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

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