Making biomass work

Making biomass work

There are 22 comments on the Bennington Banner story from Nov 22, 2010, titled Making biomass work. In it, Bennington Banner reports that:

I burn biomass. I have a wood stove on which I depend for more than half of my home heat.

Join the discussion below, or Read more at Bennington Banner.

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ryan

Bennington, VT

#2 Nov 23, 2010
First, burning wood is only carbon neutral in the long-term, over the life of a tree that is burned. If a 100 year old tree is burned in a few hours in a biomass plant, then 100 years of stored carbon is released in a day. It will take another 100 years to store the same amount of carbon in another growing tree of the same size.

Second, the biomass plant is Burlington utilizes a lot of natural gas because it can not secure enough wood to operate solely on biomass.
anon

United States

#3 Nov 23, 2010
Burning wood for heat is on a different scale and efficiency vis-a-vis electricity generation.
Pavan

Tewksbury, MA

#4 Nov 23, 2010
The 100 year old tree is removed and then younger trees that surround it have more access to light and nutrients. They grow faster and will have recaptured the carbon that was released from the 100 year old tree in much less than 100 years. In any event, the 100 year old tree does not live forever. Eventually it dies from insect attack, an ice storm, wind damage or whatever. At this point it decays and the carbon is released anyway.

Also, the 100 year old tree was grown locally and is renewable, unlike coal, oil or natural gas. Local jobs were created for loggers and truck drivers, and no money was sent out of the region to buy fossil fuel.

However, if you view the forest as sacred, and think it should never be touched no matter who owns it, then no argument will change your opinion.
Lisa Carton

Bennington, VT

#5 Nov 23, 2010
I agree with you 100% that success in burning biomass depends upon HOW it is done. I am also willing to bet that MOST people who burn woodstoves do NOT, unfortunately, have the catalytic combuster that you do. I know they don't in my neighborhood because I see and smell and suffer from the toxic smoke on a daily basis throughout the burning season.
Applying your logic to the Beaver Wood scenario, it is important for people to know that there is a history of this company- they get approval for wood that seems logical to use (using waste wood from downed trees, for example) but then gradually move toward MUCH more toxic wood sources that are cheaper and are very easily availalble (sometimes they even get PAID to take it). You can find out more information here:
http://benningtonberkshirecc.org/the-proposal
C King

Brockton, MA

#6 Nov 23, 2010
Please advise Lauren Stevens that she did not have to travel all the way to Middlebury to find a college that is "greenest of the green": Green Mountain College in Poultney put its biomass wood-chip facility online in the Spring of 2010, and will be carbon neutral next year.
In additon, Green Mountain was named by Sierra Magazine as "the greenest campus in the US" in a recent edition.
As an environmentalist, Lauren should check on looking at more than one success story, and find out that often begins much closer to home.
Chris in Pownal

Claremont, NH

#7 Nov 23, 2010
Biomass works when you are talking about heat, or mostly heat with the co-generation of electricity. It becomes much less efficient when you are talking about a larger scale that is directed primarily at electric generation -- possibly enough so to make it a net loss in energy.

Recently, an advisory committee to the Bennington County Regional Commission stated in a preliminary report that, "Our analysis indicates that the net energy (amount of energy output relative to energy inputs required to obtain the electricity for the end-user) produced by the proposed electricity generating facility appears to be less than 3:1, a relatively inefficient and costly energy source." They went on to say, "A significant concern is that biomass energy facilities rely heavily on petroleum (largely diesel) for the harvesting, processing, and transport of wood, and future interruptions in the supply of diesel fuel would render the project inoperable, eliminating revenue flow and making the project unsustainable."

Find the report posted on the Williams College Sustainability Blog at http://sustainability.williams.edu/blog_post/... .
Numbers

Bennington, VT

#8 Nov 23, 2010
Biomass works when you want to get rich quick and think you have everyone snowed. There is no long term benefit to anyone including the investors. Thats why they shut down of off load the whole thing at a point. Nothing stable about it.
harvey carter

Saint Albans, VT

#10 Nov 23, 2010
what about all the diesel fuel and explosives used to flatten the mountains for coal,Then a train ride half way up the east coast to be burned? How is that a better use of petroleum than cutting a load of wood and trucking it for 50miles or so.That argument lacks common sense from where i sit.Besides wasn't the carbon in the coal going to be sequestered for millions of years?100 years worth from a tree sounds a lot better to me.
Plant Manager

Middlebury, VT

#11 Nov 24, 2010
ryan wrote:
First, burning wood is only carbon neutral in the long-term, over the life of a tree that is burned. If a 100 year old tree is burned in a few hours in a biomass plant, then 100 years of stored carbon is released in a day. It will take another 100 years to store the same amount of carbon in another growing tree of the same size.
Second, the biomass plant is Burlington utilizes a lot of natural gas because it can not secure enough wood to operate solely on biomass.
Wrong. Burlington is only licensed to burn so much wood. They are required to burn NG. The rest of your points are just as wrong.
Plant Manager

Middlebury, VT

#12 Nov 24, 2010
Lisa Carton wrote:
I agree with you 100% that success in burning biomass depends upon HOW it is done. I am also willing to bet that MOST people who burn woodstoves do NOT, unfortunately, have the catalytic combuster that you do. I know they don't in my neighborhood because I see and smell and suffer from the toxic smoke on a daily basis throughout the burning season.
Applying your logic to the Beaver Wood scenario, it is important for people to know that there is a history of this company- they get approval for wood that seems logical to use (using waste wood from downed trees, for example) but then gradually move toward MUCH more toxic wood sources that are cheaper and are very easily availalble (sometimes they even get PAID to take it). You can find out more information here:
http://benningtonberkshirecc.org/the-proposal
Wood smoke is not toxic. Mankind has been burning wood for a few hundred thousand years. Its only you later day NIMBY's who can't figure out that its not the danger you promise -- which is really about "Not in my backyard."
Plant Manager

Middlebury, VT

#13 Nov 24, 2010
Numbers wrote:
Biomass works when you want to get rich quick and think you have everyone snowed. There is no long term benefit to anyone including the investors. Thats why they shut down of off load the whole thing at a point. Nothing stable about it.
You must come up with this nonsense because of damage to your brain, from the lead at Globe. They told you to wear a mask, and you didn't listen.
Plant Manager

Middlebury, VT

#14 Nov 24, 2010
anon wrote:
Burning wood for heat is on a different scale and efficiency vis-a-vis electricity generation.
Yes it is a different scale. Power boilers are hundreds of times cleaner.
GrnMtnBoy

United States

#15 Nov 24, 2010
ryan wrote:
First, burning wood is only carbon neutral in the long-term, over the life of a tree that is burned. If a 100 year old tree is burned in a few hours in a biomass plant, then 100 years of stored carbon is released in a day. It will take another 100 years to store the same amount of carbon in another growing tree of the same size.
Second, the biomass plant is Burlington utilizes a lot of natural gas because it can not secure enough wood to operate solely on biomass.
WRONG

They use natural gas because they got a deal on it.

The Burlington Electric Commission accepted a proposal from Vermont Gas Systems in 1989 to supply gas to the McNeil Generating Station on an interruptible basis between May and November of each year. In October 1989, the capability to burn natural gas was added to the McNeil Station.

https://www.burlingtonelectric.com/page.php...
GrnMtnBoy

United States

#16 Nov 24, 2010
Chris in Pownal wrote:
Biomass works when you are talking about heat, or mostly heat with the co-generation of electricity. It becomes much less efficient when you are talking about a larger scale that is directed primarily at electric generation -- possibly enough so to make it a net loss in energy.
Recently, an advisory committee to the Bennington County Regional Commission stated in a preliminary report that, "Our analysis indicates that the net energy (amount of energy output relative to energy inputs required to obtain the electricity for the end-user) produced by the proposed electricity generating facility appears to be less than 3:1, a relatively inefficient and costly energy source." They went on to say, "A significant concern is that biomass energy facilities rely heavily on petroleum (largely diesel) for the harvesting, processing, and transport of wood, and future interruptions in the supply of diesel fuel would render the project inoperable, eliminating revenue flow and making the project unsustainable."
Find the report posted on the Williams College Sustainability Blog at http://sustainability.williams.edu/blog_post/... .
And how is coal and oil extracted from the earth? How is it loaded onto railcars? Trucks? How is it moved on rail? Turcks? How is it taken off the railcars or Trucks? That's far, far more diesel fuel than more locally harvested wood fiber.

In reality using coal (much of it in the northeast is IMPORTED) along with IMPORTED oil, is DIRTIER than burning locally grown wood.
GrnMtnBoy

United States

#17 Nov 24, 2010
The McNeil Station is equipped with a series of air quality control devices that limit the particulate stack emissions to one-tenth the level allowed by Vermont State regulation. McNeil's emissions are one one-hundredth of the allowable Federal level. The only visible emission from the plant is water vapor during the cooler months of the year.
Anonymous

Brewster, MA

#18 Nov 25, 2010
GrnMtnBoy wrote:
<quoted text>
And how is coal and oil extracted from the earth? How is it loaded onto railcars? Trucks? How is it moved on rail? Turcks? How is it taken off the railcars or Trucks? That's far, far more diesel fuel than more locally harvested wood fiber.
In reality using coal (much of it in the northeast is IMPORTED) along with IMPORTED oil, is DIRTIER than burning locally grown wood.
Agreed. However, coal packs SIGNIFICANTLY more energy potential than does wood, and rail cars use significantly less diesel fuel than does a truck. The point that I was making is that biomass fuel is better suited to smaller scale uses for heating (think single institutions like colleges, schools, etc.) with the co-generation of electricity than it is for small to mid scale grid electric generation.

In so far as carbon sequestration goes, I think it is fair to say that the trees are now sequestering the carbon load from burning coal -- therefore we need to use our trees in the best, most efficient, means possible.
dumb question

United States

#20 Nov 26, 2010
what is biomass
GrnMtnBoy

Roy, WA

#22 Nov 26, 2010
Coal and oil also contain more mercury and other metals. Burning of coal is why we can't eat a lot of fish.

I'll dig it out for you sometime in the near furure, but there are studies that show coal is worse, especially when the energy required to extract and ship it are considered.

What I would like to see there over this is a smaller gasification plant. Better efficiency. Ideally we'd have several of the scattered up and down Route 7. These run extremely hot, burning the gases coming from wood as it's being burned. Other than water vapor, very little comes out the stacks.
GrnMtnBoy

Roy, WA

#23 Nov 26, 2010
dumb question wrote:
what is biomass
Biomass is organic matter used as fuel.

Poor quality trees. tree tops from timber harvesting, brush, stumps, animal wastes, untreated and in some states treated waste lumber from demolition. Some states also allow garabage.
Mark Santelli

Underhill Center, VT

#24 Nov 26, 2010
GrnMtnBoy wrote:
<quoted text>
Biomass is organic matter used as fuel.
Poor quality trees. tree tops from timber harvesting, brush, stumps, animal wastes, untreated and in some states treated waste lumber from demolition. Some states also allow garabage.
You mean like the slime off my butt?

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