Jason Barton

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Archive for the ‘Biomass’ tag

Rural Economic Development and Environmental Health: Growing Hand in Hand

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Ahh…, the sweet sounds of economic development and environmental health, each growing hand in hand, as it should be.

Technology and other forms of innovation are making the conjunction of these essential benefits easier and easier to achieve.

This development is not shutting out the most common energy resources, “While renewable energy industries are generating lots of buzz, the traditional sectors of oil and gas are especially booming in Weld,” but is still working on the kinds of renewable energy that will be, hopefully, much more common in coming decades.

As the article below points out, not only is renewable energy creating jobs, it is creating high-paying jobs that will increase prosperity today and encourage greater education for tomorrow, all while improving the US balance of trade and making it easier for us to meet our current energy demands without compromising, but improving the prospects for future generations of Americans to do the same.

Thank you, Weld County, Colorado, for providing the example.

Greeley Tribune

Weld’s economy gets energized

Expanding renewable energy industries join the entrenched oil and gas, which is experiencing a boom of its own

By Chris Casey

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Wind turbines from the Cedar Creek Wind Farm near Grover in north Weld County and an oil/gas pump are some of the vast energy sources that are produced locally. Weld County has become one of Colorado’s leaders in energy production.

From the growing exurbs of Frederick and Dacono to the wind-swept prairie along the Wyoming border, Weld County has established itself as an energy hotbed.
The oil and gas industry has been a big player here for decades, accounting for 40 percent or more of Weld’s assessed valuation for at least 17 years, said Barbara Kirkmeyer, a Weld County commissioner. The industry accounts for about 4,000 jobs in Weld and supplies the county just shy of $50 million in property tax revenue annually.
But just as wells go through layer after layer of earth to reach the sweet spot, other energy industries are now stacking up in northeast Colorado: the renewable sectors of solar, wind and biomass.

Wind turbines from the Cedar Creek Wind Farm near Grover in north Weld County and an oil/gas pump are some of the vast energy sources that are produced locally. Weld County has become one of Colorado’s leaders in energy production.

Read the entire article here.

Determining the Benefits of Biomass-Based Energy

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There are two important points to consider here: 1.Establishing the appropriate methods for the Life Cycle Analysis, and 2. Determining the definition of “Waste.”

1. Life Cycle Analysis:

Will it really take three years for life cycle carbon emissions of biomass-based electricity to be established? It shouldn’t.

It’s important to be careful, but private, public, and academic researchers can provide clear, comprehensive studies in a much shorter time frame, certainly less than a year, unless we let them stick to the typical academic and government calendars where there are no deadlines or consequences for being slow.
Fortunately, some industry folks are optimistic about the recent ruling.

Bob Cleaves, CEO and president of the Biomass Power Association (BPA), the largest U.S. biomass trade group, said the decision “provides a lot of regulatory certainty at the moment.”

“Three years is a long time,” he told SolveClimate News. “During that period, projects that are viable and are ready to be permitted, will be permitted.”

Industry believes its arguments will win out in the EPA review process. “The science is very clearly on our side. Biogenic emissions are far different than fossil fuels, and they’re beneficial to the climate,” Whiting said.

To shorten this from three years to less than one, let the private firms involved produce their own studies. They’ll be fast, and tell the academics and bureaucrats that if they want to be a part of the conversation, and they will, they need to be close behind their industry counterparts, and they will again.

There will be different results produced, but it shouldn’t take three years to analyze these results objectively and decide what is the most accurate method of accounting.

2. “Waste”:

Another important issue is the common use of the term “waste” both for agriculture and forestry (really just another form of agriculture). When the term “waste” used, they are referring to biomass that is not directly used in the industrial processes, such as food, paper, or pulp production.

But these materials, such as corn stover (corn stalks and leaves) or wood chips, are essential to soil health, which is in turn necessary for the future production of the desired products, as well as for the health of the overall ecosystem.

In naturally occurring ecological systems, there is no such thing as waste, as all materials and energy are used in the processes and entities involved.

If all biomass, or waste, is removed from the soil and used for energy or any other purposes, this is not a sustainable system in the most literal definitions of the word “sustainability”: the ability to continue the process for generations to come.

Biomass-based energy provides much promise, so long as we realize that the Earth’s biomass serves essential purposes—namely the sustenance of life and other processes that guarantee clean, healthy air, water, and soil for generations to come—beyond our immediate needs.

No, it’s not simple, but it’s also not beyond our comprehension. We need to be thoughtful.

Relax, then let’s get to work. We can do this.

Is Biomass Clean or Dirty Energy? We Won’t Know for 3 Years

content by SolveClimate

By Stacy Feldman              Thu Jan 13, 2011 3:34pm EST

A recent study out of the University of Washington supported that pint of view. Called Unintended Consequences of the Tailoring Rule’s Treatment of Biomass,  a compilation of previous research, the study concluded that “new investment in bioenergy development will be discouraged and existing biofuel facilities may be motivated to shut down or use more fossil fuels.”

The resource is seen as a particularly valuable in Southern states, which lack wind and solar opportunities available in other states.

For Sheehan and other advocates, the game plan now is to try to put the industry a freeze on growth of the industry until 2014.

“We will be calling for a moratorium on all permitting for biomass plants during this three-year period,” she said.

Cleaves of BPA said “the idea of a moratorium has no basis in law” under the Clean Air Act, which “certainly doesn’t prohibit biomass plants from being constructed.”

Read the entire article here.

Biomass Markets and Technologies

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It’s an exciting time to be working with biofuels and bioproducts. When American’s today think of biofuels, corn ethanol is the example that immediately jumps to mind (for those nerds who actually think about these issues), which is somewhat warranted in that it is the dominant bio-transportation fuel in the U.S. and the world (surpassing Brazilian sugarcane ethanol in 2005). But as we look to the future of bioenergy and bioproducts, there is almost limitless potential, including distributed electricity generation and products from biomass possibly replacing the vast and diverse products currently coming out of today’s petroleum refineries.

As we pursue this potential, it is important to realize that humans have been controlling more and more of the Earth’s biomass to serve our purposes. Monoculture certainly has its advantages, but biodiversity is key to ensure the healthy functioning of ecosystems, not just for camping and admiring, but for providing clean air, water, and soil that are essential to our survival, and essential to the feasibility, and profitability, of bioenergy. Many of the biomass feedstocks discussed today, such as corn stover (stalks and leaves), are described as “waste products,” though corn stover has  traditionally been left in the field to maintain soil structure and health. The same goes for many materials described as “timber residues,” which are important to forests and cannot be completely removed for use in bioproducts without potentially damaging the health of forests.

While the report below does not appear to be focusing on these issues, it definitely has some important and provocative insights towards this discussion.

Biomass Energy Generation, Biofuels, and Bioproducts:
Market Analysis and Forecasts

WoodpelletsBiomass, already a large percentage of total renewable energy sources, is poised for strong growth in the years to come within three key sectors: biopower, biofuels, and bioproducts. Significant investments continue to be made in biomass research and development, and the pace of commercializing new technologies will increase during the next decade.

Many different feedstocks can be classified as “biomass” including corn and grains, plants and forest resources, construction/industry waste, agricultural and food industry wastes, terrestrial and aquatic energy crops, municipal waste and manure. Applications for biomass range widely, from power generation to heating, transportation fuels, chemicals, and plastics. The development of the biomass industry is in large part driven by government policies and mandates and, while world governments are likely to back away from some of the aggressive targets set a few years ago, Pike Research anticipates that biomass will continue to be a significant focus for energy policymakers.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

September 5th, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Stoltze sees opportunity for biomass power plant in Montana

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Daily Inter Lake

Northwest Montana’s News Source

Stoltze sees opportunity for biomass power plant

By JIM MANN/Daily Inter Lake | 0 comments

The closure of the Smurfit-Stone container mill in Frenchtown has amplified the need and potential for a co-generation plant fueled by biomass in the Flathead Valley.

That was the message from a panel of speakers at Flathead Valley Community College on Thursday night. It was the fourth in a series of seven programs in the Re-Powering the Flathead Community Dialogue Series.

“We definitely have the excess [biomass] now without Smurfit,” said Chuck Roady, vice president of Stoltze Land and Lumber, a company that has been aggressively exploring the potential for a co-generation plant at its sawmill complex west of Columbia Falls.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

January 25th, 2010 at 9:17 pm

UW biomass power plant a gamble for state

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On one hand, the technology the University of Wisconsin is using isn’t as efficient as fossil fuels, so we shouldn’t yet be deploying it on such a large scale. On the other hand, it’s very difficult to increase the efficiency of these renewable fuel technologies on an efficient scale until the investments are made to deploy it, since only then can we see how it needs to be improved. Since we’re fairly confident that the coal and natural gas replaced by these technologies will run out within the next century, perhaps it’s time to invest in biomass, biofuels, and other renewables. I’m not sure, so I’ll sit on the fence for now and continue to argue most strenuously in favor  of energy efficiency.

This article discusses similar technologies as those in another article posted earlier today.

There is also a background article on this UW story here.


By Lee Bergquist and Thomas Content of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: Jan. 19, 2010

A state-funded, $250 million project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison aims to convert a coal-fired power plant on campus to one that primarily burns biomass such as tree trimmings and crops, ideally becoming a model for how the state can reduce its carbon output and its dependence on fossil fuels.

But the massive venture – accounting for nearly one-fifth of the state’s capital budget during the 2009-’11 budget period – faces considerable hurdles. Among them:

• Upfront construction costs will be higher than other alternatives that were considered.

• No infrastructure exists to process the eclectic mix of fuels the plant would burn.

• The plant’s surplus electricity will be sold into a regional market already awash in excess power.

[…]

And because of the economic benefits that will accrue to farmers and other local suppliers, state officials believe biomass power plants can help stimulate the market for homegrown fuels.

“We are not just building a power plant,” said David Helbach, a former utility executive and administrator of the Division of State Facilities. “We are trying to jump-start the biofuels market.”

Read the entire article here.

Brazil opens world’s first ethanol-fired power plant

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Projects like this are encouraging, especially if the priority remains focused on decreasing energy consumption. Other companies, such as Community Power Corporation (CPC) of Colorado, already have modular electricity generators that use biomass as a feedstock. The high glucose content in sugarcane should make Petrobras and GE’s efforts that much more efficient. Brazil’s ethanol refineries generate about 3% of the county’s electricity by burning the biomass left over after the sugar is extracted from cane to make ethanol for transportation. So this project has the potential to create highly versatile powerplants that can produce electricity as well as liquid fuels, depending on the proportion demanded by each location. The aspect to keep in mind when considering these developments is that unlike CPC, which uses waste products to generate electricity, sugarcane needs to be grown on arable land, a limited and highly valuable resource.

* State-run Petrobras opens first ethanol power plant

* Petrobras, GE, hoping other governments will adopt

By Denise Luna

JUIZ DE FORA, Brazil, Jan 19 (Reuters) – Brazil on Tuesday opened the world’s first ethanol-fueled power plant in an effort by the South American biofuels giant to increase the global use of ethanol and boost its clean power generation.

State-run oil giant Petrobras (PETR4.SA)(PBR.N) and General Electric Co (GE.N), which helped design the plant, are betting that increased use of ethanol generation by green-conscious countries will boost demand for the product.

Brazil, the top global ethanol exporter, is already in talks with Japan to develop biofuels power generation there.

Read the entire article here.