When "Benefits of Biomass Power Questioned", point to "Map 7.1: Potential Energy Distribution among Ohio Counties (in Billions)"

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Thu, 07/01/2010 - 22:43.

Map 7.1: Potential Energy Distribution among Ohio Counties (in Billions)

Joe Koncelik's Ohio Environmental Law Blog recently reported "Benefits of Biomass Power Questioned - Implications for Ohio", about a renewable fuels permitting issue that has surfaced with a FirstEnergy coal powerplant being converted to biomass, which offers great insight on the development and future of our biomass industry, and links to valuable source material for those considering the economic and environmental future of energy in Ohio, America and worldwide. In this excellent posting, Koncelik points out, "

Ohio's best hope for reducing its overwhelming dependence on coal for electricity generation is  biomass.  While wind and solar have significant benefits, it is unquestioned that current technology does not allow these renewable sources to be forms of base-load power generation. 

Biomass does have that potential in Ohio, as is evidenced by the recent announcements of the conversion of 312-megawatt First Energy's Burger coal-fired power plant to biomass generation.  Now that proposal is meeting opposition by environmental groups. As reported in Biomass Magazine."

In fact, environmentalists and regulators are demanding that FirstEnergy identify what biomass they intend to use from where to power their proposed-to-be "renewable" fuel plant - that is good economics and environmentalism. The dynamics of the Burger plant application are interesting and important for the future of the biomass sector in Ohio - while Ohio has a bright biomass renaissance ahead, we are still in the dark ages of its development.

Especially valuable, in the Environmental Law Blog coverage of this matter, is the reference to "Assessing Ohio’s Biomass Resources for Energy Potential Using GIS", by P. Wilner Jeanty, Dave Warren and Fred Hitzhusen - Koncelik's observation of this statewide biomass inventory:

Recent studies illustrate that Ohio as a relatively large biomass resource potential.  Among the 50 states, Ohio ranks 11th in terms of herbaceous and wood biomass and 4th in terms of food waste biomass.  As a result, using renewable biomass fuels in Ohio could lead to an estimated 27.6 billion in kWh of electricity, which is enough to fully support the annual needs of 2,758,000 average homes, or 64% of the residential electricity use in Ohio.

I suggest those interested in the energy sector review the source document linked here (1.68 MB .PDF), as introduced in this Abstract below:

This recently completed AEDE study funded by Ohio DOD involves a geo-referenced inventory by county of Ohio biomass resources for energy. Categories include forest and crop residues, livestock manure, municipal solid waste and food processing waste. This is an update and expansion of an earlier (1982) inventory of biomass by Hitzhusen et al. It also disaggregates and expands a study by Walsh et al. in 2000 which ranked Ohio 11th among the 50 states in total biomass availability. By estimating and geo-referencing the sustainable quantities of various categories of biomass for energy by county, it is possible to identify the spatial concentrations of various biomass renewable energy feedstocks that may be economically viable for various processes for conversion. These conversion processes in turn have implications for environmental improvement and reduced dependence on foreign oil imports.

A better understanding of the technical and economic pros and cons of the most promising conversion processes will be required along with further data collection and
refinements of this inventory (particularly the food processing waste subset) before detailed policy recommendations can be made. However, this study is hopefully a good start toward that goal and should provide direction and focus for future analysis and recommendations for a more renewable and sustainable energy and environmental future for Ohio.

We will develop and deploy biomass fuel feedstocks and processing technologies in Northeast Ohio, to replace coal burning with cleaner renewable sources of energy for the region and world.

The biomass industry is not called into question or brought to a hault by the expectation that major biomass conversion projects like Burger identify and contract their sources of fuelstock before they are recognized as renewable power projects - having a powerplant capable of burning biomass does not necessarily guarantee the plant shall be operated properly and in an environmentally friendly way. Further, it is essential all future "renewable" energy projects be "mine mouth" in that they in fact have economically viable and environmentally optimal sources of fuelstock within a sustainable supply chain, like for energy crops, building and post consumer waste (PCW), crop remains, and farm, forestry and food processing byproducts - sources that are expected to be cost effective, consistently available and "renewable" for the life of the power generation project.

This assumption is validated in the conclusion of the Ohio Biomass Inventory study - "The location and supply sources of existing biomass conversion to energy plants also need to be known" - read on below:

8.- Concluding remarks

The purpose of the study was to estimate the biomass resources in Ohio for energy potential. To this end, secondary data were collected to estimate crop residues, wood wastes, municipal solid wastes, and methane from livestock manure. Initial efforts to obtain detailed information on the quantity and location of Ohio’s food waste biomass resource were slowed due to a very low response rate to the food waste biomass survey. This situation led to the formulation of a two-phase approach to the food processing waste component of the overall biomass study. The first phase was conducted in this study, with estimates of the food waste resource (quantity and geographic distribution) detailed primarily with GIS maps.

The results indicate that even after accounting for competing uses and allowing for environmental sustainability, Ohio has significant biomass energy potential. It is worth noting that corn and wheat are only two crops considered in the study. Other agricultural residues and energy crops could constitute important biomass feedstocks. Also the Ohio predominant animal waste which is chicken manure/bedding is not taken into consideration due to data limitation at the county level. The study relies on a set of assumptions and the results should be judged accordingly even though the authors have tried to consistently make conservative estimates.

It can be concluded that when done in a way accounting for competing uses, biomass feedstock can offset petroleum fossil CO2, and reduce Ohio’s dependence on petroleum. However, a number of issues must be considered. The amount of crop residues to be available depends on farmers’ attitude regarding tillage practices. Removing too many crop residues and implementing some tillage practices may lead to soil degradation and nutrient depletion. Although, the study identifies each county’s potential for sustainable and usable crop residues for energy, crop residue removal might actually be better in counties where low or no-till is practiced. Due to limited information, the study failed to identify the tillage practiced in each county.

The study does pinpoint the counties or regions in which biomass resources are concentrated. However, in terms of energy conversion plant locations, more detailed analysis would be required and more GIS procedures to determine the optimal location of biomass facilities within a reasonable radius would need to be implemented. For example, for installing an ethanol plant in a region, water and power availability in the region is critical, assuming a useable sustainable supply of residues given alternative uses for the residues. The location and supply sources of existing biomass conversion to energy plants also need to be known.

It is time to make the Ohio Biomass inventory open source and real time.

Big Bang.

bioenergyresourceassessment.pdf1.68 MB
OhioBiomassBtus.jpg46.1 KB

Don't burn trees to generate electricity.

Interesting subject.

Unfortunately, the power plants in Ohio that are seeking to convert to biomass have thus far indicated that chipped and pelleted trees would be their primary fuel source. We should ask ourselves whether cutting and burning 2100 Megawatts worth of tree fuel makes sense for Ohio. If all the potential MWs now proposed by Ohio plants were fueled by Ohio trees, all of Ohio's forests would have to be cut and burned in less than a decade's time.

Trees don't grow back fast enough for them to be a "renewable" source of energy in any reasonable sense of the word. Nonetheless, the PUCO has recently approved renewable energy certification for certain Ohio power plants seeking to burn trees. Burning the MWs proposed would allow Ohio energy companies to meet their 12.5% renewable energy portfolio requirements in just a few years. This would take away a lot of the incentive on power companies' parts to invest in truly renewable and carbon-neutral energy technologies such as wind and solar.

Also, trees release approximately one and a half times the amount of CO2 released by coal when burned.

I've posted some more about this here: http://www.columbusunderground.com/ohio-is-ground-zero-for-biomass-fight

Certain grass species may provide a meaningful biomass fuel alternative, as deep root systems could sequester carbon and grass could be cut and renew in a period of months. Forests, by contrast, take generations to regrow. This is bad news for Ohio and the environment.

I agree - don't burn trees as biomass

BIOMASS will be greenwashed and played in many ways in the coming years and one way is issuing lots of permits for plants to burn biomass without identifying renewable fuelstocks - and tree harvesting is not the answer - that appears to be the concern of the Sierra Club with the UNC biomass plans. The Burger case raises this issue - where will FirstEnergy source its wood biomass - and it was smart of the regulators to force this issue. Ohio has lots of trees (about 30% woodland I believe) but that does not mean we want to harvest them. We are hooked on the corn-sugar smack and that is not helping agriculture develop energy crops - we sold our souls to coal - we are a mess.

Biomass will be a big part of the solution for converting existing plants off coal, but what biomass?

I'm looking for experts on hemp and other energy crops.

I'm very concerned about an explosion of post consumer waste biomass sourcing and burning in Ohio as garbage is our most ready source of biomass and I expect to see this region (Northeast Ohio) build our new energy economy on a pile of garbage.

We need many minds focused on the overall and complete challenge of building renewable energy systems - I like this Ohio Biomass inventory as a good starting point for discussion on the biomass energy potentials here - and I'm thrilled some environmentalists and PUCO are forcing light on the issues of biomass sourcing at the regulatory level, which is complex and unrewarding work!

If you are interested to share more insight on biomass development in Ohio, email me at norm [at] realneo [dot] us

Disrupt IT

I agree, we should be using garbage as a fuel.

 The German's use everything but the kitchen sink as a fuel source. 


Also think algae will be the next "Vogue" fuel.  Up to 50% lipid in some plantonic species.