsin come out better."
In 2008, then-Gov. Jim Doyle announced that the plant would switch from coal to biomass in part to settle a Sierra Club lawsuit claiming that the plant violated air-pollution laws. Thursday's move does not risk reopening the lawsuit because the plant still is moving away from coal.
The decision to walk away from biomass shows a lack of long-term thinking, Sierra Club spokeswoman Jennifer Feyerherm said. She called it another in a string of Walker's actions that kills jobs and wastes money while missing a chance to develop greener solutions.
"This was a way to keep money local, to keep the investment in Wisconsin," she said. "While up front it may seem to cost more, it would have kept the money local, created a green infrastructure and created local jobs."

She said the jobs would include growing and harvesting the biomass, converting it into a form that could burned and transporting it to the plant.
Walker had expressed his opposition to the biomass boiler back in November, spokesman Cullen Werwie said.
"Today the governor followed through on his intention to save taxpayers money by stopping this project," Werwie said in an e-mail.
State Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, said she was disappointed by the decision and called on Walker to reconsider.
"We should be promoting and not impeding steps to develop clean energy here in Wisconsin," she said in a statement. "There is no question that renewable energy can be a powerful economic engine for our state."
This isn't the first Doyle-era plan that Walker has reversed. He also dropped plans for high-speed rail between Madison and Milwaukee, turning his back on $810 million in federal funds after saying the state could get stuck paying for maintenance.
Plale said some work had already begun at the Charter Street plant, but most of it was related to the natural-gas boilers. He said the biomass boiler hadn't been ordered or paid for yet and no construction costs had been incurred.
"There was just some preliminary design work done," he said, adding that it was difficult to put a dollar figure on that effort.
Environmental groups had been pleased by the idea of a biomass boiler, even though the benefits weren't immediately certain. A consultants' report in 2009 warned that uncertainty over the availability and cost of biomass fuels made the $251 million plan somewhat risky.
The report said there was "a significant risk" that not enough biomass supply would be available, and if natural-gas costs came down enough the biomass fuel supplies might not be a better value.
Despite Thursday's decision, Feyerherm said the silver lining was that the upgraded plant will be better for the environment, even if biomass fuels aren't used.
"The fact that Charter Street is being rebuilt to not burn coal at all is still really good news for Dane County's air quality," she said.

As costs climb to $3 or more per gallon – and threaten to rise – Mainers bundle up and warm to alternatives
By Ann S. Kim
Staff Writer
Samantha Croteau has seen the price of home heating oil rise all season; still, she's feeling sticker shock.

click image to enlarge
With heating oil prices over $3 a gallon, homeowners cope by turning the heat down, buying fuel in smaller increments, and relying on extra blankets.
John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge
Oil dealers' trucks fill up at the Sprague Energy facility in South Portland last week. The statewide average price of No. 2 heating oil has been rising steadily and is currently more than $3 a gallon, a price that hadn't been seen here since 2008.
John Patriquin/Staff Photographer
Select images available for purchase in the
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The heating season in Maine opened with prices higher than last year's, and the statewide average price of No. 2 heating oil has been steadily creeping up since then. It topped $3 this month for the first time since 2008, and it's not clear whether consumers will be getting any relief before winter is over.
As a result of those climbing costs, she sets the thermostat lower, limits her heating oil purchases to 100-gallon deliveries and has made blankets the preferred winter accessory at her Cape Elizabeth home.
"Not only are the heating prices up, it's colder," said Croteau, a receptionist. "It's more all the way around, so it is painful. But it's not something you can go without."
A weaker dollar, manufacturing growth in China and cold weather in the Northeast and Europe are among the factors that have pushed up the prices of crude oil and heating oil. That's according to the Governor's Office of Energy Independence and Security, which surveys prices from early October through mid-March.
Demand tends to increase as winter goes on and the weather gets colder, but it's tough to predict the future of oil prices, said Jeff Marks, the office's deputy director.
"It's difficult to look into the crystal ball because of the various factors that might cause them to fluctuate," he said.
The statewide average price last week was $3.18 per gallon, an increase of 27 cents, or about 9 percent, from a year ago. The lowest actual price seen in the weekly survey -- $2.98 per gallon -- was in southwestern Maine. The highest actual price of $3.44 per gallon was in the northern region.
Still, prices remain below the levels seen in 2008, when they approached $5 a gallon during the summer. The spike had consumers weighing whether to commit to price-protection programs before winter or gamble on prices dropping. Others were scrambling to buy alternative heating systems, such as pellet and wood stoves, which ended up on back order for those who acted too late.
Oil prices then tumbled as the effects of the recession set in.
Steve Giroux, president of Giroux Oil Service Co., is seeing the effect of rising prices in his past-due accounts.
"They're paying slower because I don't think most homes budgeted for these types of oil and gas prices we're seeing now," said Giroux, whose company works in Cumberland County and part of York County.
Giroux said the percentage of customers locking in prices over the summer was down from the year before. He believes that at the time they were expecting more stability in prices.
State law requires dealers to secure enough heating oil to cover what customers have committed to through pre-buy programs, said Jamie Py, president of the Maine Energy Marketers Association, which changed its name from the Maine Oil Dealers Association to reflect that its members have branched into other areas.
Dealers can buy the right to purchase oil at a given price later or simply buy it any time at the going rate, he said.
Investor demand is a major factor in driving the price of oil, Py said. In the future, he said, the price may also depend on whether the government takes steps to more strictly regulate how much influence investors have over oil prices.
Government restrictions on oil and gas development domestically could also lead to higher prices in the summer, he said.
The $3-per-gallon mark seems to be a threshold for consumer awareness, said Michael Stoddard, executive director of Efficiency Maine, a quasi-public agency set up by state officials to oversee energy efficiency and conservation programs.
"When that happens, there's something psychological that happens to people," he said, "And they say, 'Is there an alternative?'"
Stoddard doesn't have data about the recent past, but said that more homeowners and small business owners are looking for cheaper ways to heat with every week that the price of heating fuel goes up.
Consumers who made energy upgrades through Efficiency Maine saw average savings of 36 percent -- or more than $1,000 a year with current prices, he said.
The increase in oil prices hasn't led to a sudden run on alternative heating fuels such as wood pellets and bioproducts, according to Bob Maurais, who along with his brother Ed owns Southern Maine Renewable Fuels in Wells and Windham. Demand going into this heating season was fairly static -- unlike 2008, when demand outstripped supply, he said.
The majority of his customers bought much of their supply of pellets and bioproducts in early fall, he said. These days, purchases tend to be smaller ones to get through the season, he said.
Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

January 24, 2011 10:23 AM Eastern Time
CONCORD, N.H.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission recently announced improvements to the state’s biomass boiler rebate program, increasing the scope of heating systems eligible for a 30% tax rebate under the program.
“Green heat is an investment, and the boilers eligible under this program are probably cleaner and more efficient than 99% of all wood stoves and boilers in the US today. This program helps to defray up front costs, which otherwise can be a barrier for any renewable energy system.”
The Residential Bulk-Fed Wood-Pellet Central Boiler and Furnace Rebate Program offers a 30% tax credit (up to $6,000) to homeowners who install high efficiency, bulk-fed biomass central heating systems. The systems must be installed and operational between April 14, 2010 and February 18, 2012, to be eligible for the rebate.
Last week, Barbara Bernstein of the PUC’s Sustainable Energy Division announced the revisions to the qualifying standards that will allow a greater breadth of heating systems to qualify for the program. The first modification resets the efficiency standard from 85% to 80%, which will include a greater number of biomass boilers and furnaces, while still outperforming the average oil boiler efficiency of 78%. The second modification allows systems that require routine cleaning and maintenance to qualify for the program, in addition to systems with auto-cleaning capabilities.
Scott Nichols, president of Lyme-based Tarm Biomass, a family-owned business with more than 30 years’ experience installing and selling heating systems, says that these improvements will make a great many more systems available to customers. Nichols says that the technology for bulk-fed biomass heating systems has come a long way: in Europe, these kinds of systems have been in place for decades, but here in the States, we’re catching up. “Our dealers are installing biomass boilers that are just as easy to maintain as your average old-school oil boilers – only these biomass systems are more efficient and better for the planet.” But the best thing, Nichols maintains, is that the biomass systems can be sustained by local resources, which sustain our local economy., based in Goffstown, is the fuel provider for wood pellet customers throughout New England. President Jon Strimling says the great thing about heating with wood pellets is that they are domestically produced. “We’re lucky to live in a heavily forested state in a green region. We have access to a mountain of sustainably harvested, clean biomass waste. What better way to use this resource than to produce affordable, carbon-neutral heat?”
The improvements to New Hampshire’s boiler rebate program will enable more people to afford a modern biomass boiler, and reduce their reliance on imported fossil fuels, says John Ackerly, president of the non-profit group Alliance for Green Heat. “Green heat is an investment, and the boilers eligible under this program are probably cleaner and more efficient than 99% of all wood stoves and boilers in the US today. This program helps to defray up front costs, which otherwise can be a barrier for any renewable energy system.” Strimling says that a typical New England homeowner can see a payback on their investment in as little as 2-3 years. “After that, it’s just pure savings.”
By Dan Wallach
Published: 05:50 p.m., Monday, January 24, 2011

The Port of Beaumont signed up anew business and is bringing in pelletized wood waste for export to Europe. It's a kind of wood pellet made from saw mill residual and sawdust that is intended to help take the place of coal at European power plants. The pellets are from a plant in Crockett Texas. Dave Ryan/The Enterprise Photo: Dave Ryan / Beaumont
The new "green" in electrical energy is actually dark brown.
It now comes in the form of inch-long wood pellets intended as fuel to replace coal in the boilers of some power plants in European countries and will be shipped from the Port of Beaumont, which signed a lease Monday with the manufacturer, Zilkha Biomass Energy.
The lease is for warehouse space at the port, which will store the product until there is enough to load aboard ship.
Zilkha, based in Houston, operates a mill in Crockett that uses wood waste from saw mills, including saw dust, and turns it into pellets, said Glenn Dillon, Zilkha's chief financial officer.

Read more:

Project Overview:
In Spring 2009, UNBC installed Canada’s first university owned wood pellet heating system. The project showcases the use of bio-energy as a sustainable, carbon-neutral energy source. UNBC’s wood pellet system has an energy efficiency of over 85%, compared to 75% for the previous natural gas system and has resulted in a savings of 140 tonnes CO2e/year. Beyond its operational function, the facility is already a valuable demonstration site for teaching and interdisciplinary research. Through various course projects and summer research projects, students and faculty are studying the energy and mass balance of the pellet plant, including the generation of ash residuals and emissions production. On-going research opportunities include testing developed-at-UNBC equipment for assessing the composition of airborne emissions and investigating the utilization of ash materials as soil amendments to return biomass nutrients to surrounding agricultural and forest soils.
The province of British Columbia has passed legislation (Bill 44) requiring that all public sector operations must be carbon neutral starting in 2010. This affects approximately 150 Universities, Colleges, Health Authorities and School Districts in BC. All public sector institutions must pay a carbon tax of $25 per tonne on all CO2e emissions starting on January 2010. Traditionally, the region has dependent on the forest industry and the production of lumber, pulp, and plywood. In fact, there is no region of Canada more dependent on forestry and Prince George is the most populous forest-dependent city in the country. For the past three decades, the forest industry has gradually been reducing its workforce and this has had negative effects on the viability of many communities. In addition, the forest industry in BC has been severely affected by a pine beetle epidemic in recent years and the economic downturn globally. UNBC is expected to play a significant role in the economic diversification of the region and much recent attention has been focused on bioenergy as an emerging opportunity for employment and increasing forest value.
Project Goals:
The project goals were to examine the commercial viability and environmental benefits of utilizing biomass for energy production at the University of Northern British Columbia’s Prince George campus. The pilot project assessed GHG emissions, other air emissions (quality and quantity), ash output (quality and quantity), operational requirements, costs and operational efficiency in comparison with the existing natural gas heating system. The Prince George airshed is highly sensitive and particularly at risk to elevated levels of particulate matter. As a result one of the main goals of the UNBC wood pellet heating project was to monitor and mitigate the stack emissions produced by the system. In addition to the operational goals, the project also aimed to provide a demonstration site for public education as well as a “living laboratory” setting for UNBC undergraduate and graduate students, researchers and faculty. Project goals related to teaching and research were closely aligned with the University’s broader sustainability objectives and targets.
Project Implementation:
The biomass heating system was installed in a container and is located external to the building. The main components of the system are a 1.4 MBTU Pellet Boiler, 2500 Litre Heat Storage Tank, Pumps, Piping, Fuel Storage Silo and Two Heat Exchangers. The existing building had two hot water heating systems fuelled with natural gas. Two heat exchangers were installed in a series with the natural gas boilers to protect the integrity of the existing systems. The goal of this design was to provide for the seamless integration of the wood biomass system into the existing system. If the wood biomass were to shut down the natural gas system would fire up to provide heat automatically or vice versa. The equipment was designed and built by Mawera Canada. At the time of installation, officials with the Wood Pellet Association of Canada aimed to install a system that would have the lowest emissions of any wood pellet installation in Canada. To ensure that emissions quality goals were met, a high temperature filter system was installed to significantly reduce the particulate levels of the system. The UNBC Capital Project Manager worked closely with the equipment manufacturer on a number of upgrades and custom equipment retrofits to improve the efficiency and emissions quality.
Upfront Costs The total cost of the project was $485,532 (including project coordination, design, fuel supply, signage and installation or the biomass heating equipment) and these costs were covered by the Western Economic Development Program. Reoccurring Costs The cost of the pellet fuel was $135 per ton during the pilot period totaling to $20,250 (plus tax). In addition to the pellet fuel consumed an additional 1425.8 GJ of natural gas at a value of $13,280 (plus tax) was consumed during scheduled maintenance or during extreme low temperatures. The total cost of operating the system during the rest period was $33,531.
Project Results (or Results to Date):
Operational As previously stated, one of the project goals was to monitor and mitigate the stack emissions produced by the system. In March 2010, a third party emission test revealed that the UNBC wood pellet heating system operated in the range of 6-10 mg per standard cubic metre. These results are equivalent to emissions associated with natural gas. A characterization of the UNBC pellet boiler ash was also conducted in order to determine its suitability as soil amendment and plant nutrient source. Preliminary results of this study revealed that the application of ash increased plant growth and nutrient levels. Reducing the University’s carbon footprint Overall it was found that the energy used to produce a one year supply of wood pellets was less than the energy required to produce a one year supply of natural gas. The pellet heating system has an energy efficiency of over 85%, compared to 75% for the existing natural gas system and has resulted in a savings of 140 tonnes CO2e/year. Ash production represents 0.25% of pellets consumed. Beyond the system’s operational function, the facility has provided a valuable demonstration site for teaching and interdisciplinary research (see below). In addition, the experience with a relatively small wood pellet system provided the opportunity for UNBC to expand its involvement with bioenergy as a means to reducing the carbon footprint of the campus. Presently, the University is constructing a biomass gasification system that will build on the successes of the wood pellet system to reduce UNBC’s greenhouse gas emissions by a further 80%. Upon completion, UNBC is expected to have the smallest carbon footprint of any university core campus in Canada. This would not have been possible without the installation of the wood pellet system and the experiences gained in operating it. Teaching and Research There have been multiple interdisciplinary research projects that have focused on monitoring the Pellet Project since it became operational in May 2009. The wide range of topics have included: energy balance, material balance, greenhouse gas emissions, air quality emissions, pellet combustion process, beneficial use of ash residual as a soil amendment, and terahertz technology on the combustion stack gases. Beyond teaching and research in the traditional sense, the UNBC wood pellet heating project has also resulted in exceptional opportunities for public education. More than 500 people have toured the facility including elementary/secondary school groups, university classes, businesses and all levels of government (municipal, provincial and federal). Local Economic Diversification UNBC’s experience with bioenergy – concurrent with government policy changes and financial incentives – has led to the establishment of the Northern Bioenergy Partnership as an agency to attract government/private investment and bioenergy-related R&D to the region. In addition, public education achieved through the UNBC project has provided the conditions necessary for the municipality to implement a bioenergy program as a means to reducing it GHG emissions and enhance economic development.
Lessons Learned:
The pellet system would be a particularly attractive alternative heating system in communities that face either high natural gas delivery charges or are dependent other sources of fossil fuel. The project has also illustrated the degree to which universities can serve as important demonstration sites for renewable energy systems. Beyond formal research and education, the system has frequently been profiled in the media and helped attract conferences/workshops focused on renewable energy, natural resource management, economic development/diversification, and community sustainability to the campus. As mentioned above, 500 people have toured the pellet facility, more than double what had been predicted. This has had the effect of increasing public awareness/acceptance of bioenergy.

Crude oil prices are projected to steadily increase over the next two years and will average $99 per barrel in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to DOE's Energy Information Administration (EIA). The EIA's "Short-Term Energy Outlook," released on January 11, projects a continued tightening of world oil markets over the next two years, with consumption growing by an annual average of 1.5 million barrels per day. At the same time growth in supply from countries that are not members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will average less than 0.1 million barrels per day each year. The EIA expects oil markets to rely on OPEC production increases and to draw down inventories to fill the demand gap. As a result, crude oil is expected to average $93 per barrel in 2011 and $98 per barrel in 2012, although these figures depend heavily on the rate of economic growth and on the magnitude of OPEC production increases. Crude oil spot prices averaged more than $89 per barrel in December 2010, about $5 per barrel higher than the November average.
In the United States, the primary impact of increasing crude oil prices will be on the price of motor fuels. The EIA expects retail prices for regular-grade gasoline to rise from an average of $2.78 per gallon in 2010 to $3.17 per gallon in 2011 and $3.29 per gallon in 2012. Likewise, retail prices for on-highway diesel fuel will rise from $2.99 per gallon in 2010 to $3.40 per gallon in 2011 and $3.52 per gallon in 2012. But because of increased demand, summer prices tend to rise above the average, so the EIA is anticipating that this year's peak monthly average price for gasoline will be reached in July, when it is projected to crest at $3.27 per gallon. However, the EIA estimates a 7% chance that the retail price of gasoline will exceed $4 per gallon in July. And although an increased consumption of motor fuels will increase carbon dioxide emissions, projected declines in fossil-fuel consumption for generating electricity are expected to cause energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to decline by 0.6% in 2011. In 2012, projected economic growth will cause a 2.4% increase in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. See the EIA's "Short-Term Energy Outlook."
The International Energy Agency (IEA) confirms in its latest Oil Market Report that oil markets are indeed following the trends noted by the EIA, namely, that higher oil demand is being met with a drawdown of inventories and greater production from OPEC countries. The IEA notes that OPEC oil production increased by 250,000 barrels per day in December 2010, reaching 29.58 million barrels per day, while inventories in developed countries (those belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD) dropped by 8.3 million barrels in November 2010, reaching 2,742 million barrels. See the highlights from the report on the IEA's Oil Market Report Web site.
A preliminary analysis suggests that natural gas could contribute far more to global warming than previously thought.
Kevin Bullis 04/16/2010
This week the U.S. Congress heard testimony supporting a bill that would push to replace diesel with natural gas in heavy vehicles. It's an attempt to cut oil imports, and at the same time reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Part of the argument is that natural gas is substantially cleaner than diesel, and results in the emission of about 25 percent less greenhouse gas.
But experts are warning that natural gas might not be as clean as it seems.
In fact, using natural gas rather than diesel in vehicles could actually increase climate change, says Robert Howarth, professor of ecology and environmental biology at Cornell University. "You're aggravating global warming more if you switch," he says.
Howarth is basing his conclusion on a preliminary analysis that includes not only the amount of carbon dioxide that comes out of a tailpipe when you burn diesel and natural gas, but also the impact of natural gas leaks. Methane, the main component of natural gas, is much more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, so even small amounts of it contribute significantly to global warming. When you factor this in, natural gas could be significantly worse than diesel, he says. Using natural gas would emit the equivalent of 33 grams of carbon dioxide per megajoule. Using petroleum fuels would emit the equivalent of just 20 grams of carbon dioxide per megajoule.
Howarth goes further, suggesting that natural gas could even rival greenhouse gas emissions from mining and burning coal--the dirtiest of fossil fuels. He says it's "not significantly better than coal in terms of the consequences of global warming" and is calling for a moratorium on extracting natural gas from shale, which requires more energy (and so emits more greenhouse gases) than extracting it from conventional natural gas sources.
Howarth's analysis, however, is just a preliminary one. He's already found one major error in his original calculations. "I blew it," he says, by not including the impact of methane leaks from coal mining. (Here's a link to his original, which contains the error; and here's the updated version). But he still says the gap between coal and natural gas is far smaller than generally thought. And his numbers are significantly different than those researchers at MIT came up with a year ago. (On a CO2 equivalent grams per megajoule basis, they scored diesel at 10.7 and gasoline at 14.4, with natural gas splitting the difference at 12.5). The two studies make different assumptions about the strength of methane as a greenhouse gas, and the amount of methane leakage, for example. A complete analysis should also look at the different efficiencies of natural gas and gasoline or diesel vehicles. The MIT study concludes that there is a benefit from switching to natural gas, all told, but it might not be worth the cost or the hassle. Making more efficient gasoline and diesel vehicles might work better, and be a faster way to reduce greenhouse emissions, it suggests.
But for all the shortcomings of Howarth's analysis, it points to a real need. Before Congress passes any bill promoting natural gas, a thorough study of the potential impact needs to be taken into account, including the energy it takes to obtain it, and the impact of methane leaks.
Otherwise the U.S. might end up subsidizing something that does little to reduce carbon dioxide emissions--as happened with corn ethanol.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission has made changes to its wood-pellet heating rebate program so that more wood-pellet boilers and furnaces now qualify for the rebates.
The PUC made two changes to the rebate program, which applies to wood-pellet central heating systems: the overall energy efficiency rating requirement of the systems has been lowered from 85 percent to 80 percent, and systems that require routine cleaning for each ton of premium pellets used also now qualify.
"The changes are designed to increase the number of options for consumers by allowing more systems to qualify," said Jack Ruderman, Sustainable Energy Division director at the PUC. "The goal of the program -- to help spark the growth of the wood-pellet central boiler/furnace market and bulk-fuel delivery of wood pellets -- remains unchanged."
The wood pellet rebate program was established in April 2010 and is funded through $450,000 in federal stimulus funds made available by the New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning. The rebate covers 30 percent of system cost and installation, up to a maximum of $6,000.
Wood-pellet central heating systems, which are widely used in Europe and boast up to a 90 percent efficiency rating, are an alternative to oil heating systems, which are only about 65 percent efficient.
For more information and for an application, visit -- KATHLEEN CALLAHAN/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

Sunday, January 2, 2011

G Brown Newsletter December 2010

December 2010
Gerald W brown * 7202 County Road U * Danbury, WI 54830 Phone 715-866-8535
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By David Robinson
Staff Writer, Morning Sentinel
Posted: December 5
Updated: Today at 8:47 PM

PHILLIPS — Despite emerging concerns about changes to federal regulations, advocates of a small Franklin County school district remain confident its wood-chip boilers are an example for alternative energy solutions in Maine.
Green heat by the numbers:
• Phillips-based School Administrative District 58 has received about $1.5 million in grants for biomass boiler projects, according to Quenten Clark, district superintendent.
• The United States Department of Agriculture awarded almost $1.1 million last year for boilers at Kingfield and Strong elementary schools, with the school taxpayers spending about $100,000 on the project.
• Another over $400,000 grant, administered by the state, was awarded for a boiler at Phillips Elementary School, Clark said. The school taxpayers contributed $41,000 for the project.
Phillips-based School Administrative District 58 has installed biomass boilers in recent years at its high school in Salem Township and at elementary schools in Kingfield and Strong.
Another boiler is scheduled to be delivered this month to its elementary school in Phillips.
State officials and federal agencies have supported the effort, touting the district as a leader in a push for energy alternatives that tap renewable sources while promoting industries within the state, such as logging and wood-pellet mills.
For the school district’s budget, the switch from oil to wood pellets has meant heating costs are being cut in half, according to Quenten Clark, district superintendent.
The district has replaced more than 110,000 gallons of oil annually, passing through a sometimes unstable supply chain, with more than 600 tons of wood pellets from Geneva Wood Fuels in Strong, according to Clark.
“The stability of pellets is attractive; I could haul those pellets over there in a wheel barrow,” he said.
According to Clark, pricing swings are also less likely in the wood-pellet market, and the money stays in the local economy.
The wood-pellet mill in Strong will pay $60,000 in school taxes this year, where money spent on heating oil left the area, he said.
He expects savings from lower heating costs will soon pay off the boiler installations. Instead of $2 a gallon for oil, the district is paying $170 a ton for pellets.
The district’s first wood-chip boiler was installed about two years ago at Mt. Abram High School, according to Clark. School taxpayers paid for all of the roughly $250,000 cost, and the district maintenance crews installed the boiler.
“It was a home-grown project,” he said.
This home-grown experiment paved the way for grants that helped the district install boilers at its three elementary schools, according to Clark.
The Strong and Kingfield projects were the first of their kind in the nation to get funding through the federal High Energy Cost Grant program, which began in 2003, according to Virginia Manuel, state director of the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development.
During his last state of the state address, Gov. John Baldacci praised Clark for the boiler projects. Instead of relying on oil from 8,000 miles away, he is heating a school with pellets just eight miles away, Baldacci said in March.
But the Federal Environmental Protection Agency has since begun looking at tightening regulations on emissions for boilers, according to Clark, creating doubts for some people who were looking at making the change from oil to pellets.
This has placed a greater emphasis on studying existing projects, according to Manuel, which puts Philips-based SAD 58 in a position to influence the conversation.
The district was recently awarded a nearly $100,000 federal grant for testing and monitoring of the boilers. This grant is meant to gather emission readings to provide a better understanding of the pollution issue, according to Manuel.
Both Manuel and Clark said these tests can bring real-world applications and data into current debate in Congress on air pollution standards. The EPA had presented a broad regulation in the summer, and more specific rules on emissions are expected after the issue is reviewed, according to Clark.
Lee Academy in eastern Maine recently rejected a $300,000 stimulus grant, which would have been part of a $745,000 project, because it feared tighter regulations would drive up the project cost, according to the Associated Press.
Although the impact of potential changes to federal regulations is still unclear, Clark and Manuel both said public officials need to continue to look at the upside of biomass heating alternatives.
“My feeling is that Maine has positioned itself as a renewable energy state,” said Manuel, referring to its wood-based industries and natural resources. “We’re a perfect state for this kind of project.”

UMaine project draws criticism
By Tux Turkel
Staff Writer

click image to enlarge
Grass pellets, also being studied in Europe and Canada, have the potential to establish a new bioenergy industry in Maine, create a valuable crop for Maine farmers and reduce energy costs for state residents.
University of Maine
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Fallow farmland could heat schools and other buildings in Maine, if a demonstration plant in Aroostook County that is designed to turn grass into pellet fuel is economically successful.
A joint venture led by the University of Maine has won a $1.6 million grant from the Maine Technology Institute to help build a perennial-grass pellet mill in Easton, near Presque Isle. It initially will supply pellets for industrial boilers at the University of Maine at Presque Isle and other schools. The long-range hope is to scale up the technology and build 25 pellet mills statewide, giving farmers a new crop, displacing 100 million gallons of heating oil each year and creating an overall economic impact estimated at $500 million.
Grass pellets are common in Europe. Interest is growing in the United States, where businesses and agricultural universities see opportunities in an energy crop that doesn't compete with food production.
But competition is emerging as an issue for Maine's wood pellet industry, which has been hit hard by the recession and lower oil prices.
Questions are being raised by Matthew Bell, owner of Northeast Pellets LLC in Ashland. Bell invested $3.5 million to rebuild his wood-pellet factory after a fire last year. He was upset to learn recently that a state-backed pellet fuel facility was being proposed in his market area, and that university staff are involved with the project.
"My potential customers also could burn these grass pellets," Bell said.
In response, the university says grass pellets have too high an ash content for most commercial boilers or home stoves. It also says the aim isn't to compete with wood pellets, but to keep more Maine cropland in production. The university's Cooperative Extension, a partner in the venture, estimates grass pellets could create a high-value crop on 400,000 acres of underused farmland.
Northern Maine has thousands of acres of abandoned potato fields. Finding new uses for them was the initial incentive to explore grass pellets, according to Michael Bilodeau, director of UMaine's Process Development Center. That led UMaine to apply for a Maine Technology Asset Fund matching grant, to help fund both the Easton mill and testing equipment on the Orono campus.
Several area potato farmers have signed on to grow Reed Canarygrass, a tall perennial with an extensive root system. The mill would need more than 30,000 tons a year, a large quantity. Farmers also may qualify for a federal program that offers financial incentives for growing a fuel crop.
The demonstration project is set to last three years. The mill would be operated by Aroostook Starch Co. of Fort Fairfield. Private investors, including Bilodeau, have formed a limited liability corporation called PelletShield Engineered Products and have pledged to kick in $7.7 million.
That arrangement concerns Bell. He considers it a conflict of interest for university employees to profit from a private enterprise, and he complained to the Maine Technology Institute for issuing the $1.6 million grant.
But Bilodeau said the company was formed before it received the grant, and he said similar business partnerships with the university aren't unusual. Bell also received a letter last month from Betsy Biemann, MTI's director, who told him that any money from the asset fund must be repaid, if the equipment leads to a new, commercial product.
"I would encourage you to connect directly with the project directors for the MTAF award and its many local collaborators to see how your company might benefit from this important project," she wrote.
Bell is not satisfied by Biemann's letter and was drafting a reply last week. He said he may ask Maine's next attorney general to review the matter.
The way the deal was put together also has disturbed Richard James, the owner of Lucerne Farms in Fort Fairfield. The largest hay grower in New England, James said he provided some of his grass to a county extension official, but didn't realize the scope of what was being proposed.
"I knew they were doing some research, but the next thing I knew, they were putting up a pellet mill a mile from us," he said.
James said he supports the idea of a new crop to help the county's potato farmers. He's not worried about direct competition -- grass for pellets is worth less than the high-quality hay he grows for horse feed. But James said he wonders if it makes sense to produce an alternative pellet fuel in a region that's so heavily forested.
"I can't believe we're going to be making pellets from hay, instead of wood," he said.
That question also is being pondered by the Maine Pellet Fuels Association, which represents the state's wood pellet mills and allied businesses. The industry is sensitive about facing more competition. Pellet mills already are operating at reduced capacity, as demand remains slow following the economic downturn.
Despite that, the association purposely omits the word "wood" from its name, according to Bill Bell, the executive director, because it recognizes that pellets can be made from other biomass sources. But Bell, who isn't related to Matt Bell at Northeast Pellets, also said his board members have reviewed the state-of-the-art in grass fuels and don't see it as a viable alternative to wood.
"We're open to innovation," Bell said. "We just share some skepticism about whether taxpayer money is being spent wisely here."

Wood-burning stoves may not be as eco-friendly as they appear
In the summer your home's daily rate of carbon dioxide emissions skips along at an average of 7.9kg. In the winter it weighs in at 16.32kg per day. Keeping the home fires burning is a costly business.
Owners of wood-burning stoves often have that extra rosy glow because they assume they're carbon neutral. Burning biomass (domestically this usually means wood pellets in a high-efficiency stove) is considered green because while plants grow they absorb carbon emissions. Therefore when you burn plant matter the amount emitted is equal to that absorbed.
It was all quite cosy until analysts, such as Nick Grant and Alan Clarke of the Sustainable Building Association (, had a root around the issue of burning trees for heat. Their report, Biomass: A Burning Issue, pours cold water on the sustainable flames. They argue that trees are too valuable to burn, as trees absorb emissions even into old age, and that when they are given the chop they should be turned into furniture that locks in the carbon rather than burned (the combustion process was found to be similar to burning coal). Disappointingly (and both authors are themselves wood-stove owners) they conclude even standard gas boilers burning fossil fuels are lower emitters of carbon dioxide than biomass boilers.
If you're deriving cold comfort from your stove, you can ameliorate the problem by buying the most sustainable waste-wood pellets you can find from as local a source as possible. Meanwhile the way to chip away at that 16.32kg total is to make sure your house is super insulated. Heat is precious. Hold it tight.
Email Lucy at or visit for all her articles in one place

Christa Graban
• Updated:12/7/2010 4:17:14 AM - Posted: 12/7/2010 4:16:02 AM
HOLLAND , Mich. (WZZM)-Investigators are trying to determine the cause of a fire that damaged a Holland business.
A worker spotted the flames around 1:15 a.m. Tuesday at Michigan Wood Pellet Fuel LLC, located at 1125 Industrial Avenue.
Employees safely evacuated the facility before firefighters arrived. Crews from five stations in Holland, Holland Township and Park Township responded to the fire. Firefighters were still on the scene two and a half hours later.
Michigan Wood Pellet Fuel LLC makes wood pellets which coincidentally, are used to feed fires.


By: Thomas Content -- JS Online

As a new administration prepares to take office in Madison, with a different attitude toward renewable energy than the Doyle administration, We Energies is pressing forward with plans to build a wood-burning power plant in north-central Wisconsin.

The state Public Service Commission will hold a hearing on the project this week, with a decision expected early in 2011.

Concerns about greenhouse gas emissions, the cost of the project and even competition for biomass are all being reviewed as the proposal makes its way through the state approval process.

We Energies is optimistic, as it has won all the local approvals it needs from officials for the Village of Rothschild and the City of Wausau, utility spokesman Brian Manthey said.

"We believe we've answered every question that has come up, and we are pleased that we've gotten unanimous support from the municipal boards for the project," he said. "We'll continue to supply the information needed to move the project forward at the state level."

The $255 million project at the Domtar Corp. paper mill in Rothschild, south of Wausau, would generate 50 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 40,000 typical homes. It also would provide steam for the Domtar mill.

But the project remains controversial, with critics raising questions about its effect on the environment.

• The local school district has raised concerns about a projected increase in particulate matter emissions, which can cause respiratory problems. The plant wouldn't comply with new rules the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is about to adopt.

We Energies says forecasts that emissions would increase are based on an unrealistic projection that the plant would operate 365 days a year. Based on its projected operation, particulate emissions would remain the same or fall when measured at schools near the plant, Manthey said.
• The plant would generate more greenhouse gas emissions at a time when the state is promoting renewable energy to reduce those emissions, said Dennis Grzezinski, an attorney for Save Our Air Resources, a group of local residents who object to the proposal.

"If you cut down a forest and make it into furniture and buildings, that wood is going to continue holding the carbon for 50 or 100 years longer, depending on how well those items and buildings are maintained. If instead you take that wood and burn it today, that's a whole different picture of what's going on in the atmosphere," Grzezinski said. "That's just a huge addition of greenhouse gases in real time."

We Energies considers the project "carbon neutral" because the burning of wood is merely accelerating the eventual release of carbon caused by wood decaying in forests.

Domtar, which would handle the biomass harvesting for the project, has committed to deploying sustainable forestry practices to keep the forest healthy and collect carbon from the air as new trees grow.

In a ruling on global warming emissions this month, the Obama administration delayed until next year a decision on whether biomass power plants will qualify as carbon neutral.

Because the EPA is regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, the state Department of Natural Resources will review the project under emergency rules that are expected to be adopted soon, according to Andrew Stewart, a DNR permitting manager.

Mark Thimke, an environmental lawyer with Foley & Lardner in Milwaukee, said he expects the EPA will allow certain types of biomass power plants to be qualified as carbon neutral, but it's too soon to say what the agency will do.

"Where EPA draws the line is likely to be the big question, especially with the new Congress increasing oversight of the agency's decisions," he said in an e-mail.

Costly alternative

The $255 million cost of the Domtar project is also raising concerns.

An analysis by auditors at the PSC found that building a wind farm would be less expensive for customers than building this project. The commission suggested that We Energies explore the possibility of burning wood in conjunction with coal at some of its existing coal-fired power plants, such as its older coal plant in Oak Creek.

An estimate by the customer group Citizens' Utility Board found the plant would be twice as expensive as a similar-sized wind farm, executive director Charlie Higley said.

While the cost may be higher, We Energies said the utility wants to diversify its renewable energy sources beyond wind. And unlike wind and solar projects, biomass power plants have the added benefit of being able to run round the clock.

In addition, Allan Mihm, We Energies director of generation projects, said the project is more efficient because it's supplying electricity and steam. It would cost the utility $20 million more to build a power plant separate from the paper mill, he said.

CUB is concerned that the electricity the Rothschild plant sells into the Midwest wholesale power market will be costly and saddle customers with higher costs.

That is an issue now before state regulators with the proposed Charter St. biomass project in Madison.

Madison Gas & Electric Co. is forecasting it will need to run its natural gas-fired power plant in Madison more frequently, increasing costs by $3 million for utility customers. CUB is seeking to have the University of Wisconsin-Madison or utility shareholders shoulder those higher costs instead of ratepayers.

The Charter St. plant is being converted to burn natural gas and biomass at a cost of $250million. The proposal is designed to settle air-pollution lawsuits filed by environmental groups that challenged the emissions from the Madison coal plant.

But Governor-elect Scott Walker recently announced his opposition to the proposal. He has requested that the Doyle administration halt work on the biomass portion of the Charter St. project.

Renewable mandate

The We Energies project is being built at a time when the state has an ample power supply, but We Energies needs to add renewable power to comply with Wisconsin's 10% renewable power mandate.

That law requires that 10% of the state's power come from renewable sources by 2015. We Energies must boost its renewable power contribution to 8.26% of sales by that year.

Construction would start next year and last for about 30 months. The project is expected to create about 400 temporary construction jobs in addition to jobs at the power plant and in the logging and forestry sectors.

Meanwhile, a northern Wisconsin paper mill has come out against the proposal, citing concerns about whether there is enough wood to supply the plant and whether the project would boost paper prices.

"If this project is implemented as currently proposed, it will adversely impact our current biomass fuel procurement and our pulpwood procurement, including increasing the cost of woody biomass," said Bruce Ridley, manager of Packaging Corp. of America's Tomahawk mill, which employs 426 people.

Domtar responded in a PSC filing that its studies show there are plenty of tree tops and branches left over from logging to supply the new facility, and that it will not require big shifts for the logging industry to adapt to meet demand for the biomass plant.

Oil heating causes 40 times more higher carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than wood pellets systems, according to a new study.

Pressure group proPellets Austria announced today (Fri) research by Bioenergy 2020+ and ARGE Renewable Energy Vienna / Lower Austria shows families heating their homes with oil could reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 97.6 per cent if they switch to wood pellet heating.

Another survey presented earlier this year suggested heating a 20-year-old family house with oil cost an average 1,820 Euros a year, while using chopped wood causes costs of just 810 Euros at the same time.

Sweden is the largest per capita wood pellet producer in the world ahead of Austria, while the United States of America top the overall production rate with 4.2 million tons annually.

Meanwhile, figures presented by the Austrian Energy Agency show that the country’s households had to fork out 7.7 per cent more on average to pay their energy bills in October compared to the same month last year.

The authority stressed the price of heating oil prices jumped by a whopping 22.4 per cent year on year last month, while electricity became just 1.1 per cent more expensive.


By Gina Knudson, 12-10-10

I’m as guilty as the next person. I stereotype rural folks even though I’ve lived the majority of my life in podunk Idaho communities so small that we anchor directions from the one or two stoplights in town. So when I prepare myself for a day of discussing climate change and clean energy policy at the Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition’s policy gathering, I find that I’m not prepared at all for the deep, thoughtful discussions rural Westerners are having about the subjects.
I come to the annual conference hardened by hearing the same snide comments at home about sending our November heating bills to Al Gore if he thinks the Earth is so warm. Over and over again. So listening to a group of ranchers, forest products people, conservative elected county officials, and others at the RVCC conference talk about shifting strategies from failed climate change legislation to creating clean energy language freaks me out, just a little. Like anyplace else, we have social mores in the rural West. For the most part, for instance, you don’t have to worry about walking into an Elks’ Club and hearing opera, or going to a City Council meeting and hearing anything rational. We know our comfort zone.
JP Leous, from The Wilderness Society’s DC office, is not in our comfort zone. At all. Yet he’s part of a panel that kicks off a discussion about how this quirky coalition can affect national policy. Leous dives headfirst into the subject of climate change policy, apparently unaware that hicks like myself lurk in the audience. The reality of the November election is that comprehensive climate change legislation is dead, he concedes. Environmental groups like The Wilderness Society, who at one time focused mainly on climate mitigation (putting a halt to emissions, for example), now find themselves addressing adaptation measures (counterbalancing climate change effects by things like planting trees).
“Major conservation organizations are coming to grips with adaptation,” Leous said. “That’s because 1) cap and trade legislation is on ice, and 2) we have come to realize that we could turn off the CO2 tap tomorrow and there’s enough of it out there already that we’ll be dealing with it for at least another generation.”
Leous predicts that it won’t be long before Americans, both rural and urban, come to the realization that “China is eating our lunch when it comes to creating a clean energy economy – an economy that creates jobs that can’t be shipped overseas.”
Wynne Auld needs little convincing. The young woman moved to Wallowa County, Ore., a few years ago because she thought the remote and beautiful eastern Oregon community seemed cool. And because as an environmental economist, she found a job in Wallowa County’s rapidly emerging renewable energy industry. The company that employs Auld, Renewable Energy Solutions, is just one of a handful of companies in the renewable energy sector. Four companies employ around 30 people in the county, working on a portfolio of solar, micro-hydro, and woody biomass technologies that produce homegrown, renewable energy.
This is Auld’s first experience at the Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition, and she enters RVCC’s energy arena with lions like Jim Walls of Lake County, Ore., a community that just broke ground on a 20 megawatt biomass power plant, and Andi Colnes of the national Biomass Energy Resource Center. They, and at least a dozen others, are supposed to figure out how to effect policy changes in the wake of melted climate change legislation.
Colnes challenges participants to think about where they are and where they want to be. Many rural Western communities today depend upon shipments of propane to heat buildings both residential and commercial, while slash from nearby forestry projects gets burned on the ground. Communities rally around forest restoration projects that yield precious little marketable value and could use a boost from some kind of end-use (like turning waste wood into pellets) that generates revenue. Tax code and legislative solutions might get complicated, but the scenarios sound remarkably simplistic.
Dave Atkins is a long-time U.S. Forest Service employee and a champion of the agency’s Fuels for Schools program that funds wood-fired boilers to provide heating for schools. Atkins says communities get tied up in a chicken-and-egg dilemma about supply and demand in regard to a fuel-source like wood pellets. In reality, even in communities dominated by forested lands, the issue is dicey if only one facility is making the switch to wood. “If one entity needs 20 tons of pellets per year, that’s not nearly as advantageous as a community that has 10 entities each needing 20 tons of pellets per year. That’s obviously going to make things less expensive,” Atkins tutored.
At the end of the day, the group agrees that while talk about climate change is now all but irrelevant with Congress, advancing the merits of energy independence, clean energy, and job creation is the rural ticket to success. The non-partisan coalition is well-positioned to help decision-makers take off their “carbon goggles” and look at not just the potential ecological benefits of expanding woody biomass as a renewable energy, but the sidecar of other benefits, like more people working in the woods near rural communities.
As Todd Schulke of New Mexico, a founder of the enviro group Center for Biological Diversity, observed, “The power of this group is to come up with the other way.”

By Michael Daniels
Dec 09, 2010 12:00 am

On Friday Dan Wheeler and Daryl Bergmann of MESys make what the company believes is this country's first all pneumatic delivery of wood pellets, to Gould Academy’s Park-Mason House.
- Michael Daniels
“The pellet industry is the Wild West,” said Dutch Dresser.
Complete with the dust.
Dresser, director and co-founder of Bethel-based Maine Energy Systems (MESys), was not talking about gunfights or even lawsuits among competitors in the emerging wood-pellet fuel market, but of the industry’s economic infrastructure, which remains primitive when compared to that of fossil fuels.
“The infrastructure for fossil fuel distribution is well established,” Dresser said. “It centers on an aggregator¬ -- people like Irving Oil and Sprague energy, who invest heavily in the product off season, and then distribute it to the local oil-distributor guys during the heating season.”
In the off-season, when prices are low, aggregators spend hundreds of millions of dollars to put oil in their tanks, so that they’ll be ready for the next season.
“That model sort of takes care of how everybody in that chain gets their money and pays their money,” he said.
But, by contrast, “there is no such aggregation in this industry yet, so the pellet mill is constantly in the position of having to sell to anyone who comes to the door, so they’re constantly in the position of negotiating pricing, which really shouldn’t be what they do,” Dresser said. They should manufacture pellets; somebody else should put the pellets together and sell them to the distributors.
“Eventually that will happen,” he predicted, “but it hasn’t happened yet.”
“Everybody is trying to figure out how to get the distribution system built in a way that’s economically feasible and reliable,” Dresser said.
But one key element of such a system — efficient end-user delivery — has so far been lacking.
“This is a big piece in that puzzle, because when the market is big enough that pellet delivery is a viable economic proposition, people are going to want trucks that deliver pellets quickly, quietly and undamaged [i.e., not crushed into dust].”
The trucks currently in use — essentially, converted grain trucks — utilize hybrid mechanical/airlock systems and perform less than optimally on all three counts.
“We’ve been delivering successfully with those, with limited dust, but it became clear to us that if you were going to deliver these to any population density they were too slow, and they were quite noisy, and we needed to do something better.”
In search of that, MESys began looking to western Europe, where fully pneumatic trucks were in use.
Rather than moving the pellets mechanically from the tank into the airlock and then blowing them out, the whole tank of the truck is pressurized, Dresser said, and release of the pellets into the delivery hose is controlled entirely by manipulating air valves.
In addition to being quieter and about three times faster than the current trucks, the fully pneumatic systems produce far less dust.
That’s a big plus, because excessive amounts of dust can lower a pellet system’s efficiency.
“Some dust is a natural result of handling of wood pellets, and that small amount of dust isn’t troublesome,” Dresser said.
“But large quantities of dust, which can be created through improper handling, can be problematic in that it flows at a different rate than pellets. So, it can move in ‘slugs’ to the burner. Good burners can handle occasional slugs of dust, but some burners can struggle with it, because it is difficult to get sufficient air through the dust to burn it.
MESys’s early experience with mechanical/airlock systems “created a fair amount of dust, he said, “until we learned to manage both systems simultaneously – the fully pneumatic truck virtually eliminates that complexity and risk.”
But no such trucks were yet available in this country, so MESys went to work with Trans Tech Industries of Brewer and Tropper Maschinen und Anlagen GmbH of Redham, Austria to build one.
It arrived last Thursday, and on Friday morning made its first delivery – to Gould Academy’s Park-Mason House, which has been heated by wood pellets for the past year.
The new truck might be just the thing to help tame the pellet industry’s Wild West.
“The pellet distribution industry will certainly mature, as the liquid fuel distribution industries have, with large buyers of pellets selling them to local and regional distributors,” Dresser said.
“The development of this truck, which operates as easily as an oil truck, will make it a simple matter for local fuel dealers to add pellets to their fuel mix as demand increases.”

By Anna Austin | December 09, 2010

The U.S. government anticipates a robust export market for wood pellets and chips as more countries expand their use of biomass for power.

A recent government report has targeted wood pellets as one of the most promising export markets for U.S. companies, and has indicated that the USDA will expand its annual report on biofuels to include analysis on biomass in the form of wood pellets and chips in relevant countries, to provide the U.S. industry and policymakers with information on the sector’s growth, export opportunities in emerging markets and policy updates.
The report is a result of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Export Initiative, a coordinated effort to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency exports in the U.S. Seven federal agencies, including the U.S. DOE and Department of Commerce, are collaborating on the program, which is part of President Obama’s National Export Initiative.
The NEI is divided into two parts—assessing current competitiveness of U.S. renewable energy and energy efficiency goods and services, and developing an action plan of new commitments that facilitate private-sector efforts to significantly increase U.S. renewable energy and energy efficiency exports within five years.
According to the RE&EE report, biomass equipment and feedstock exports from 2007 to 2009 were about twice the amount of imports. The U.S. exported $176.4 million in biomass energy equipment and feedstock in 2009, with an annual average growth of 54 percent between 2007 and 2009. Imports during the same period were $349.2 million worth of biomass equipment, with an average annual import growth of 28 percent.
The report goes on to recognize that several countries are expanding their use of biomass for power, either by building biomass-specific power plants or by co-firing biomass in existing coal-based power plants. “Many European countries already obtain a substantial portion of their electricity from biomass, most notably Sweden, which produced more energy from biomass than from oil in 2009,” it stated. “Several developing countries have recently developed biomass power capacity, including Brazil, Costa Rica, India and Mexico, but developing countries that consume biomass resources often use their own domestic resources rather than import feedstock from the U.S.”
The U.S. currently exports wood pellets and wood chips to Europe for co-firing in existing coal plants, and as more countries enact carbon reduction requirements, co-firing could become increasingly common, the report says. Future exports in the biomass industry are likely to be in the form of consulting, engineering, procurement and financial services, all industries in which the U.S. is likely to remain competitive. In addition, U.S. companies should find relevant export opportunities in countries with little available feedstock or without a local biomass industry, particularly if strong government policy in those countries supports the use of biomass for power.
For more on the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Export Initiative, visit


I want to let you all know that the USDA Forest Service 2011 Grant Program is now open and the applications deadline is March 1, 2011. Below are some highlights of the grant.
$3.7 million is available for grants that address the nationwide challenge in dealing with low-valued material to create renewable energy. Submission of an application is required for a grant up to $250,000 for wood energy projects that require engineering services.

These projects will use woody biomass material removed from forest restoration activities, such as wildfire hazardous fuel treatments, insect and disease mitigation, forest management due to catastrophic weather events, and/or thinning overstocked stands.

The woody biomass shall be used in a bioenergy facility that uses commercially proven technologies to produce thermal, electrical or liquid/gaseous bioenergy. The funds from the Woody Biomass Utilization Grant program (WBU) must be used to further the planning of these facilities by funding the engineering services necessary for final design and cost analysis.

Examples of such projects include engineering design of a:
• woody biomass boiler for steam at a sawmill
• non-pressurized system to heat water for various applications at a hospital, and
• biomass power facility, or similar facilities.
This program is aimed at helping applicants complete the necessary design work needed to secure public and/or private investment for construction. Click here for more information.


Oil heating causes 40 times more higher carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than wood pellets systems, according to a new study.

Pressure group proPellets Austria announced today (Fri) research by Bioenergy 2020+ and ARGE Renewable Energy Vienna / Lower Austria shows families heating their homes with oil could reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 97.6 per cent if they switch to wood pellet heating.

Another survey presented earlier this year suggested heating a 20-year-old family house with oil cost an average 1,820 Euros a year, while using chopped wood causes costs of just 810 Euros at the same time.

Sweden is the largest per capita wood pellet producer in the world ahead of Austria, while the United States of America top the overall production rate with 4.2 million tons annually.

Meanwhile, figures presented by the Austrian Energy Agency show that the country's households had to fork out 7.7 per cent more on average to pay their energy bills in October compared to the same month last year.

The authority stressed the price of heating oil prices jumped by a whopping 22.4 per cent year on year last month, while electricity became just 1.1 per cent more expensive.


Maine Energy Systems of Bethel is hoping technological advances will move more people to wood pellet fuel.

On Friday, the company received a new truck, built by Trans Tech in Brewer, that uses a pneumatic system to deliver a standard load of pellets- about 3 to 4 tons, into customers' homes and businesses in less than 5 minutes.

Growth has slowed for Maine's fuel-pellet industry. With the price of heating oil down to about $2.80 a gallon, consumers aren't converting with the urgency they were in 2008, when a gallon of oil cost more than $4. Local pellet and furnace dealers are hoping that turns around.

Bill Bell, executive director of the Maine Pellet Fuels Association, said his group doesn't track the number of burners purchased or pellets sold, but he said he's seen a slowdown. He recalls that in 2008, pellet dealers were telling customers to "please be patient. There'll be enough pellets for everybody once we get through the back orders."

Bell said some people may have bought pellet stoves as secondary heating systems when oil was high but went back to oil heating.

Still, according to Harry "Dutch" Dresser, director of Maine Energy Systems, wood pellets at current prices provide the same amount of heat as oil costing $1.96 a gallon.

Dresser sells central heating systems with pellet boilers, which are more popular than oil heating in much of Western Europe. His company, which he co-founded with Les Otten and Bill Strauss, builds and sells systems designed by the Austrian company Okofen.

He said the systems he sells are as convenient as oil-burning systems, with trucks that deliver pellets into homes through a hose and a mechanism that automatically feeds pellets into the boiler for a constant temperature. The boilers automatically flush out ashes but need a professional cleaning once a year and owners must empty an ash bin, which can be poured into a garden, a few times a year.

Although the cost of fuel is less, initially buying a pellet burner is about 40 percent more expensive than a comparable oil burner, Dresser said. The storage bin is larger as well. It's larger than an oil tank at about 6 feet on every side, although one model is made of wood and fabric and can be quickly assembled in a basement.

According to Dresser, many of his customers are businesses and government buildings, where long-term operating costs are given a lot of thought. Gould Academy buildings use pellet heat, and the Oxford County Commission recently got a grant to convert the courthouse to wood pellet heat. That work is expected to begin in 2011.

Bell said about 20,000 Mainers a year replace their wood stoves or central heating boilers. "We're working with Efficiency Maine in the hope that a substantial number of those 20,000 whose oil burner is on their last legs will take a look at a pellet system instead."

"People need to know they can get home delivery, it's just as easy as oil and it smells better," Bell said.


Published: December 17, 2010 7:00 PM
Progress is being made towards a free-trade agreement between Canada and the European Union that is expected to mean increased trade and economic activity for many B.C. businesses, Tourism, Trade and Investment Minister Margaret MacDiarmid said Wednesday.
“Free trade with Europe will provide access to the largest trading bloc in the world with a population of a half-billion people, bringing positive benefits to B.C. in areas such as forestry, fisheries, and clean tech,” MacDiarmid says.
MacDiarmid, along with trade ministers from all the provinces and territories, received a status report on the Canada-E.U. negotiations during a teleconference call Wednesday with federal Minister of International Trade Peter Van Loan.
The province continues to advocate for opening markets and breaking down barriers to trade both within Canada and internationally. Under the New West Partnership Agreement, B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan established Canada’s largest barrier-free interprovincial market with an economic powerhouse of nine million people and $550 billion GDP.
A Canada-E.U. free-trade deal is expected to provide new export business opportunities in areas such as wood pellets, increased tourism and greater labour mobility.
In addition to Europe, British Columbia continues to advance trade with Asia-Pacific economies. The provincial government is encouraged by the recent announcement of talks with India toward a comprehensive economic partnership agreement and supports the efforts of Canada to join in other key negotiations, such as the Trans Pacific Partnership.
Trade with the E.U. — key facts
• Largest trading bloc in the world; population of more than 500 million.
• Canada’s second-largest trade and investment partner, after the U.S.
• B.C.’s fourth-largest trading partner after U.S., Japan, China.
• Conference Board of Canada estimates total Canadian sales of goods and services to the E.U. were more than $150 billion in 2008. E.U. sales to Canada were $440 billion.
• A joint study in 2008 estimated that a comprehensive Canada-E.U. trade agreement has the potential to increase Canada’s GDP by at least $12 billion annually and bilateral trade by $38 billion.
• B.C.’s exports of goods to the E.U. were $1.67 billion in 2009 ($2.6 billion in 2008).
• B.C. exports include an estimated $544 million of mineral fuels, $268 million of wood pulp, paper and paper products, and $209 million of lumber and wood products.


December 18, 2010
Wood pellet boilers can cover most of Cornish Elementary School's heat during the early winter and about 50 percent of the heat during the lowest-temperature periods. The rest of the heat will come from a new oil furnace in the school.
The Eagle Times reports the 140-plus student school used to burn about 14,000 gallons of oil per year. Principal Mary Bronga estimates the school will use two-thirds less oil than previous years.
Information from: Eagle Times,


19 December 2010, 11:02 BST
In addition to its biomass boiler which burns wood pellets, other eco-friendly features at Girvan Community Hospital, one of Scotland's most eco-friendly public buildings, include a wind turbine, use of rainwater to flush toilets, a food waste vacuum system to dry and compost leftover food and low energy lighting.
Each of the hospital's main blocks are built with timber frame kits, where all the timber used is from sustainable sources. In addition, only construction materials with at least 10 per cent of recycled materials have been used and this includes insulation from recycled newspaper and concrete blocks from recycled aggregate.
Verdo Renewables has been appointed preferred supplier of wood pellets for the biomass boiler plant at Girvan Community Hospital. Wood pellets and briquettes are made by compressing dry sawdust or other wood residues under extremely high pressure. The combination of low moisture content (typically below 10%) and highly compressed material gives pellets a very high volume energy density, typically three to four times that of wood chips. They are also clean, consistent and flow easily, making them particularly attractive in domestic application. The significantly lower storage requirements compared with wood chips also make them attractive to urban applications such as city schools and office buildings. Briquettes can resemble a firelog in appearance and function, with improved storage, handling and combustion properties.
As a guide, a typical 3 bed house would require 4-5 tonnes of wood pellets per year for effective heating. Requirements for a typical school would be around 200-500 tonnes and for a typical hospital, 1000 - 2,000 tonnes per year. In all of the above examples, fuel costs (at current prices) would be approximately one third less, compared to an oil fired system.
Verdo Renewables' first delivery of 28 tonnes of wood pellets for the 700kW biomass boiler was delivered last week from Verdo's manufacturing plant in Grangemouth. It is estimated that the boiler at Girvan Community Hospital will require around 1,000 tonnes of wood pellets per year.
Verdo Renewables opened its brand new £10 million renewable fuels production plant in Grangemouth at the end of 2009 and earlier this year opened a similar facility in Andover, Hampshire. As well as manufacturing wood pellets for use in biomass heating systems, such as wood pellet boilers or pellet stoves, the company also produces wood briquettes for use in open fires and multi-fuel stoves.
The Verdo bagged pellets and wood briquettes are now available to both industrial and domestic customers through a network of fuel distribution outlets.
Alistair McGlynn, UK Sales Manager for Verdo Renewables said, "It is a particular pleasure for us at Verdo to secure this preferred supplier appointment for one of the country's most impressive, state of the art, environmentally friendly buildings. We are confident that these Verdo manufactured wood pellets will make a significant contribution to the hospital's twin aims of reducing its carbon footprint and lowering its energy bills."
Source: Eco Friend News


Industry hopes improved sales will protect against jump in heating cost
By BILL POWER Business Reporter
Wed, Dec 22 - 4:53 AM
The wood-pellet industry wants to increase sales in Atlantic Canada by 20 per cent per year during the next 10 years.
"We’ve increased production dramatically in the region, but most of the product is shipped to Europe. This is a growing industry that is creating jobs throughout the region and there is lots of room for growth here in domestic sales," Bruce McCallum, vice-president of the Canadian Bioenergy Association, said Tuesday in an interview.
The industry association is based in Charlottetown and is known as CanBio. It is targeting Atlantic Canada for the launch of its Go Pellets Canada marketing and information campaign.
"Increased domestic sales will be good for Atlantic pellet producers. Increased use of pellets will also protect consumers from expected increases in the cost of heating oil," said McCallum.
A couple of years ago, the lack of pellets in the region made headlines in Halifax. Many retailers were sold out and there were reports of people buying as many as three pallets at a time and hoarding them in their garages.
McCallum said that binge buying occurred when some retailers ran out of product after a sudden jump in the cost of heating oil.
"Some of the retailers who had not anticipated increased demand due to the increase in the cost of heating oil sold out. They had new stock in a couple of days," he said.
The hoarding of pellets that occurred in the Halifax area in the fall of 2008 involved users of small pellet stoves that are typically used to supplement central heating systems.
Pellets delivered in bulk for central heating and hot water systems are where the real money is for the industry. Pellets for this purpose can be purchased in bulk throughout Atlantic Canada for about $225 per tonne, delivered, McCallum said.
In Nova Scotia, the biggest producers of pellets include Enligna Canada Inc. in Upper Musquodoboit and Shaw Resources, which produces pellets the Eastern Embers brand at its plant at Hardwood Lands, Hants County.
Most Canadian pellets are exported in bulk to Holland and Belgium where they are mixed with coal for power generation. Sweden also uses pellets in bulk for large district heating plants.
"It does not make sense for us to sell our green and economical pellets to Europe and then turn around and buy more expensive imported oil to heat our homes and buildings," said McCallum.
He said the industry has a lot of work ahead of it in Atlantic Canada, making central heating systems more widely available and training technicians to handle an anticipated demand for installations.
About 450,000 tonnes of pellets are produced annually in 10 plants in Atlantic Canada. Pellet consumption in the region is only about 50,000 tonnes per year, mostly burned in pellet stoves.
‘It does not make sense for us to sell our green and economical pellets to Europe and then turn around and buy more expensive imported oil to heat our homes and buildings.’
vice-president, Canadian
Bioenergy Association


Great Lakes Renewable Energy, Inc. announced today that the commercial pellet contracts are showing some exciting advances. "We are experiencing an increase in bulk orders for commercial wood pellets in that market," says Herb Seeger general manager at GLRE. One example is Great Lakes Renewable Energy, Inc. which is supplying commercial grade wood pellets to the state of Minnesota which tempers water in their process of raising fish species at their French River hatchery facility in Two Harbors. "We have developed a new commercial pellet that burns cleaner and much more efficiently in the older and the contemporary boilers. More and more wood pellet boilers are being sold than ever before. The additional business is a welcome sight in our overall product line of products."

The wood pellet industry took a major hit in sales in 2009 and early 2010 to the point that three wood pellet mills closed in Minnesota alone. The lack of sales has been attributed to two factors - as the price of fossil fuels crashed in 2009 and the demand for wood pellets decreased the inventories of pellets greatly increased. The profit margins for wood pellet producers plummeted and the mills could no longer sustain their production costs. Herb Seeger said that his company concentrated on producing the highest quality wood pellet possible from the species grown in Wisconsin. "We are experiencing tremendous feed-back and an increase in the residential premium market as well. Quality is paying off for GLRE and along with new and innovative products the company is on track to be the premium wood pellet supplier in the Midwest region."

The wood pellet industry has suffered in reputation from lower quality products being sold through large market outlet chains. Customers have complained of dirty pellets, to many fines in the bag and ash that shuts down their appliances. "The problem lies in the buying structure of the large box stores," says Gerald Brown Marketing manager for Great Lakes Renewable Energy. He goes onto explain that the wood pellet producers lower their costs to get the large orders offered by these large chains to get the quantity business and of course they have to make a profit so the quality suffers.

This is not good for the industry as it turns the consumers off due to the poor performance of the fuel. Great Lakes Renewable Energy has taken the opposite approach; they have marketed through a series of small specialty dealers offering service and a high quality pellet. Recently both ANSI (American National Standards Institute) and the ASTM (American Standards Testing and Materials) have addressed this problem in conjunction with the Pellet Fuels Institute with new suggested testing monitoring of pellet production. This is in an effort to protect the American public from these poor quality fuels that are only quality proven after you purchase them and begin to use them. "I love it," says Brown. "It means GLRE doesnt have to change a thing and the rest of the boys will. It costs more to produce a high quality pellet and the low ball pricing and deception will stop," he says. He goes on to say, "this is a very fragile industry in the U.S. and good for America as it has been for Europe and the rest of the world but we need to protect our industry and work together to produce high quality products." The real test is the consumer. He doesn't care about test results or standards - he is only concerned about how the fuel burns. Hopefully if we have some quality standards he won't have be a testing agency at home.

One of the recent problems facing the wood pellet industry has been the excess inventory at the production sites. When the demand slowed the plants backed up with stock and a strong competitiveness entailed. This scenario produces lowering quality to stay profitable and this is problematic, Brown says. He is trying to work with other producers to form a single voice with a large producing capability to attract overseas buyers. "If this is done our plants in the Midwest can keep producing all year long at capacity instead of closing. What the individual plants probably don't realize is that it is us (Midwest producers) against the world market and not us against each other geographically." For some it maybe unfavorable to see our wood products go overseas but reported in a recent article: A recent government report has targeted wood pellets as one of the most promising export markets for U.S. companies, and has indicated that the USDA will expand its annual report on biofuels to include analysis on biomass in the form of wood pellets and chips in relevant countries, to provide the U.S. industry and policymakers with information on the sectors growth, export opportunities in emerging markets and policy updates.

"If it's good for our wood pellet producers and saves many jobs locally and it is good for America to export then we must act now." Brown wants to form a Midwest wood export Association to export wood chips and wood pellets and be the spokesman for our area and merge together the capabilities we have as a group. Brown says that his experience in interfacing with large commercial pellet buyers abroad is their reluctance due to the mills low capacity and being smaller family owned, scattered locations.

"Together we have something to offer; apart we have nothing," he says. There are some hurdles to solve such as logistics, central loading facilities, quality assurance programs, certifications of funds being available and many more. "None are insurmountable," Brown says. "How often do you have large quality customers wanting your products and simply have to solve getting the product to them. European pricing has been low but that is changing rapidly and we have to be ready. We have large railroads willing to move forward along with testing certifications locally and most importantly large commodity traders hoping for our coop or association to form. Much groundwork has been already laid but without the association it simply won't happen."


No. 040/10
Berlin, 19.03.2010

Joint press release with the Federal Environment Agency (UBA)

Small combustion plants ordinance enters into force on 22 March 2010

22 March 2010 onwards new environmental provisions will apply to wood-fired heating systems, stoves and other small combustion plants fired with solid fuels. Wood is a renewable energy source and therefore an appropriate fuel for heat generation in terms of climate protection. However, burning wood in small combustion plants indoors releases various air pollutants such as particulate matter and leads to unpleasant odours – and this to an increasing extent. The new limit values will reduce air pollutants directly at the source. As Federal Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen said: "They ensure better air quality, improved health and quality of life. Thus they are an important component of our sustainable environmental policy". The amendment to the First Ordinance on the Implementation of the Federal Immission Control Act (1. BImSchV) adapts the provisions governing stoves and heating systems fired with solid fuels such as wood to the technological progress achieved with regard to reducing pollutant emissions.
"The amendment to the Ordinance on small combustion plants replaced the totally outdated technical provisions governing stoves and wood-fired heating systems of 1988. It makes the use of best available technology obligatory," stated Jochen Flasbarth, President of the Federal Environment Agency (UBA).
The provisions in detail:
Limit values have also been set for existing combustion plants. If compliance with these limit values can be proven either by a manufacturer certificate or by an on-the-spot-measurement, these firing systems can be operated for an unlimited period. Only if compliance is not possible will a retrofitting programme take effect between 2014 and 2024. It provides for retrofitting or replacement by low-emission plants.
So-called masonry heaters, cooking stoves, baking ovens, bathing furnaces, fireplaces and stoves installed before 1950 are excluded from the retrofitting programme. Stoves which do not serve as additional heating systems but as the sole heating system for flats or houses are excluded as well.
The combustion plant itself is not always to blame if clouds of smoke appear out of a chimney. Many people do not have the necessary knowledge and experience to operate their combustion plants properly. Therefore the 1. BimSchV stipulates that operators must be advised on the proper handling of such combustion plants and the solid fuels to be used. In addition, wood fuel will be checked regularly for quality in the framework of other monitoring tasks.
The amendment will considerably lower the costs for operators of oil and natural gas heating systems: the intervals between regular checks will be longer. The annual checks previously carried out will be reduced to checks every third or every other year. This takes account of the technical progress achieved in oil and natural gas heating systems, which are significantly more reliable today than they were 20 years ago.

Published Friday December 24th, 2010

The Canadian Bioenergy Association is calling on the provincial government to use wood pellets to heat small- to medium-sized provincial buildings such as schools and small hospitals to promote local industry.
The association is also recommending that New Brunswick work with neighbouring provinces to harmonize its wood energy policies.
It's part of the association's new Go Pellets Canada promotion to encourage more use of wood pellets for fuel.
Bruce McCallum, vice-president of the Canadian Bioenergy Association, predicted in a recent interview that more government and industrial users will adopt wood pellet heat, which costs 55 per cent of heating oil.
"It's coming, but it is a bit slow," he said.
"There is one high school in Prince Edward Island that has a pellet system."
Wood pellets are a practical option for moderate-sized buildings and popular in Europe as a fuel source, he said.
The Atlantic region produces about 450,000 tonnes of wood pellets a year from 10 manufacturing plants, six of which are located in New Brunswick.
But most of that fuel is exported to Europe, said the association.
About 50,000 tonnes of wood pellets are used here annually and most of that is in homes, said McCallum.
"We would like to see the province converting some of their institutions to pellets," he said.
"That would be a big help."
McCallum said P.E.I. is converting several schools and small hospitals to pellets and wood chips.
"It would be very nice if New Brunswick would follow suit," he said.
"It would be very helpful if the province would use a locally made fuel."
In the past year, the price of a bag of wood pellets here has fallen from about $6 to about $5, he said.
Boosting consumption could boost that price but domestic production is also going up even more rapidly, said McCallum.
"I don't think it is likely we are going to exceed that domestic production for a long time," he said.
He said the industry is adding 50,000 to 100,000 tonnes of capacity annually.
"At this point our consumption is miniscule compared to our production," he said.
McCallum said it's unlikely that the province will run out of wood to make wood pellets. The closure of several big pulp mills in recent years has freed up a lot of wood supply, he said.
"I'm sure we could push it to more than one million tonnes and not run out of fibre," said McCallum.
He also said it would be useful if the provinces unified their programs about the use of wood pellets. Most provinces have small support programs, but they are all different, he said.
Unfortunately, he said, the federal government is out of the business of promoting wood pellets.
Emissions from wood pellet heating systems aren't an issue, said McCallum.
"Pellet emissions are actually very low," he said.
"They are quite favourable to most other sources, including oil.
"They have the advantage of being carbon neutral."
A wood pellet appliance's emissions are one-sixth of the best wood stoves, said McCallum.
"They burn very efficiently," he said. "You are burning small quantities at any one time in a very controlled environment."
He said wood pellet systems are 90 per cent efficient, which is equal to oil or natural gas.
That efficiency means Go Pellets Canada is arguing that wood pellets are a good choice for heating in urban areas, he said.
New Brunswick Supply and Services Minister Claude Williams couldn't be reached for comment this week.
Many government communications staff have been seconded to the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization to deal with flooding in different parts of the province.
But the provincial government's election campaign platform mentions using wood pellets for heat as part of its comprehensive forestry review.
"Implement provincial policies that encourage the use of wood pellets and other bio-fuels to heat provincial buildings," stated the platform.
"Work collaboratively with investors, communities and forestry experts to meet the potential of biomass and wood-fueled energy solutions."
McCallum said he's aware the Tories are reviewing the forestry industry in New Brunswick.
"We're hoping that we will see some activity there," he said.


Sunday, December 19, 2010
CORNISH, N.H. (AP) — A New Hampshire elementary school is now using wood pellets for heat.

Wood pellet boilers can cover most of Cornish Elementary School's heat during the early winter and about 50 percent of the heat during the lowest-temperature periods. The rest of the heat will come from a new oil furnace in the school.

The Eagle Times reports the 140-plus student school used to burn about 14,000 gallons of oil per year. Principal Mary Bronga estimates the school will use two-thirds less oil than previous years.


Information from: Eagle Times,


An Atikokan wood pellet production facility that could create about 150 jobs in this region cannot move forward because of provincial delays, said the facilities owner.

Atikokan Renewable Fuels is converting the old Fibre-tech facility in Atikokan into a wood pellet manufacturing facility. Ontario’s wood supply competition was originally supposed to conclude in the fall, but now announcements aren’t likely until early 2011.

Atikokan Renewable Fuels partner Ed Fukushima said until Northern Development Mines and Forestry Minister Michael Gravelle makes the much anticipated announcements surrounding the provincial wood supply competition, everything is at a standstill.

“We’ve made a major investment in the plant in Atikokan and all we’re doing now is heating up a big empty building and paying property taxes on something we can’t do anything with,” said Fukushima. “So we need (the province) to get their act together and get us into business.”

He added that major potential users have been forced to walk away from negotiations with the company because supply of the pellets could not be guaranteed.

Minister Gravelle originally said announcements on wood applications would start in October, but has since said those announcements would be delayed until sometime early in 2011.

“I understand the frustration, I really do,” Gravelle said. “But we need to be able to do this in a fair and proper fashion. I’m very optimistic that we will be able to have some good news (in the new year).”

Atikokan Renewable Fuels also has a bid for the contract to supply pellets to the Atikokan Generating Station. The power station is switching from coal to bio-mass as a fuel supply.