Biomass Magazine - August 2010

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Biobrew European Companies Show Breweries the Benefits of Converting Spent Grains and Yeast Into Biogas

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FEATURES ..................... 28 INNOVATION A New Twist on Gasification A researcher at the State University of New York at Cobleskill believes the rotary kiln developed and owned by W2E represents a breakthrough in gasification systems and waste-to-energy technology. By Lisa Gibson

34 ANAEROBIC DIGESTION Proving the Biobrewery Concept Two European companies are using an anaerobic digester demonstration plant to prove that it is economically feasible for breweries to produce biogas from their spent grains and yeast. By Lisa Gibson

40 POWER Incentivizing Renewable Energy in the Northeast The U.S. Northeast states with their cold winters and dense population require a lot of energy, prompting them to develop renewable portfolio standards and other incentives, but one size does not fit all. By Anna Austin INNOVATION | PAGE 28

DEPARTMENTS ..................... 04 Editor’s Note Bullish on Biomass By Rona Johnson

CONTRIBUTIONS ..................... 46 ENVIRONMENT Saving the Soil and Maintaining Corn Yields Researchers at the University of Iowa are testing the planting of cover grasses between corn rows, allowing farmers to harvest more corn stover for use in bioenergy production without harming the environment or reducing crop yields. By Daniel Kuester

05 Advertiser Index 06 Industry Events 07 BPA Update Recent Studies: Taking Advantage of Opportunities to Educate Americans About Biomass By Bob Cleaves

09 EERC Update Back to School With Biomass By Bruce Folkedahl

13 Legal Perspectives Making the Most of Biomass Cogeneration Opportunities By Todd Taylor

14 Business Briefs 16 Biobytes 18 Industry News 48 Marketplace



NOTE Bullish on Biomass


he biomass power industry took an undeserved beating in June as a result of two studies, one by the Manomet Center for Conservation Studies and one by the Environmental Working Group. I’m not going to go into any detail here on the studies because Bob Cleaves, president and CEO of the Biomass Power Association, covered them in his BPA Update on page 7. I should mention, however, that the Manomet study did contain some good news for combinedheat-and-power facilities and biomass heating operations, saying that the carbon benefits of these systems would be reaped within a decade when replacing oil and between 20 and 30 years when replacing natural gas (see pages 18 and 19). As you read this column, I hope you are planning to attend, or are at the Northeast Biomass Conference & Expo in Boston. Because of the event’s location, Anna Austin, Biomass Magazine associate editor, wrote a feature about renewable energy incentives in the Northeast region (see page 40). The story goes into the many different incentives, definitions, and rules and regulations, which vary from state to state and sometimes, as in the case of Massachusetts, can change. If you are not familiar with the renewable energy incentives in the Northeast you will want to read Austin’s feature. The other two features are based on this month’s theme, which is biogas. Lisa Gibson, Biomass Magazine associate editor, wrote about two companies in Europe that are demonstrating their anaerobic digestion process at breweries to showcase the benefits of using the spent grains and yeast waste streams to produce biogas (see page 34). The companies have installed a demonstration plant at the Bavarian State Brewery Weihenstephan in Freising, Germany. The other feature is about a new process for turning waste into energy using a rotary kiln gasifier (see page 28). Researchers at the State University of New York at Cobleskill are experimenting with the gasifier, which was developed and owned by W2E, focusing on feedstock and syngas handling. Gibson got the idea to do this feature after hearing Douglas Goodale’s presentation at the International Biomass Conference & Expo in Minneapolis in May. Goodale is the bioenergy project manager and principal investigator for SUNY Cobleskill, who says the U.S. Department of Defense is interested in the technology. Stories like these are just a few of the reasons why we at Biomass Magazine are still bullish on the success of the biomass industry, despite misleading and misconstrued studies about us.

Rona Johnson Editor


advertiser INDEX

EDITORIAL EDITOR Rona Johnson ASSOCIATE EDITORS Anna Austin Lisa Gibson COPY EDITOR Jan Tellmann 2010 Northeast BIOMASS Conference & Expo



2010 Southeast BIOMASS Conference & Expo

11 & 52

ART DIRECTOR Jaci Satterlund

2011 International BIOMASS Conference & Expo

GRAPHIC DESIGNERS Elizabeth Burslie Sam Melquist



2011 Pacific West BIOMASS Conference & Expo


ADI Systems Inc.


Advanced Trailer Industries


Agra Industries


BIBB Engineers Architects & Constructors


BRUKS Rockwood


Buhler Inc.


Burns & McDonnell


Christianson & Associates, PLLP


CPM Roskamp Champion


Energy & Environmental Research Center



Fluid Components International LLC


Global Sustainable Bioenergy Convention


Guascor Inc.


Indeck Power Equipment Co.


MAC Equipment


Mid-South Engineering Company


Morbark, Inc.


R.C. Costello & Assoc. Inc.


SGS North America, Inc.


The Teaford Co. Inc.



TSS Consultants


Verdant Environmental Services



West Salem Machinery



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industry events Northeast BIOMASS Conference & Expo

2010 Farm to Fuel Summit

August 4-6, 2010

August 11-13, 2010

Westin Copley Place Boston, Massachusetts With an exclusive focus on biomass utilization in the Northeast—from Maryland to Maine—the Northeast BIOMASS Conference & Expo is one of three distinct regional offshoots of Biomass Magazine’s International BIOMASS Conference & Expo. The program will feature more than 60 speakers, including technical presentations on topics ranging from wood pellet manufacturing and biomass densification to combined heat and power and large-scale biomass combustion. Tracks will include electricity generation; industrial heat and power; biorefining; and biomass project development and finance. (701) 746-8385

Rosen Shingle Creek Orlando, Florida This fifth annual summit will be an opportunity for industry leaders and stakeholders to learn, network and strategize to advance the development of renewable energy in Florida. Florida’s Farm to Fuel Initiative was developed to promote the production and distribution of renewable energy from Florida-grown crops, agricultural wastes and other biomass. More than 500 attendees from academia, industry and government participated in last year’s summit. (850) 488-0646

Biomass Boiler Workshop

Southeast BIOMASS Conference & Expo

September 16-17, 2010

November 2-4, 2010

Holiday Inn & Suites International Airport-Mall of America Minneapolis, Minnesota This workshop consists of presentations about new technological developments and results to improve the operating performance, waste fuel burning capacity, efficiency and fuel economy of biomass-fired boilers (mostly stoker-fired). In addition, the program will include discussions on troubleshooting and problem solving challenges that attendees bring to the workshop. Participants will benefit by learning about the current retrofit technology for biomass boilers, seeing how other mill operations solve their biomass boiler area problems and receiving information and solutions to their mill specific problems. (425) 952-2843

Hyatt Regency Atlanta Atlanta, Georgia With an exclusive focus on biomass utilization in the Southeast—from the Virginias to the Gulf Coast—the Southeast BIOMASS Conference & Expo is one of three distinct regional offshoots of Biomass Magazine’s International BIOMASS Conference & Expo. The program will include more than 60 speakers within four tracks: electricity generation; industrial heat and power; biorefining; and biomass project development and finance. (701) 746-8385

International Biorefining Conference & Trade Show

Pacific West BIOMASS Conference & Expo

Nov. 16-18, 2010

January 10-12, 2011

David L. Lawrence Convention Center Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania With a focus on strategies to accelerate the growth of the global biorefining industry, this forum will allow technology developers to connect with investors and strategic partners, putting them on a path toward deployment. Organized by BBI International and produced by Biorefining Magazine, this event will include panels on project finance, market development, technology scale-up and more, all focused on the advanced biofuels and biobased chemicals space. Website will go live in late July. (701) 746-8385

Sheraton Seattle Hotel Seattle, Washington With an exclusive focus on biomass utilization in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Nevada, the Pacific West BIOMASS Conference & Expo is one of three distinct regional offshoots of Biomass Magazine’s International BIOMASS Conference & Expo. The program will focus on the vast potential for biomass utilization in the Pacific West, featuring more than 60 speakers within four tracks: electricity generation; industrial heat and power; biorefining; and biomass project development and finance. Speaker abstracts are now being accepted online. (701) 746-8385

International BIOMASS Conference & Expo

International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo

May 2-5, 2011

June 27-30, 2011

America’s Center St. Louis. Missouri The International BIOMASS Conference & Expo is the biomass industry’s largest, fastest-growing event. In 2010, BIOMASS was attended by 1,700 industry professionals from 49 states and 25 nations representing nearly every geographical region and sector of the world’s interconnected biomass utilization industries—power, thermal energy, fuels and chemicals. With six tracks, 38 panels, 120 speakers, 400 exhibitors and an anticipated 2,500 attendees in 2011, BIOMASS will continue to be the industry’s leading educational, networking and business development forum. Speaker abstracts are now being accepted online. (701) 746-8385

Indiana Convention Center Indianapolis, Indiana Entering its 27th year, the FEW is the largest, longest-running ethanol conference in the world. The FEW is renowned for its superb programming which remains focused on commercial-scale ethanol production—both grain and cellulosic—operational efficiencies, plant management, energy use, and near-term research and development. With five tracks, 32 panels, 100 speakers, 400 exhibitors and an anticipated 2,500 attendees in 2011, the FEW remains the ethanol industry’s leading production-oriented educational, networking and business development forum. Speaker abstracts are now being accepted online. (701) 746-8385



UPDATE Recent Studies: Taking Advantage of Opportunities to Educate Americans About Biomass In case you didn’t notice, the biomass power industry has been under scrutiny lately. The Manomet Center for Conservation Studies and Environmental Working Group both released studies in June that received considerable press attention—attention that resulted in a mischaracterization of our industry and the way we do business. The Biomass Power Association took these potential setbacks as opportunities to educate these groups—and the wider public—about what exactly biomass is, how we work, and ways that we contribute to the American economy and renewable energy sector. While I understand that the recent attention has caused some to worry about the future of biomass in the U.S., I can assure you that, regardless of any misstatements or unflattering attention, I continue to have high expectations and hope for growth in our industry. We know that biomass is a carbon-neutral resource that provides clean energy for electricity. And we know that we are not in the business of harvesting mature, merchantable trees to produce energy. The BPA, on behalf of our members and all biomass operators in the country, spoke out numerous times in June against the false claims included in the studies. Our efforts paid off: three co-authors of the report issued clarifying statements, stating that the focus of the study was on the harvesting of forests in Massachusetts, and was not a study of biomass electricity using residues or thinnings. In other words, the study was not about our industry. The Pinchot Institute for Conservation, which is devoted to conservation efforts and sustainable natural resource management, was among several organizations that participated in the Manomet study and has since publicly clarified the report’s findings. Pinchot recently wrote in a press release, “… the study concluded that carbon emissions per unit of electricity generated can be higher with wood, based on the more concentrated energy content of fossil fuels such as coal or natural gas. However, this conclusion is not meant to address the additional significant environmental, economic, and social effects of fossil fuel use, nor does it reflect that electric power generation from forest residuals and waste wood results in minimal if any net carbon emissions.” Following BPA’s call for clarification and the Pinchot release, the Manomet Center issued a statement of its own: “First, the study addresses only the carbon cycle implications of biomass harvested from actively managed, natural forests. The study did not analyze woody biomass from other sources, for example biomass plantations, land clear-

ing, tree work and landscaping wastes, or construction waste. These materials can be important potential sources of biomass— ones that likely have very different carbon cycle implications than biomass from natural forests—and merit careful and separate consideration in biomass policy development.” The Biomass Energy Resource Cen- Bob Cleaves ter also weighed in, offering a helpful clari- president and fication, pointing out inaccurate statements CEO, BPA in a recent Associated Press story. Biomass is a mature, viable renewable energy source that employs thousands of Americans. It has a pivotal role in renewable energy discussions. And it is gratifying to see the willingness of the studies’ authors to make clear that they support our industry as long as we are utilizing wood waste materials as fuel, which is exactly what we do. Like you, I take biomass’s role as a clean biofuel very seriously. We should frequently remind ourselves and those outside our industry that: We believe in using sustainable biomass fuels that do not contribute to land-use changes and offer lower life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions than traditional fossil fuels. We do not harvest mature, merchantable trees for the purpose of producing energy. That approach defies economic sense. The residues generated from forest harvesting and thinnings for forest management, however, play an important role in combating climate change and generating renewable energy. We fully support the use of woody wastes and byproducts derived from sustainable forestry slash, unused residues from mill operations and forest thinnings removed either to reduce forest fire risk or to allow select trees to attain merchantable sizes more quickly. We also fully support nonforestry waste from the agriculture industry whether that’s generated from rice mills, sugarcane debris, orchard and agricultural prunings and other biogenic materials that would otherwise be discarded. You and I are acutely aware of the abundant possibilities for biomass power in this country. Together, we will continue to build the biomass power industry and earn increasing recognition as a viable, renewable energy source. BIO Bob Cleaves is president and CEO of the Biomass Power Association. To learn more about biomass power, please visit



January J uar 10-12, 12, 2011 2 Sheraton rato Seattle Ho Hotell Sea ngt n Seattle, Washington


UPDATE Back to School With Biomass Returning from a business trip on a flight from Memphis to Minneapolis, my boss sat next to a young man who was traveling to be in a friend’s wedding. He was using a “diamond traveler” ticket earned with air miles accumulated mostly from his job as a turbine repair technician. Gas turbines for electrical power have been installed around the clock for several years because of cheap gas, lower capital costs, rapid construction and the goal of greater efficiency and lower carbon dioxide emissions. This young traveler was living the American dream. He attended a technical college in Minnesota for one year, was snatched up early by an energy business, and has been flying to strange lands experiencing cultures and people he had only read about on Wikipedia. All levels of government in the U.S., from the Student Senate at the University of North Dakota to the current Democratic administration, have made assertions that the current economic downturn can be countered, in part, by creating jobs in energy efficiency and sustainable renewable energy. That young turbine repairman’s career path is a product of the quest for higher efficiency in energy production and lower carbon dioxide. But before large numbers of the American population heat and electrify their homes with renewable energy and energy efficient technologies, the workforce necessary to make that happen will need to learn new skills and receive appropriate job training. A report by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Research into Action Inc.,1 states that just the energy efficiency side of U.S. job growth could triple in the next 10 years, but only if education and job training are stepped up dramatically. Most small business owners will agree that any significant increase in energy efficiency and green jobs will require a workforce dedicated to the realization of this objective. Yet for those individuals wanting to gain educational background and actual degrees in these fields, the choices can be limited. While a few schools actually have a specific curriculum devoted to renewable energy, such as Appalachian State University and Oregon Institute of Technology, most prospective students will have to enter traditional fields of academic endeavor and tailor their course work by adding classes in renewable energy. Additionally, part-time employment, summer employment, and internships in renewable industries are invaluable in gaining not only experience but building

the credentials for a successful resume and future career. Jobs that deal in renewable and sustainable energy, to the surprise of many, will more often than not be in what would be considered traditional energy fields, such as the fossil power generation industry. These organizations are transitioning to utiliza- Bruce Folkedahl research tion of more sustainable fuels and senior manager, EERC processes and will require individuals with the motivation and skills to guide them. Some of these jobs will be strictly technical in nature such as engineering required to design and build biomass conversion systems or technicians to service wind generation systems. Other jobs will be found throughout the renewable energy field, including such traditional occupations as communications, community outreach, sales and marketing, finance, accounting, human resources, law, etc. Utilization of biomass has been occurring for tens of thousands of years as a heat source. Transitioning to a more sophisticated use of biomass to generate power as well as other renewable products, however, is a challenge that will take a significant amount of effort. This effort requires more attention from higher education as the training ground for the future of renewable energy. More jobs in renewable, efficient energy definitely require commensurate emphasis on these disciplines in U.S. science, engineering and applicable technical educational programs. I don’t think all of our young people will become diamond travelers visiting exotic places, but they will definitely improve their chances for landing a well-paying job and living the American dream. For job opportunities in renewable energy at the Energy & Environmental Research Center, visit www. BIO Bruce Folkedahl is a senior research manager at the EERC. Reach him at or (701) 777-5243. 1

Goldman C.A. et al. Energy Efficiency Services Sector: Workforce Education and Training Needs, report for the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy; March 2010. 8|2010 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 9

Visit and: View interactive exhibitor map See conference sponsors and review sponsor benefits Register to attend Explore conference agenda And much more!

November 2 - 4, 2010 Hyatt Regency Atlanta Atlanta, Georgia



Making the Most of Biomass Cogeneration Opportunities


hether you believe in climate change or support carbon cap and trade, one thing we can all agree on is that being more efficient and productive with your existing resources is a good idea. A key component of a drive for efficiency is looking at all of your inputs and outputs, especially those considered waste and a cost center, and finding ways to reduce costly inputs and increase revenue producing outputs. For companies that have significant electricity or natural gas needs coupled with access to biomass resources, biomass cogeneration may make a great deal of sense. A simple explanation of how biomass cogeneration works can be taken from window manufacturer Andersen Corp. In 2005, executives at Andersen’s Bayport, Minn., plant grew concerned that their growing need for steam could not continue to be met by the utility and their own existing, but old, wood boiler. Because Andersen generates a large amount of wood waste in its operations, it made sense to utilize that wood for its steam needs in a cogeneration plant. By mid-2007, the Bayport plant was producing all of its own steam and the plant won a 2007 Minnesota Environmental Initiative Award and was profiled in the October 2007 issue of this magazine. Pulp and paper companies can utilize black liquor or wood residues, others can use their organic wastes, while still others can arrange to buy biomass from surrounding providers. Many communities are increasingly looking to utilize their garbage as a feedstock for renewable energy for gasification or anaerobic digestion. Grocery store chains are looking to use their waste food in anaerobic diges-

tion systems to produce renewable natural gas. Old railroad ties, tires, diseased trees, rice hulls, corn stover and other biomass materials are being considered as feedstock for power production, turning what could otherwise have been an expense into a cost savings or even a revenue generator. The potential benefits to a well-engineered and run cogeneration system include reducing or eliminating purchases of electricity or steam from third parties, reducing or eliminating disposal costs of “waste” biomass and, possibly, the ability to sell excess electricity generation to the grid. When evaluating these potential benefits, make sure to evaluate current utility contracts, including whether you may need a standby power agreement in case your system suffers a failure. Selling excess electricity to the grid sounds great, but may not be that easy because not every state permits net metering and sales back to the grid. Even if they do, you will have to negotiate a power purchase agreement with the utility and may have to arrange for connection to the transmission system, depending on the size of your project. Biomass power is typically considered renewable and usually eligible for preferential treatment under state renewable portfolio standards. Another potentially significant, but as of yet mostly unrealized, benefit to biomass cogeneration could be reducing the carbon footprint of your business. While the battle within the U.S. EPA and other agencies about whether biomass should receive any benefits under a carbon cap-and-trade system rages, it seems likely that reducing the carbon footprint of a sizable facility formerly powered by coal or natural gas by using biomass cogeneration

Todd Taylor shareholder, Fredrikson & Byron

should result in significant savings as well as afford an opportunity to sell the resulting credits in a new carbon cap-and-trade market. If you decide that biomass cogeneration may be right for you, here are some things to consider. First, make sure the equipment and technology you will be using is suitable for your needs and feedstock. There have been a number of recent instances where a technology was not properly paired to a facility and feedstock supply, resulting in significant losses and even litigation. Not every technology is suited to every need. If you expect to be involved in developing some of your own technology or solutions, work out the ownership of any jointly developed intellectual property up front with the technology provider. Make sure to research state, local and federal incentives carefully. On the surface, many of these incentives look terrific, but there are often hidden costs and pitfalls that may make them far harder to obtain than you may think. Be aware of potential community opposition. Unfortunately, biomass power is starting to experience local opposition. Be proactive and engage key stakeholders early. Part of engaging key stakeholders is determining early on what permits will be required and being aware of the costs and timelines to acquire those permits. An experienced adviser can help you navigate these issues and make sure your project is a success. BIO Todd Taylor is a shareholder in Fredrikson & Byron’s corporate, renewable energy, securities and emerging business groups. Reach him at or (612) 492-7355.



BRIEFS Waste Management awards Think Green prize to Biogas & Electric Waste Management Inc. has awarded its first Think Green prize in the 2010 Rice University Business Plan Competition to Biogas & Electric LLC, a California-based startup. The Think Green investment prize is designed to spur new approaches in the clean technology, recycling and renewable energy sectors. Biogas & Electric has developed technology to significantly reduce emissions of nitrous oxide generated during the combustion of methane-rich biogas from anaerobic digestion facilities. Improving the emissions of turbines or engines powered by biogas can help these systems generate more renewable energy while enhancing local air quality. BIO

ACORE hires senior VP of policy and government relations The American Council On Renewable Energy announced that renewable energy policy leader, Todd Foley, has joined the nonprofit in the role of senior vice president of policy and government relations. Prior to joining ACORE, Foley served in several industry and Foley federal government positions, including most recently 12 years at BP Solar, where he was director of business development and external affairs. He has served on the board of directors of the Solar Energy Industries Association, Solar Electric Power Association, Solar Alliance and Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association. BIO

Capstone Turbine adds Western Energy Systems as distributor

Hoffmann acquires Air-O-Flex truck dumpers Hoffmann Inc., an industrial construction, steel fabrication and material handling systems company, says the acquisition of Air-O-Flex Equipment Co. of Roseville, Minn. Air-O-Flex has been supplying hydraulic truck dumpers in the U.S. and abroad since 1947. Air-O-Flex truck dumpers and hydraulic cylinders will be manufactured by Hoffmann at its Iowa facility, which specializes in the fabrication of large, industrial components and equipment. Hoffmann will continue building Air-O-Flex’s hydraulic dumpers including: drive-thru, extended arm, over-the-wall, semi-portable trailer and rail car dumpers. Manufacturing under the name of Airoflex Equipment, it will continue offering reliable, hydraulic truck dumpers for biomass, refuse-derived fuel, wood waste, seed corn, peanuts, sugarcane and other products. BIO

Rentech awards Fluor FEED contract for Rialto Project Rentech Inc. and Fluor Corp. jointly announced that they have signed a contract under which Fluor will provide frontend engineering and design (FEED) services for the Rialto Renewable Energy Center being developed by Rentech. Under the agreement, Fluor will perform FEED services for the facility and the supporting infrastructure for the project. The Rialto Project, which will use green waste as feedstock, is expected to be the first commercial biomass gasification facility in the U.S. that will coproduce renewable synthetic diesel fuel and renewable electric power. BIO 14 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 8|2010

Capstone Turbine Corp., a manufacturer of microturbine energy systems, has named Western Energy Systems its distributor in Northern California, Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington. Headquartered in Brea, Calif., Western Energy Systems, part of Penn Energy Solutions and a subsidiary of Penn Power Group, is a clean tech, green business that provides comprehensive energy-efficient power generation equipment and service solutions. The firm has an extensive customer base along the West Coast. Capstone energy systems are used in combined heat and power and combined cooling, heating and power applications. The microturbines can operate on a variety of fuels, including natural gas, methane, diesel, biodiesel and propane. BIO

B&W to replace coal-fired boiler with biomass boiler on MU campus Babcock & Wilcox Power Generation Group Inc. has signed a contract to replace a coal-fired boiler on the University of Missouri-Columbia campus with a biomass boiler that will generate steam and electricity from clean, renewable biomass fuel. B&W PGG, a subsidiary of The Babcock & Wilcox Co., will design, engineer and supply a 150,000 pound-per-hour bubbling fluidized bed boiler designed to burn chipped hardwoods and various local opportunity fuels near the university campus. The new boiler will be retrofitted within the university physical plant’s existing structure. The physical plant provides the university campus with electricity and steam for heating and other uses. Engineering work is underway at B&W PGG’s Barberton, Ohio, headquarters. Delivery is scheduled for next summer. BIO


BRIEFS Bandit recognized by regional trade association Bandit Industries Inc. was selected as the 2010 World Trader of the Year by the West Michigan World Trade Association in recognition of its global success and strategy. The award recognizes Bandit’s commitment to international trade, and highlights the deliberate steps taken to achieve its success in the global market. Bandit saw a 200 percent increase in its international sales volume in 2009. The company remains privately owned by founder Mike Morey Sr., his wife Dianne and his cousin Jerry Morey, who serves as the company’s CEO. Traditional markets for their products include the forest, tree care, and landscaping industries, but increasingly the machines are used to assist in biomass energy production. BIO

ST51 Flow Meter approved for methane gas applications Process and plant engineers responsible for operations involving biogas, landfill disposal site gas recovery and digester gas at wastewater treatment plants will find the Model ST51 Mass Flow Meter from Fluid Components International comes with stringent safety approvals. The ST51 Flow Meter measures methane and other combustible greenhouse gases. The entire Model ST51 system including the instrument and transmitter has been submitted for agency testing to ensure comprehensive reliability and safety that take into account the sensor and seal requirements as well as the temperature ratings. The ST51 Flow Meter is an explosion-proof instrument that is easy-to-install and requires virtually no-maintenance, the company says. BIO

Recycled Energy acquires California biomass power plant Recycled Energy Development, a Chicago-based waste energy recovery project developer, has acquired the 30-megawatt Honey Lake biomass power plant in Wendel, Calif. Following acquisition, RED hopes to increase the plant’s efficiency and clean energy output. Built in 1989, the Honey Lake plant leverages nearby geothermal energy to help generate electricity from a biomass feedstock of forest thinnings, logging residue, mill wastes and other waste wood. One of the area’s largest private employers, the facility sells its electricity under long-term contract to Pacific Gas & Electric. RED plans to make a significant capital investment and put its team’s extensive clean energy expertise to work enhancing the plant’s efficiency and production. BIO

John Deere introduces E-Series to North America John Deere has introduced its E-Series forest machines to North America, following its initial launch in Europe. The E-Series is the latest development in Deere’s line of wheeled harvesters and forwarders, all designed with stronger frames than their predecessors and equipped with rotating and leveling cabs. The four models in the E-Series Harvester family include the 1070E, 1170E, 1270E and the 1470E. The 1070E is available in a fourwheel or a six-wheel version. New generation harvester heads are part of the series launch, with the H414 developed especially for the 1170E harvester, and the compact-sized H412 compatible with the 1070E and 1170E harvesters. The E-Series’ six forwarders include the 810E, 1010E, 1110E, 1210E, 1510E and 1910E. The load capacity and engine power of the two biggest models have been increased. BIO

Morbark adds 25/36 Whole Tree Chipper to line-up Morbark Inc. has added the compact 25/36 Whole Tree Chipper to its line-up of heavy-duty whole tree chippers. The Morbark 25/36 uses the design and technologies of the Morbark 30/36 and 40/36 models, but with a more compact profile. Aimed at the inwoods chipping market, the Morbark 25/36 Whole Tree Chipper is designed for processing moderate volumes. Standard equipment on the Morbark 25/36 Whole Tree Chipper includes the Morbark Integrated Control System, a diagnostic system that monitors hydraulic pressures, temperatures, clutch systems and engine efficiency while automatically adjusting to maximize performance. BIO

BinMaster introduces dual timer capacitance probes BinMaster Level Controls of Lincoln, Neb., has introduced dual timer capacitance probes that feature a flexible-time delay for covered and uncovered conditions. This feature allows the user to set a probe to react either immediately or with up to a 30-second delay when it detects a covered or uncovered state. For example, the capacitance probe can be set to send an immediate alert when it reaches a covered state, but can be set to alert with a 15-second delay when it detects an uncovered state. BinMaster’s capacitance sensors are used for high- and low-level detection in bins, silos, tanks, hoppers, chutes and other vessels used for material storage or process manufacturing. A wide assortment of probes and extensions make these capacitance probes appropriate for a variety of solid, liquid and slurry materials. BIO

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BIObytes Biomass News Briefs

Florida PSC approves Gainesville biomass plant

CHP plant for NC approved The Catawba County, N.C., board of directors has voted to proceed with a wood waste-fueled combined-heat-and-power (CHP) plant to be developed by Nexterra Systems Corp. in conjunction with GE Power & Water’s gas engine division. The system will be built in the county’s EcoComplex and will produce 2 megawatts of electricity for sale to a local utility, according to Nexterra. Waste heat from the engines will also be used to dry biosolids produced at a new wastewater treat-

ment facility. The plant will be the first of its kind in the U.S., according to Nexterra. The wood waste, which will come from the Catawba city landfill, will be gasified by Nexterra’s proprietary gasification technology. The resulting syngas will be directly fired into a GE gas engine. The system will be capable of providing net efficiencies of up to 65 percent in CHP mode, which makes it economic at a small scale, according to Nexterra.

CPUC approves coal-tobiomass plant conversion

The California Public Utilities Commission has approved a Power Purchase Agreement between Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and DTE Stockton LLC, allowing DTE to retrofit an existing coalfired power facility to generate biomass electricity that will be purchased by PG&E. Conversion of the 45-megawatt facility in Stockton, Calif., will help California meet its current re-


newable portfolio standard (RPS) of 33 percent by 2020. Under the RPS, investor-owned utilities, energy service providers and community choice aggregators operating in California must obtain 20 percent of their retail sales from renewable energy by the end of 2010. Retrofits of the Stockton facility are expected to be complete in 2013.

The Florida Public Service Commission has approved the proposed Gainesville, Fla., Renewable Energy Center, a 100-megawatt wood-burning power plant near Tallahassee that is slated for operation in 2013. Through a 30-year contract with Gainesville Regional Utilities, Boston-based American Renewables will build, own and operate the plant,

using about 1 million tons of forest and wood processing residues and clean municipal wood waste per year, according to American Renewables. The feedstock will come from within a 75-mile radius, an area determined by an independent study to have more than adequate fuel supplies for the facility’s needs, according to the company.

DOE funds public biofuel testing center at Berkeley Lab The nation’s first public advanced biofuel testing center will be built at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in San Francisco in order to help expedite the commercialization of nextgeneration biofuels. Funded by an $18 million U.S. DOE Recovery Act grant, the Advanced Biofuels Process Development

Unit will provide industryscale test beds for innovative technologies, and will be available for public use. The first-of-its-kind facility is scheduled to be fully operational by early 2011, and multiple locations in the San Francisco East Bay region are being considered for possible locations.

Study evaluates biomass resources near Bastrop, La. A Louisiana State University AgCenter report concluded that more than 1.7 million dry tons of woody biomass is unclaimed annually in a 75mile radius around Bastrop, La., in Morehouse Parish, along with 1 million dry tons of mill residues and a standing inventory of 52 million dry tons of cull trees, pulpwoodsize trees and top wood.

The results will be used in marketing and promoting Morehouse Parish, to biofuel and other industries, according to Morehouse Economic Development Corp. CEO Kay King. MEDC funded the study and is aggressively looking for renewables companies to develop in the area, King said.

OPXBio achieves cost reduction for bioacrylic Colorado-based renewable biochemical and biofuel company OPX Biotechnologies Inc. has successfully reduced the cost of its bioacrylic by 85 percent of its reduction target of 50 cents per pound, which represents cost parity with petroleum-based acrylic. The development marks a significant achievement in the company’s quest to commercialize its process. OPXBio used its propri-

etary Efficiency Directed Genome Engineering technology to rapidly develop a microbe that when fully optimized will produce bioacrylic at the rate, concentration and yield needed for full commercialization, according to the company. With successful completion of its pilot-scale development this year, OPXBio is planning a demonstration facility in 2011 and its first commercial plant in 2013.

Canadian NRC studies algae EPA honors universities for CHP systems Three U.S. universities have been recognized by the U.S. EPA for their use of combined-heatand-power (CHP) systems to save energy, lower greenhouse gas emissions and decrease air pollution, in turn reducing impacts on public health. The University of Missouri-Columbia, University of California, San Diego, and Fairfield University, Fairfield, Conn., received Combined Heat and

Power awards for reaching 55 to 75 percent efficiency in their CHP systems compared with fossil fuel power plants, which are about 30 percent efficient, according to the EPA. The savings from the efficiency increase can translate into a clear return on investment when the costs of installation and operation are compared with costs of purchasing power and thermal energy, according to the EPA.

Canada’s National Research Council is collaborating with industrial partners to commercialize technologies for algae cultivation, biomass handling, oil extraction and fuel production. NRC is committing about $5 million through the National Bioproducts Program and the NRC Institute for Marion Biosciences. In addition, about $1.2 million will be provided in monetary and in-kind contributions through partners, according to NRC. About 30 NRC researchers will contribute to the project, centered at the Ketch

Harbour Marine Research Station in Nova Scotia. The project will use local algae and 64 species have been collected, 24 of which have been brought into cultivation and six with exceptional oil yields are being studied extensively. Research focuses now on finding the best biofuel-producing species and developing pilot plants to move studies beyond the laboratory. Preliminary work and engineering plans have been drawn up to build a 50,000-liter cultivation pilot plant at Ketch Harbour.



NEWS MA biomass study finds complex carbon impact Woody biomass power production is commonly thought to be carbon neutral, but a Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences study shows a more complex picture of biomass energy’s carbon footprint. The study, however, may have a fundamental flaw, as it bases its analyses on new forest biomass instead of the waste wood and residues most plants would use. “Biomass Sustainability and Carbon Policy Study” examines three main aspects of biomass energy in Massachusetts: feedstock availability; impacts of increased harvest on forest ecosystems; and carbon accounting implications. The study was commissioned and funded by the state Department of Energy Resources, which suspended all new applications for renewable portfolio standard (RPS) qualification, awaiting the results. The six-month study, commissioned largely in response to citizen opposition of proposed biomass facilities in the state, shows that using forest biomass for energy results in “carbon debt” because burning wood releases more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than coal, oil or natural gas. Unlike fossil fuels, however, forests can grow back and recapture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, paying off the carbon debt. After the debt is paid off, if the forest continues to grow, a “carbon dividend” is realized and the use of wood then becomes increasingly beneficial for greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation, according to the Manomet Center. As a result, using forest wood for energy can lead to lower atmosphere GHG levels than fossil fuels, but only after the time when the carbon debt has been paid off. Whether or not full carbon neutrality can be achieved will depend on if, when and how the forest is harvested in the future, the study found. In addition, combined-heat-and-power (CHP) facilities and biomass heating operations reach carbon dividends much sooner than forest biomass power plants because of greater efficiency, the study said. Replacing oil-fired CHP and thermal capacity yields benefits within a decade and when replacing natural gas thermal it takes between 20 and 30 years. Dividends from the replacement of coal-fired electricity with forest biomass begin approximately 20 years later, and when biomass replaces natural gas electricity capacity, carbon debts are still not paid off 90 years later, according to the study. The work also determined that forest biomass availability depends heavily on prices that bioenergy facilities are able to pay for wood. At present, landowners in the region typically receive between $1 and $2 per green ton of biomass. Under that scenario, the estimate for new biomass that can be harvested annually from forests in the state is only between 150,000 and 250,000 green tons, only enough to generate 20 megawatts of power. Those estimates could potentially increase 50 to 100 percent when out-of-state forest biomass resources are taken into account. If prices were to increase to $20 per green ton, availability 18 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 8|2010

from combined in-state and out-of-state forest biomass could total between 1.2 million and 1.5 million green tons per year, but the study says that scenario is unlikely. “There are wood supplies from forest biomass and nonforest biomass,” said Peter Bos, developer with Russell Biomass, which plans to build a 50 megawatt (MW) power plant in Russell, Mass., that would use residues, stumps and other debris not considered new forest biomass. “Manomet estimated forest biomass conservatively, but that’s probably OK because that will be taken into account when DOER establishes its new wood sustainability policies for each biomass plant.” Nonforest biomass has substantially lower global warming impacts than forest biomass because it does not require cutting new wood, he said. At least 1 million tons per year of nonforest wood is available in the state and surrounding areas, he said, adding that estimate is conservative, as well. A 2002 report found that 2.5 million tons of nonforest biomass are available in the state, the Manomet Center report cites, adding that the potential and value of these sources may be substantial and worthy of further investigation. This point is crucial to feedstock availability for Massachusetts biomass plants, as none of the proposed facilities have included cutting new forest biomass in their plans. “They’re making a fundamental assumption that is not correct,” said Bob Cleaves, president and CEO of the Biomass Power Association, in reference to the Manomet Center study. “I think they missed the point that the overwhelming feedstock for biomass projects in the country is tops and limbs from the forest products industry, rice hulls, orchard prunings, all byproducts of another process.” When taking that point into consideration, biomass power is absolutely carbon neutral, he added. “The report’s authors appear to focus primarily on growing and harvesting trees for use in the generation of energy.” Biomass was recently deemed exempt from California’s cap-and-trade program, Cleaves emphasized, and respected scientific and environmental groups such as the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Forest Guild have expressed strong support for biomass power. Bos is not concerned that the DOER might rule out biomass altogether for RPS qualification, saying the only way that would happen is if there was no waste wood available at all. “I think DOER in Massachusetts now has a framework they can use for allowable sources of wood supply,” he said. As for forest sustainability and biomass harvests, the study shows that harvesting rates would not increase from current levels in the lowprice scenario. The combined volume of timber and biomass harvests in the scenario represents less than half of the annual net forest growth across the state’s operable forest land base. In the high-price scenario, however, the total harvested approaches the total amount of wood


NEWS grown each year on the operable private forest land base, the report states. The study can be viewed in its entirety at A public comment period of one month followed the June 10 release of the findings and the DOER is now carrying out a redrafting process. RPS qualification applications will remain suspended until new standards are finalized.

A Swift Change But two days before the public comment deadline of July 9, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs ordered the DOER to take swift action in revising the state’s RPS regulations in light of the study findings. “We’re perplexed by it to say the least,” Cleaves said of the timing. He added he is baffled by the process being undertaken for adopting regulations, as well as the language in a letter from the EEA to DOER. “Two days before the comments are due, they essentially adopt a final rule and direct their agency to promulgate the rule,” he said. In the letter, Massachusetts EEA Secretary Ian Bowles wrote, “In light of the Manomet study, we have a deeper understanding that the greenhouse gas impacts of biomass energy are far more complicated than the conventional view that electricity from power plants using biomass harvested from New England biomass forests is carbon neutral. The findings of the Manomet study have changed the policy landscape for biomass energy production derived from wood fuels.” He wrote that the state’s policy should reflect the “current science” by supporting facilities with the GHG profile needed to fulfill the state’s emission reduction mandates of reaching 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 and 10 to 25 percent by 2020. “Given the general findings of the Manomet study, our obligations under the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008, and the authority of the DOER to regulate state incentives for renewable biomass sources of energy, … I direct you and your staff at the DOER to move expeditiously to align our regulations with our better understanding of the greenhouse gas implications of biomass energy.” The letter outlines six important changes to policy: in order to qualify for renewable energy certificates, facilities must be designed, constructed and operated to achieve maximum practicable efficiency as determined by the DOER, providing significant near-term GHG dividends in a combined-heat-and-power (CHP) facility or comparable technology; renewable energy generating sources must yield at least a 50 percent life-cycle GHG reduction per unit of energy over 20 years; the fuel source must be grown, harvested and used sustainably; construction and demolition debris will not be eligible for renewable energy certificates; regulations will not apply to energy from anaerobic digestion of agricultural crops, animals wastes, food or sewage sludge; and regulations must address the use of forest residues.

Disregarding Public Opinion? Issuing such an order before the comment period is over shows a lack of transparency and implies a disregard for public input, according to Cleaves. Robert Keogh, spokesman for the EEA, doesn’t see it that way. “The point of Secretary Bowles’ letter at this point was to set out his expectations and essentially his first comment on the direction that he sees for policy coming out of the Manomet study,” he said, adding that the rulemaking process will include public comment periods, hearings and comment periods on draft regulations. “This is an ongoing process of back and forth between the public and state officials, so that comment process is ongoing.” Keogh said there’s no doubt the policy will change and the letter represents the start of that process. Despite the language and timing of the letter, which does add that questions remain to be answered, Keogh assured that public comments play a large role in drafting policies, although the intent to make policy changes will stand. “Certainly the final terms of the policy change will be very much informed by the public comment,” he said. “The fact that there will be policy changes, I think, is not likely to change. We’re not going to wind back the tape and say we don’t need sustainability and carbon criteria for biomass after all. We do need that.” Following release of the letter, grassroots group Stop Spewing Carbon announced it will no longer push for its ballot initiative limiting biomass power emissions to 250 pounds per megawatt hour, as it considers the letter a sign of its victory. “Ending renewable energy credits for dirty incinerators was the central goal of our ballot question and we have won,” said Meg Sheehan, chair of the campaign, in a statement published on its Web site. “This is a groundbreaking development that means an end to commercial biomass electric power plants in Massachusetts,” she also is quoted saying. Sheehan did not answer inquiries about whether the group gathered enough signatures for ballot inclusion. Keogh agrees the policy change does achieve the group’s goal of restricting renewable energy incentives to only those technologies that contribute to the state’s GHG goals. He added that it’s hard to say at this point whether Sheehan is correct in her statement that biomass power will be eliminated in the state. Bowles requests in his letter that the DOER draft regulations on or before Sept. 1 of this year, draft final rules on or before Oct. 31 of this year, and have final regulations in place by Dec. 31 of this year. When asked if forest residues will be as thoroughly assessed as new forest wood was in the Manomet Center study, Keogh said, “It will be fully and thoroughly vetted through the rulemaking process, yes.” —Lisa Gibson



NEWS Recent biomass studies misconstrued, inaccurate Mainstream media outlets have largely misinterpreted a biomass sustainability and carbon policy report released in June by the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, according to study contributor Pinchot Institute for Conservation. In fact, the rapidly spreading assertion that woody biomass is dirtier than coal “couldn’t be farther from the truth,” Pinchot President Al Sample said during a media advisory call on June 16, held to clear up erroneous news stories regarding the report’s indications of woody biomass power plant environmental consequences in comparison with coal power plants. The six-month study, titled “Biomass Sustainability and Carbon Policy Study,” addressed a wide array of social, scientific, economic and technical issues related to the use of forest biomass for energy in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources commissioned the study in response to citizen opposition to four proposed biomass power projects in the state. Pinchot’s main role in the study was to provide a review of regulations and standards needed to ensure the sustainability of forest resources

in light of potential increases in wood consumption for bioenergy. Sample said initially, an Associated Press story mischaracterized the study, and then countless other news outlets continued to repeat the same inaccuracies. “It was a gross simplification that resulted in a misinterpretation of the study’s overall conclusions,” Sample said. As for the data that influenced the misconstrued assumptions, Sample said when narrowly interpreted, the study suggests that when looking at the smokestack emissions, woody biomass emits slightly more CO2 emissions per unit of energy produced. That does not at all mean it is more polluting or inferior to coal plants, however, because it doesn’t take into consideration any type of life-cycle analysis. “That [wrong] impression surprised a number of us who contributed to the study,” he said. Sample emphasized that Pinchot is providing clarification on the matter because it is a nonprofit research institution that serves to provide accurate and comprehensive information to policymakers and that some groups may benefit un-

fairly from the widely circulated misreading. “We need to ensure that decisions [by policymakers], particularly on wood biomass energy in the U.S., are based on fully comprehensive and accurate data, as we have the American Power Act and a number of other things in play,” Sample said. He added that the study is strong though, and provides good analyses and information that was not previously available. Adding insult to injury, the Environmental Working Group released a report June 16 that associates biomass power with “clear-cutting trees,” wrongly claiming that state and federal incentive policies would soon support such activities. Biomass Power Association President Bob Cleaves said prior to the report he had not been aware of the organization, and that its assertions have no relevance to how power is generated from biomass today in the U.S. or to how it will be in the foreseeable future. —Anna Austin

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NEWS BPA: IB MACT ruling threatens biomass industry If the most recently released EPA ruling regarding the industrial boiler Maximum Achievable Control Technology (IB MACT) passes as is, it will devastate the biomass power industry, as it would require expensive alterations at virtually 100 percent of existing facilities, according to Bob Cleaves, CEO and president of the Biomass Power Association. A 45-day comment period on the new ruling opened June 7 and Cleaves has been inundated with concerns from the biomass industry. Under the new standards, biomass boiler units conventionally considered multifuel boilers would instead be classified as incinerators and be subject to new emission limits for five pollutants: mercury, hydrogen chloride, particulate matter, carbon monoxide and dioxin, according to the BPA. The limits for dioxin alone are more than 100 times more stringent than medical waste incinerator dioxin rules. No existing biomass facility meets all the proposed limits, according to the BPA. “The early indications are that the standards, using existing technology, are

unachievable,” Cleaves told participants in a June 8 media conference call on the matter. The rule would be expensive to comply with and would cost the forest products industry $7 billion, Cleaves said. “If it passes, we’ll lose ground,” he said. “Plants will close.” If biomass plants close, the agricultural, wood and other residues used at those plants would in many cases be openly burned, causing air pollution vastly in excess of the EPA’s ruling, Cleaves emphasized, calling it an obvious and sad consequence of the ruling. “This rule is unfortunate and inconsistent with the administration’s stated goal of supporting biomass,” he said. Cleaves added that the BPA is more than willing to work with the EPA in developing health-based, rational and achievable standards. When asked how the ruling would affect plants slated for operation in the next couple years, Cleaves was less than hopeful. “I have received universal feedback from my members that if enacted as proposed, it would halt development,” he said. One e-mail Cleaves shared dur-

ing the call predicted a “mass exodus from biomass” to natural gas if the rule passes. Although Georgia Power does not know yet how the proposed rule would affect its plans for converting Plant Mitchell near Albany, Ga., to a 96-megawatt woody biomass facility, the company expects to move forward, keeping in mind options for alternative boilers. While Plant Mitchell is not considered a multifuel boiler and would not fall under the definition of an incinerator under the new rule, the proposed standards that do apply to the plant are tighter than expected, according to Lynn Wallace, Georgia Power spokesperson. “The IB MACT rule is actually more stringent than we anticipated,” she said, adding that it could change the boiler design for the project. The proposed ruling can be found on the Federal Register. The rule should be finalized by the end of this year. —Lisa Gibson



NEWS New lab will test ND biomass feedstocks North Dakota State University and the USDA’s Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory south of Mandan, N.D., are teaming up to establish the state’s first biomass testing laboratory. The facility will be configured into existing infrastructure at the NGPRL for the study of dimensional, mechanical and thermal characteristics of North Dakota biomass. “The goal is to determine the characteristics of the input material, namely biomass feedstocks of North Dakota and serve the users,” said Igathinathane Cannayen, NDSU research and extension engineer and researcher in the project. “These characteristics … are the first stage in the utilization of biomass through various pathways such as bioenergy (cofiring, pyrolysis, gasification), bioproducts (bio-oil, biochar, chemicals)

and biofuels (hydrolysis, fermentation). The lab will be serving the needs of the farmers, biomass producers and industry personnel,” he said, adding, it will have a model similar to soil testing labs or plant diagnostics labs. It’s safe to say the facility will be up and running in one year, Cannayen said. The collaborative was awarded $225,000 from the North Dakota Industrial Commission’s Renewable Energy Program to cover the cost of the major equipment considered to be the starting point of the lab. Funding from NDSU has also been used and more will be sought from other sources to ensure it is fully equipped. “For the required operating funds, industries and other organizations will be contacted,” Cannayen said. The immediate roadblock is an operating grant that

would provide salary for a technical assistant. Without that position testing and productivity would be limited, as Cannayen is working on several other research and extension projects, he said. The NDSU departments involved in the collaboration are the Department of Agricultural Biosystems Engineering and Agribusiness and Applied Economics, by virtue of the departments of the project investigators—Cannayen and NDSU Professor Cole Gustafson. NDSU and NGPRL work together through a number of specific cooperative agreements. The NGPRL extends office and research facilities to NDSU’s faculty members, Cannayen said. —Lisa Gibson

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NEWS After more than two years of research and industry engagement, London’s Olympic Delivery Authority has determined that it is no longer feasible to install a wind turbine at the 2012 Summer Olympic Park and is now investigating other options, including a biomass gasification combined-heat-andpower (CHP) unit, to meet renewable energy requirements. The wind turbine was proposed for the park to meet ODA’s target to deliver 20 percent of the Olympic Park’s legacy energy requirements from renewable sources from 2014 onward, when the site is fully operational. The ODA selected a preferred bidder in December 2008, but it wasn’t until 2010 that new health and safety regulations were enforced, which for design reasons, applied to the type of wind turbine selected for the project.

According to the ODA, the preferred bidder’s turbine supplier felt unable to comply with the new regulations before the Olympics and subsequently withdrew from the project. Further engagement with the industry concluded that the new safety requirements would be undeliverable in the proposed timetable. ODA Chief Executive David Higgins said they are now researching several other alternative renewable energy options across the Olympic Park site, one of which is a biomass gasification CHP unit. The unit would be located near an energy center being built at the site, and would gasify biomass to produce a synthesis gas that would power generators. Excess heat would be captured and reused at the site. The ODA is now working on a business plan for the possible procurement and installation of the biomass unit.


Wind turbine scrapped, biomass an option for Olympic Park

Olympic Park

The ODA expects further decisions to be made on renewable energy options this summer. —Anna Austin


NEWS NY RGGI draft policy excludes most forest biomass In accordance with its membership in the Northeast’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has released a draft policy that explains what constitutes sustainably harvested forest biomass in New York, and its restrictions are causing a stir amongst the state’s biomass power supporters as it restricts a large portion of forest biomass. Ten northeastern states are part of the RGGI, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2009, and serves to reduce global warming pollution from power plants through implementation of a carbon dioxide capand-trade system. RGGI caps the overall level of CO2 emissions allowed from power plants in the region starting in 2009 and continuing through 2014, then reduces emissions 2.5 percent annually over the next four years to achieve a 10 percent reduction by 2019. RGGI rules consider sustainably harvested biomass as carbon neutral when it is converted into electricity, allowing power producers to exclude those emissions from their GHG reduction obligations. However, it is up to each individual state to form its own definition of what

constitutes as “sustainably harvested” biomass. According to the New York Biomass Energy Alliance Director Dan Conable, the standard proposed by the DEC appears to be one of the most restrictive put forward by any government organization to date, mainly due to a new permanence criterion that requires proof that forest biomass—including mill waste and construction and demolition debris—originated in forests that are under a permanent easement or other legal arrangement guaranteeing that the land will remain in forest for at least 100 years. Conable and the NYBEA, a coalition of individuals, businesses and organizations advocating biomass as a renewable energy source, are urging the DEC to withdraw the proposal, since nearly all of the forest biomass available in New York comes directly or indirectly from the selective cutting of private forests, or from urban and other wood waste, rather than land conversion. In a recent letter to the DEC, the NYBEA pointed out that by assuming the exceptional situation (land conversion) has occurred unless proven otherwise, the draft rule will treat a large

proportion of currently available wood forest biomass as the equivalent of coal or even worse, from the RGGI perspective. And while there are large areas of former paper company and other lands in the Adirondack region that are under state-held conservation easements that permit planned harvests, such arrangements are uncommon in other parts of the state. The NYBEA also alleged that unlike the biomass guideline development process for the state’s renewable portfolio standard, which is currently set at 30 percent by 2015, there does not appear to have been a systematic outreach to industry members or organizations in the formulation of the policy. The group is suggesting that the DEC adopt the biomass guidelines established in the RPS, which would include the materials excluded in the DEC’s draft, and also that the draft finalization be influenced by a public rulemaking process. The DEC accepted public input on the draft policy until June 18. —Anna Austin



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NEWS Researchers at energy crop development company Ceres Inc. say a newly developed genetic trait that increases the salt tolerance in plants could potentially enable the revival of more than 1 billion acres of abandoned crop land across the globe, for both energy and food crop purposes. Upon analysis of a 2008 Stanford University study, “The Global Potential of Bioenergy on Abandoned Agriculture Lands,” Ceres researchers inferred that a massive amount of land was unproductive and could benefit from trait improvements such as salt tolerance and others that make crops hardier and more resilient to stress, according to Ceres’s Gary Koppenjan. “As reported by the U.S. Salinity Lab, there are 15 million acres in the U.S. where productivity is limited by salt buildup in the soil,” he said. “This is especially problematic in California, and other areas where irrigation is used.” Salt has been damaging to land in other parts of the world, too. “It’s been a problem in Asia, where coastal flooding is common, and a staple crop—rice—is quite sensitive to salt. It’s also a problem in the developing world, where cropping practices and poor drainage damage cropland,” Koppenjan said, adding that although salt is not currently a nuisance in

the Midwest, where most of the row crops are grown, in the future it will likely be a bigger problem on the marginal acres where energy crops are being targeted. So far, Ceres’s work has focused on improvements in switchgrass and rice in a greenhouse. Researchers tested the trait against high salt concentrations, including trials where they dumped sea water from the Pacific Ocean onto the soil, and saw a significant salt tolerance. “We have seen [salt tolerance] levels five times greater than any previously published results,” Koppenjan said. The salt tolerance improvement will likely work in other energy grasses as well, Ceres believes, including sorghum and miscanthus. Crop yields now need to be measured in the field, tests which Ceres plans to begin next year. Koppenjan noted that initial work was completed in a test plant used primarily for greenhouse testing (not a crop plant), a method that provides trait development advantages such as precision and a plug-and-play ability to add the trait to other crops. “Typically, we use rice as a model crop to study trait performance since it is a grass species, easy to work with and predictive of how traits will work in energy crops,” he said. “Since the results were so impressive, we decided to move forward


Salt-tolerant trait may unlock land for energy, food crops

A control plant, left, has died due to salt exposure, while the improved plant, right, remains healthy.

with additional work in rice for both business and humanitarian reasons. Clearly, rice is an important and valuable crop, but there are areas in the world like coastal region of Bangladesh where salt-tolerance would provide basic food security for millions of people.” —Anna Austin



NEWS Syngest gets state funding for bio-ammonia plant The Iowa Power Fund board voted July 1 to provide San Francisco-based Syngest Inc. with $2.5 million for its planned biomass-to-ammonia plant in Menlo, Iowa. The vote solidifies funding that the company has been working toward for more than a year, but the money is contingent upon $3.5 million in matching funds, which Syngest CEO Jack Oswald believes is more than achievable. “As of today, we’re off to the races,” Oswald said. “This is a very important juncture. The state has put up a very big gesture.” The amount is among the top five awards given by the Iowa Office of Energy Independence’s Power Fund and in return, Syngest proposed to completely pay back the amount over time as it develops more facilities in the state. “We easily expect to be able to pay it all back,” he said. The bio-ammonia plant will turn 150,000 tons of corncobs into 50,000 tons of anhydrous ammonia annually, enough to fertilize 500,000 acres of land. The process involves a pressurized oxygen-blown biomass gasifier operating in an expand-


ing bed fluidized mode. After the resulting syngas is cleaned, the carbon monoxide portion is shifted to maximize hydrogen, which is purified and catalytically reacted with nitrogen to make ammonia. Syngest has procured 75 acres for the plant, five of which will be used for the facility itself and the rest for biomass storage. The plant will require 10 percent of available corncobs within a 30- to 40-mile radius. “As of today, the clock really starts ticking,” Oswald said after the vote, adding that the plant should be operational about 30 months from now. “I realize the risks we have in this project,” said Tom Wind, a Power Fund board member, during the meeting. “I think this project is worthy of support because of the early stage and potential of long-term benefit. The rewards are big and outweigh

the risk. If we don’t step up and do this now, I’m not sure who’s going to do it, and if not in Iowa, I don’t know where else it should be done. I see the risk, but I think the rewards are really large, so I’m supportive of this.” The Syngest term sheet passed by a vote of 6-1 with some members absent, confirming Oswald’s expectation that it would ultimately be approved. “It’s a good fit for Iowa,” he said. “There’s no reason to continue using fossil fuels for nitrogen fertilizer.” Had the funding been denied, the project would have proceeded, albeit more slowly and with more challenges. “It wouldn’t have shut [the project] down,” Oswald said of a no vote. “It would have made it a lot more difficult.” Now that the votes are in, Oswald and his team are ready to move forward quickly and begin raising more money. “This is a big milestone for us and we’re thrilled,” he said. —Lisa Gibson


NEWS NextGen, ISU test biomass in coal boilers NextGen Biofuels Inc. and Iowa State University will conduct cofiring trials with coal, wood chips and wood pellets at ISU’s coal-fired combined-heatand-power (CHP) plant, as the school contemplates switching to a biomasscoal blend. Instead of spending millions on retrofitting, the project is designed to evaluate the efficiency of burning biomass in an existing coal boiler. “We’re trying to demonstrate that you can run wood biomass through a currently operating coal plant,” said Bob Ravlin, president of NextGen. The fuel does, however, need to be tailored to the boiler type, he added. NextGen procured pine wood pellets and wood chips from Rocky Mountain Pellet Co. in Colorado for the 3½-month tests, which began June 28, Ravlin said. The tests were to begin with a 5 percent biomass blend, gradually increasing to 10 percent, 15 percent and 20 percent. Separate testing would be done for the two different forms, as they are

handled differently for the boiler. “Each feedstock has its own benefits and drawbacks,” Ravlin said. ISU has also done similar tests with construction and demolition waste, but the feedstock proved too dirty and was loaded with impurities, according to Jeff Witt, assistant director of utilities for ISU. “We are looking to displace some of our coal,” he said. “We’ve been looking around in the past couple years.” Although most biomass products will be more expensive than fossil fuels, there are clear benefits to the switch, Witt said. The testing is preliminary and the school has not looked deeply into supply chains or sustainability as of yet. “There’s probably enough product, but there’s nobody making it right now,” Witt explained, using a cart before the horse metaphor. If any other kinds of biomass feedstock seem applicable, they will be tried also, he said. Once testing is complete, results

will be evaluated and the school will decide whether to proceed with further research into the wood chip and pellet feedstocks for the long term. “It’s a work in progress,” Ravlin said. “You’ve got to start somewhere. You’ve got to start simply and build up from there.” Besides demonstrating that it is possible to burn wood in existing coal boilers, NextGen has other goals for the project. “We want to jump-start the local economy,” Ravlin said, adding that the logistics, know-how and equipment for lumber are already established. “You’ve got to get that area started.” Fortunately, the tests have garnered a lot of attention from local utilities looking into the benefits of cofiring biomass, Ravlin said. —Lisa Gibson





A research team at SUNY Cobleskill has a giant undertaking ahead of it, demonstrating and developing applications for an innovative gasification technology prototype that holds promise for alternative and purposeful waste disposal. By Lisa Gibson




feedstocks moving and we put it on a slight angle so that gravitational flow, along with the rotisserie, moves the feedstock from the point of entry to the point that they’re totally transitioned from their biosolid state into a biogaseous state,” he explains. “We control the speed and control the angle, and therefore control the rate of movement from entry to exit. We want it to be fast enough so it doesn’t sit there in the chamber. We want it suspended.” The primary approach is to establish a working 100-kilowatt (kW) prototype of the gasifier, dubbed TurnW2E, at SUNY to serve as a research demonstration, with installation of a 1-megawatt gasifier in the following phase. “This technology is innovative with the potential of revolutionizing the way biowaste is handled today,” Goodale says.

Feedstock Flexibility W2E owns the rights and the technology to the TurnW2E prototype, but is sharing the license with Goodale and his SUNY team for use and research in SUNY’s $4


hen Douglas Goodale, bioenergy project manager and principal investigator for the State University of New York at Cobleskill (SUNY Cobleskill) discusses his upcoming research project, he beams proudly, clearly illustrating that he believes it will represent a breakthrough in gasification systems and waste-to-energy technology. His enthusiasm is directed toward a rotary kiln gasifier developed and owned by Chicago-based W2E and en route to a new lab facility established for such research at SUNY Cobleskill. As its name suggests, the rotary kiln gasifier facilitates a natural rotation providing agitation of the feedstock at high temperatures and allowing for a more complete conversion of all the feedstock to syngas. Contrary to traditional gasifiers, it sits horizontally and at a slight slope, allowing for a gravitational flow that moves the feedstock through the system, Goodale says. “The hope is that we don’t turn too fast, but we turn fast enough to keep the

The rotary kiln gasifier prototype will be further studied by Goodale’s team at SUNY Cobleskill.


INNOVATION ‘I don’t know of any other gasifier or any other kiln or any other method of digestion that can handle this diversified feedstock stream.’ —Douglas Goodale, bioenergy project manager and principal investigator, SUNY Cobleskill

million Environmental Science and Technology Center. The gasifier, which reaches temperatures up to 2,000 degrees, has not arrived on the campus yet, awaiting completion of the center. Once it is installed there, Goodale’s team will focus on feedstock and syngas handling. Not only can the system take almost any type of feedstock, but those feedstocks can be fed separately or commingled. “We don’t separate our materials,” says Renee Comly, W2E CEO and director of business development. “We can take almost anything. I think every gasifier says that, but we can take almost any volume so our feedstock does not have to be at capacity and it can be used at lower volumes at different times of the day.” Material is preprocessed for the gasifier, which has a 1:5 ratio for capacity, she adds. As part of SUNY’s Biowaste Conversion to Bioenergy Through Gasification project, Goodale will experiment with feedstocks such as paper, green waste, cafeteria waste and organic municipal solid waste in the rotary kiln gasifier. But will the system require reconfiguration to take all the different types? Goodale says no. “[W2E] believes they have it perfected to the point where it doesn’t have to be reangled and they think that they have the speed of rotation where it needs to be for the feedstocks that we are putting into the kiln,” he says. “I don’t think this is going to need to be readjusted.” The feedstock flexibility is a direct result of the slope and rotation of the kiln. Although modest, the slope controls the speed that feedstocks move from entry point to total gasification. “I don’t know of any other gasifier or any other kiln or any other method of digestion that can handle this diversified feedstock stream,” Goodale says.

Energy value will vary depending on feedstock, but an important aspect to consider, according to Goodale, is the project does not require growing crops and changing land mass. W2E is in the process of launching the technology, with patents pending, and Comly is not comfortable releasing details about the happenings inside the chamber. She does share, however, that TurnW2E consists of different zones, giving it an efficient output. While SUNY’s prototype will be for batch runs only, the rotary kiln gasification process is being used continuously at an industrial park in South Korea, where 100 tons per day of industrial waste from a mattress factory is converted to steam and sold to tenants of the park, Comly says. The system is also being installed in Cochin, India, where it will produce power from industrial and local wastes. In addition, a system is under construction at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska that will serve as a demonstration and validation unit producing electricity from waste for the local grid.

Clean Pipes Once the system reaches SUNY’s laboratory, Goodale will evaluate the cleanliness of the syngas, expecting favorable results. “I’ll be looking at how clean the gas pipe is and my hypothesis is that the pipe will be clean,” he says. Because of the high temperatures, the system does not produce significant tar. “If not, we’ll remove any tar and put it back through the kiln.” Tar is a combustible, composed of hydrocarbons, and Goodale emphasizes that anything combustible will be used inside the kiln. “We want to do whatever is necessary




W2E’s rotary kiln design is already being used in South Korea.

to have a clean gas, as clean as possible, exiting the kiln. “This is a very rich team in the sense of their knowledge base and we’re really pioneers with this,” he says. “No one has this prototype but W2E. Being one of a kind, we think it will make it possible for us to roll out this technology.” During prototype

batch runs at SUNY, the feedstock and syngas properties will be evaluated. His team will focus initially on electricity generation, but Goodale plans to explore liquid fuel options for the system in the future, under the assumption that the syngas can be turned into diesel and gasoline.

Military Applications While there is no steadfast timeline, there is interest from government agencies in the scale-up and use of the rotary kiln gasifier. The U.S. DOE and the U.S. Department of Defense have issued grants to SUNY for the project and the DoD has a particularly significant interest in it. “The

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INNOVATION army certainly recognizes that wherever we have troops stationed, it is a substantial investment to care for our troops,� Goodale says. “We have to care for them and that comes on the dollar of the taxpayer here in the U.S.� Mess halls, for instance, produce substantial amounts of waste that usually winds up in landfills. The Military Academy at West Point, a project collaborator, sends its food waste to out-of-state landfills, Goodale says. That garbage can be converted to energy and used on-site for military operations. “That’s why the U.S. Army has said, ‘Yes, let’s put some money into the SUNY Cobleskill project,’� Goodale says. “It has multiple applications as a stand alone, to generation of power to combined heat and power,� says Philip Darcy, energy and environmental integrated production team leader for the DoD. The rotary kiln gasifier is an economic alternative to waste disposal, he adds. “It has the capability to reduce logistic support to forward application and recycle (thermal) wastes on installations, extending landfills and reducing costs of operations at the installations.� The military is asking that the technology be transportable, allowing for easier deployment at multiple locations. Estimates by the Logistics Management Institute in a 2003 report indicated a cost of between $62 and $903 per ton for in-theater waste disposal and a cost to the DoD of $13 per gallon to deliver fuel to supply depots intheater with additional transportation costs to battalion support areas, according to SUNY Cobleskill. In agreement with Darcy, Goodale says the system is economic compared with other waste-to-energy processes such as anaerobic digestion (AD). AD systems are probably no pricier than rotary kilns as we’ve known them for years, but the gas they produce is not clean enough for internal combustion engines, so a backup engine is needed when the first one needs cleaning, Goodale says. The cylinders need to be cleaned and the residues need to be removed from the walls, representing added cost not necessary with rotary kiln gas, which is nearly free of

methane. In addition, the payback period for AD systems tends to stay above 10 years, compared with between five and 10 for a rotary kiln, Goodale says, adding that that has yet to be proven. “I’m making a hypothesis that the rotary kiln gasifier will be very economic for these reasons: fairly short return on investment period, cleaner gas than the alternatives, and utilizing feedstock that is heretofore considered waste and not investing in growing a crop,� Goodale lists. “This man believes that the system will prove itself to be very economic.

“Keep funding coming, DOE people, and we’ll see if we can’t do something that’s going to, not at the end, but at some milestones, bring a real revolutionary method of handling both the military and society’s waste streams,� Goodale says. BIO Lisa Gibson is a Biomass Magazine associate editor. Reach her at lgibson@ or (701) 738-4952.

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Biobrewery Concept Two European companies have an anaerobic digestion process they say works perfectly for brewery residues, but convincing a centuries-old industry to change its operations poses a problem in marketing and widely implementing the practice. By Lisa Gibson




demonstration plant,” Grasmug says. “The idea from this demonstration plant was to show that our concept for using the spent grains from breweries for anaerobic digestion is a feasible project or a feasible idea,” says ATRES Owner Gunther Pesta, who has been working on the concept for more than 10 years.

The Technology The patented Enbaferm system consists of two phases: hydrolysis and methane, according to Grasmug. The process is being used at several locations with multiple feedstocks including organic portions of municipal solid waste. The only difference is the pretreatment for the different feedstocks. Enbaferm has a higher loading rate than conventional AD systems, making only two fermentors necessary, regardless of the volume of feedstock. “That means we can load three times more organics into the system with the same efficiency,” Grasmug explains. Enbasys engineers were able to design the system to eliminate the problem of foaming in the fermentors, along with sediment settlement. Sediment accumula-


he Bavarian State Brewery Weihenstephan is renowned in the beer industry, making its Freising, Germany, location perfect for demonstrating an anaerobic digestion (AD) process for spent grains and yeast waste streams. “Everybody who works in this field knows Weihenstephan,” says Markus Grasmug, chief technology officer for Austria-based enbasys gmbh, developer of the biogas process employed at the facility. Indeed the location did help draw attention from all over the world including the United States. Enbasys’ multifeedstock Enbaferm process was coupled with a hydrolysis system developed together with ATRES engineering biogas, a German company. The demonstration was not an attempt to prove the technologies, as they have already been deemed successful, but instead to show breweries that their waste streams can be used to produce energy for their own processes. “We know that with our technology, we can produce biogas, but to convince them, to see with their own eyes that, yes, I can produce biogas from my feedstock, is why we installed the

Enbaferm can be used on brewery residues, as was demonstrated at Weihenstephan.




chemicals to the plant can be burdensome. On the other hand, the hydrolyser is a simple and ordinary process, Pesta says. “It’s just less or more a simple hydrolyser similar to other biogas processes,” he says. The system is smaller than others, however, has an optimized retention time and special procedural methods. When integrated here, and yeast at the 1,000-year-old Weihenstephan brewery, the two processes were just as efficient as their developers had hoped. “It was very successful,” Grasmug says of the demonstration. “We had a lot of voices, even from the United States.” The demonstration was installed and operating for nine months, ending in late March/early April of this year and producing small amounts of biogas. “We didn’t heat the whole city with the energy,” Grasmug jokes, adding

Enbaferm is designed for spent grains, pictured from breweries.


tion means money and time spent on discharging, cleaning, refilling and restarting the fermentors, Grasmug says. Enbaferm also saves its owners and operators money because it requires no chemical additives. “A lot of systems need to blend the feedstock with other substrates to stabilize the process or for pH regulation,” he says, adding that the cost of transporting those

The demonstration at Weihenstephan operated for nine months.


ANAEROBIC DIGESTION ‘But worldwide, there are no plants producing biogas from the other two streams: spent grain and yeast. Our technology fits perfect for these two streams.’ —Markus Grasmug, chief technology officer, enbasys gmbh

that the demonstration biogas, as it was in such small quantities, was not used for energy. “If you install this system at a commercial scale at a brewery, you can use this energy, this biogas, for your own process,” he says. Between 4 and 5 liters of heating oil is required to produce 100 liters of beer. “If you use that residue coming from your process, you can substitute about 50 percent of this fossil energy,” he says. The


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system is applicable at any brewery in the world, both companies say, but as with any new process there are barriers to its widespread implementation.

Starting the First One “The main challenge is to convince the brewery to install biogas,” Grasmug says. “In their minds, anaerobic digestion is always linked to agriculture.” The beer production industry is old and in many cases conservative, he says, so it is difficult to persuade companies to make such a big change. “The thing is, one brewery has to start, just like in any business,” Grasmug says. That first brewery installation might be just around the corner at Heineken’s Gösser Brewery in Austria. If all goes well, the system could be operational next year, although Grasmug says 1,000 things could hinder development. “They should become the showcase plant to install such a process,” he says. But even after convincing breweries of the system’s effectiveness, there’s another obstacle. Spent grains can be sold to the agriculture industry as animal feed for anywhere from €7 to €15 ($9 to $18) per metric ton, creating Enbaferm’s only competitor. Installing a biogas process does not always represent monetary gains for breweries as it might for other types of clients, but does help to build their reputations as green companies, Grasmug says. “It’s more for marketing,” he says. “A sign that they are doing something for environmental prevention; that they don’t use fossil energy.” Several breweries have approached enbasys and ATRES with interest in Enbaferm, albeit with reservations. “They do come to us,” Grasmug says. “They’re interested in the technology, but they have a lot of fear because no plant worldwide is installed for that kind of feedstock.” Breweries have three main feedstock streams: spent grains, the water used for cleaning in the process and yeast, according to Grasmug. About 70 percent of breweries around the globe have AD systems for the wastewater. “But worldwide, there are no plants producing biogas from the other

ANAEROBIC DIGESTION two streams: spent grain and yeast,” Grasmug explains. “Our technology fits perfect for these two streams.” Weihenstephan was satisfied with the outcome of the demonstration, and in fact, it’s still installed there, Grasmug says, but site restraints pose a problem for commercial installation. The plant has expressed no interest in scaling up for that reason, along with the fact that it’s governmentowned and therefore is not suffering from financial stress, he says. In addition, the brewery is a relatively small operation.

asmug says. “What they need to be very effective.” The next demonstration of Enbaferm will be at a slaughterhouse, Grasmug says, and he expects positive results there, too. “The biogas facility as it was demonstrated in Weihenstephan is certainly a special technology and very interesting, but you can build this biogas plant anywhere,” Pesta says. A brewery in Korea is contemplating

installation of the process, according to Grasmug, and several others could be on the verge after seeing the Weihenstephan demonstration. “The idea of Weihenstephan was just to say, ‘OK, we have the technology and we can show feasible results with that kind of substrate,’” Pesta says. BIO Lisa Gibson is a Biomass Magazine associate editor. Reach her at lgibson@ or (701) 738-4952.

Focus on Feasibility Enbaferm represents significant benefits to any brewery, Pesta says, ensuring stable treatment of residues and the possibility of producing energy for a cost savings, not to mention the benefit of using less fossil fuels. By digesting the residues, breweries are not at the mercy of volatile market prices for spent grains. The companies have done between 10 and 15 feasibility studies, Pesta says, which evaluate each individual site, wastewater treatment and chemical oxygen demand. They also conduct a review of the infrastructure and income from spent grain sales, along with payments for wastewater. The return on investment for a biogas process depends partially on what the company pays for energy, he adds. “To see the feasibility or find out if it’s an economically reliable system, you need to have already looked at the internities,” Pesta says, listing biogas use, what kind of treatment the process will need at the back end and whether the operation would be cheaper with biogas. That framework makes up about 60 percent of the economic feasibility study and Pesta cautions that it’s crucial to evaluate before installation. “It’s really necessary to have a really great effort on the basic engineering and basic calculating,” he says. “It takes a little bit more time and is a little more expensive than doing it the easy way, but at least you’re saving a lot of money because when later you find out that it’s not feasible or have a change in the facility, the more expensive it gets after.” “The most important thing is to provide them with the best conditions,” Gr-

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Incentivizing Renewable Energy in the US Northeast The Northeast U.S. with its massive demands for heat and electricity is cognizant of the need to adapt ambitious and smart renewable energy policies. Roles, definitions and perceptions of biomass energy, however, differ from state to state. By Anna Austin






ith its bitterly cold winters and extremely dense population, it’s no surprise that the Northeast U.S. leads the nation in electricity consumption. Heavily dependent on fossil fuels (nearly all of which are imported from other regions) for heat, power and transportation needs, renewable portfolio standard (RPS) implementation has been a no-brainer for Northeastern states. In fact, all nine states in the region have an RPS. With no national RPS, all state mandates have been designed and implemented differently, many of which have been increased, amended or extended in recent years. Though all have a common goal of embracing cleaner, natively produced energy, there is little parity amongst Northeastern state policies in terms of what is eligible for RPS credit, what kinds of materials are considered renewable biomass resources or acceptable conversion technologies and emissions limits. For example, while Connecticut’s statute clearly defines and encourages renewable sources of biomass including urban wood, wood waste, forest thinnings and municipal solid waste (MSW), Maine excludes MSW from its extended RPS and New York and Vermont ban it completely.


Percent of renewable electricity

Compliance year




New Hampshire



Rhode Island












New Jersey






New York



*An additional 1% each year thereafter

Massachusetts, however, encourages MSW combustion yet has a suspension in place on woody biomass technologies. Connecticut allows cogeneration/combined-heatand-power (CHP) facilities over 1 megawatt (MW) to receive credit, but Maine has scrapped it from the new portion of its RPS. While some states in the Northeast may be attracting new project proposals with an RPS, they must be careful not to drive them away with frequent changes, extreme restrictions or inconsistent policies.

Structuring and Amending Policies Maine is in the lead with RPS implementation, which is fitting, as the Pine Tree State spends the most on energy per person in the country, yet is among the lowest in the U.S. for net electricity generation, according to the U.S. DOE. The state originally set its RPS at 30 percent. In 2006, the goal was raised to 40 percent by 2017, adding restrictions on MSW and CHP while providing a 1.5 multiplier credit for community-based energy



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POWER While some states in the Northeast may be attracting new project proposals with an RPS, they must be careful not to drive them away with frequent changes, extreme restrictions or inconsistent policies.

projects. Mitchell Tannenbaum, deputy general counsel of the Maine Public Utilities Commission, explains that the new provisions were decided upon by the legislature, as are most states’ RPS policies, although there are a few exceptions. Out of the 29 states that have an RPS, New York and Arizona’s were established through regulatory channels, and Colorado, Missouri and Washington’s were ballot initiatives. Though the Southeast is commonly touted as the country’s vast forest resource, Maine actually possesses the highest wood and wood waste power generation capacity in the U.S., and is home to nine wood-fired power plants that, according to the Biomass Power Association, create $108 million a year in economic value and employ 1,000 people in direct operations, wood harvesting and other jobs. Maine’s forest resources are carefully monitored through the use of biomass harvesting guidelines. Developed over several years and released in 2010 as a result of a collaborative effort of the Maine Forest Service, University of Maine and the Trust to Conserve Northeast Forestlands, the guidelines serve to avoid negative impacts of biomass removal. Like Maine, which Tannenbaum says is currently on track to meet its goals, many other states have made changes to their initial RPS targets and language over the years by increasing them, dividing existing and new renewable energy generation into different classes and adding restrictions. Most recently, Massachusetts has proposed changes to its RPS (15 percent by 2020) that may have resounding negative implications for woody biomass power development not just in Massachusetts, but in neighboring states as well. In November, the state Department of

Energy Resources suspended consideration of biomass plants utilizing wood under the RPS and commissioned a study to analyze the sustainability of woody biomass. The study was completed in June, and DOER is working to amend the RPS based on the study’s results and additional stakeholder input (see page 18). Though amendments can often be good, ever-changing RPS policies and renewable energy credit (REC) price variability can be troublesome for developers. Since RPS policies created by a state legislature or regulatory authority are subject to legislative

and regulatory changes such as those made in Maine, Massachusetts and elsewhere, uncertainty tends to deter financers of new (and always capital intensive) renewable energy projects. A few states have caught on, however, and have developed ways to prevent that. To date, RPS implementation experience demonstrates that industry growth has been most successful in states such as Texas, where developers have been able to secure long-term contracts with creditworthy counterparties. In fact, several U.S. states require utilities to sign long-term power purchase contracts with eligible renewable energy developers, but it hasn’t caught on in the Northeast, where renewable energy resources are typically most expensive. Rhode Island is an exception. The state now requires electric distribution companies to solicit proposals and enter


POWER ‘The question for biopower producers in the Northeast is whether the agricultural land base in this part of the country can support production of cropped biomass on a scale sufficient to support even a 25 MW power plant. I think that the answer is yes, but with some important qualifiers.’ —Dan Conable, director, New York Biomass Energy Alliance

into long-term contracts for capacity, energy, and attributes from new (not yet operational) renewable energy facilities. In New York, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority purchases generation from energy producers through auction, requests for proposals or standard offer contracts of varying lengths, through an RPS fund gathered from a surcharge on each kilowatt-hour sold by the state’s investor-owned utilities. Beyond the RPS, Northeast biomass


energy/biofuel operations will be potentially impacted by additional programs and policies, such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program.

Other Policies, Programs and Pushes All Northeast states are part of the RGGI, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2009, and serves to reduce global warming pollution from power plants through imple-

mentation of a carbon cap-and-trade system. RGGI caps the overall level of CO2 emissions allowed from power plants— including those powered by biomass—in the region starting in 2009 and continuing through 2014, then reduces emissions 2.5 percent annually over the next four years to achieve a 10 percent reduction by 2019. RGGI rules consider sustainably harvested biomass as carbon neutral when it is converted into electricity, thus allowing power producers to exclude those emissions from their GHG reduction obligations. It’s up to each individual state, however, to form its own definition of what constitutes “sustainably harvested” biomass. Currently, New York is experiencing controversy in terms of what the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has defined as sustainably harvested biomass in its draft policy, compared with how it is defined in the state’s RPS policy. One potentially problematic requirement is proof that forest biomass— including mill waste and construction and demolition debris—originated in forests which are under a permanent easement or other legal arrangement guaranteeing that the land will remain in forest for at least 100 years. This would place a large portion of the state’s wood supply in the ineligible category, or cost owners of private forests that supply urban and other wood waste to spend upwards of $20,000 on land arrangements. Aside from woody biomass and its varying definitions, the Northeast may have the potential to accommodate purpose-grown energy crops, and programs such as BCAP may help facilitate that. Maine currently has the second-most eligible material contracts, second only to Alabama. New Hampshire and New York each have more than 100 contracts. Dan Conable, director of the New York Biomass Energy Alliance and partner in consulting firm Cato Analytics LLC, believes embracing closed-loop supply chains in the Northeast may be the key to

POWER growth of the region’s bioening to form a northeast regional ergy industry. “With the sustainbiomass thermal policy action ability of forest biomass under team with representation from fire, particularly as a source of seven states, to monitor and inrenewable electricity, biopower fluence state and local legislation, producers are taking another regulation and other policy matlook at closed-loop systems,” ters that will impact the advanceConable says. “The question Dan Conable ment of the goal. director, for biopower producers in the The groups are using a study, Biomass Northeast is whether the ag- NewYork “Heating the Northeast With ReEnergy Alliance ricultural land base in this part newable Biomass: A Vision for of the country can support pro2025,” as a basis of support for duction of cropped biomass on a scale the proposal, which found that conversion sufficient to support even a 25 MW power to thermal biomass will displace more than plant. I think that the answer is yes, but 1.14 billion gallons of oil annually by 2025, with some important qualifiers.” Conable representing more than 20 percent of all says he doesn’t think BCAP is likely to be heating oil consumed in the Northeast, and the “silver bullet” for cropped biomass by 2025 the Northeast would have more that most mid- to large-scale bioenergy than $4.5 billion new dollars per year inproject developers seem to be waiting for jected into the regional economy, according though, even if the final version includes to the study. the tilt toward cropped biomass that many people have predicted. Further supporting evidence that some Northeastern states are adequate candidates for biomass crops, NYSERDA recently released a renewable fuel road map for New York that indicates there is potentially 1 million to 1.68 million acres of nonforest land that can be used for bioenergy feedstock production in the state. The road map also finds that New Yorkderived biomass could support four largescale centralized lignocellulosic biorefineries (with capacity ranging from 90 MMgy to 354 MMgy) or up to 24 smaller capacity (60 MMgy) biorefineries. Aside from energy crops, there is a new push in the Northeast to adapt a renewable thermal energy policy. The Biomass Thermal Energy Council, Alliance for Green Heat, Maine Pellet Fuels Association, New York Biomass Energy Alliance, and Pellet Fuels Institute have recently made public a proposal that calls for 25 percent of all thermal energy requirements in the Northeast to be met with renewable energy resources by the year 2025. The groups are currently work-

From varying state policies and definitions to pushes for woody biomass power, dedicated energy crops, MSW utilization and thermal energy, it seems the only consensus in the Northeast is that there is a desperate need for renewable, domestically produced energy. Though a federal RPS might provide some parity, it has been on the distant horizon for several years and passage in the near future doesn’t look promising. So for now, it’s every state for itself. BIO Anna Austin is a Biomass Magazine associate editor. Reach her at aaustin@ or (701) 738-4968.


ENVIRONMENT By Daniel Kuester



Planting cover crops between corn rows may be a solution to preventing erosion and preserving soil nutrients when corn stover is removed for use in biofuels production.

Saving the Soil and Maintaining Corn Yields Iowa State University researchers are developing environmentally friendly ways to reduce soil runoff and retain soil nutrients so crop yields aren’t impacted when residue is removed for biofuels production.


wo years into a study looking at methods of combining a living cover crop between corn rows shows that yield can be maintained at high levels using environmentally friendly practices. Iowa State University researchers are testing betweenrow cover grasses as part of research looking at ways to reduce soil runoff and keep vital nutrients in the soils while crop residue, called stover, is removed from farm fields to produce biofuels.

With U.S. government targets requiring a 30 percent displacement of petroleum consumption with fuels made from biomass by the year 2030, agronomy researchers are studying methods of harvesting more and more stover, which previously was left on the field. Targets will require removing 75 percent of stover to use as biomass in the production of biofuels. Removing stover can cause more water runoff and deplete

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soil of the organic material it needs to remain productive. One method of keeping the soil in place and replenished with organic matter is to plant grasses between the corn rows that would stay on the field year round. “We are looking at trying to grow corn in a perennial sod, so that we can protect the soil and provide these other environmental services at the same time,” says Ken Moore, ISU professor of agronomy. Developing a cover crop system that allows nutrients, organic matter, water and carbon to remain in the soil is a

great idea. But farmers won’t do it if it reduces yields, Moore says.

Promising Results The results so far have been encouraging. After the first two years of the study, researchers have already discovered a system that allows for removal of up to 95 percent of the corn stover, increases the amount of carbon kept in the soil, increases water use efficiency in corn and also maintains corn yield. One cropping system the team examined in 2009, for example, increased harvest from


ENVIRONMENT By Daniel Kuester

Singer, left, and Moore are developing a cover crop system that allows nutrients, organic matter, water and carbon to remain in the soil even after much of the crop residue is removed to produce biofuels.

11,867 kilograms per hectare (kg/ha) of corn grain using traditional production methods, to 12,768 kg/ha with the new system. All while improving the soil and harvesting almost all the stover. The researchers are quick to point out they are not ready to proclaim that they have uncovered the perfect system, but they are encouraged. “It’s remarkable,” says Jeremy Singer, assistant professor of agronomy and researcher at the USDA’s National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment in Ames, Iowa. “Even in two bizarre years—2008 was the year of the floods and 2009 had the coolest July on record—we harvested close to

100 percent of the corn stover and we’re obtaining similar yields as the no-ground cover control, while increasing carbon additions to the soil.” The team tested more than 36 different ground covers, mostly grasses; different tillage systems such as no-till and strip-till; 50 different corn hybrids; and several chemical treatments. One of the keys, according to the researchers, is finding a ground cover grass that is less active during the spring. This allows the corn to absorb needed water and sunlight at the beginning of the growing season without competing with the ground cover grass. Later in the spring, as the

corn creates a canopy over the shorter grasses, there is less competition for sunlight and nutrients as the corn becomes dominant. Having more than one species thrive on the same piece of ground is not a new idea, Moore says. Traditional prairies contained many different species of grasses and plants that complemented each other as they competed for water, sun and other inputs. “From an ecological perspective, it seems intuitive that we can do this,” Moore says. “Nature does it all the time. The prairies that existed before farmers got here were complex plant communities that change with the season. And we have a

succession of species which we are trying to set up here.” Moore says one of the best features of the new systems is they are not that different from the way producers are currently farming. “We are not talking about changing the whole system,” Moore says. “We are talking about changing the way we use what we already have. It’s just how you do it to make it work better.” BIO Dan Kuester is communications specialist at Iowa State University News Service. Reach him at




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