This was in the Denver Post business section today. here’s the link and below is an excerpt.
Xcel Energy wants to pursue a demonstration project that would deliver electricity made from forest waste, according to a filing made Monday to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.
The demonstration-scale biomass plant would convert dead trees and wood waste to an energy-rich gas in a process known as gasification. The produced gas would be ignited to spin turbines for power generation in the state.
Xcel said it will seek bids from independent power producers who would build the plant at a yet-to-be determined location.
In its filing to the PUC, Xcel said it would agree to buy up to two megawatts of generation for 10 years. Two megawatts serves the electricity needs of about 1,500 homes.
Colorado has an abundance of forest waste, resulting mostly from pine beetle-killed trees and drought. More than 6.6 million acres of Colorado forest have succumbed to beetle kill.
“Since 2007, Xcel Energy has been investigating small, forest biomass project opportunities,” said David Eves, president and chief executive of Public Service Co. of Colorado, an Xcel subsidiary. “Because the overall health of Colorado forests has degraded due to drought and infestation, there has been increasing interest among various stakeholders to pursue this type of demonstration project.”
One of the commenters asked why not convert directly… and linked to the Savannah River Cogen Plant site here.
Here’s the link and below is an excerpt.
We received about 60 text messages from people complaining about the stacking in the program,” said Lars Mytting, whose best-selling book “Solid Wood: All About Chopping, Drying and Stacking Wood — and the Soul of Wood-Burning” inspired the broadcast. “Fifty percent complained that the bark was facing up, and the rest complained that the bark was facing down.”
He explained, “One thing that really divides Norway is bark.”
One thing that does not divide Norway, apparently, is its love of discussing Norwegian wood. Nearly a million people, or 20 percent of the population, tuned in at some point to the program, which was shown on the state broadcaster, NRK.
In a country where 1.2 million households have fireplaces or wood stoves, said Rune Moeklebust, NRK’s head of programs in the west coast city of Bergen, the subject naturally lends itself to television.
“My first thought was, ‘Well, why not make a TV series about firewood?’” Mr. Moeklebust said in an interview. “And that eventually cut down to a 12-hour show, with four hours of ordinary produced television, and then eight hours of showing a fireplace live.”
This picture is located within the Cedar Breaks National Monument, where conifer mortality is quite excessive. There is really not much that can be done with this situation, other than spending lots of money to fell, pile and burn. Within the Dixie National Forest, this mortality dominates the upper elevations. Even at this altitude of over 10,000 feet, the land is very dry for 9 months, except for seasonal lightning storms. Like some of our public lands, we need a triage system to deal with such overwhelming mortality and fuels build-ups. In this example, we are too late to employ a market-based solution, which would do more non-commercial work.
I have seen this area over many years, and have watched as forests die and rot, with catastrophic wildfire being the “end game”. Anyone venture a guess at what will grow here, in the future?
Forestry operations and bioenergy have been part of the economic and social fabric in Northern California for decades. A five-year study produced in 2009 by the USDA Forest Service modeled forest management under different scenarios across 2.7 million acres encompassing the Feather River watershed. The model’s time horizon spanned four decades, examining wildfire behavior, forest thinning operations and a range of environmental and economic impacts. It concluded that in virtually every aspect analyzed, managing forest resources and utilizing biomass for energy production provides significant advantages over the status quo.
With acres per wildfire going WAY up, thinning projects seem to be the way to go to reduce both wildfire sizes and wildfire intensities. Again, we have strict diameter limits in the Sierra Nevada, and clearcutting has been banned since 1993.
The link is here
Thanks to Bob Zybach for finding this from the Bloomberg BNA Daily Environment Report.
The linked article is reproduced with permission from Daily Environment Report, 203 DEN B-1 (Oct. 22, 2012). Copyright 2012 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033)
Here it is. below are some excerpts.
The Chief also spoke of some of these efforts at the Chief’s Breakfast at the SAF Convention.
Currently, prices for lumber are down, a consequence of depressed housing markets. Weak markets complicate efforts to plan cost-effective timber sales.
Tidwell said the lumber market problems and the shortage of profitable markets for woody debris have led the Forest Service into increased joint efforts with the forest products industry to develop biomass energy markets and cellulose product markets.
Those efforts are needed to help logging companies and sawmills survive, because they can take care of
much of the work within the concept of forest restoration, he said. ‘‘It’s just essential that we continue to have the people who can go out and do the work in the woods,’’ Tidwell said.
It’s interesting that Tidwell is quoted about people working in the woods, just as that has become a topic of interest on our blog. Maybe some funding for studies will follow?
Another note: at the SAF Convention, I heard much about “restoration”, which I think is not a particularly clear concept (other than for specific purposes, such as longleaf restoration). I have made peace with hearing this by just substituting “improving resilience” in my mind whenever I hear it.It worked for me.. although the unnecessary term “resiliency” also kept cropping up.
It may not seem as compelling to budgeteers (in Congress and at OMB), but it is clearer in the context of climate change..even to budgeteers it can’t make much sense to 1) claim that climate change is unprecedented and 2) ask for much in the way of bucks to make things on the land the same as they used to be.
What Are the Europeans Up To and Should We Emulate Them? EDF and Pinchot on European Biomass; Also Bob Berwyn’s Observations in Europe
You may not have looked at the comments on the Bye-Bye Biomass post; but thankfully Alex knew of a study by the Environmental Defense Fund and the Pinchot Institute so I thought I would post it directly below. Here is the link.
Also I provided a link to a Bob Berwyn piece on the scale of wind in Germany. I noticed that a few years back in driving around Thuringia. It makes me wonder about the question of scale and what drives that. Perhaps because we have so much public land, it could be a barrier in certain parts of the country. For example in Vermont, a 15 turbine facility raised controversy.. certainly that is the same size as in Germany, yet it appears that it is being litigated.. Here’s one story about it.
New Approach Promotes Pathways to Forest Sustainability
As Demand for U.S. Wood Pellet Production Grows
Image from Pathways to SustainabilityEuropean utilities are using trees grown in the United States to make electricity. Well, not the whole tree. But lots of the tree is used to make the little wood pellets that are then shipped across the ocean, mostly to the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Denmark, and Belgium. It is these wood pellets that are burned with coal or in stand alone biomass boilers to produce energy.
Why is Europe able to make electricity from U.S. trees when domestic utilities are cancelling wood biomass projects? Answer: Europe has a strong renewable energy policy.
Watch the video: Wood Biomass Goes to Europe
The EU Renewable Energy Directive passed in 2009 sets a target for EU member countries to collectively achieve 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020. Many utilities are increasing the use of biomass as a low-cost means of producing renewable energy. But Europe doesn’t have enough forest or agricultural land to meet the increasing demand. To fill that gap, European utilities are importing wood pellets (a form of chipped and compressed wood) from North America and increasingly from the Southern United States — European imports are projected to increase to as much as 60 million tonnes annually by 2020. The growing demand for U.S. wood biomass is raising questions about the sustainability of the country’s forest resources.
Two reports from Environmental Defense Fund, in conjunction with colleagues at the Pinchot Institute for Conservation and the University of Toronto, examine economic, environmental, and public health impacts from the expanding wood pellet market. European Power from U.S. Forests (download report PDF) documents how the EU policy is shaping the transatlantic trade in wood biomass. For the U.S. export market to benefit from the large potential capacity for pellet production, producers in the U.S. will need to meet or exceed sustainability standards of the EU and individual European countries. Some type of forest management or pellet supply chain management system (e.g. forest management certification and/or chain-of-custody certification) is likely to be required.
Image from Pathways to SustainabilityPathways to Sustainability (download report PDF ) evaluates the programs and practices available to U.S. pellet producers to meet European buyers’ sustainability expectations and policy requirements, concluding that few of the pathways completely meet the standards.
Specifically Pathways to Sustainability: (1) explains the uncertainties of existing import requirements and the options that can help this sector avoid controversial sourcing; and (2), presents the ways companies can reduce actual or perceived risks that sourcing may have on biodiversity, water resources, and other natural resource values.
Sustainability will remain a pivotal issue as EU member countries, the European Commission and various stakeholders seek to harmonize sustainability requirements. European bioenergy companies often view biomass sustainability as the largest unquantified risk in their supply chains. The supply chains for wood pellets are being formed now. Developing Pathways to Sustainability for biomass supply chains now will reduce economic risk and encourage market development both here in the U.S. and for use of wood pellets abroad.
Here’s a link to the story by Bob Berwyn about renewable energy in Germany.
Here’s a piece on the Interior solar siting plan and mixed reactions of green groups. (note the author admits he has a bit of a bias).
But as we’ve talked before, I think that one of the reasons driving “industrial scale” is the size of the renewable requirement to the large utilities. To have a plan to reach 30% or whatever by a certain date, you can’t depend on the “kindness of strangers, ” or “efforts by communities to have small scale” on land with mixed ownerships. Unintended policy consequences?
Note: I heard from eastern readers of this blog that they would like more information relevant to the East, so here is one story. It’s nice to have a break from wildfires and associated topics.
A while back, I heard from folks in the forest industry in the southeast that they felt they were facing competition for trees from the European biomass industry. While people in the US may argue that biomass is not really a good substitute for fossil fuels, the fact is that Europe has their own system and their own beliefs about this.
Hence the market. Now, is this a problem? Fossil fuel use is reduced, landowners get money to keep their land in trees instead of real estate development and fragmentation? Sounds like a win-win?
The folks I was talking with raised the question about jobs and value to communities of exporting low value products instead of producing higher value products (hmm.. sounds familiar). The key difference from the West seems to be that these are private lands and private landowners producing the biomass, and hence no opportunities for litigation of the feds. I am sure the universities and/or others have written about these trends.. would appreciate links to such studies so that we can learn more.
Here’s an article from January about Virginia:
The Port of Chesapeake in Virginia has officially entered the biomass shipping business. On Dec. 31, Enviva LP, sent 28,000 metric tons of wood pellets to one of Enviva’s European utility customers aboard the MV Daishin Maru.
The inaugural shipment was the result of a construction process that started in February 2011 and included more than 25 independent contractors. The deep water terminal outside of Norfolk, Va., includes a 157-foot-by-175-foot wood pellet storage dome that can receive, hold or store up to three million tons of woody biomass set for export each year, all while withstanding large-scale hurricanes and earthquakes. Enviva’s new Ahoskie, N.C., pellet mill is currently supplying the Port of Chesapeake shipping site.
As the biomass industry grows and export volumes reach the millions of tons per year, Enviva will need to focus on terminal operations including issues relating to safety, quality, product reliability and product storage, according to John Keppler, chairman and CEO for Enviva. “We expect Enviva’s Port of Chesapeake facility to be a flagship operation, demonstrating excellence in this area and proving our capability to build the sustainable infrastructure necessary to support the tremendous growth that is projected for solid, renewable biomass sources,” he said.
After opening the Ahoskie facility in November 2011, the company also announced plans to build two more facilities, one in North Carolina and one in Virginia, both of which are strategically located to cut transport costs to and from the Port of Chesapeake. The deepwater facility currently employees 14 and Enviva expects that number to double in three years.
The Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory is poised to become the country’s leading producer of forest-based nanomaterials with the opening of a $1.7 million nanocellulose pilot plant. The facility will support an emerging market for new wood-derived renewable materials that will create jobs and contribute billions of dollars to the economy.
As new products are developed and commercialized, fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced, manufacturing in rural areas will increase, and many new high-paying jobs will be created. FPL’s new facility will aid in the commercialization of these materials by providing researchers and early adopters of the technology with working quantities of forest-based nanomaterials.
Tidwell said the plants technology will take woody material that needs to be removed from forests and develop it into a biomaterial that is commercially viable. He said the products created in the plant have the potential to replace currently-used plastics.
Vilsack said the plant represents and innovative way to create and export products that haven’t been created before.
“This is all designed to reformulate the American economy to an economy that is based on what we make rather than what we consume,” Vilsack said.
Seems like a good idea.. take something not needed in the woods, make it commercially viable and replace something that uses more fossil fuels..? No?
Here’s the link. Probably you can find out more by looking at the local newspapers for each project.
US Forest Service awards nearly $4 million for renewable wood energy projects
Projects funded in Mont., Calif., Vt., Alaska, Idaho, Ore., NH, Colo., Ga., Va., Wash., Kan., Utah
WASHINGTON, July 26, 2012 – The U.S. Forest Service today announced the award of nearly $4 million in grants for wood energy projects around the country to help expand regional economies and create new jobs.
The grants, totaling $3.92 million, will be distributed to 20 small businesses, community groups and tribes to develop renewable energy projects that require engineering services.
The projects will use woody material such as beetle-killed trees removed from forests to aid in wildfire prevention. The material will then be processed in bioenergy facilities to produce green energy for heating and electricity. The awardees will use funds from the Woody Biomass Utilization Grant program to secure the engineering services necessary for final design, permitting and cost analysis.
“The Forest Service works in more than 7,000 communities across the country to support projects that provide green jobs and boost local economies,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary Butch Blazer. “These grants continue our legacy of improving access to affordable energy for rural schools, community centers, universities and small businesses.”
The grant program helps applicants complete the necessary design work needed to secure public or private investment for construction. Examples of projects include the engineering design of a woody biomass boiler for steam at a sawmill, a non-pressurized hot water system for a hospital or school and a biomass-power generation facility.
The Forest Service selected 20 small businesses and community groups as grant recipients for these awards in 2012. According to the requirements, all 21 recipients provided at least 20 percent of the total project cost. Non-federal matching funds total nearly $8 million.
2012 Woody Biomass Utilization Grantees
California Department of Forestry, Sacramento, Calif.
City of Montpelier, Montpelier, Vt.
City of Nulato, Nulato, Alaska
Clearwater Soil and Water Conservation District, Orofino, Idaho
Coquille Economic Development Corporation, North Bend, Ore.
County of Sullivan New Hampshire, Newport, N.H.
Evergreen Clean Energy, Gypsum, Colo.
F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Company, Columbia Falls, Mont.
Greenway Renewable Power LLC LaGrange, Ga.
Longwood University, Farmville, Va.
Mineral Community Hospital, Superior Mont.
Nippon Paper Industries USA Co. Ltd, Port Angeles, Wash.
Oregon Military Department, Salem, Ore.
Plumas Rural Services, Quincy, Calif.
Port Angeles Hardwood LLC Port Angeles, Wash.
Quinault Indian Nation, Taholah, Wash.
Riley County Schools, Riley, Kan.
Sanpete Valley Clean Energy LLC, Salem, Utah
Southern Oregon University, Ashland, Ore.
Yosemite/Sequoia Resource Conservation and Development Council, North Fork, Calif.
The Forest Service Woody Biomass Utilization grant program has been in effect since 2005 and has provided more than $36 million toward various projects, ranging from biomass boilers for schools to helping businesses acquire equipment that improves processing efficiencies. During this time period, over 150 grants have been awarded to small businesses, non-profits, tribes and local state agencies.
A reader sent in this link to an EESI report.Here’s a link, and below is an excerpt.
In a similar story in its June 27 edition, the Los Angeles Times reported on an interview with forestry expert Peter Fule of Northern Arizona University. “Firefighting technology has meant fewer fires. Fuel to feed massive blazes has built up. And, Fulé said, climate change has brought warming conditions over the last couple of decades — meaning longer fire seasons, starting early in the spring and extending late into the fall. Even if rain and snow mounts
remain the same, he said, warmer temperatures mean more evaporation, drying out the landscape. Individual drought years increase the risk of huge fires.”
Better forest management could help prevent and reduce such conflagrations in the future and make forests healthier and more resilient in the face of a changing climate. But federal and state forest management budgets are already stretched too thin. Steven Running says: “The single biggest factor is keeping forests thinned out, and dead trees removed. I really wish we had a forest bio-energy industry to use all this forest biomass and pay for the work by buying the material.”
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Four Forests Restoration Initiative in central Arizona may provide a model for intergovernmental and public/private partnerships to help restore forest health and reduce the risk of intensely destructive wildfires. This multi-year project is one of ten demonstration projects in the federal Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program. According to the USFS web site, “The overall goal of the four-forest effort is to create landscape-scale restoration approaches that will provide for fuels reduction, forest health, and wildlife and plant diversity. A key objective is doing this while creating sustainable ecosystems in the long term. Appropriately-scaled businesses will likely play a key role in the effort by harvesting, processing, and selling wood products. This will reduce treatment costs and provide restoration-based work opportunities that will create good jobs.”
Another example of collaborative ecosystem management is occurring in the Flathead National Forest in Montana. This project is also supported through the federal Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program. See this recent news story from the Missoulian on how diverse stakeholders came together to develop and implement this landscape management plan.
Forest fuel reduction activities have already generated positive results in terms of reducing the intensity of wildfires and protecting property. See this recent report from USFS, How Fuel Treatments Saved Homes from the 2011 Wallow Fire in Arizona. Will forest thinning and fuel reduction increase greenhouse gas emissions? Research has
shown that forest fuel reduction efforts can result in a net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and provide other environmental benefits compared to business as usual (namely unmanaged, over-stocked forests with intense wildfires) when the woody materials that are removed are used for building materials, other wood products, and bioenergy. See for
example the October/November 2011 special edition of the Journal of Forestry, entitled “Managing Forests Because Carbon Matters: Integrating Energy, Products, and Land Management Policy”. Section 2 on “Forest Carbon Stocks and Flows” surveys the recent literature on carbon accounting for various forest management approaches.
More, intense, highly destructive forest fires need not be the future of the American west. The federal government has a critical role to play both in managing its forests better and in building successful collaborations among diverse stakeholders on the ground to help restore resilient and healthy ecosystems across public and private lands. Allowing and encouraging the development of local biomass energy markets can be an important part of this. By creating economic value for fuel reduction and restoration activities, more forest acreage can be treated and scarce public dollars can be conserved for other purposes. This could be a win-win for public safety, public lands, climate change mitigation and adaptation, ecosystem health, local economies, and local and regional energy security.
Congress could help. In addition to sustaining investments in public and private forest health initiatives, reauthorizing and funding the Forest Biomass for Energy Program (which would provide competitive grants for research and development on the use of low-value forest biomass for energy, among other priorities) and the Community Wood Energy
Program (which would provide grants to state and local governments to develop community wood energy plans and systems) would be a step in the right direction. The House version of the Farm Bill (see Title IX in this summary), which is scheduled to be marked up by the Committee on Agriculture July 11, would repeal the Forest Biomass for Energy Program and reduce funding for the Community Wood Energy Program from $5 million per year to $2 million per year.
So who is EESI? Do they have an axe to grind (so to speak )? They don’t appear to be any of the usual suspects…here’s the Board of Directors. Here are their funders.
Here’s a link to their forest initiative.