N.Y. announces biomass thermal incentives, RPS solicitation

By Erin Voegele | July 29, 2014
On July 29, N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo made two announcements that will benefit bioenergy projects within the state, including the official launch of Renewable Heat N.Y. and the availability of funding to support clean energy generation projects.

Renewable Heat N.Y. is a $27 million initiative that aims to build a sustainable, high-efficiency, low-emissions wood heating sector in the state. The program will also help develop a more clean


technology manufacturing base in New York, along with a skilled installer base and sustainably harvested wood fuels from state forests. Cuomo first announced plans to launch the program in January. In February, 18 projects received funding under the program to support the installation of wood-fired heating equipment.
“The wood-fired heating industry is an important source of energy in Upstate New York, and by launching Renewable Heat N.Y. we are helping to shape this growing sector with a focus on clean, sustainable, and highly-efficient practices,” Cuomo said. “This initiative is the most comprehensive in the nation, and I am confident that it will support the continued evolution of a vibrant wood heating sector in rural areas of the state.”

According to information released by the governor’s office, the Renewable Heat N.Y. initiative was officially launched in late July at Evoworld Inc., a manufacturer of high-efficiency wood pellet boilers. Vincent’s Heating and Fuels Service, Econoburn and the New York Biomass Energy Alliance also participated in the event.

 “This initiative will lower costs for high-efficiency, low-emissions wood heating systems, and create greater acceptance in the market,” said John Rhodes, president and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. “NYSERDA will jump-start the initiative with large anchor projects, which will help increase demand for wood pellets and decrease the costs for smaller residential and commercial customers as the market grows.”

The July 29 announcement includes the launch of new residential and commercial financial incentives and training, available through NYSERDA, and sustainable biomass harvesting guidelines for suppliers of wood biomass. Residential incentives of $1,000, or up to $1,500 for income-qualified homeowners, are available for the installation of wood pellet stoves. Residential customers and small commercial customers are also able to receive a $4,000 incentive for the recycling of old outdoor/indoor wood boilers and an additional 20 percent of installed cost up to $4,000 for the installation of an advanced cordwood boiler with thermal storage. Small commercial customers can also receive an incentive of up to 25 percent of total installed, up to $100,000, for the installation of a small pellet boiler with thermal storage. Large commercial customers are eligible for up to 20 percent of the installed cost, up to $100,000, for the installation of a large pellet boiler with thermal storage. Large commercial customers can also receive an incentive of up 25 percent of installed cost, up to $150,000, for the installation of a tandem pellet boiler with thermal storage.

A second announcement made by Cuomo on July 29 indicates New York will make $250 million available to fund large-scale clean energy projects, including biomass facilities, biogas projects, wind farms, fuel cells and the upgrading of small- to medium-sized hydropower projects. Funding for the competitive solicitation will be provided by NYSERDA through the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS). Selected projects will be awarded for a term of up to 20 years. The solicitation will be the ninth RPS Main Tier solicitation launched by NYSERDA. The previous eight solicitations resulted in approximately 1,900 MW of installed capacity at 65 projects that generate more than 4.6 million MWh of renewable energy annually.

Entities interested in participating in the procurement are encouraged to submit a notice of intent to bid form to NYSERDA as soon as possible. Application packages for the solicitation are due Aug. 25. A bidders teleconference is scheduled for Aug. 7. NYSERDA intends to notify winning bidders in late October. Additional information on the solicitation is available on the NYSERDA website.

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150 federal buildings found to be candidates for pellet boilers

From Biomass Magazine

By Sue Retka Schill

Wood pellet boilers should be considered at all hot-water heated federal facilities where natural gas is unavailable, particularly in northern regions, according to the U.S. General Services Administration. 


The GSA’s Green Proving Ground just released a study of the retrofit done at the Ketchikan Federal Building in Ketchikan, Alaska, that installed a state-of-the-art pellet-fired biomass boiler.
GPG commissioned researchers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to evaluate the efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and operational functionality of the 1-million Btu boiler. NREL gauged the technology’s deployment potential by combining information from GSA’s Energy Usage and Analysis System with independent research to locate wood-pellet biomass sources, estimate delivered costs, and identify additional candidate facilities. After one full year of boiler operation, researchers performed a measurement and verification assessment over the course of one day in January 2012 to ascertain biomass boiler operational efficiency.
Because weather conditions were mild on that day and the boiler is oversized, it was operating at only 45 percent of load, but still maintained 85 percent efficiency, the report said. Payback for Ketchikan, in which the retrofit included the replacement of the entire legacy heating system, is estimated at 30 years. In part, that is due to the oversizing of the boiler, the report said. “Over the course of a year, the boiler installed at Ketchikan is capable of generating 8,760 million Btu but estimated use in 2011 was 1,150 million Btu, or 13 percent of full capacity. Under more favorable conditions, including but not limited to appropriate system sizing, simple payback can be less than five years.” A table in the report reported the payback periods for various pellet prices and differently sized systems. Paybacks are less than three years at prices between $200 and $250 per ton for systems ranging from 1 million Btu per hour to 4 million Btu per hour.
The report listed several benefits of pellet boilers, summarizing them as having high operational functionality and low operating and maintenance costs. Of the more than 1,500 GSA-owned buildings across the U.S., researchers identified approximately 150 as potential candidates for biomass heating. “Wood-pellet- fired biomass boilers should be considered at all hot-water-heated facilities where natural gas is unavailable. Deployment should target facilities that have an extended heating season and where pellet fuel is available within 50 miles.”

The full report can be found on the GSA website here

U.K. DECC model confirms GHG benefits of North American pellets

From Biomass Magazine

By Erin Voegele


On July 24, the U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change reported that scientific analysis has proven that biomass from North America can help decarbonize U.K. electricity supplies. The analysis is the result of a scientific calculator that investigates the impact on carbon emissions of biomass sourced from North America to produce electricity. That calculator finds that responsibly sourced biomass can be used in a low carbon and sustainable way.

“In the short term, biomass can help us decarbonize our electricity supplies, and we are committed to supporting cost-effective, sustainably produced biomass,” said Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey. “This calculator shows that, done well, biomass can offer real carbon savings – which is why we are tightening our rules for sustainable biomass. Any producer who doesn’t meet those standards will lose financial support from next year.”

The calculator, also known as the Bioenergy Emissions and Counterfactual Model, was developed by the DECC and can be used by developers to ensure biomass is sourced responsibly. According to the DECC, the model takes into account changes in the amount of carbon stored in forests over the lifetime of a biomass project.

“The calculator looks at the changes in the amount of carbon stored in forests in North America when assessing the benefits and impacts of various bioenergy scenarios,” said David MacKay, chief scientific advisor at the DECC. It gives new information about which biomass resources are likely to have higher or lower carbon intensities, and so provides insight into a complex topic.”

A technical report on the calculator, titled “Life Cycle Impacts of Biomass Electricity in 2020,” investigates a wide range of scenarios on the North American pellet industry, including current scenarios and potential future scenarios that could come to pass in a world with increased demand for biomass, such as pellets from wood derived from new, dedicated plantations. The scenarios range from those that are likely to happen to those that are possible but implausible.

The authors of the report conclude that in 2020 it may be possible to meet the U.K.’s demand for solid biomass for electricity using biomass feedstocks from North America that result in electricity with greenhouse gas (GHG) intensities lower than 200 kilograms of CO2 equivalent per MWh (kg CO2e/MWh) when fully accounting for changes in land carbon stock changes. The report, however, also notes that some other bioenergy scenarios could lead to high GHG intensities, meaning those greater than electricity from coal when analyzed over 40 or 100 years, but would be found to have GHG intensities less than 200 kg CO2e/MWh by the Renewable Energy Directive LCA methodology.

The report also concludes that the energy input requirement of biomass electricity generated from North American wood by the U.K. in 2020 is likely to range from 0.13 to 0.96 MWh energy carrier input per MWh delivered energy. The report specifies this is significantly greater than other electricity generating technologies. According to the report, the energy input requirement is the smallest when transport distances are minimized, the moisture content of biomass is reduced by passive drying and drying using local biomass as fuel, and when the energetic efficiency of the technology is maximized.

The U.S. Industrial Pellet Association has spoken out to welcome the release of the calculator, noting it can play an important role in demonstrating that biomass from the U.S. produced from sawmill residues, thinnings and other low-value fiber can significantly reduce greenhouse gas and carbon emissions that will remain a valuable energy resource in mitigating climate change. The USIPA, however, also stressed that the calculator does not consider some of the factors that promote sustainable forest management in the U.S.

“We are pleased to see the U.K. take the initiative to create a tool that will verify that responsibly sourced biomass is sustainable and carbon beneficial. This calculator, along with the U.K.’s strong sustainability requirements for biomass, can help policy makers with understanding the industry, and assist producers with ensuring their product is sustainable,” said USIPA Executive Director Seth Ginther.

However, it should be noted that the calculator does not consider the economic, regulatory, and social conditions that also promote sustainable forest management in the U.S.,” Ginther continued. “The U.K. government should use the BEaC calculator in conjunction with these aspects of the industry to determine the full carbon benefits that the biomass life-cycle can bring. We look forward to working with the U.K. to continue to deliver this affordable, low-carbon energy source that is keeping the lights on while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

The Drax Goup plc has also weighed in on the DECC’s announcement, noting the North American focus area of the study was identified several years ago by Drax as one of its source areas due to the abundance of biomass that met the company’s own robust sustainability criteria.

“Sustainability has always been absolutely central to our biomass strategy. The academic study by DECC confirms what Drax has always argued, that there is a right way to source biomass and a wrong way. We welcome that it confirms the fact that where biomass is sourced sustainably major carbon savings can be delivered,” said Dorothy Thompson, chief executive of Drax.

“This study adds to the growing breadth of analysis on sustainable sourcing of biomass as a fuel for low carbon electricity generation. We look forward to working closely with U.K. Government and other EU stakeholders to improve further the knowledge and analysis in this complex area,” she continued.

“When we complete our plans to convert three of our generating units to burn sustainable biomass in place of coal we will be able to deliver cost effective, renewable electricity to the equivalent of over three million homes and reduce our carbon emissions by over 10 million tons a year,” Thompson said. “No other renewable can make such an impact and provide electricity at scale day-in, day-out whatever the weather.”

Copies of the technical report, BEAC model, and a user guide for the model can be downloaded from the DECC website here.

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Is Solar Leading US Energy, in terms of installations?

From Cleantechnica

By Roy L. Hayes


The most recent Ferc report states that the Natural gas sector continues to lead the US, in terms of installation capacity, for 2014. As of the end of June, there were 18 new facilities with a total capacity of 1,555 MW. While this is more than the 1,131 MW for solar, the report is restricted to utility scale solar. Based on previous returns, the addition of data from rooftop and commercial solar installations might change this. Is Solar the Leading US Energy, in terms of installations?

According to data from the Solar Industries Association (SEIA), more than 44% of solar capacity installed during the first quarter was non-utility. If that proportion continued to the end of June, solar is leading the nation in terms of installations.

An Energy information Administration (EIA) report predicts that 60% of the solar installations during the next 26 years will be in the rooftop sector.

“Solar is the fastest-growing source of renewable energy today – and, as this report bears out, it will continue to be for years and years to come. The continued, rapid deployment of solar nationwide will create thousands of new American jobs, pump hundreds of billions of dollars into the U.S. economy and help to significantly reduce pollution,” Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Industries Association (SEIA) said in a recent press release.

He added, “This progress could be jeopardized if smart public policies, such as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), net energy metering (NEM) and renewable portfolio standards (RPS), come under renewed attack by entrenched fossil fuel interests.”

Regardless of whether natural gas or solar leads, most installations were made in the renewable sector. Another 1,965 MW of renewable capacity was added YTD, not counting rooftop or commercial solar.

According to Ken Bossong of the Sun Day Campaign, “Renewables have accounted for approximately 45% of all new electrical generating capacity over the past 3 1/2 years.”

The wind industry continues to slump as a result of Congress’ not having renewed the Federal Tax credit. Professor Dan Kammen of UC Berkeley described compared it to a switch, which can turn this sector on or off. Only 699 MW of capacity has been installed YTD. By way of comparison, 12,000 MW were installed when the tax credit was active in 2012.

Other renewable installations were, by capacity: 87 MW of Biomass, 32 MW of Geothermal and 16MW of Hydopower.

The only new installations from more conventional sectors have been two oil plants with a total capacity of 9 MW.

There has been no growth in the number of new nuclear or coal facilities.

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Study: U.S. waste could power 13.8 million homes

From Biomass Magazine

By Anna SImet


While U.S. recycling rates are trending upward and the amount of waste generated per capita is decreasing , an enormous amount of municipal solid waste (MSW) continues to enter landfills, remaining underutilized for energy generation and greenhouse gas reductions.

A new report authored by Columbia University researchers examines recycling rates and waste generation by state between the years 2008 and 2011, and finds that if all MSW landfilled in 2011 was diverted to waste-to-energy (WTE) plants, it would supply enough electricity to power 13.8 million homes. If the steam turbine exhaust of the WTE plants were to be used for district heating, as is done in Denmark and some other northern European countries, the waste steam could provide district heating for 9.8 million homes.

Although that scenario isn’t necessarily achievable, as it isn’t economical to covert MSW in all places to energy, potential to increase energy drawn from U.S. waste is great, the study finds.

For plastic alone—which make up 11 percent of the total waste stream—even though recycling rates increased by 21 percent between 2008 and 2011, and waste-to-energy plants took in 3.9 million tons or 9.9 percent, over 80 percent was still mixed in MSW disposed in landfills. Illustrating how meaningful the conversion of MSW to energy is, the report points out that every ton of MSW combusted in modern WTE plants replaces nearly half of a ton of coal. Therefore, diversion of MSW from landfills to new WTE plants could reduce coal mining in the U.S. by about 100 million tons per year, or 10 percent of U.S. 2012 coal production.

Furthermore, this scenario could replace all coal imported by states such as New York, California, Idaho, New Jersey and Maine, and drastically reduce annual landfilling in the U.S., which is estimated to require about 6,100 acres of land each year, or the equivalent of nearly 4,600 U.S. football fields.

The report also determines quantities of waste generated in the U.S. by state and how it is disposed of, highlighting that Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Hampshire, are closest to attaining sustainable waste management, by combining  a high rate of recycling with a high WTE capacity to reduce landfilling.

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Aviation offers a way forward in biofuels research

By University of Wisconsin-Madison


Biofuels researchers are increasingly thinking about how the energy market is changing, which challenges them to balance the basic science of new fuels with a more holistic view of the most commercially viable ways to produce them. So when a group of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers began looking at how to make jet fuel from biomass, they also strived to create a “techno-economic” framework that would illuminate the entire biofuels field.

In a paper published in Energy & Environmental Science, George Huber, a professor of chemical and biological engineering at UW-Madison, and his collaborators mapped out an integrated approach for processing red maple biomass into a jet fuel that costs $4.75 a gallon. Supported by funding from the DARPA Office of Science, Huber’s study improves on previous research by factoring in the impurities of real biomass, an inefficiency that’s not accounted for in studies that use model compounds as a starting point.

“Most biofuels research has focused on small aspects of an entire bio-refinery,” says Aniruddha Upadhye, a Ph.D. student in Huber’s group and one of the paper’s co-authors. “There was a lack of understanding of what the integrated process would look like.”

Huber focused on jet fuel in anticipation of a declining demand for gasoline. Hybrid and electric cars mean the biofuels sector might do well to focus less on the fuels that power lighter vehicles and more on heavy-duty fuels for trucks, planes, and other heavy machinery. “Unfortunately, you can’t power heavy machinery with batteries,” Huber says.

So in this context, papers like Huber’s offer a chance for biofuels researchers to establish some long-term priorities.

Huber says the paper’s findings will keep UW-Madison at the forefront as biofuels researchers continue to pursue better processes that industry partners can then scale up.

“We found out that techno-economic evaluation helps in focusing in areas that make the most economic sense,” Upadhye says. “We can use process design as a way to drill down on the areas that make most economic impact.”

Just as importantly, experimenting with an integrated process helped the group figure out where the process needs to become more efficient. To be truly viable, the cost needs to come down from $4.75 to about $3 per gallon. One of the group’s next steps will be to identify a catalyst other than the expensive platinum, and to find sustainable solvents that can be used in place of water. “The wastewater treatment costs actually dominate the operating costs,” Upadhye says.

Huber says the paper’s findings will keep UW-Madison at the forefront as biofuels researchers continue to pursue better processes that industry partners can then scale up.

“The major lesson learned is that you can produce renewable distillate fuels using new technologies from biomass in an integrated process,” Huber says. “The approach we outline here is a novel one that had not previously been used and is a lot cheaper than existing methods.”

Other partners in the research included James Dumesic, a professor of chemical and biological engineering at UW-Madison; Christos Maravelias, an associate professor of chemical and biological engineering at UW-Madison; Jesse Bond, a former UW-Madison graduate student and current professor of biomedical and chemical engineering at Syracuse University; Raul Lobo of the University of Delaware; and Charles Wyman of the University of California, Riverside.

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Minnesota casino contemplates biomass power

From Biomass Magazine

By Anna Simet


For the past couple of years, the White Earth Nation of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe has been contemplating installation a biomass power system for its Shooting Star Casino and Event Center in Mahnomen, Minnesota, and was recently issued a minor new source review construction permit by the U.S. EPA.

The casino is located on the reservation of the White Earth Nation, which owns and operates the facility. Currently on site are two fuel oil-fired boilers and two propane-fired boilers that are used for space heating. The final minor NSR construction permit authorizes the construction of a new, 5 MMBtu/hr Solagen biomass-fired boiler, and establishes annual operating hour limitations on the new and existing boilers at the casino.

The new biomass boiler will be used to provide heat to the hotel, casino and event center, while the existing four boilers will serve as a backup to the new biomass-fired boiler.

According to a feasibility study performed on the project, a payback could be achieved in about one year and potentially save the casino over $500,000 annually on heating costs.

Mike Triplett, economic development department planner for the White Each Reservation Tribal Council, said that the council was awaiting response from the U.S. DOE in regard to additional funding for the project before the ultimate decision to move forward is made. “Hopefully, that decision will be made by the end of September,” he said, adding that if that were the case, he expects it would be about two years before the facility was operating.

Fuel for the facility must be wood chips from conifer or deciduous trees, according to permit data. Triplett said it would likely come from the greater Bemidji, Park Rapids area, but no contracts have been made yet.

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EPA opens 120-day comment period on Clean Power Plan

From Biomass Magazine

By Erin Voegele


The U.S. EPA published its proposed rule to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants in the Federal Register on June 18, officially opening a 120-day comment period. The proposal, officially tilted the Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Source: Electric Utility Generating Units, or the Clean Power Plan, was first announced by the EPA on June 2.

The proposed rule aims to reduce carbon emission by 30 percent by 2030 when compared to 2005 emissions levels. Specific targets are set for each state. The use of biomass-derived fuels is one of several strategies identified by the EPA as a way to meet the proposal’s carbon reduction goals.
The proposal will be implemented through a state-federal partnership that is designed to provide each state with flexibility in meeting its specific goal. Under the partnership, states will identify a path forward using either current or new electricity produced and pollution control policies. Information on proposed carbon pollution reduction levels for each state is available on the EPA website.

The EPA has announced four public hearings on the proposal. Hearings in Atlanta and Denver are scheduled for July 29. A third hearing will be held July 30 in Washington, D.C. The final scheduled hearing will take place in Pittsburgh on July 31. Additional information on the events and registration forms for those who would like to speak at the hearings is available on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan website.

Public comments on the proposal will be accepted through Oct. 16. Comments can be submitted on online via the Regulations.gov website under Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OAR-2013-0602.

Comments can also be summited using EPA’s online form, http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards/forms/comment-clean-power-plan-proposed-rule email, fax, mail, hand delivery or courier. Additional information on how to submit a comment is available on the EPA website.

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Sustainable Forests, Sustainable Biomass

From Biomass Magazine

By Rob Davis

Renewable resources provide us the ability to create a sustainable world. Wind, sun and the heat of the earth are provided to us anew each day: the wind blows, the sun shines and the earth’s core is warm without any effort on our part. Biomass, too, is truly renewable, if it is managed well. Today a great majority of our biomass comes from trees, from our forests—private forests, public forests, large tracts and what’s left of the smaller family forests.

The wise use of this renewable resource can provide us not just products and energy, but a great variety of benefits for the long term. Forests are of key importance for our water, clean air, recreation, wildlife, watersheds and fishing, camping and hiking—all benefiting the public either directly or indirectly. Well-managed forests are one of the largest, most consistent renewable resources in the world. But, this doesn’t happen naturally.
And, this constant management of our forest lands in a sustainable manner doesn’t just happen. We have to perform the sustainable management. Without it, we don’t have clean water or wildlife or lumber or biomass. Without sustainable multipurpose management and policy that requires that, we won’t have many of the benefits that are possible. We will lose much of the value that this renewable resource can provide in dollars and in all other benefits.

So, we advocate for the forests. We advocate for sustainable forest management and maximizing the benefits available from the forests. Proper management can also provide a major carbon sink, and through energy production, displace fossil fuel, as well as create long-term carbon emission reduction.
Nonmanagement can lead to uncontrollable wildfires, insects and disease and the waste of renewable resources, more carbon in the atmosphere and loss of jobs—from lumber production to tourism. Either end of the spectrum—from management just for products to no cut at all—will ultimately lead to deterioration of our forests. A large number of these forests, especially in the West, are public lands and the responsibility of the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Park Service. These forests are the property of the public—that is you and me and every other citizen of the country. We have the right and the obligation to assure that they are used for the benefit of the public and are managed in a prudent manner to maximize the benefits the forest has to offer.

Private lands provide the same benefits. Water and air and recreation are all impacted by these forests. But on private lands, the ability to create valuable products from a sustainably managed forest allows owners to let the land remain as a forest instead of having to subdivide and, in some instances, sell off parcels in order to pay their taxes.

Management doesn’t mean exclusively harvesting or exclusively not harvesting. Managing effectively means creating and implementing a plan that best provides all potential forest benefits while assuring the sustainability and resiliency of the forest.  

Forests are our resources, but a fine balance must be maintained. Overuse and underuse are equally problematic.

So we advocate for the forests. We advocate for sustainable forests and policy providing sound management practices that will continue to improve and sustain these forests and all of the benefits that can be derived from them. Many groups, including the Pellet Fuels Institute and others in Washington, along with state-based organizations, are already doing just that. I invite you to join our effort.

Although the sun will be here tomorrow, it is not assured that the forests will be. And it is not assured that biomass from the forest will be available for energy or products whose revenues help us manage the forests. We must all do our part to ensure that forests are managed in a sustainable manner and that policies are in place that do not cause this renewable resource to diminish or to be wasted.

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Report highlights benefits of coal-to-biomass conversions

From Biomass Magazine

Erin Voegele


A new report published by FutureMetrics shows that converting old coal plants to burn wood pellets provides a ready-to-go solution for meeting carbon mitigation goals while creating jobs. The white paper, authored by FutureMetrics President William Strauss, discusses the costs of fuel switching to pellets compared to the costs of other pathways to lower carbon emissions. The paper is titled, “A Cost Effective, Job Creating, and Ready to Deploy Strategy for Baseload Dispatchable Low Carbon Power Generation.”

“The data used in the analysis shows that converting an older pulverized coal power plant to wood pellet fuel results in a cost per megawatt-hour (MWh) that is surprisingly low and very competitive relative to other power generation methods,” wrote Strauss in the paper. “This analysis also shows that more jobs are needed to supply pellet fuel than are need to supply coal for the equivalent power output.”

Within the paper, Strauss notes that 44.6 percent of pulverized coal plants in the U.S. with capacities of 50 MW or higher are more than 50 years old, with 77.3 percent of those plants at least 35 years old. “Most older plants do not comply with emissions regulations for sulfur, mercury, and NOx and are facing expensive retrofits to their flue gas cleaning systems,” Strauss wrote.

With regard to price, Strauss noted that the cost of generation is primarily dependent on three factors, including the capital cost to build the plant, the fixed and variable operations and maintenance costs, and the fuel cost. While the analysis shows the cost of wood pellets is approximately 2.88 times the cost of coal on a per-Btu basis, the total cost of generation with wood pellet fuel is actually only 1.387 times more expensive than coal-based generation. “Other than hydro, wood pellet fuel is by far the lowest cost low carbon baseload solution for power generation,” Strauss wrote, noting that only minor modifications to the boiler are necessary when switching from coal to pellets. The new fuel storage and handling infrastructure are the major capital costs, he added. When Strauss considered the cost of new emissions control systems that older coal plants will have to implement to continue to burn coal, he found that converting older pulverized coal plants to pellet fuel resulting in approximately the same total cost of generation as natural gas combined cycle plants. According to the analysis, conversion of these coal plants to biomass is also more cost effective that nuclear, land-based wind, off-shore wind and solar photovoltaic.

Strauss also addressed job creation in the paper. Due in part to supply chain differences and the relative energy contents of coal and wood pellets, he determined that each 1 million tons of wood pellets produced sustains more than 1,800 supply chain jobs. Each 1 million tons of coal, however, only supports 1,320 jobs. The analysis performed by Strauss further determined that a 500 MW wood pellet-fired power plant would support 3,482 total jobs, compared to only 2,538 jobs for a comparably sized coal-fired plant.
A full copy of the report can be downloaded from the FutureMetrics website.