Page 1

November/December 2017


BLOOMS Wood Heat Trends at US Greenhouses PAGE 14


Biomass CHP Solves California County Heat Problems PAGE 26

AND: Massive On-Site Chicken Litter-to-Power Project PAGE 20


04 EDITOR’S NOTE Not Only, But Also By Tim Portz

¦ADVERTISER INDEX 2018 International Biomass Conference & Expo 2018 National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo 26th European Biomass Conference & Exhibition Andritz Feed & Biofuel A/S Astec, Inc. Biomass Engineering & Equipment Bismarck State College BRUKS Rockwood CPM Global Biomass Group D3MAX LLC Detroit Stoker Company Hurst Boiler & Welding Co. Inc. Idaho National Laboratory IEP Technologies KEITH Manufacturing Company Mole Master Services Corporation ProcessBarron RUF Briquetting Systems Tramco, Inc. Varco Pruden Buildings Vermeer Corporation

06 COLUMN Utilizing Ag Energy Programs to Address Climate Change By Lloyd Ritter

07 COLUMN London Calling—for Cleaner Air By John Ackerly

08 COLUMN Risk has Arrived for RFS Advanced Pool By Michael McAdams

10 BUSINESS BRIEFS 14 FEATURE A Growing Advantage Under the right circumstances, biomass is trending as an economic, sensible and environmentally friendly way to heat greenhouses. By Tim Portz

20 FEATURE Protein and Power: Turkey’s Chicken Gambit

13 9 10 18 40 25 32 31 19 33 5 30 29 16-17 23 24 11 12 28 35 2

Turkey’s Güres Group and Turboden have partnered to transform 500-plus tons of chicken manure per day into green power for the grid. By Ron Kotrba

26 FEATURE Solving a Heatload Hardship California’s Plumas County Health and Human Services Center has struggled with heating and cooling bills since an undersized geothermal system was installed, but a new biomass CHP system will soon enable savings. By Anna Simet

34 CONTRIBUTION Sponsor Spotlight: Hurst Boiler Since it began operations nearly four years ago, Sullivan County’s biomass district heating system has resulted in several hundred thousands of dollars in savings. By Harriet Lublin

COPYRIGHT © 2017 by BBI International

Biomass Magazine: (USPS No. 5336) November/December 2017, Vol. 11, Issue 8. Biomass Magazine is published bi-monthly by BBI International. Principal Office: 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. Periodicals Postage Paid at Grand Forks, North Dakota and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Biomass Magazine/ Subscriptions, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, North Dakota 58203.

36 CONTRIBUTION New Financing Option for Proposed Energy Projects New biomass energy projects have the opportunity to look beyond power purchase and offtake agreements to fund projects. By Lynn Knox


ON THE COVER: Patrick Busch, CEO of Len Busch Roses, stands in one of his company’s greenhouses. Busch credits his biomass heat program with keeping competitive in the cut flower space PHOTO: TIM PORTZ, BBI INTERNATIONAL


Please recycle this magazine and remove inserts or samples before recycling

Subscriptions Biomass Magazine is free of charge to everyone with the exception of a shipping and handling charge for anyone outside the United States. To subscribe, visit or you can send your mailing address and payment (checks made out to BBI International) to Biomass Magazine Subscriptions, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. You can also fax a subscription form to 701-746-5367. Back Issues & Reprints Select back issues are available for $3.95 each, plus shipping. Article reprints are also available for a fee. For more information, contact us at 701-746-8385 or Advertising Biomass Magazine provides a specific topic delivered to a highly targeted audience. We are committed to editorial excellence and high-quality print production. To find out more about Biomass Magazine advertising opportunities, please contact us at 701746-8385 or Letters to the Editor We welcome letters to the editor. Send to Biomass Magazine Letters to the Managing Editor, 308 2nd Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203 or email to Please include your name, address and phone number. Letters may be edited for clarity and/or space.



Not Only, But Also


The team at Biomass Magazine is closing out the year with an issue dedicated to installations that produce and use biomass energy on-site. We’ve included this theme for at least five years, and we’re always struck by the way that biomass scales so easily. But TIM PORTZ VICE PRESIDENT OF CONTENT reading this year’s iteration, I’m struck by something & EXECUTIVE EDITOR else. Our three features look at biomass energy at commercial greenhouses, a county administrative building and an egg-laying facility in Turkey. While all of them deliver the necessary heat and/ or power those facilities require, in each case, the operation is playing at least one other important role. Anna Simet’s page-27 feature, “Solving a Heatload Hardship,” details the construction of a small-scale, biomass combined-heat-and-power system at Plumas County’s Health and Human Service Center. In the story, the energy-generating aspect of the system nearly gets lost amongst the other benefits it may deliver. Plumas County has watched helplessly as forest product manufacturing has withered to nearly nothing, and with it, the demand for local wood. As a result, fuel loading has become an issue, and frequent wildfires are a reality, including a fire this summer that charred over 4,000 acres. While the demand created by the new system at the Health and Human Services Center won’t single-handedly solve this problem, it is unique when compared to the center’s other options, in that it can be a part of a solution to a very real local problem. Ron Kotrba’s page-20 feature, “Protein and Power: Turkey’s Chicken Gambit,” is a continuation of our ongoing coverage of the conversion of waste’s associated with milk, meat and poultry operations into useable energy. The facility featured in Kotrba’s story produces a billion eggs a year, with chicken manure, produced by the layer, whisked away on conveyors. In his story, Kotrba explains how this waste is converted into useable energy via an Organic Rankine Cycle turbogenerator. Previously, it was converted into fertilizer that would be stored on-site until fertilizing season came around, creating a very real biohazard. These materials are now consumed as they are generated. In my page-14 story, “A Growing Advantage,” on its surface, the “but also” seems to be the regular disposal of urban wood waste in a Twin Cities suburb. Len Busch Roses plays that important role, but the hands down “but also” of the story is owner Patrick Busch, who without hesitation, stated that if it were not for his biomass heating solution, he would have ceased the production of cut flowers at his Minnesota greenhouse years ago.





EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS Stacy Cook, Koda Energy Justin Price, Evergreen Engineering Adam Sherman, Biomass Energy Resource Center


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Please check our website for upcoming webinars NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017 | BIOMASS MAGAZINE 5

Utilizing Ag Energy Programs to Address Climate Change BY LLOYD RITTER

The realities of climate change are becoming clearer all the time, with extreme weather events like droughts, floods and forest fires touching areas all over the U.S., and around the world. While we can’t easily link any one event directly to climate change, we know from recent hurricanes wreaking havoc in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico to the catastrophic wildfires that ravaged California, that the effects of climate change are both visible and devastating. We clearly need to address climate from a host of angles, in virtually all sectors of the economy. At the federal level, action supporting rural renewables and efficiency is a smart gift to the planet. And believe it or not, despite many high-profile areas of conflict in Congress, there has been some recent progress toward bipartisan clean energy and climate policy solutions. In a true show of bipartisanship, something we need a lot more of these days, members of the U.S. House of Representatives formed the Climate Solutions Caucus last year, with the goal of achieving bipartisan, economically viable solutions to climate change. The caucus very recently has grown to 60 members and counting, with a 1-to-1 ratio of Republicans and Democrats. Not surprisingly, it is led by two Floridians, Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, and Democrat Rep. Ted Deutsch. Members from every region of the country have joined. The growth of this caucus, which includes several members of the Ag Committee, will hopefully increase consensus that agriculture and rural America have an integral role to play in preparing for and mitigating the effects of climate change. Addressing climate change through thoughtful, targeted investments in rural renewables is good for agriculture and the economy, as well as the environment. It’s a proverbial win-win-win. Many agricultural producers are leading the charge toward renewables, irrespective of the rewards to the climate. They know that innovation increases efficiency while making them more resilient, especially when faced with economic downturns. But doing their part for a healthier planet is certainly a bonus. And here’s the kicker: climate-friendly energy and manufacturing investments in agriculture and rural America pays. According to the USDA, the biobased products industry alone contributed $369 billion to the U.S. economy in 2013, and created employment opportunities for 4 million workers. Ag energy is providing opportunities for states all across the country. For example, Texas leads the nation in wind and solar generation, while Iowa has the largest share of renewables in total energy production. 6 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017

But again, the climate benefits are real and quantifiable. The USDA estimates that the use of biobased products displaces 300 million gallons of petroleum every year, and that number is growing. A 2015 Argonne National Laboratory report showed that all biobased products in their research reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, ranging from 27 percent to a staggering 86 percent. Advanced biofuels like cellulosics, for example, provide about an 85 to 86 percent GHG reduction over gasoline. USDA’s popular Rural Energy for America Program has helped 15,000-plus rural small businesses, farmers and ranchers improve their bottom lines by cost-sharing the installation of diverse renewable energy systems and energy efficiency systems. More than 4,000 carbon-free wind and solar projects have generated enough electric energy to power 158,000 homes annually. The GHG emissions savings are equivalent to removing approximately 1.2 million cars from the road every year. Notably, many of these significant economic and environmental benefits are obtained from a tiny federal investment. Funding for climate-friendly ag energy programs constituted less than 1 percent of the 2014 Farm Bill, and proposals for continued funding are still modest. These innovative efforts help producers and companies deploy climate-friendly technologies, leveraging billions of dollars in economic development. That’s the sort of smart, fiscally responsible approach we need more of. So, despite current trendlines suggesting climate-friendly policy generally is not in vogue (to say the least), there are silver linings to be found, providing an opportunity to make a difference. While virtually nothing in Washington generates uniform approval, ag energy investments—via sensible cost-sharing and public-private partnerships—have growing support. Farmers, ranchers, rural homeowners and communities, sportsmen, clean tech, biotech, and many others support these programs. Now, we must hope that Congress does its part in the coming months. Author: Lloyd Ritter Director, Ag Energy Coalition 202-215-5512

London Calling—for Cleaner Air BY JOHN ACKERLY

When the Clash released “London Calling” in 1979, very few people in London had wood stoves. It was during the boom construction years of the nuclear era in the U.S., and right after the Three Mile Island nuclear accident. A central theme of the prophetic punk anthem was a haunting forerunner of the effects of climate change: “London is drowning, and I live by the river.” Indeed, if the River Thames flooded, much of central London would be underwater. Fast-forward 30 years to 2009, and the U.K. is establishing aggressive incentives to combat climate change, including getting off fossil heating fuels. It went much further than any European country by giving incentives to wood stoves, instead of only restricting them to pellet stoves and boilers, or larger district heating systems. By 2015, a quarter million people were buying wood stoves each year, far more than the U.S., even though the U.K. has one-fifth of our population. By 2017, smoke in central London from solid heating fuel had grown to levels not seen since the coal era, which peaked in December 1952, during the Great Smog of London that killed 4,000 people. One credible estimate now puts wood smoke as responsible for one-third of London’s wintertime particulate matter. London made the headlines in September 2017, when Mayor Sadiq Khan sought power to possibly ban the use and installation of wood stoves in parts of London. The U.K. stove industry quickly replied that the problem wasn’t wood stoves, but mainly fireplaces. As heating with wood becomes more popular, what are reasonable policies for major urban areas? During the past 10 years, the North American cities of Montreal, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and New York City have sought to curtail wood burning to improve wintertime air quality. And, scores of smaller towns have fought over outdoor wood boiler installations. Vocal opponents of wood smoke have been rising in number, partially as a result of the installation spree of unregulated outdoor wood boilers from 2000 to 2015, and it appears that there will be many more battles to come over who can install solid fuel heaters in populated areas. Curtailing the purchase and installation of wood stoves is not easy for jurisdictions, nor should it be. But at some point, it may be necessary to protect the airshed. Out of the following, can you pick the two jurisdictions that do not allow the installation of an EPA certified stove? Boulder, Colorado; Libby, Montana; Missoula, Montana; Montreal, Quebec; New York City; Portland,

Oregon; Salt Lake City, Utah; San Francisco; Telluride, Colorado, and Washington, D.C. We assembled this list to demonstrate that very few jurisdictions restrict the installation of wood stoves, particularly in urban areas. As far as we know, there isn’t a single major metropolitan area that bans the installation of wood stoves. If you chose Missoula and Telluride, then congratulations, you guessed correctly. These two western towns that restrict wood stove installations have had high densities of wood stoves and weather inversions that trap wintertime pollutants close to the ground. Major urban areas in the U.S. tend to deal with wood smoke after the fact by relying on “no burn” or “spare the air” days, instead of preventing excessive wood smoke before it builds up. New York and San Francisco do not allow the installation of fireplaces in new construction, but allow wood and pellet stoves. The Alliance for Green Heat is a pro-wood and pellet advocacy group that wants to see more fossil fuel use displaced by biomass heating. However, wood stoves are not well suited everywhere in the U.S., like pellet stoves are. We applaud the many jurisdictions that distinguish between wood and pellet stoves and allow the installation and use of pellet stoves when wood stove installation and use are curtailed. In the U.K., pellet stoves are not very popular, and because the government missed an opportunity to build up that market, they are now paying the price. As London stakeholders work on stove policies, one more immediate fix is to only allow firewood certified under the industry-led Woodsure program to be delivered in London. Woodsure certifies firewood that is well-seasoned, and has much potential to reduce wood smoke. If the federal tax credit for wood and pellet stoves returns, we would advocate that it include pellet stoves that are 65 percent efficient or higher, and only cover wood stoves that are being installed in rural areas. Governments should not incentivize wood stoves in urban and densely populated areas. This is why London is calling in 2017, and it should be a wake-up call everywhere. Author: John Ackerly President, Alliance for Green Heat 301-204-9562


Risk has Arrived for RFS Advanced Pool BY MICHAEL MCADAMS

In my most recent Biomass Magazine column, I discussed the risk on the horizon for the advanced biofuel mandate under the Renewable Fuel Standard, and it seems as though this risk has indeed arrived. On Oct. 4, the U.S. EPA published a Notice of Data Availability soliciting input on lowering the renewable volume obligation (RVO) mandates even further than the proposed 2018 volumes released this summer. Let me be clear, NODA spells disaster for our entire industry, and put simply, must be completely defeated. Not often does something so one-sided come across my desk, even in this line of work. The NODA is littered with footnotes referencing the RVO comments from the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers and Valero. The document requests comments on how much the advanced pool should be reduced, given changing market conditions and “economic harm” that could potentially occur in the future. The three principal assertions are: the definition of “domestic supply” only applies to what is physically produced in the U.S.; biodiesel supply in the U.S. will shrink due to pending trade cases; and the expiration of the biodiesel blenders credit has further reduced the amount of domestically produced supply, consequentially raising the price of biodiesel, and making it uncompetitive with cheap diesel prices. First, and most importantly, these arguments ignore the underlying objective of the RFS statute. The RFS sought to increase the availability of environmentally sustainable fuel in the gasoline and diesel pools. There is simply no debate to be had that the RFS seeks to increase the amount of fuels providing GHG reductions, yet the administrator is seeking to drop the mandates lower than the volumes actually blended in the previous year. The EPA administrator has repeatedly asserted— in his congressional confirmation hearings, and since he took office—that he will implement laws as they are written. Whether or not Administrator Pruitt approves of the RFS program, he is obligated to implement it as written, consistent with congressional intent. The principle target of EPA’s NODA is the biomass-based diesel pool. The document requests comments on the impact of the absence of the blenders credit for 2017, the effect of the Argentinian and In8 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017

donesian countervailing duties case, and the potential increase in the cost of biodiesel as a result of these two factors. Second, regarding the impact of the tax credit, we have continued to see solid production of biodiesel throughout 2017. In fact, as of Sept. 1, the industry has already generated more than 2.4 million RINs, and is on track to produce more RINs and gallons than either the 2017 or ‘18 RVO requirements. Third, as for the antidumping case, the markets are already adjusting to the possibility of reduced gallons flowing from Argentina and Indonesia. Instead, European gallons are shipping to the U.S. East Coast to offset the reduction. The logistical advantage of delivering those gallons from large, efficient Canadian and European producers continues to provide security of supply for the market. It also helps to hold the consumer’s price down, as discretionary blenders have access to gallons where they need them, allowing them to create RINs for obligated parties. Under the current system, everyone wins: the producers, the fuel marketers, and, most importantly, consumers. Under EPA’s proposal, the only winners will be the merchant refiners who have not invested to comply with the RFS in the first place. The losers will be the producers and marketers who did make these investments, as well as the environment, since fewer sustainable fuels will end up available on the market. This is an ill-conceived proposal originated by Pruitt. I hope everyone in the biofuels industry commented on the proposed NODA by Oct. 19, because even a short comment in opposition to the proposal will demonstrate to the White House and EPA that the industry is united in its opposition to this proposal, and that we have come together to protect the basic RFS program and the future of advanced biofuels. Furthermore, I encourage you to write the White House and your members of Congress to let them know your opposition.

Author: Michael McAdams President, Advanced Biofuels Association



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Bioenergy Australia appoints new CEO

benefits in lowering emissions from transport Pinnacle fuels,â&#x20AC;? she said. Renewable

Shahana McKenzie has joined Bioenergy Australia as CEO, a role in McKenzie which she will drive the organizationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s commitment to integrating bioenergy into the energy strategies and policies of all tiers of government. McKenzie comes from the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects, where she successfully led a restructure to increase the relevance and impact of the landscape architecture industry. McKenzie said the inclusion of bioenergy in the South Australian governmentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s recently released Renewable Technology Fund is greatly encouraging for the future of the sector. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Additionally, both Queensland and New South Wales have biofuel mandates for the use of ethanol and biodiesel, and are reaping the

Vermont DRF hires wood energy coordinator

Energyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s McCurdy wins award

The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation recently welHanson comed new staff member Emma Hanson, who will serve as Wood Energy Coordinator. Hanson will be tasked with helping implement the Vermont Comprehensive Energy Planâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s goal of doubling wood fuelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s share of building heat by 2035. In this role, Hanson will focus on providing outreach and information to potential wood energy users. She is available as a resource for local energy committees, civic groups, organizations, and institutions, as well as individual homeowners who are interested in exploring their wood heat options.

Rob McCurdy, CEO of Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc., has been named is EY Entrepreneur of the Year McCurdy 2017 Pacific Winner. PHOTO: KAYLA BEILER PHOTOGRAPHY Before joining Pinnacle, McCurdy held positions across the globe spanning chemical, construction materials and mining industries. Most recently, he was the India managing director for a world-leading producer of building materials. McCurdy became Pinnacle CEO in August 2012, leading major transformation and improvement in the organizationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s safety and culture. Under his leadership, Pinnacle has improved its safety rate by 90 percent, significantly increased employee engagement, and improved EBITDA results by over 100 percent. Today, Pinnacle is the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s








third largest producer of wood pellets, shipping over 1.4 million metric tons per year from its seven B.C. locations, and the company is currently expanding into Alberta. As the Pacific region’s EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2017, McCurdy will compete with top entrepreneurs from other Canadian regions for the national honor of Canada’s EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2017.

sponse. By implementing a Lone Worker Safety Program, including a device that automatically alerts emergency responders, DTE dramatically improved its ability to quickly get help in the event of an emergency. Mark Hill, vice president of operations at DTE Biomass Energy, accepted the award on the company’s behalf at the ISA World Congress & WASTECON 2107 on Sept. 27 in Baltimore, Maryland.

out of offshore wind energy, as well as biomass conversions. DONG has used wood pellets and chips at its Herning Power Station and Avedøre Power Stations since 2002, and in 2016, both its Studstrup Power Station near Aarhus and Avedøre Power Station near Copenhagen were converted to run on 100 percent wood pellets and straw. Those conversions were followed by Skærbæk Power Station near Fredericia, which runs on 100 percent on wood chips, and most DTE Biomass recently, DONG began the conversion process DONG Energy Energy wins for its Asnæs Power Station, which will use changing name safety innovation wood chips when the conversion is complete to Orsted award Danish energy company DONG will in late 2019. DTE Biomass has Following completion of the Asnæs Powchange its name to Orsted on Nov. 6. won the 2017 Best Safety er Station, DONG will have one remaining coal DONG began transitioning away from Innovation Award from plant, the Esbjerg Power Station. Hill coal in 2006, and in 2017, officially announced the Solid Waste Associathat it would completely cease use of it by 2023. tion of North America. DTE recognized that if a lone worker at Since 2006, DONG has reduced its coal cona site were incapacitated in an emergency, there sumption by 73 percent, through a reduction in would be no method to initiate emergency re- the number of power stations, a massive build-

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ture to the city of Lebanon on Sept. 27. The GNRC recognized Lebanon for Solid Waste Management and Environmental Stewardship through the city’s gasification initiative, its use of public/private partnerships, and the city’s other energy-saving and recycling programs. Industrial Water & Wastes Digest has also included the waste-to-energy plant in its list of top projects for 2017. From left to right: Scott McRae, manager, Lebanon Gasification Initiative; Jeff Baines, commissioner, Lebanon Public Works; Nancy Cooper, manager, Aries Clean Energy Communications; Bernie Ash, mayor, Lebanon, and Debbie Jessen, mayoral assistant.

Aries Clean Energy gasification project cited in awards

Aries Clean Energy downdraft gasification plant in Lebanon, Tennessee, has been the catalyst in two outstanding award programs. The Greater Nashville Regional Council presented the 2017 Local Government Award for Public Works & Utility Infrastruc-

Velocys forms UK waste-to-jetfuel partnership

Renewable fuels company Velocys plc announced that it has entered into a partnership to prepare the business case for a commercial scale waste-to-renewable-jet-fuel plant in the U.K. Velocys will lead this initial feasibility stage of the project, for which all members of the partnership are providing funding. Subject to successful completion of all development stages, the aim is to achieve a final investment decision in 2019. Members of the partnership include British Airways, Suez, Norma, and Velocys, which



Versati wood and biomass briquettes are quickly becoming Versatile a go g go-to -to biofuel for consumers all over the U.S. They are clean, clea eaan, af affordable, and can be used in any wood-burning device from from fr m fireplaces fireplace and stoves to fire pits. Briquettes will open doors to new fi markets and d growth oppo opportunities for your business, and because they can be made from materials you already process (and then some), it’s simple to get started. Plus, with substantial savings on energy, maintenance, and labor, briquettes are cheaper to make per ton than pellets! What are you waiting for? For more information call 440-779-2747 or visit and catch the market share you’ve been missing! *Source: Hearth, Patio, & Barbecue Association – based on appliance shipments from 1998-2011.


intends to supply its technology to the plant and provide project management, engineering, operations and technical service support. The plant would take in hundreds of thousands of metric tons of post-recycled waste annually.

Wärtsilä to acquire Puregas Solutions

Technology group Wärtsilä has reached an agreement to acquire Puregas Solutions, the Sweden-based provider of turnkey biogas upgrading solutions. Puregas has subsidiary companies in Germany, Denmark, the U.K., and the U.S. The acquisition will provide Wärtsilä with added equipment and expertise in biogas upgrading, and will complement well the company’s existing position in the biogas liquefaction market. In the larger context, Puregas Solutions’ offering is in close alignment with Wärtsilä’s own gas-based technologies, and the merging of the two companies will expand Wärtsilä’s overall reach in the gas value chain.

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A Growing

ADVANTAGE Commercial greenhouses are proving that biomass heating systems can provide an operational boost in an increasingly global, competitive flower and plant marketplace. BY TIM PORTZ

BUOYED BY BIOMASS: These cyclamen flowers, grown at Len Busch Roses near Minneapolis, are grown in optimum temperatures generated by local biomass. Patrick Busch, owner, is unequivocal about his belief that biomass heat has kept his cut flower operation viable in the face of foreign competition, estimating that it saves his business over $500,000 annually. PHOTO: TIM PORTZ, BBI INTERNATIONAL






en Busch Roses in Plymouth, Minnesota, and Schaefer’s Gardens in Triangle, New York, are both familyowned, commercial greenhouses that have been growing plants and flowers for the better part of a century. While Len Busch is a much larger facility, nearly 15 acres compared to an acre and a half, the two facilities face many of the same challenges, albeit a different scale. Greenhouse operations are labor and energy intensive, and for U.S. operators, those issues are exacerbated by the fact that low-cost, foreign competitors pay far less for each. With few options available to drive down labor costs, both Len Busch Roses and Schaefer’s Gardens turned their focuses to reducing heating costs, each using a biomass solution to do so.

Len Busch’s Saving Grace

Patrick Busch, owner of Len Busch Roses, speaks over the noise of a Rotochopper B66, while a fountain of recently chipped wood arcs onto a growing pile. “We used to have a smaller, electric chopper that couldn’t

really handle logs,” Busch says. “We went to the diesel-powered B66 because it was at least three times larger than the older chopper, and it can easily handle logs. We did this because we wanted the flexibility to grind wood daily. We can now process chips, logs and brush in one pass, and have it ready for combustion.” This flexibility is vital, as 100 percent of the biomass utilized by Len Busch Roses is urban wood waste, the vast majority of it coming from within 15 miles of the greenhouse, which is tucked in the northwest corner of the Minneapolis metropolitan area. As Busch discusses the operation, two city trucks approach the Rotochopper, a tangle of limbs and branches visible above the walls of their trucks. Over the course of the year, Busch tells Biomass Magazine, his operation will burn nearly 70,000 yards, or 700 tractor trailer loads of wood waste, for heat. One of Busch’s biggest challenges is managing a biomass supply chain that has an inverse relationship with his demand. “The inbound volume of biomass in January and

February is the slowest while the heating demand at that time is the greenhouse’s very highest,” he says. To keep both of the facilities boilers in biomass Busch has built as much storage space as his site will allow. The operation has constructed simple, but effective, covered storage barns that in total can keep nearly 25,000 yards of biomass out of the elements. This accumulated biomass is eventually fed into one of two boilers on the premises. The first, a 350-horsepower Kewanee boiler, with a fire feeder system that Busch says has been “significantly modified” has been in operation since the 1970s. The other, installed in the late-2000s as a result of ongoing expansion is a Hurst boiler system. “We were growing and our expansions had us back to burning about half gas,” Busch says. Together, the two boilers satisfy all of the operation’s thermal needs, and Busch estimates that at today’s natural gas prices, Len Busch saves over $500,000 annually. “We’ve got a couple million dollars invested in equipment, and while that makes this a

multiyear payback, we think it’s still pretty decent,” he adds. The biomass heating solution at Len Busch Roses is relatively straightforward, but its impact on the viability of the business is difficult to overstate. By way of explanation, Busch points to a dramatic shift in the cut flower business that began in the late 1980s. Cut flowers such as roses, tulips and lilies are sold already cut, and then bunched by supermarkets and flower shops. Prior to the ‘80s, the cut flower business was dominated by producers in California and Colorado. In the late ‘80s, foreign players, predominantly Columbia and Ecuador, began building a distribution pipeline that connected growers in those countries to importers in Miami. This supply chain is now so well-established that a cut flower can move from a greenhouse in Columbia to a florist in Minnesota in less than a week. Busch says that the cost of producing a cut flower in these countries is a fraction of the cost to produce the same flower in the U.S., even when considering the air freight

UP AGAINST THE CLOCK: The team at Len Busch Roses hustles to lay in as much biomass inventory as possible in the time leading up to winter. Supply slows to a trickle in January and February, when heat demand is greatest. Here, a front-end loader feeds a Rotochopper B66 with inbound material that was delivered by local tree trimmers. PHOTO: TIM PORTZ, BBI INTERNATIONAL

involved in getting the flowers from Bogota to Miami. “Their greenhouses are so much cheaper to build down there, because the natural environment in those countries is so similar to the optimal environment for the flowers anyway,” he says. “Add to that the far lower labor cost those growers have, and it’s

nearly impossible to compete with them.” Two-thirds of Len Busch Rose’s production are cut flowers, business that Busch says he can only remain in because of his biomass heating operation. “For potted, blooming plants, we’re competing with other local producers with similar expenses to ours, but

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SIMPLE AND EFFECTIVE: This covered storage area is one of several that, together, allow Len Busch Roses to store 25,000 yards of biomass, or one-third of its annual consumption. This is essential, as deliveries of new material slow dramatically in January and February, when the operationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s heating needs are at their highest. PHOTO: TIM PORTZ, BBI INTERNATIONAL




in the cut flower business, weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re competing with these foreign producers with a whole different cost structure,â&#x20AC;? Busch remarks. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Without our biomass system, heating costs would push us over the line to where it would just make more sense to buy them and resell them, rather than grow them ourselves.â&#x20AC;?

A Heating Cost Hedge

Compared to Len Busch Roses, Schaeferâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Gardens is a relative newcomer to biomass heating, and while the greenhouse doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t enjoy the access to a stream of free urban wood waste that Len Busch Roses enjoys, the operation installed a biomass solution to guarantee more predictable heating costs. For years, Schaeferâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Gardens heated its 1.5-acre greenhouse with a heating oil. In 2010, the price of heating oil began to climb, and by the heating season of 2012â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;13, Schaeferâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s was paying $3.50 a gallon for heating oil. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It was killing us,â&#x20AC;? says George Schaefer, owner of Schaeferâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Gardens. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We spent over a hundred thousand dollars a year for fuel. We burned about 30,000 to 32,000 gallons each heating season, and we only have an acre and a half greenhouse.â&#x20AC;? The rapid rise in operational costs were taking a significant bite out of the operationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s profits.


Schaefer and his daughter began investigating biomass alternatives, including wood chips, grass pellets and wood pellets. Eventually, a conversation with Gus Freeman from Bowman Stoves LLC offered Schaeferâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the most comfort. Bowman Stoves LLC is an authorized dealer of WoodMaster furnaces and boilers. Bowman Stoves and WoodMaster went to work designing a solution that would satisfy Schaeferâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s heating needs, eventually landing on a CS500 commercial pellet boiler. The boiler is capable of producing 1.7 million Btu per hour, and is connected to an overhead radiant heating system. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We used to have our heating run through the concrete floor because we had our plants set directly on the floor,â&#x20AC;? Schaefer says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Now, weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve got all of our plants growing on tables, so the heat is above everything. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a better system, and I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t miss trying to fix a leak buried in a concrete slab.â&#x20AC;? Work began to install the system at the end of 2013, and in October of 2014, the system came online and went operational. Greenhouses benefit greatly from solar energy, and as a result, heat demand varies greatly during the day. The CS500 boiler can consume just over 20 tons of wood pellets per week when run at full throttle, but during the day, it is more common for the boiler to run at just under 50 percent capac-


SCHAEFERâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S HEATING HEDGE: When heating oil reached $3.50 per gallon during the 2012-'13 heating season, Schaeferâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Gardens was annually spending $100,000 to heat a 1.5-acre greenhouse. Deploying a pellet boiler allowed Schaeferâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s to bring an alternative online when heating prices get too high. PHOTO: SHAEFER'S GARDENS

ity. The unit runs at nearly 90 percent capacity throughout the night, and the cycle continues the next day. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Even if itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s zero out, if the sun is out, we donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t need any heat in the greenhouse, but by 3:00 or 3:30 p.m., we need a boatload of heat,â&#x20AC;? Schaefer says. Operationally, Schaeferâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s is impressed with the unitâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ease of use. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I love the pellet furnace,â&#x20AC;? he says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It's very simple. It's not quite as easy as oil because you have to clean the ashes out, but when we use it at full steam, I would say it only fills up every 10 days. And we can dump it in the field as there are no heavy metals or other impuritiesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s just ash, and easy to get rid of.â&#x20AC;? During its first year of operation, Schaeferâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Gardens consumed nearly 250 tons of wood pellets, saving themselves nearly $37,000 in heating oil expenditures. While impressive and welcome, the rate of savings Schaeferâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Gardens will experience is directly tied to the price of heating oil. Not long after the system was installed at the greenhouse, the price of heating oil plummeted. Anticipating this potential, Schaefer chose to retain his heating oil assets, and during the heating season of 2015â&#x20AC;&#x2122;16, the price of heating oil made its use more economical than wood pellets. The system came online again for the heating season of 2016-â&#x20AC;&#x2122;17, and Schaefer anticipates that this winter, heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll be burning pel-

lets as well. Still, Schaefer takes comfort in knowing that now, he has a choice. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Many of our competitors utilize natural gas, and there have been times when natural gas has been one-third the price of heating oil,â&#x20AC;? he says. While installing a pellet boiler didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t eliminate Schaeferâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s heating costs, it has resulted in a protection against the roller coaster ride that heating oil dependency created for the operation. Now, Schaeferâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Gardens is able to capitalize on whichever fuel is most economical at the time. The scope and scale of the biomass heating solutions at Len Busch Roses and Schaeferâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Gardens are vastly different. As a result, the savings offered by the respective systems are also very different. The solution at Len Busch Roses is enviable for any greenhouse operator, a virtually cost-free heating fuel, where the savings at Schaeferâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s are more modest, even more so in an era of historically low fuel oil prices. Still, biomass heating offers each a way out from under a heating expense that poses a very real threat to the overall viability of their respective operations. Author: Tim Portz Executive Editor, Biomass Magazine 701-738-4969


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Turkey’s largest integrated egg producer, Güres Group, is working with Italian turbogenerator firm Turboden to convert 500 tons a day of chicken manure from 4 million laying hens into green power for the grid. BY RON KOTRBA


he need for ever-growing sources of protein and power go hand-in-hand in mankind’s pursuit of prosperity. Egg producers have made significant advancements in the quest to provide protein to an insatiable global population whose people persistently demand improved standards of living. And manufacturers of biomass power systems have likewise improved the design, functionality and application range of their units to meet increasing power and green energy demands. In Turkey, the union of egg and power production is underway. In August, Turboden, a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries company that manufactures Organic Rankine Cycle turbogenerators for distributed power generation, signed an order with the largest integrated egg producer in the Republic of Turkey, Güres Group, for a new ORC unit to be installed at the company’s main production site in Manisa, Turkey. In the press release, it stated Güres’ annual production was an astonishing 800 million eggs.


POWER PLAY: Turboden has installed more than 355 of its cogeneration systems in 38 countries since 1997. One of its most recent projects is a 2.3-MW Organic Rankine Cycle turbogenerator for Turkeyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s largest egg producer to combust chicken litter. PHOTO: TURBODEN



FASTIDIOUS PRODUCTION: Güres Group in Manisa, Turkey, produces a billion eggs a year from 4 million laying hens, which produce 500 tons of manure that is deposited and collected daily through multilayer cage systems and conveyor belts. The manure will be used to produce electricity for sale to the grid. PHOTO: GURES GROUP

“I would like to correct that our annual production is 1 billion eggs right now,” says Turgut Oruc Yilmaz, a doctor of mechanical engineering with Güres Group who has served as technical coordinator with the company since 2014. Yilmaz says with recent investments, the company’s production achieves 3 million eggs per day. The expansive operation covers 700,000 square meters with a closed area of 250,000 square meters, housing 4 million laying hens in 35 henhouses. Yilmaz says Güres Group was founded by Ahmet Remzi Güres, one of the founder deputies of the Republic of Turkey, with only 600 hens. Today, it’s Turkey’s biggest and only fully integrated egg producer with 700 expert employees. “Güres has become this successful by mainly focusing on reliability, taste and customer satisfaction, rather than focusing on profitability,” Yilmaz says. Innovative investments by the family operation have made Güres an industry leader, triggering inventions and advancements in feed mills; egg tray factories; incubation, pullet and breeder facilities; manure, cage and equipment factories; quail meat and egg production facilities, and more. Now, the company is again demonstrating its commitment to innovation by not only finding an environmental solution for its 500 tons of chicken litter per day, but one

that also turns this otherwise troublesome mess into profitable green power. Through multilayer cage systems, the company has historically collected its chicken litter—raw manure, sans bedding—with polyurethane conveyor belts underneath the chickens, conveying the waste to anaerobic fermentation reactors where the manure is converted to organic fertilizer. Yilmaz says after three days, the moisture content of the fermented manure drops to 35 percent. Then, it is transported by truck to a fertilizer manufacturing facility where a coalfired boiler fuels a rotary drier to reduce the moisture to 20 to 25 percent for pelleting. The dried, fertilized manure is pelleted and sanitized at 80 degrees Celsius for an hour, and once it cools to 30 degrees, it is ready for packaging. “To produce organic fertilizer from the raw chicken manure requires too much effort, time, labor and energy costs,” Yilmaz says. “The selling price of the fertilizer is much lower than the cost of manufacturing.” Furthermore, Yilmaz says, the fertilizer is sold seasonally, so the product could be stored on-site for more than eight months. “Storing such an amount of manure close to the farmhouses also creates a very risky situation for the biosecurity of the farm,” he says. As a result, Güres began investigating other options.


With more than 50 years of experience, Güres has extensive knowledge of not just egg production, but also manure handling. The first and most important step in finding a better way to utilize its 500 tons of chicken manure a day was to define what type of system is the most convenient, feasible way to handle manure, Yilmaz says. “We did a deep research, literature review and investigation on both commercial and noncommercial systems around the world including gasification, pyrolysis, biogas, combustion and fermentation systems,” he says. “After we compared the advantages and disadvantages of all those systems, we decided on combustion.”

Enter Turboden

Turboden is an Italian firm and European leader in the design and production of ORC systems. Since 2013, the company has been part of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The company has built more than 355 plants in 38 countries, mostly concentrated in Europe—in particular, Austria, Germany and Italy, due to favorable policies and incentives for renewable energy and biomass cogeneration technology Turboden provides. “In Turkey, we currently have 11 turbines, five of which are in operation with the remaining under construction,” says Filippo Vescovo, deputy manager of Turboden’s local company, Turboden Turkey. Vescovo is also responsible for all nongeothermal sales activities for Turboden in Turkey. The first commercial plant delivered by Turboden was a biomass plant sold in 1997 in Switzerland. Before then, Turboden developed several pilot plants for research projects. Vescovo says since then, Turboden has constantly been improving its technology, thanks to its extensive R&D work, by developing larger size ranges, higher efficiency systems, improved plant reliability, new fields of applications and new working fluids. Turboden’s technology works by either combusting, or gasifying and combusting, the biomass to produce hot gases. The heat


contained in the gases is then transferred to the ORC system by using a closed thermal oil loop, Vescovo explains. The ORC system, a closed thermodynamic Rankine cycle based on an organic fluid, which, as Vescovo says, is used in place of water, transforms the input heat into electrical power and heat at lower enthalpy—a thermodynamic quantity equivalent to the total heat content of a system. “The heart of the system is the ORC turbine,” Vescovo says, “which feeds with mechanical power a generator for the production of electric power. After the turbine, the excess heat contained in the organic fluid is dissipated through air coolers, or used to produce hot water or steam for cogeneration purposes.” Vescovo says the ORC system could be compared to the steam Rankine cycle. “The main difference,” he says, “is the type of working fluid used, which is water in steam turbines and an organic fluid in ORC systems.” Working with an organic fluid in place of water means variation in terms of

the thermodynamic cycle and, therefore, in the design of the equipment, giving way to four main differences. ORC turbines work at Yilmaz lower pressure levels and turbine speed, which imply lower mechanical stress in moving parts; thus, lower maintenance, skill and effort are required to operate. Also, no water in the turbine means no need for chemical treatment of the fluid. In addition, water-related corrosion and erosion phenomena in the turbine are nonexistent in ORC systems. Vescovo explains that ORC technology has much better performance in terms of flexibility at partial load. “Turboden’s turbine can oper-

ate at any load between 10 and 110 percent of thermal input at higher efficiency levels,” he says. “This is why ORCs are preferred in contexts in which thermal load may change, such as in the steel industry or other processes in which thermal levels change according to seasonality.” Finally, ORC technology can operate with low-temperature hot sources down to 100 degrees such as geothermal water, while, as Vescovo points out, this is not possible for steam technology. Yilmaz says Güres has been researching the combustion of chicken manure for the past five years. “The combustion of the manure is very challenging from a technical perspective,” he says. “Due to its high amount of ash, alkaline, chlorine, tar and moisture content, the combustion system must be designed and developed very carefully by considering all those aspects.” Otherwise, Yilmaz says, a host of problems can ensue. The system could fail rather quickly due to high-temperature corrosion.


¦POWER It would likely suffer from low thermal efficiency. Also, the unit may not be able to meet emissions regulations, and it would require frequent maintenance due to the ash agglomeration. Or, the system might need extra fuel, such as gasoline, to maintain required temperature inside the boiler. “In the past five years, we have performed our R&D work to solve all those issues,” Yilmaz says. “We built a prototype two-and-a-half years ago, and conducted our functional and performance tests on it.”

Güres chose an ORC system by Turboden because, as Yilmaz says, the systems are easy to operate, safe and modular. Furthermore, ORC is able to run with a heat source less than 350 degrees, with more than 20 percent electricity conversion efficiency, he adds. “Our fluidized bed combustion boiler heats the thermal oil up to 300 degrees,” Yilmaz says. “Then it is delivered to the ORC’s evaporator. It returns to the boiler at 260 degrees. Therefore, the metal surface


temperature in our heaters can be kept less than 350 degrees, which is very important to prevent high-temperature corrosion on the metal surfaces. Otherwise, the system can fail in a few years.” Vescovo also says combustion of chicken manure is the biggest challenge of such a system. The three main challenges are its high ash content; the presence of undesired chemical compounds based on phosphorous, calcium, chlorine, sulfur and nitrogen; and its high moisture content— especially chicken litter from laying hens. While Vescovo says ash content from combustion of chicken litter is problematically high, Yilmaz says Güres plans to utilize the ash as a raw material in the production of organic-mineral fertilizer. “In the Güres project, our ORC module will have two main tasks,” Vescovo says. “One, to transform the heat generated by the combustion into electrical power at a high efficiency rate, and two, to collect the excess heat after the ORC turbine in a water-cooled condenser to generate 70-degree water that will feed the dryer system.” The dryer system Vescovo mentions is a technology developed by Güres to reduce the moisture content of the manure before combustion. “From all our work and experience,” Yilmaz says, “we have learned that the manure—especially layer manure—requires predrying for optimum combustion efficiency, so we developed a new-generation manure dryer that can be run with a lowtemperature heat source, such as 70-degree water.” The dryer Güres developed can dry any manure from 75 percent moisture content to 25 percent in 24 hours, exclusively with this low-temperature heat source. The dryer works in batches, mainly because the manure can only be collected from the farmhouses in an eight-hour window during the daytime. “We did not want to stock the wet manure because of its bad odor and biosecurity risks,” Yilmaz says. “Furthermore, if one loads the wet manure on a truck, it loses its particle structure.” He says once the manure’s granulate structure is broken, it gets very hard to dry, requiring much more time and energy.


“In our drying system, the manure is collected from the farmhouses with a conveying system and is loaded directly into the dryer in two hours, and the drying is complete in 24 hours,” Yilmaz says. “Therefore, there is no need for storing wet manure. Furthermore, the manure is only kept inside the farmhouse one or two days, which increases the comfort level of the air inside the house.” Yilmaz says the most critical emissions from this new endeavor come from the high nitrogen content of the manure. “The emissions quality and degree are all about how efficiently the manure is combusted and how successfully the flue gas is treated,” he says. “The flue gas cleaning system in our project has been designed considering all emission regulations in Turkey.” The emissions controls include flue gas recirculation, a wet scrubber, and multiple ash collecting and urea injection systems to meet regulations. The 2.3 MW of electrical power produced by Turboden’s system at Güres Group’s main egg production site in Manisa, Turkey, will be sold to the grid at a special feed-in tariff specific for bioenergy. “The feed-in tariff system,” referred to as YEKDEM, Vescovo says, “guarantees a basetariff for the sales of electricity generated from biomass sources of USD$133 per megawatt-hour (MWh) for 10 years.” Furthermore, this is even greater when locally produced equipment is used to produce the green power. “This tariff is improved by employing equipment produced locally,” Vescovo says. “In the Güres project, the Turboden ORC turbine produced at our Ankara, Turkey, manufacturing facility will provide the customer an extra income of $20 per MWh for five years.” Vescovo wouldn’t disclose the cost of the system being provided to Güres, but when Yilmaz was asked what Güres anticipates regarding a return on investment (ROI) for this project, he says, “This is still an ongoing R&D project and will be completed in July 2018, so it is hard to say an exact amount at this stage. Our target is to get the ROI down to five years.”

If all goes well, Güres sees a future with this technology. “Güres Group also has a cage and equipment factory under the name of Güres Technology,” Yilmaz says, “so after the success of the project, Güres Technology can sell this project to its customers. Hence, Güres Technology can increase its product range. We are sure that with Turboden’s support, we will be successful.” Vescovo says, “I believe that in the near future we will see a large diffusion of this

type of system around the world. Countryspecific factors like climate, economy, regulation framework and awareness to environmental issues will determine the speed of implementation of them.” Author: Ron Kotrba Senior Editor, Biomass Magazine 218-745-8347



MODERN MATERIALS: The Plumas County Health and Human Services Center’s boiler building will be built out of cross-laminated timber, an alternative to metal and concrete that is fire safe, structurally sound and renewable. IMAGE: SIERRA INSTITUTE



Solving a Heat Load

HARDSHIP After a multiyear development process, Plumas County is replacing its Health and Human Services Center’s inadequate heating system with biomass, which will save upward of $30,000 annually. BY ANNA SIMET




t best, the road to finding an efficient and economic means of heating the Plumas County Health and Human Services Center has been rocky. In 2006, the facility was rebuilt to consolidate and centralize operations, and with the new design, the existing heating solution was replaced with a ground-source geothermal system. Though appealing in theory, the system— undersized and unable to keep up with the buildings’ heat load—has been very expensive to operate. A decade later, it’s close to failing, and the building’s heating and cooling costs are significant. That will soon be changing, however, as a new solution will be in place by spring—a biomassfueled, combined-heat-and-power system, a project that has been in the making for the past couple of years. Camille Swezy, biomass program lead at the Sierra Institute for Community and Environment in Taylorsville, California, has been working on the concept since day one. Back when the current heating system was being constructed, in a bid to even out cost overruns, fewer geothermal

wells were drilled than what were initially planned, resulting in those heat pumps being overworked, and thus drawing from increasingly cold water. Swezy explains that glycol is added to keep it in liquid form, and that since the system has been incredibly inefficient, the county purchased an electric boiler to actually heat the water up before it goes into that geothermal system. “It still hasn’t been enough,” she says. “The employees use a lot of space heaters in the winter, and it’s just been a huge issue for the county.” At $8,000 to $12,000 per pump, the cost of expanding the geothermal system would have been more expensive than replacing it with other heating options, and, with the help of the Sierra Institute, it was eventually determined that biomass heat was an ideal solution.

Moving Forward

The Sierra Institute, a research-based nonprofit working to bridge the gap between community and forest health, developed its biomass program in response to widespread recognition that there is a

need to create outlets and markets for lowvalue wood in the region, Swezy says. That, coupled with the fact that Plumas County’s Indian Valley is socio-economically depressed. “It lacks significant industry and large employers,” she says. “Historically, it was home to a dozen mills or so, but they all closed in the ‘90s. The community is in need of a wood products revitalization to create jobs and spur some economic development in our community, so we thought we should identify some strategies to move that low-value biomass material out of the woods—it’s just going to sit there, and the forests won’t get treated if there is no outlet for it. We have air quality issues from pile burns, and unhealthy forests resulting in catastrophic wildfires—a number of them in the past 10 years.” First, modeling its strategy after what was done years prior in Montana, the institute assessed heat demands of various large, public buildings throughout the region, including hospitals, schools and county buildings. That initiative was funded by a California Energy Commission grant, and working in partnership with

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DIGGING IN: Construction of the new biomass combined-heat-and-power system at the Plumas County Health and Human Services Center building began in August. Pictured is the site as of Oct. 2, after the first concrete pour and placement of the precast vault for the ash pit. PHOTO: SIERRA INSTITUTE

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Wisewood Energy, the institute developed a vision that included replacing the buildingsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; current fuel systems with biomass. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We saw an opportunity with the CEC again, for an implementation grant, and we recognized that it would be a good fit for the Plumas County Health and Human Services Center,â&#x20AC;? Swezy says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re spending thousands on electric costs to

heat that building, and theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re in desperate need of a fix. The CEC grant ($2.6 million) was the perfect opportunity.â&#x20AC;? Wisewood Energy, lead contractor on the project, is armed with plenty of experience in working on similar installations, including a biomass district heating system in Burns, Oregon. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve done a number of commercial and institutional thermal

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projectâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;providing heat through the form of either steam or hot water, by pellets or wood chips,â&#x20AC;? says Andrew Haden, founder of Wisewood. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve also done design work for projects in other states including Alaska and Idahoâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;we work throughout the West.â&#x20AC;? Though the scope of Wisewood Energyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work has historically been thermal projects, he says momentum around power projects is growing, and the project in Plumas County will actually be the companyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s first small-scale electric project. The system will be equipped with an Organic Rankine Cycle turbine that will generate enough energy to offset what is needed to run the boilerâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;supplied by Wisewood subsidiary KW Energyâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;and heating system. Haden points out that though there is increased interest in using the abundant hazardous forest material for energy projects, policy aspects are complicated. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not a straightforward market like other places,â&#x20AC;? he says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It has its own opportunities, but also its constraints.â&#x20AC;? Construction began on the Plumas County project in August, and as of late October, the concrete slabs have been poured, according to Haden. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The building will go up in the next month and a half or so, and then weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll come in with the equipment by the end of the year,â&#x20AC;? he says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We should be commissioning into the beginning of next year.â&#x20AC;? Fuel for the plant will consist of low-value biomass material, mostly the byproduct of forest restoration/thinning activities, and come from a variety of land managers and agencies, according to Swezy. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Everybody around here is anxious to get rid of their material,â&#x20AC;? she says, highlighting the fairly unique nature of the chip storage system Wisewood will deploy. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a concept that is used in Austria and communities in Europe that have biomass heat, and [Wisewood] installed this kind of system up in Burns.â&#x20AC;? Haden explains that because the system will use wood chips, which are bulky


‘ After this project, we hope it will be a model for other entities around the county to see that it is working out, so they’ll continue converting to biomass heat.’ - Camille Swezy

and can potentially bring dust and particles into the infeed system, a mobile, containerized system is ideal. “These sort of dropbox containers have an active floor in them, and they’re filled offsite, and then brought onsite to be unloaded into the fuel system as needed, sort of like two independent, interchangeable fuel cartridges,” he says. In winter months, each will need refilling about once a week, Haden says.

Challenges Overcome, Ahead

Wisewood will assist the Sierra Institute in operating the system for a year after the system comes online, before it is turned over to the county. Haden says that though it’s a complex question to answer since the entire heating system is being replaced, in simple terms, the county will save about $30,000 annually with the new system, and payback is expected in about 13 years, about halfway through the expected lifespan of the system. On other unique components of the project, Swezy says the biomass system will be housed in a cross-laminated timber building, a late design change that she says has complicated the project, but made it even more innovative. “We kind of created another hurdle for ourselves opting to do that, but it will be the first boiler building in California made out of the material, which is advertised to be a cost-effective alternative to concrete and steel.” As with most projects of this nature, there have been hurdles that have resulted NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017 | BIOMASS MAGAZINE 31


in some delays, one of which was going over budget, according to Swezy. “We have had to put a lot of money into engineering, and as a small nonprofit that doesn’t normally take on this sort of work, it was a lot for us to handle,” she says. “I think we may have involved too many players to help make the project happen, and so there were some inefficiencies involving so many engineers from different companies.” Another unforeseen challenge, the most significant in terms of time and cost, involved preparing the system’s site. “We chose to build this facility next to the county building, but we actually explored a variety of areas nearby for this facility, settling on the current building site because there would be less issues in terms of having to remove existing infrastructure, or old trees, and it was away from the steam

area,” Swezy says. “It turns out, we hit a bunch of water during excavating, so money had to go into putting more raw material down to stabilize the ground.” Additional delays were caused by a slow grant reimbursement process, which negatively affected cash flow. But hurdles now behind them, the project is moving along smoothly, Swezy says. “We’re really pushing hard to get some heat flowing this winter.” At the same time, the Sierra Institute is working on another biomass project at Crescent Mills that involves redeveloping an old mill site into a wood products campus that will process low-value biomass into value-added products, such as wood chips that could fuel the boilers at the Plumas County facility. Swezy said her organization is actively looking for a heat

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user, such as a greenhouse that could be colocated with the campus, as part of the project would involve a small-scale bioenergy plant that the institute hopes to bring onboard to the state’s BioMAT program. “If someone wanted to set up their own operations, then we could provide them with some lower-cost heat,” she says. Beyond the Plumas County and Crescent Mills projects, the Sierra Institute continues to work with other entities around the county to steer them in the direction of biomass heat, Swezy says. “We have paid for a number of feasibility studies to be done for these entities to see if biomass heat would be a good fit for them and what the cost might be, like the nearby high school in Quincy—they are actually following the study we developed, and applied for a Forest Service Wood Innovations Grant to fund engineering of a biomass heating system. The biggest challenge in getting more entities to adopt to biomass heat is that while they recognize they need a more affordable, sustainable heating system, the unknown is a deterrent. “People around here are pretty risk averse,” she adds. “Money is always an issue, so it really comes down to helping them find capital, identify ways that the work can be funded, and help them feel more comfortable about it by reducing some of the risks. After this project, we hope it will be a model for other entities around the county to see that it is working out, so they’ll continue converting to biomass heat.”

Author: Anna Simet Managing Editor, Biomass Magazine 701-738-4961

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Sponsor Spotlight:

HURST BOILER After four years of operating, a New Hampshire county biomass heating project has replaced nearly all of its heating oil consumption.


ullivan County had been interested in utilizing biomass as a fuel source for quite some time, in order to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and carbon emissions. After much research by Facilities Director John Cressy and his team, the county chose to install a biomass-fueled combinedheat-and-power system (CHP), featuring a MMBtu-per-hour Hurst boimass boiler packaged with a 40-kilowatt steam turbine and electric generator to serve the energy needs for the county’s nursing home (166 beds), and administrative and prison complex (168 beds) in Unity, New Hampshire. The campus includes over 215,000 square feet of conditioned space, served by a steam distribution system includ-


ing 1,000 feet of preinsulated, underground steel piping. According to Cressy, there was an initiative and a feasibility study for a biomass project in progress when he arrived five years prior, but it did not meet Sullivan County’s expectations, and the entire project was shelved. Then, the USDA Forest Service Wood Education and Resource Center stepped in, and offered to do a new real-time feasibility study. “The study blew our minds,” he says. “The numbers looked almost too good to be true.” In the meantime, Cressy was busy researching biomass boilers for the project, looking at almost two dozen plants to see what they were currently using. “I ran into a

competitor of Hurst at a biomass conference, and was shown some of their biomass equipment. We liked the robust nature of the walking floor concept, so I specified it in our open bid package. The equipment specified by the winning bidder turned out to be Hurst Boiler of Coolidge, Georgia. I hadn’t even heard of Hurst, but after learning what I have, I am delighted that they were central to our overall project.” Bob Waller and his company, Thermal Systems Inc., the authorized Hurst Boiler representative serving Maine and New Hampshire, coordinated and performed all specification and procurement services for the project. Waller and TSI oversaw the development of

CONTRIBUTION: The claims and statements made in this article belong exclusively to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Biomass Magazine or its advertisers. All questions pertaining to this article should be directed to the author(s).




$3.2 million



USFS Woody Biomass Ulizaon Grant $250,000


NH PUC C&I Grant $300,000

NCRC&D/WERC Grant $75,000

the equipment specifications, the equipment arrangement design, and the procurement of the components necessary to meet the requirements of the county initiative. The benefits of the biomass system have exceeded the countyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s expectations. In just the first four months of operation, the county realized a 20 percent savings out of its $500,000 annual fuel budget, and the county expects that the annual fuel savings will pay for the construction bond within 15 years. In calendar year 2014, the county saved around $200,000 in fuel costs, out of a little over $500,000. On top of that, about $100,000 in heating fuel expenditures stays within the local economy. With the sale of energy credits, the county expects to receive a minimum of $75,000 per year of offsetting revenue. Inspired by the success of this project, Cressy has been working on educational outreach within the county about the benefits of biomass energy. â&#x20AC;&#x153;One of the most important parts of this biomass initiative is building public awareness of the benefits of lessening dependence on fossil and foreign fuels, thus putting more dollars into the local economy,â&#x20AC;? he says. Cressy adds that most of the wood chips used for fuel are found within a 10-mile radius of the county complex. The CHP system also provides all of the steam and some electricity to the facilities. The jail has a commercial laundry that was already using steam dryers, so both steam and hot water are provided to the laundry by the biomass plant. The system also lends about 5 to 10 percent of the total electricity load a year to the turbine generator set at the nursing home. Cressy explains that it is not cost effective to make steam solely for electricity generation, as it is cheaper to purchase through the public utility. However, if the steam already being used to heat the building and hot water is uti-

Woodard and Curran


$300,000 annual energy savings plus avoided costs

ANNUAL ENERGY PROFILE 1,900 green tons wood chips 120,000 gallons fuel oil 5,000 gallons propane offset 137,000 kWh of renewable energy 1,200 metric tons net CO2 reducon

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lized, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s close to free. The amount of electricity produced is based on the amount of steam the nursing home demands, so it varies over the course of the year. The goal of the project has been to get as close as possible to replacing 100 percent of the previously used fuel oil and propane gas with wood chips, and that objective has nearly been achieved in just a few short yearsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;as of

2017, the system replaces 95 percent of fuel oil purchases on campus, and 10 percent of electricity purchases in the nursing home Author: Harriet Lublin Media relations, Hurst Boiler










New Financing Option for Proposed Energy Projects New biomass energy projects have the opportunity to look beyond power purchase and offtake agreements to fund projects. BY LYNN KNOX

ower Purchase Agreements (PPAs) and offtake agreements have been the commonplace agreements for to-be-built energy projects. In one particular instance, an energy user or offtaker kept the PPA and offtake agreements off its balance sheet, allowing the company to keep its ratios intact on company financial statements. This helped maintain its bond ratings and bonding capacity, but there was a downside, as the company expensed out 100 percent of its energy and product purchases, which negatively affected its bottom line on its statement of income. After years of accounting deception, Enron filed for bankruptcy in late 2001, which at the time was the largest corporate bankruptcy in our country’s history. After Enron’s bankruptcy, the Financial Accounting Standards Board soon began its work on changing the required accounting procedures for all contracts, including PPAs, offtake agreements and leases. FASB adopted its Topic 842 on Feb. 25, 2016, and it shall be effective on Dec. 15, 2018, regardless of when a PPA or offtake agreement was entered into, wherein all PPAs and offtakes are to be reported in accordance with FASB Topic 842. FASB Topic 842 requires PPAs and offtake agreements that are entered into prior to the construction of an energy project, to be reported on a company’s balance sheet as both a right-of-use asset and an offsetting liability, both calculated at the present value of all purchases. This will result in a company’s ratios being negatively affected, such as return on assets, as the company’s net income does not change, but its assets increase by the right-of-use asset created by the PPA or offtake agreement. Several other ratios will be negatively affected, including those ratios related to liabilities, as the company’s liabilities will increase significantly. For years, off-balance sheet PPAs and offtake agreements were preferred by companies over capital leases with $1 buy-out, which were reported on-balance sheet. With

CONTRIBUTION: The claims and statements made in this article belong exclusively to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Biomass Magazine or its advertisers. All questions pertaining to this article should be directed to the author(s).


CONTRIBUTION¦ the adoption of FASB Topic 842, the game has changed, wherein capital leases (now referred as finance leases by FASB) are far superior, as PPAs and off-take agreements are now considered operating leases, a liability on the company’s balance sheet. There is a national low-cost finance lease provider that provides developer-operators and energy users or offtakers with 100 percent of project costs in exchange for an initial annual lease payment, generally calculated at 3 to 3.5 percent. After the 2.25 percent annual lease payment escalations, the implicit rate (the interest rate to amortize the principal to zero by the end of the lease term) is generally 4.3 to 4.75 percent, far less than the costs of financing and raising equity under a PPA and offtake agreement. There are three tiers of energy purchases under the lease-O&M structure— they are as follows: Tier 1: The developer/operator provides the company with the first amounts of energy/product up to the required lease payments at no charge to the company. Tier 2: The company, under an O&M agreement with the developer/operator, guarantees energy/product purchases in the amount of the project’s operational expenses and the developer/operator’s minimum profit. Tier 3: The developer-operator has the right to sell the balance of energy/product produced to other purchasers at a specific price stated in the O&M agreement, wherein the company can also purchase the balance of energy at the same price, if unsold to other energy/product users. The developer/operator has complete control over the design, implementation and operations of the project. The result of this lease-O&M structure is that the unguaranteed energy purchases should be considered off-balance sheet for the company, subject to approval of the company’s auditors. Under this low-cost finance lease, the two main benefits for energy projects with

Example: Difference between Lease-O&M Structure and PPA/Offtake Agreement Finance LeaseO&M Agreement Term (in years)

PPA or Off-Take Agreement

20 years

20 years

$10 million

$10 million

AnnualLease Payment (Guaranteed)

$4 million


Operational Expenses and Minimum Developer/Operator Profit (Guaranteed purchases under O&M)

$2 million


Unguaranteed Energy Purchases

$4 million


$120 million ($6 million x 20 years)

$200 million ($10 million x 20 years)

Total Annual Energy Purchases

On Company's Balance Sheet

a useful life greater than the finance lease term are as follows: • As opposed to a PPA or offtake agreement, wherein the company expenses out the entire purchase amount, under the finance lease, only a portion of the lease payments are expensed out—only the interest paid, plus the amortization of the rightof-use asset, which is over the useful life, which can be over 50 years for some projects. Thus, the company expenses out less under the lease-O&M structure, resulting in a significant improvement to the company’s bottom line. • As opposed to a PPA or offtake agreement, wherein the company has no residual asset at the end of the term, the finance lease can substantially improve the company’s balance sheet. When the company buys out the finance lease at the end of the lease term for $1, it receives a new asset, without liability, at the end of the lease term, improving the company’s tangible net worth. • The company’s expense deduction is less under the finance lease than a PPA or offtake agreement, thus the company’s bottom line on its statement of income improves dramatically. Other benefits under this lease-O&M structure, even for those energy projects

with the same useful life as the finance lease term, are as follows: 4) Finance lease provides 100 percent of project costs. 5) Lower financing costs, as opposed to traditional financing and equity, which results in the company paying less for energy or product. 6) The company guarantees less in purchases—only the amount of the lease payments, the project’s operational expenses and the developer/operator’s minimum profit. 7) After the company buys out the finance lease for $1 at the end of the lease term, the company’s payments for energy/ product significantly reduces under the option periods in the O&M agreement. 8) Potential for the company to enjoy partially off-balance sheet treatment. Once it is understood that there is a low-cost finance lease option with cuttingedge structure, the new reality will be that PPAs and off-take agreements for to-bebuilt projects may become outdated.

Author: Lynn Knox President, Commercial Property Lenders Inc. 770-213-4141


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2017 November/December Biomass Magazine  

Distributed & Onsite Bioenergy Projects