Biomass Energy - What is Old is New
Since man made his first campfire to keep warm, prepare food, and keep
predators at bay, we have been harnessing biomass energy for our purposes.
Today, with the need for increased domestic sources of energy, biomass
represents a renewable energy alternative to imported non-renewable fossil
fuels, many from politically unstable areas of the world.
Evergreen Engineering is presently on the forefront of this technology, helping to
design state-of-the-art biomass to energy plants around the country to serve the
growing need for this domestically produced, renewable energy.
Biomass is the organic matter in trees, crops, and other living plant material. As trees and plants grow, the process of photosynthesis uses solar energy to convert carbon dioxide into carbohydrates in the form of starches, sugars, and cellulose. These carbohydrates are the organic compounds that make up biomass. Biomass can be used for fuels (Biofuels), power production (Biopower) and products (Bioproducts).
It’s called fire….a new way to recycle wood!
Many different types of biomass fuel can be burned to release this stored energy
for useful purposes including wood, agricultural wastes, municipal solid waste,
construction debris, wood pulping liquor, paper mill scrap, lumber mill scrap,
“hog” fuel, and bark among others. The biomass can be either grown for this
purpose or waste products can be used. Before the biomass can be burned it is
processed to differing degrees depending on the type of biomass so it has some
uniform shape and dimensions and can be fed or metered into a combustor.
Biomass may be hogged, chipped, baled, pelletized, or made into briquettes and
then burned to create heat in a combustion unit. There are various technologies
to accomplish this including Fluidized or Bubbling Bed Combustors, Stoker Fired
Boilers, and Gasifiers. This heat in turn is used to produce hot air, hot water,
steam, and electricity. In fact, this concept has been used successfully for years
in the wood products industry,in many cases to both produce heat for drying
operations as well as electricity to run the mill. This is one application of
cogeneration-producing both heat and power, where the maximum amount of
heat is extracted from the fuel as compared to a power-only or heat-only cycle.
There are many forces currently driving the boom in construction of Biopower
plants in the U.S. , among them:
- Biomass reduces our dependence on expensive foreign oil for both power
production and fuel for transportation. Also, biofuels are the only
renewable liquid transportation fuel available.
- Biomass energy has the potential to greatly reduce greenhouse gas
emissions. The burning of biomass releases about the same amount of
carbon dioxide as conventional fossil fuels with one huge difference.
Burning the fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide produced by
photosynthesis that occurred millions of years ago. Biomass, however,
releases carbon dioxide that is largely balanced by the carbon dioxide
captured in its growth-essentially making it “carbon neutral”.
- Tax incentives in the form of energy production tax credits have been in
place for the last few years, and are anticipated to be renewed again as
part of the current economic stimulus legislation in front of congress as of
this writing. There is currently $20 Billion in the bill for renewable energy
tax credits. This has been slowed down over the last year due to political
fighting in an election year but prior to this these credits have been
renewed every year.
- Biomass energy supports U.S. forest and agricultural industries and
provides jobs for thousands of Americans.
- Biomass provides a way to dispose of waste materials that otherwise
would end up in a landfill or create other environmental risks. About 70%
of the waste disposed of in landfills is biomass material.
- There has been an implementation of Carbon Credit markets such as the
Chicago Climate Exchange, which allow users that have excess credits to
sell to others in need of these credits to meet permitting requirements and
reduce their carbon footprint. The seller thus subsidizes the cost of the low
carbon footprint plant; i.e. Biopower plant.
- The need for additional distributed generation capacity in the U.S. The
population in the U.S. continues to grow and will need additional
generating capacity. The decentralized, or distributed generation concept,
reduces the need for long transmission line installation and avoids the
costly transport of fuels long distances from the source.
- The current plan from the White House has 10 percent of our electricity
coming from renewable sources by 2012, and 25 percent by 2025. If this
becomes law this will drive the increased use of biomass for meeting this
Currently in the US, according to published monthly data from the U.S.
Government Energy Information Administration (USEIA), about 7.5% of all
consumed energy in the U.S. is from renewable sources. Biomass energy
sources currently provide about 4% of all energy consumed in the U.S. , more
than hydro, wind, solar and geothermal combined.
The European Union is ahead of the U.S. in the use of renewables, with about
9% of total consumed energy currently coming from renewable sources
according to the 2008 EU Energy and Security Action Plan: Second Strategic
Energy Review. The European Union (EU) Renewable Energy Directive adopted
December 17, 2008,defined as a 20-20-20 plan calls for a 20% reduction in
greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 levels by 2020, increasing the
share of renewables to20% by 2020, and a 20% cut in energy through improved
energy efficiency by 2020. In fact this aggressive directive is driving a huge
demand for fuel for the numerous Bioenergy plants in construction and operation
in the EU with many biomass fuel processing plants planned in the U.S. to help
meet this demand. We have recently seen a similar effect on solar manufacturing
in the U.S. to meet the demand from the EU, and Evergreen Engineering has
capitalized on this as well.
The fact that Oregon approved a state renewable energy tax bill, Bill 3619, was a
major incentive for SolarWorld, a German company to locate in Oregon. Oregon
lawmakers expect the state incentives to grow from $10 million in 2008 to $100
million by 2013. Individual states such as California, New York, and Oregon are
way ahead of the federal government in their aggressive implementation plans
for renewable energy; closer to the EU’s present model.
Evergreen Engineering is uniquely positioned to provide design and engineering
services to meet the needs of this expanding Biopower industry. For years
Evergreen has been one of the foremost providers of engineering to the wood
products industries, where (as mentioned earlier) they have been burning mill
waste or “hog” fuel for many years …..only now it is called Biopower. Because of
this expertise and reputation nationally, Evergreen will continue to be a player in
this sector. We are looking forward to increased opportunities for Evergreen in
this sector as the U.S. increases its share of biomass and other renewables.