Coal is getting more expensive: especially the high grade US stuff that Europe wants to burn. The less expensive coals are more highly polluting and have lower heat value, making it harder to meet discharge/emission limits, and harder still to dispose of solid waste. One solution is to substitute wood for coal, typically in the 10% to 20% range.
Substituting "biofuel" for coal also lowers the per kW C02 emissions, which, if combined with energy conservation, and with wind or solar power capacity additions, helps a utility meets its Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reduction commitments. Then there is the whole green jobs component.
States such as Wisconsin have been steadily losing tax revenues and jobs as the paper industry has outsourced or consolidated production elsewhere. Turning existing, privately-held forest lands into "biofuel" sources offers one last chance get the jobs back. A similar option, we think, will be pursued in other coal-dependent states with large tracts of forest land.But, would these be added green jobs really? Or, have we just clearcut our brain cells?
There is more to consider before you reach a conclusion. US companies are already pelletizing hardwoods from East Coast forests and shipping bulk pellets to Europe, where basically the same type of fuel blending takes place - for similar reasons. Wouldn't it be better to burn the wood here, in the USA, mixed with coal, rather than have our trees "extracted" to allow European utilities to meet their GHG reduction commitments?
Our own - USA required - GHG reduction commitments are coming in 2009. It's our forest land - at least the part not owned yet by foreign corporations. Our power needs would be met. Our air quality improved.
Being a bunch of tree huggers, we'd like to hear from you.
As a result of utilizing fuels such as switch grass, waste wood, or corn stalks, not only are CO2 emissions reduced by offsetting the use of coal at the facility, but Wisconsin farmers and foresters will have access to new economic markets, an ecologically friendly crop and better land and forest management practices.
Analysis by researchers from the University of Wisconsin has shown that the 20 percent biomass at Nelson Dewey unit 3 could create economic development revenues for the State of Wisconsin to exceed an estimated $50 million annually.
This proposal, along with a fifty percent increase in WPL energy efficiency savings, is projected to more than offset the carbon emissions from the new Nelson Dewey unit.