Wood-burning power plants: Misguided climate change solution?

clip_image002By Steve Goreham

Originally published in The Washington Times

Is wood the best fuel to generate electricity? Despite wood’s low energy density and high cost, utilities in the US and abroad are switching from coal to wood to produce electrical power. The switch to wood is driven by regulations from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other international organizations. These regulations are based on the false assumption that burning wood reduces carbon dioxide emissions.

Wood has never been a major fuel source for electrical power. In 1882, when Thomas Edison built the first power plant in New York at Pearl Street Station, he used coal to fire the plant. A switch to wood is not going back in time; it’s adopting a fuel that was regarded as inferior at the dawn of the electrical age.

Pound for pound, wood contains less energy and is more expensive than other fuels. A 2008 study conducted at the Rapids Energy Center plant in Minnesota found that, compared to coal, more than twice the mass of wood was required to produce the same electrical output. A 2008 study by the UK House of Lords concluded that electricity from biomass was more than twice the cost of electricity from coal or natural gas. Nevertheless, an increasing number of electrical power plants are switching from coal to low-energy-density and high-cost wood fuel.

This irrational behavior is driven by the EPA, the US Department of Energy, the European Union, the California Air Resources Board, and other world organizations that assume that biomass fuel is “carbon neutral.” Biomass-fired plants receive carbon credits, tax exemptions, and subsidies from promoting governments.

When burned, biomass emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere like any other combustion. A 2012 paper by Synapse Energy Economics estimated that burning biomass emits 50 to 85 percent more CO2 than burning coal since the energy content of biomass is lower than coal relative to its carbon content.

The “carbon neutral” concept originated in a 1996 Greenhouse Gas Inventory paper from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of the United Nations. The IPCC assumed that, as biofuel plants grow, they absorb CO2 equal to the amount released when burned. If correct, substitution of wood for coal would reduce net emissions.

But a 2011 opinion by the European Environment Agency pointed to a “serious error” in greenhouse gas accounting. The carbon neutral assumption does not account for CO2 that would be absorbed by the natural vegetation that grows on land not used for biofuel production. Substitution of wood for coal in electrical power plants is actually increasing carbon dioxide emissions.

Nevertheless, governments have adopted the “carbon neutral” assumption and continue to promote biomass as a substitute for coal. As a result, nations and utilities are not required to count their CO2 emissions from biomass combustion.

In July, Dominion Virginia Power completed conversion of its Altavista Power Station to biomass fuel, the first of three planned facility conversions at a total cost of $165 million. The change was lauded as a method to “help to meet Virginia’s renewable energy goal.” Virginia citizens paid for the conversion and will pay higher electricity bills in the future.

The Altavista station and other biomass plants claim to be using “waste” fuel that would otherwise be going into landfills. But according to the DOE, 65 percent of US biomass-generated electricity comes from wood and 35 percent from waste.

Finding sources of wood to feed ravenous power plants is not easy. The small wood-fired EJ Stoneman power plant in Cassville, Wisconsin is rated at 40 megawatts. Each day it burns 1,000 tons of wood delivered by 30 different suppliers. The 100-megawatt Picway power plant in southern Ohio considered a conversion to biomass, but could not secure a good wood supply. Picway will be shut down in 2015 when tougher EPA emission regulations take effect.

Following President Obama’s direction, the EPA plans to impose CO2 emission limits on existing power plants, requiring the shuttering of US coal-fired power stations. In 2012, 37 percent of US electricity was produced from coal, with only 1.4 percent produced from biomass. Without some common sense about CO2 emissions, look for expanded efforts to cut down US forests to feed a growing number of biomass plants.

The height of eco-madness is the conversion of the Drax Power Station in the United Kingdom from coal to wood fuel. Drax is the largest power plant in Europe, generating up to 3,960 megawatts of power from 36,000 tons of coal per day, delivered by 140 trains every week. In order to “reduce emissions” at Drax, more than 70,000 tons of wood will be harvested every day from forests in the US and shipped 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to Britain.

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Conversion of the Drax facility will cost British citizens £700 million ($1.1 Billion) and the new wood-fired electricity will cost double or triple the cost from coal. Drax Group plc will receive a subsidy of over £1 billion ($1.6 billion) per year for this green miracle.

Steve Goreham is Executive Director of the Climate Science Coalition of America and author of the book The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism: Mankind and Climate Change Mania.

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128 thoughts on “Wood-burning power plants: Misguided climate change solution?

  1. Re: Drax power station in the UK.

    You could not make this up – importing 70,000 tonnes per day of wood chips from the USA!!!!!

    However, the UK’s incredibly goofy energy policy makes the EPA in the USA seem quite reasonable.

    Sadly, the UK needs a really cold winter, power shortages and tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths from the cold to make ‘the greener than thou’, so called political elite do the right, economically sensible, thing – i.e. put green energy in history’s trash can of really goofy ideas that cost a fortune and did not work.

    There is however a large and growing number of people asking the very obvious question: “So where is the warming and why do I have to pay so much for your stupid theories?” In the not too distant future, these people will become a large majority.

  2. Peter Miller is correct, of course. Here in the UK we have a total twat named Ed Davey, as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. Our MPs, government, parliament, and the EU are stark raving mad. They cannot ‘do’ mathematics. But perhaps I’m being rather hard on them, because there is another theory: that they know full well what they’re doing, and that if you trace their personal investments, you’ll find things that will stun you. As Peter says, we may need a major energy upset to change things, just as we may need a major incident before we do something about immigration, the justice system, and the Human Rights legislation.

  3. In it’s raw form wood is carbon neutral, but the energy expended in harvesting, processing and transporting it, generally in the form of fossil fuels i.e. diesel oil changes that.
    The cost of a fuel delivered to a power plant is a reflection of the energy expended in extracting or harvesting and transporting it, thus wood by virtue of the fact more tonnes of it are needed, and in this case the distance of transportation makes one wonder just what the bright sparks pushing this agenda are thinking.
    But that’s not all folks. Perhaps the biggest tragedy is the nutrients that are being dragged out of the soil by the trees which must be replaced if the soil is to remain productive and not rendered infertile over time. The supply of essential nutrients is in my opinion going to become one of the greatest challenges for future generations as the world attempts to feed an ever increasing population.

  4. There is no logic in AGW, the story about Drax power station was reported by Christopher Booker in the Sunday Telegraph a few months ago. Drax was built to take advantage of the nearby coal reserves, now instead of mining coal and moving it a few miles by train, the Greens think it is better for the environment to chop down thousands of trees in the USA, transport them by train over a thousand miles, use more energy to grind them into a pulp, recombine the pulp into pellets, ship them 4000 miles across the Atlantic to Liverpool and then take them 200 miles by train, to Drax. Also, Drax has had, at great expense, to be converted to use this inefficient fuel.
    The logic of this is totally flawed, because the proponents of this wonderful way of reducing CO2 emissions, conveniently forget about:
    1) The energy used to cut down, pulverise and recombine the wood into pellets.
    2) The energy used to transport the wood the additional 5000 miles.
    3) The CO2 is only removed from the atmosphere in significant amounts when the trees have grown, saplings only remove tiny amounts.
    4) The inefficiency of wood compared to coal in producing heat.

    We have a worldwide energy policy governed by morons!

  5. I know how to save all that fuel the ships use! Just dump the logs in the Gulf Stream and let Nachure take its course!

  6. Considering all the money spent on green energy scams and to fight global warming, it might just be cheaper and more efficient to burn $1 bills in a conventional power plant. We might get more energy for our dollar that way.

  7. The real truth is that the Greens in the UK actually want Drax and all other ‘fossil and biomass’ generators shut down. They really do believe that they can all be replaced by wind or wave, and that everyone will be delighted to pay triple the price for power. What it is really all about is driving industry out of the UK and population reduction. Then we can all return to the Wordsworth and Shelley idyll of charming country-bumpkins weaving and spinning in little cottages, buccolic farmers using biomass to fertilise their “bio” foods all locally produced and grown.

    Yeah, I know, dream on …

  8. I note not one mention of the type of fuel ocean going transports use in international waters. While there have been improvements the diesel is still very dirty in terms of CO2, NOx and sulphur emissions. This is total madness if emission reductions were the main driver, which of course, it isn’t. I would like to know how many politicians have a vested, financial, interest in this project given we know Cameron’s father in-law is heavily invested in “green energy” wind farm projects in the UK.

  9. Steve

    As can be seen in the Met office graph the temperature in the UK has been escalating rapidly over the last decade

    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/hadobs/hadcet/

    The need for power is…..wait a minute…..I was looking at the graph through my patented ’tiljander’ upside down glasses….It seems the temperature in the UK has been PLUMMETING over the last decade.

    So what the Govt needs to do is to continue its policy of substantially increasing the cost of energy whilst reducing supply as that will….

    Hmm. I’m getting confused here. Obviously the UK govt energy strategy is going to be perfectly logical and based on climate facts. So I must be misreading something, otherwise I would have to come to the conclusion the UK govt has gone mad and that obviously can’t be right.

    Someone help me out here….

    tonyb

  10. Totally off topic, but grab a copy of this…

    The Age of Global Warming, by Rupert Darwall – ISBN 9780704372993, Quartet Books

    It’s a fantastic walk through how we got to where we are.

  11. The Drax power station situation is too insane to think about. Due to policies of the three “main” political parties, the UK is going down the pan at a tremendous rate. The Industrial Revolution is being undone by a single generation of idiotic politicians, who have all come from the same mold. Or is that mould?

  12. “Misguided” is far too polite and gentle a word in this context. I salute the author’s supression of how I would personally describe the UK energy policy-makers’ mental processes. I refrain from stating my forthright views here as I wish to avoid being gagged by the ‘mods’!

    The lunacy of converting Drax is a crime against the UK population, all in the name of fractionally reducing the <2% of global CO2 emissions emanating from the UK.

    @Brian H – great idea. And all of the sea salt can be used on the roads to melt the snow & ice we were told we'd never see again.

  13. Drax supplies 7% of our (UK’s) power, it’ll need double or treble the weight of wood, to produce the same power as it does with coal. So, double or treble the number of trains, factor in their CO2, add the transatlantic shipping, the transport from woods to ports, processing of the wood & I’ll bet the “savings” in CO2 is minimal.
    The only reason this is being done, is the 100% subsidy that the owners will receive for the electricity produced and, of course, the fact that increasing “Green” taxes & levies will render coal-fired power stations uneconomical.

  14. kalsel3294 says
    “Perhaps the biggest tragedy is the nutrients that are being dragged out of the soil by the trees which must be replaced if the soil is to remain productive and not rendered infertile over time. The supply of essential nutrients is in my opinion going to become one of the greatest challenges for future generations as the world attempts to feed an ever increasing population”.

    A very good point, not to mention the wildlife that calls these forests “home”.
    It really does make me mad, that these idiots in trying to save the planet from a delusional threat are prepared to sacrifice whole ecosystems and waste more fossil fuels to promote the view that “something is being done”.
    One piece of good news though, in this morning’s Daily Telegraph (front page) one of our senior ministers has been having talks with Rick Perry, the governor of Texas and as a result exploratory fracking will take place in SE England.

    The Ghost of Big Jim Cooley is totally right about Ed Davey.Just read this drivel he has spouted

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/oct/25/ed-davey-green-levy-energy

  15. I think it might be a pretext to eventually outlawing burning wood, so that the coal plants go further out of business.

  16. “Twice the mass for the same energy, twice as many of Hansens “Death Trains” then”

    Worse – wood’s not only less energy dense (GJ/Kg), but less physically dense too (Kg/M3). So you won’t be able to get as many tonnes on a train…

  17. We keep hearing “You can’t make this up”… but here’s a perfect example. If I was to make something like this up and put it in a book, nobody would believe it could ever happen. Publishers would tell me to get rid of the ludicrous plot twist. In the movie they’d replace the terrorists with “right wing extremists” (sorry, just saw the ridiculous “white house down”… grrr).

    Personally I think Americans should rise up and protest the rape of their forests. And if that were to succeed they’d next have to go shopping in Canada, with a far more intelligent leader. Eventually Drax and its siblings will be denuding forests all across Europe and the Americas, after which somehow the logic-challenged will STILL be blaming the use of fossil fuels for the destruction of the forests.

  18. Once again, many folks here are amazed that the political forces involved in schemes like this are somehow dumb, can’t do simple math, etc.
    This is absolutely not the case…they are, as we say here in the states, crazy like a fox. They know, and frankly don’t care, exactly what they’re doing.
    As always, follow the money.
    The reason our president is now pushing the climate “control” portion of his agenda is not that he believes any of the statements he makes. It’s because he knows he can get OTHER people to believe it because they lack the will/knowledge to stand up to it. People will say “Well, at least he got THAT part right. At least he took care of the environment, so he was a good president.”
    The leaders know exactly what they’re doing; extending government control, moving money to where they can use it to further extend their base of support.

    Jim

  19. A friend of mine is making a very good living indeed installing wood burning stoves. It’s clear that many of his clients are greenies who have no concern about this practice. Apart from the Kantian thought “where’s all the wood going to come from if everyone did this?”, the justification appears to be as stated above – “as biofuel plants grow, they absorb CO2 equal to the amount released when burned”. If that argument turns out to be false, I’d imagine we’d have a lot of egg on a lot of green faces. Or are they shameless?

  20. “You can’t fix stupid” We better figure out how as things are not going well. The more nature debunks the warmist panic scenarios, the more they get policy through. (Case in point, the EPA and the current POTUS, doubling down on stupid) It will not end well.

  21. Something is not completely right here: if one uses wood, be it for making paper or for power generation, it is in principle carbon neutral. Every bit of carbon is extracted from the atmosphere and by burning returned to the atmosphere. If the cut wood is immediately replaced by new tree plantations, as is already done for paper manufacturing, it remains carbon neutral for generations, where a mature forest is only a small sink for CO2, compared to a young growing forest.

    The main problem of course in this case is the transport of enormous amounts of wood. In general wood for burning is chipped and compressed (and dried?), which makes its burning value and volume already a lot better for transport. The general rule of tumb in near all cases of energy use is that the pre-combustion energy losses for extraction, refining and transport are around 7% of the total energy use. That is the case for oil, gas, coal and nuclear. I suppose that it isn’t worse for wood.

    Nevertheless, it is simply madness to use wood for power generation if you have a coal mine next door that can deliver the necessary energy for halve the price of wood. The taxpayers and electricity users will pay the difference…

  22. Well , I think its safe to say that our Drax plant is going to solve the big problem of USA forest fires we keep seeing on TV . No forests – no fires !

  23. Surely this is what the Watermelons (marxist environmentalists) want – the western world regressing to a fuel we gave up for coal centuries ago? And domestically I am thinking of joining in by fitting wood burning stoves and switching to either wood, shredded paper briquettes or nice cheap coal and cutting the use of gas-fired central heating.

    As for UK power shortages – there won’t be any due to lack of generating capacity as there are large numbers of diesel generators ready to crank up and fill the gap. It’s called STOR and doesn’t appear in the National Grid’s energy document. It is in preparation for more wind generation when an instant generating resource is needed when the unreliable wind changes strength. What is more likely is a shortage of gas if the winter is long and cold. The NG document showed that we came very close last April to gas rationing before warmer weather reduced domestic demand.

  24. “Drax Group plc will receive a subsidy of over £1 billion ($1.6 billion) per year for this green miracle.”

    And as always the answer is ‘follow the money’. Just like the recent stupidity of locking the country into paying nuclear generated electricity at twice the market rate for the next two or three generations in UK. Giving EDF as astounding ten per cent PER YEAR return on thier investment every simgle year for the estimated 40 years life time of the plant (while the govt will assume the cost of any accidents, effectively paying the insurance bill for the project).

    It does not matter whether it’s wood-chip of nukes, it’s the same story.

    Now with that sort of money at stake , I’m sure we will see ex-ministers and prime ministers getting extremely well paid board positions in the relative industries once they are thrown out of office choose to spend more time with their families after the next election.

  25. As a result, nations and utilities are not required to count their CO2 emissions from biomass combustion.

    Is deforestation and burning of such wood carbon neutral? Answers on a postcard. The law of unintended consequences has kicked in!

    Too funny. You can’t win with these people. Give them what they want and they rage. See the banner from DRAX protesting greens that reads “BiG BIOMASS”.

    http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/2013/drax-agm-targeted-over-biomass-conversion-plans/

    In all the carbon neutral discussion have they considered the greening biosphere over the last several decades?

  26. If the energy is declared “green” then it is not subject to the normal laws of economics or nature. Therefore, it is economical and less polluting, by definition. Utilities like Dominion have their green energy initiatives financially cushioned because they can get subsidies and pass on costs to the rate payers.
    If you want to get into some of the real silliness for green energy look at the Renewable Energy Credit market or the fact that people and institutions buy “green” electricity at higher costs. If an individual is doing this, it is the individual’s money and he is free to spend it for anything he wants. What happens when a college elects to purchase green energy? Students get to pay tuition increases to support the feel-good policy. What if it is a public school? Then the taxpayers get soaked for feeling good and pay the administrative fees. I’m glad there are no real problems to waste money on.

  27. And ya’ll thought the Luddites were defeated years ago. Well, they just laid low until they could get elected.

    Seriously, it’s all about the money. Does anyone have the nerve to tell me that the transport companies and pellet manufacturers were dead set against this or didn’t contribute to the election funds in hopes of receiving cushy contracts?

  28. British government scientists are working on a scheme to extract sunbeams from cucumbers. The cucumber fueled ‘Gulliver’ power station is due to come online in 2020. No need to worry about power outages, we are in the hands of the brightest and the best.

  29. I’m not old enough to remember the great smogs in London, but as a result of that, sensible clean air laws has meant burning ordinary coal in domestic heaters is virtually a thing of the past, and seeing smoke rising from house chimneys is consequently also rare. Or or perhaps I should say WAS rare – the increasing number of woodburners means a return to visible pollution and smell. Great when you live in a suburban housing estate and are downwind of one of these damn things! Not only do they stink our house out (unless we keep all the windows and doors closed), but it’s something else to consider when hanging the washing out to dry. Due to the ever increasing cost of electricity we avoid using the tumbler dryer if at all possible, and let nature do the work. But that “Eco friendly” effort is rendered useless if the freshly washed linen and clothes comes in smelling of burnt wood.

    Another law of unintended consequences…

  30. No amount of pointing out that global temperatures have flat-lined for ~17 years or that central England temperature record shows falling temperatures in the UK (link below) is going to change UK policy. I honestly thought when Chris Huhne; the criminal who was our energy secretary, went to jail that the UK government would find it difficult to find someone as delusional to replace him, I was wrong. Cameron excelled himself in finding Ed Davey who in the stupidity stakes makes Huhne look like a gifted amateur. This fool has planted even more windmills and in order to make them competitive is pushing up the price of other energy supply to levels that are not affordable. This lunatic has approved the building of a new nuclear plant by the French and Chinese and as an inducement to do so has guaranteed a price per MW of double what it is today.

    These lunatics are killing people now to cure a problem that they think we may have in 100 years time. The thought that they can have any notion of what technology might be available in 100 years time is preposterous. If we have a severe winter people will die, mainly the old and young but they are to divorced from reality or the real world to care.

    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/hadobs/hadcet/

  31. Ha, ha, Tony, what it means is that the UK’s energy policy led by the Mad as a March Hare Ed Davey is working! As The Gray Monk suggests, “then we can all return to the Wordsworth and Shelley idyll of charming country-bumpkins weaving and spinning in little cottages, bucolic farmers using biomass to fertilise their “bio” foods all locally produced and grown.” With the very pleasant weather of a possible new “The Little Ice Age” reducing crop yields and shortening the growing season, Sounds just perfect to me.

    On a more serious note, when I despair at the Green Fascism and growing Central Control that pervade the USA where I live, I need only look to the UK and I feel better. UK, I hope the citizens of the UK can rise up and change the course of history in your beautiful country. Good luck! You (and we) will need it to stem the tide of state-sponsored totalitarianism and insanity that is overwhelming both our countries, in the name of the environment.

  32. Wood and charcoal burning for power resulted in the almost total clear cutting and deforestation of New York State leaving only 200,000 acres out of 18.9 million acres uncut–or, in percentage, 99% clear cut.

    [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_old-growth_forests and http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/309.html ]

    In other words, not a good idea.

    Elsewhere, environmentalist complain of citizens heating their rural homes with wood stoves, objecting to the smoke as pollution.

  33. how to twist an arguement totally out of context – spin – a grain of truth – a lorryload of shite

    But a 2011 opinion by the European Environment Agency pointed to a “serious error” in greenhouse gas accounting. The carbon neutral assumption does not account for CO2 that would be absorbed by the natural vegetation that grows on land not used for biofuel production. Substitution of wood for coal in electrical power plants is actually increasing carbon dioxide emissions.

  34. Dad went off the grid for heat in CT,USA, during the OPEC oil embargo of the 1970′s by purchasing a Vermont Castings wood stove. Since then, has never paid a dime for heat except to top off and test his back up oil furnace. His station wagon often came home loaded with logs he’d found roadside or obtained via five finger discount. If wood becomes the preferred asinine green solution, imagine the pricing plight of those who chose to be self-reliant but now are driven to dependency. “Free Wood” signs may become the aborted bastard child of this unholy scrum of climate “science” madness and politics. Perhaps it’s time to switch to coal?

  35. Steve Goreham wrote: “This irrational behavior is driven by the EPA, the US Department of Energy, the European Union, the California Air Resources Board, and other world organizations that assume that biomass fuel is “carbon neutral.” Biomass-fired plants receive carbon credits, tax exemptions, and subsidies from promoting governments.”

    It is rarely one single issue that keeps projects like this alive. Global warming hysteria sustains many parallel policy paths that all happen to lead to similar conclusions. With regards to energy a simpler one is that some of our representatives and betters genuinely believe there are too many of us and we use too much energy. They rarely put it so bluntly as they would be voted out of office.

    Biomass, carbon capture and other things are also solutions that are difficult to oppose politically as you can then be painted as a denier and someone who wants the planet to be ruined for future generations.

    There will also be some politicians convinced that raising energy prices in this less than direct way is a means to spur technological development. Western economies will become more efficient and will lead the advancement of new sources of energy, more efficient processes, etc. It is a way to exploit market forces for political, industrial and social ends.

  36. Nothing wrong with a local sawmill burning its waste to generate power, but you have to wonder about the sanity of these bureaucrats as well as their arithematical skills. Where do these people come from?

  37. Burning our biosphere to generate electricity is total madness.

    Only the fact that the EU apparatchiks have come of with a directive to operate coal power plants with a mix of 1/3 of coal and 2/3 of wood pallets imported from the swamp forests in Georgia USA is nothing less but the total bankruptcy of the environmental movement.

    Next subject.

  38. Oh. I see. I can’t burn wood in my own house, but the guv’mnt can. Okey dokey! Just as long as I continue to get my free phone, free health care, heat subsidies, transportation subsidies, free internet access, free spending money, and free food, I’ll vote the democratic ticket and cut off my nose to spite my face. Robby Kennedy would be so proud of how I am accepting money in exchange for my vote. So proud.

    I project a long successive line of stupid voted into the White House. And it all started with something as simple as a free phone.

  39. Didn’t PM Disraeli have something sarcastic to say about chips?
    (I suggest that the UKIP or GWPF quote him re DRAX.)

  40. Where does the money come from to replant a forest? I know they use the unemployed to plant new trees in the uk and that people own and run carbon offset websites that receive money to plant new trees but they don’t use that money to plant trees.

  41. anyone know what happened to the idea of thorium nuclear power? I thought that had so much potential but haven’t heard anything new in a long time? thanks

  42. Just a couple more points on the lunacy of Drax:
    Its built on top of coalmines
    Wood chips emit carbon MONOXIDE during transportation. Several crew members on a wood chip ship died recently when checking the cargo.
    Wood chips have a tendency to self-ignite. There was such a fire in the wood chips stored at Tilbury power station, which burned for days (mighht have been weeks). Sometimes the fire is impossible to put out.
    There must come a time when state governors (or the like) in America say: ‘Enough desecration of our forests’. Where to then for supplies – the Brazilian rain forest..?
    You couldn’t – as has been said – make it up…

  43. Robert Orme says:
    November 9, 2013 at 6:17 am
    “Nothing wrong with a local sawmill burning its waste to generate power, but you have to wonder about the sanity of these bureaucrats as well as their arithematical skills. Where do these people come from?”

    I agree, but that’s how an Austrian company introduced the wood pellet twenty years ago that enabled automated feeding of a furnace. A tax credit on pellet wood ovens (just like we have in the USA) triggered a boom and today Europe is importing pellets and wood chips from all over the world. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pellet_stove

    The idea behind this concept must be clear. The same people behind the AGW doctrine made the claim that human kind is a cancer to the planet. Burning our biosphere to power coal plants for electricity and pellet ovens in individual households at such a massive way will indeed turn human kind into a cancer to the planet. Case proven. It will provide the with the stick to enforce UN Agenda 21 = mandatory population reduction

    Are you all awake now?

  44. Once again, decreasing technology being portrayed and perceived as increasing technology. Even George Orwell would have been surprised at this twist of the tale. WE all live in a cosmic insane asylum, and the universe sends all the incurable lunatic souls to this planet, for it’s own protection. GK

  45. Pamela Gray says:
    November 9, 2013 at 6:22 am

    “I project a long successive line of stupid voted into the White House. And it all started with something as simple as a free phone”.

    No, it started with Nixon closing down the Thorium experiment , watch the Thorium Problem video I have posted earlier. Obama’s policies on the field of thorium and rare earth metals is only a continuation of Nixon’s policies.

    The free Phone’s and the bio ethanol mandate (turning food into fuel for cars) in Europe and the USA were used as a planned scheme to shape foreign politics by triggering the Arab Spring Revolutions. Of course you will remember the Arab Spring Revolution started as a food protest in Tunis. Obama’s Cairo speech did the rest.

  46. It deems the Swedes (amongst others) have the right idea. They are burning garbage in their modern power plants. It’s been so successful that they are actually running out of fuel! For example:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/30/world/europe/oslo-copes-with-shortage-of-garbage-it-turns-into-energy.html

    ” Oslo, a recycling-friendly place where roughly half the city and most of its schools are heated by burning garbage — household trash, industrial waste, even toxic and dangerous waste from hospitals and drug arrests — has a problem: it has literally run out of garbage to burn.

    The problem is not unique to Oslo, a city of 1.4 million people. Across Northern Europe, where the practice of burning garbage to generate heat and electricity has exploded in recent decades, demand for trash far outstrips supply. “Northern Europe has a huge generating capacity,” said Mr. Mikkelsen, 50, a mechanical engineer who for the last year has been the managing director of Oslo’s waste-to-energy agency.”

  47. Pamela Gray says:
    November 9, 2013 at 6:22 am
    “I project a long successive line of stupid voted into the White House. And it all started with something as simple as a free phone.”

    More likely caused by left wing media, poor to completely false history, science and math being taught in schools by teachers educated by left leaning colleges and unionization of government employees, including teachers. All the free stuff is definitely a big assist as well as the whimpy republican party and the ridiculous “sweetness” of compensation ( including bribes, oops I mean political donations), benefits and power of elected positions. The stupidity resulting is a positive feedback mechanism.

  48. While I heartily agree that the woodchips-for-power idea, at least on a large scale, makes little sense, the post would have benefited from more facts to establish how short of CO2 neutral the practice would be and the assumptions on which this is all based.

    I for one did not find it very enlightening on the issue of carbon-dioxide-concentration neutrality..

  49. Hmm… Not familiar with this tech at all. Are they burning the wood chips directly? Or are they going the producer gas route? The latter being to burn the chips in a reducing atmosphere to produce CO. And then burning the CO for power, with CO2 as the exhaust product.

    As a generality, there’s no sanity in it from a ‘carbon neutral’ standpoint. If you assume that vegetation will consume the CO2, then you assume that regardless of what you burn to produce the CO2. Anyone pushing this as carbon neutral for one plant food source and not for another are misinformed, insane, or too ashamed to state their Peak Oil position plainly.

    Specifically, to be ‘eco-neutral’ then each such wood-burning plant would host its own tree farms. And only burn off its stock at the same rate that it grows them. At which point you could state that it is properly ‘sunlight netural’ and that it’s CO2 output and uptake are balanced. But in that condition you’re simply stating that coal is ‘bad’ because you’re providing plant-food, free of charge, to others.

    Of course none are going to state this, or go this route, as it would simply demonstrate closed-loop biomass conversions as little more than a very Rube Goldberg set of solar panels and batteries.

  50. Hold a moment, and think about this.

    For biofuels the atmosphere works as a transportation line between burning and uptake.
    Increased burning and uptake still lead to more CO2 under transportation by the atmosphere and as a consequence a rise in CO2 concentration.

    You can make a practical model test any day by counting the number of cars on a bridge from morning to dawn. Higher traffic means more cars on the bridge despite the fact that all cars that enter also moves off the bridge.

    If CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is the problem, biofuels are NOT the solution!

  51. But wait… if burning wood creates more CO2, then the increased levels of CO2 will cause the trees to grow faster, thus reducing the amount of CO2, which… no.

  52. I remember a professor in my technology commercialization course saying, “The problem with biomass energy is not the bio, it’s the mass.” In other words, in order to get energy out of a product with low energy density, you have to put huge amounts of that stuff into the generating stations. Of course, environmentalists will ignore the sudden doubling of trains needed to keep Drax going because this is THEIR idea.

  53. Well, I agree it’s nuts to convert a coal plant to wood, but building a wood-burning plant in a forest area makes a lot of sense. In the past, wood chips from lumber mills used to be burn in so-called ‘bee-hive’ burners. Now they’re trucked to power plants, like the one in Kettle Falls, Washington, to do something useful.

  54. I worked for a city utility in Florida for 32 years. The city commission, which was then fully controlled by environmentalists forced the utility to allow a biomass plant to be built instead of the 250 MW fossil fuel plant that the engineers wanted. The consequences now that the plant is almost ready to go into service are back to haunt the politicians:

    1) The city already has a 240 MW coal fired plant. The same bunch on the city commission forced the utility to install a scrubber system on the plant that was not required by law. The plant had met all environmental regulations by only burning low sulfur coal up to that point. The scrubber provides no improvement since they started burning high sulfur coal once it was installed. It also forces the plant to run at at a minimum 120 MW otherwise the catalytic system would be destroyed.

    2) The contract that the city has with the biomass plant gives power produced by that plant priority over the coal fired plant. If total electrical demand falls below a certain level then the coal fired plant would have to be shut down to allow the biomass plant to sell power. This comes from the point made above, the coal plant cannot operate at less than 120 MW.

    3) The cost of the power produced by the biomass plant is about 4 times higher than the coal fired plant. Electric bills are set to skyrocket. There are also lots of other power producers in the state so selling high priced power is not going to happen. That only leaves the City’s captive population to pay for this. The politicians NOW see that this will bring political doom.

    4) The housing community located near the power plant are seeing a continuous line of dirty dusty logging trucks clogging the roads into the plant. These housing areas are upscale communities filled with lawyers, doctors and university administrators. Not the type of people to suffer quietly. They are raising H#ll right now and the plant is only in a low powered testing phase right now. And the noise from all the trucks is another issue.

    5) Lastly, there is a major downside of using wood in these plants. You cannot remove all the abrasive sand and grit that is on these logs. That grit blasts the interior parts of the furnace shortening the equipment’s life drastically.

    There is just nothing good to say about these plants.

  55. PaulH says:
    November 9, 2013 at 7:31 am
    It deems the Swedes (amongst others) have the right idea. They are burning garbage in their modern power plants. It’s been so successful that they are actually running out of fuel! For example:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/30/world/europe/oslo-copes-with-shortage-of-garbage-it-turns-into-energy.html

    ” Oslo, a recycling-friendly place where roughly half the city and most of its schools are heated by burning garbage — household trash, industrial waste, even toxic and dangerous waste from hospitals and drug arrests — has a problem: it has literally run out of garbage to burn.

    The problem is not unique to Oslo, a city of 1.4 million people. Across Northern Europe, where the practice of burning garbage to generate heat and electricity has exploded in recent decades, demand for trash far outstrips supply. “Northern Europe has a huge generating capacity,” said Mr. Mikkelsen, 50, a mechanical engineer who for the last year has been the managing director of Oslo’s waste-to-energy agency.”

    Right, the Netherlands today import 100 million tons of garbage from Italy, the UK and Ireland, big business. At the same time cities with one of the burners that process the imported garbage close their cities for cars older than 15 years because of those horrible emissions. Now that is utter madness.

  56. Frank, spot on. Also BLM grazing helped to tromp left over floor fuel into the ground, speeding up natural decay and keeping the forest floor clean. This allowed renewable harvest at a rate faster than natural overturn. It worked like a charm till watermelons stopped logging industries and the government shut down BLM grazing access. Now we have overgrown forests, overloaded floor fuel, and catastrophic forest fires so hot that entire fire crews lose their lives in this current madness.

  57. Bruce Cobb says:
    November 9, 2013 at 7:40 am
    We need a new “Age of Reason”.

    I agree but that new age of reason will only become a reality if we get rid of the madmen and madwomen who have taken control over our politics, our schools, our institutions and universities, our media and our administrations.

    Any idea how to smoke them out?

  58. First, if the wood fuel requirement at Drax is 76,000 tons a day, you could custom build a ship to carry that much. If you could get a R/T voyage down to 10 days (1 day to load, 4 days across, 1 day to unload, 4 days back.) You would need 10 ships custom built AT A MINIMUM to support the fuel requirement. I suppose that there is bulk ship technology that would work, still loading/unloading 76, 000 tons in 24 hours is a daunting task and would require a dedicated dock facility. And a rail network to move the wood from the dock to the power station.

    And don’t forget the production/transportation infrastructure in the USA.

    All of that will take years, just to get the permits! Of course, I can’t imagine that they could ever get the permits here in the USA.

    (A hint: there are no rail connections between the UK and the USA.)

    Hi, Ms Pamela, how you doing these days?

    Regards,

    Steamboat Jack (Jon Jewett’s evil twin)

  59. Anybody do the “wood distillation” experiment in junior high or high school? Do you recall how vile and ‘smelly’ some of those components that came out of the ‘wood’ were? WHERE do those products go in this ‘burning’ process? Are there a series set of scrubbers down-stream of the combustion process – or are those compounds simply vented to the atmosphere up a ‘stack’ (i.e. a smoke stack)?

    .

  60. These plants, at least the one I’m familiar with, use a fluidized bed furnace. All those “tars” and such would be completely burned. Your experiment was intended to produce a different product than a power plant. The power plant is designed to burn everything that is fed into it, as fuel, down to ash, carbon dioxide and water. This maximize energy product while doing so. However these plants are designed to burn a strictly controlled feed stock. A certain type of coal for example or natural gas. Wood is a wildly varying feed with unknown BTU, water and ash content. That makes biomass plants less efficient and probably dirtier.

  61. If I was a shareholder in a private company – providing energy, say, for profit, and the board decided that the best way to run our company was to run it under the most inefficient methods possible – given that there were better ways to do it – I would call for the board to resign and seek ways to impeach them for malfeasance in office.

    However, if that company was going to get a kick-back from a wealthy (and probably corrupt) ‘backer’ of a BILLION or so, I guess, as a shareholder I’d be expected to keep quiet.

    Well, I don’t want to keep quiet. UK power users are being ripped off by their own Government!!

  62. I burn wood to heat my house. I always have because it’s very difficult to purchase coal. Daily, I watch long lines of coal trains headed to China.

    We pay a heavy “Carbon Tax” here in BC so everyone drives across the southern or eastern borders to buy gas. But the BC government says we are using less gas because of their tax. They want everyone else to also have a “Carbon Tax” so then we won’t need to drive in order to pay less.

    The British pay more taxes to ship our forests to Europe so they don’t burn their own coal.

    We hire the government to make good decisons.

    Are these stupid taxes or taxes on the stupid?

  63. BTW, jquip, I’m amazed to find that you may have said something that I actually agree with. I’m still parsing what you said in case there’s something I missed and you’ve fooled me. (Goess off to sit in quiet room to contemplate….)

  64. The gasification of ‘wood’: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0961953411002029

    Abstract
    The release of alkali metals, chlorine, sulphur and heavy metals during gasification of four different types of biomass was investigated. The samples were two types of wood (clean and waste wood), miscanthus, and straw. Experiments were conducted in two different setups; in a tube furnace which could be considered as batch experiments, and in an atmospheric lab scale fluidised bed reactor with continuous fuel feed.

    How does this compare to coal?

    I have complained on WUWT about the domestic ‘burning’ of wood and paper-products in fireplaces during the winter time before and the local pollution (and direct health hazard!) that creates; here is a paper on that subject:
    “Domestic wood burning and PM2.5 trace elements: Personal exposures, indoor and outdoor levels”

    http://www.vtwoodsmoke.org/pdf/domesticwoodburning.pdf

    Abstract
    Personal exposures as well as indoor and outdoor levels of PM2.5 were measured with cyclones and impactors simultaneously in the winter of 2003 in a residential area where wood burning for domestic space heating is common.

    Twenty-four-hour samples from both wood-burning households (‘‘wood burners’’) and a reference group were analysed for mass and elemental concentration using energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence (EDXRF) and for black smoke (BS) concentration using an EEL 43 reflectometer. Wood-smoke particles made statistically significant contributions of K, Ca, and Zn for both personal exposure and indoor concentration, the median levels of these elements being 66–80% higher for the wood-burning group.

    In addition, Cl, Mn, Cu, Rb, and Pb were found to be possible markers of wood smoke, though levels of these were only significantly higher among the wood-burning group for either personal exposure or indoor concentrations. PM2.5 mass and S levels were not significantly elevated in wood burners, probably due to large variations in outdoor concentrations from long-distance transported air pollution. Personal exposure and indoor levels showed high correlations for all species, and the personal exposure levels were usually higher than or equal to the indoor levels. The associations between personal exposure and outdoor levels were generally weak except for outdoor S and PM2.5 levels that were both highly correlated with personal S exposure levels ðrs40:8Þ:

    “EPA, clean up this air!”
    . . . . . . . . . . . . – unknown air breather …

  65. R. de Haan says November 9, 2013 at 8:47 am

    I agree but that new age of reason will only become a reality if we get rid of the madmen and madwomen who have taken control over our politics, our schools, our institutions and universities, our media and our administrations.

    Any idea how to smoke them out?

    Invite them to work down in the ‘pits’ where the rubber meets the road, where the REAL work gets done? It seems to me most of them lack any practical experience or exposure to the real world …

    .

  66. Bruce Cobb says November 9, 2013 at 7:40 am

    We need a new “Age of Reason”.

    I have offered to go halvsies on a billboard across from the UN to one other poster where we would run daily/hourly changing messages; would that be a start?

    .

  67. And here is yet another failed government program in case you have confidence in their crazy schemes (like wood burning to create electricity):
    I wonder if they were planning to burn wood to provide electricity for recently failed charging stations for EV’s. Most taxpayers do not know that we were paying for charging stations for Electric vehicles.
    Like most other Government programs, here is another example of wasting your $$.

    “”Department of Energy officials hid from investigators information about financial and performance failures of a company that got $135 million in government-backed loans.”

    “Concealed were details of electric vehicle company Ecotality’s inability to fulfill the terms of green energy loans it received under President Obama’s economic stimulus program, according to the DOE inspector general.”

    “The officials later claimed they didn’t intentionally withhold the information during a July 2013 IG audit of their management of the loans.”

    “We found that the department had not fully disclosed known concerns regarding Ecotality’s ability to meet its EV (electric vehicle) project obligations to the Office of Inspector General prior to completion of our previous audit,” the IG report said.”

    “Ecotality’s financial troubles prevented it from meeting its obligation to install EV chargers and ultimately led to the company’s September filing for bankruptcy.””

    http://washingtonexaminer.com/doe-hid-green-energy-company-ecotalitys-financial-ills-from-ig/article/2538652

    There is more!!
    “Now here’s a fine mess, as Laurel and Hardy used to say. One of the biggest electric vehicle charging companies, Arizona-based ECOtality (a Nissan Leaf partner), went bankrupt, stranding about 13,000 commercial and residential stations. We all have a stake in this, because American tax dollars supported these installations through the so-called EV Project.
    In the early rounds, only one bidder emerged, an unknown company called Tellus Power, which proposed acquiring ECOtality’s assets for just $3 million. Consider that the federal grants totaled almost $115 million (of which almost $100 million was spent) and you begin to see the issue here. There are clear parallels to what happened to the U.S. investment in Fisker Automotive, which went bankrupt after spending $192 million of a $529 million loan (the feds then seized $21 million in assets). ”

    http://evautoshop.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/ecotality-goes-bankrupt-stranding-13000-docking-stations/

    Is there any end to the craziness?

  68. PaliGap says:
    November 9, 2013 at 2:25 am

    A friend of mine is making a very good living indeed installing wood burning stoves. It’s clear that many of his clients are greenies who have no concern about this practice….

    This reminded me of a couple of things I read recently. Sale of wood burning stoves are up in the UK due to hight energy costs and fashion and some Germans have started stealing wood from their forests – to burn in wood burning stoves. Back to the Future?

    http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/bills/article-2478847/Woodburning-stoves-Can-cut-energy-bills.html

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/tree-theft-on-the-rise-in-germany-as-heating-costs-increase-a-878013.html

  69. Another environmentally disastrous and politically reactionary “fix” for climate change – when will they ever learn? Funny how they whine about deforestation, and then they do the thing that will result in the most deforestation.

    The hypocrisy and irrationality and mean-spiritedness of the Criminal Reactionary Left knows no bounds

  70. Looks like the coal-huggers are well on their way to conserving their precious coal seams and destroying those evil forests!

  71. __Jim: “Wow … that is so, like , TWO centuries back. The greens make progress in such a strange and backwards way …”

    Yeh, that’s why I’m wondering about the tech. From the comments it seems they burn it directly, with all the attendant problems that come from it. (Particulate abrasion, etc.) Not that I’m in favor of wood for powergen at all, but the producer gas route lets you run baseload boilers off the reducing combustion and capture the CO for later combustion in peaking loads. Or burn off/sell any excess. Which, if you’re unhappy about coal/natgas seems to be the right twofer go after. At least if you’ve got a happy on about deforestation for iPods.

    • Every time you introduce an intermediate step in a process you reduce the efficiency. Just a fact of thermodynamic life. Conventional fossil fuel plants work very hard to capture an extra 0.1 or 0.2% increase in efficiency. Doing so can save them a lot of money in fuel costs. A 240 MW coal plant burns over 1500 tons a day of coal, so a slight efficiency improvement adds up fast. Adding this extra step with all the associated parasitic energy and equipment costs, plus increased maintenance and possible waste disposal costs makes this process unlikely.

      BTW you are correct, these plants chip the wood feed and burn the chips.

  72. People that promote this kind of crap need to be locked up in some deep dark hole for the rest of their pitiful natural lives.

  73. Worth pointing out that the disgraced Lib Dem politician Chris Huhne – still on licence after being released from prison after being convicted and sentenced to 8 months for perverting the course of justice – is now a senior manager of Zilkha Biomass Energy, the company that exports US wood to fuel Drax.

    Nice work if you can get it.

  74. Worth remembering also that one of the major incentives to Britain’s initiation of the Industrial Revolution was the serious shortage of timber for both charcoal burning and shipbuilding, as the great forests of the British Isles had all been chopped down to make space for agriculture and to supply the insatiable demand of the Admiralty for ships to fight the ongoing naval wars with Europe.

    At one point in fact it was illegal to use new timber for buildings, all such had to be recycled from scrapped navy vessels, some of my roof timbers bear witness to that.

    So the new fad for burning timber is misguided in the extreme.

  75. This presentation from UBC summarizes supply of Canadian wood pellets to Europe. Essentially, wood pellets are only marginally better than NG in terms of GHG emissions (assuming this is even a valid analysis). http://www.lcacenter.org/InLCA2007/presentations/55.pdf

    However, when considering the massive amount of wood to be harvested, there are other impacts to consider. On the positive side, forest management and jobs creation in forest communities will be beneficial as some locations have 40% unemployment and probably higher underemployment. And it is better to harvest a forest than to have it burn, and roughly 60% of the total trees lost each year burn vs 40% harvested (rough numbers). So good forest management is a positive for Canada.
    On the other side, there is a lot of wasted economic activity making fuel remotely for use in the EU, with the UK only being one example. the EU pays for jobs in Canada under this scenario, and there is no net economic benefit to the combined societies.
    After being aware of the environmental movement to promote biofuels for 15 years, I have reached the conclusion that they will end up doing so much damage to the environment trying to save it that they will ultimately come begging for fossil energy to save the environment from their own policies.
    Someday they will figure out the obvious that wind power kills birds and habitat, solar panels have a net negative GHG emissions profile when manufacture and replacement are considered, and solar panels destroy desert habitat (or agricultural land in the case of solar fields in Bakersfield, CA).
    But I think the environmental movement will have to go through a very destructive cycle before they realize what havoc they have brought to the environment. Only once the damage has been done will they turn on alternative energy producers for damaging the environment. Much like the MTBE scenario where government mandated MTBE to be blended into gasoline to clean the air using faulty emissions scenarios and then banned its use due to unintended consequences (ground water contamination) and blamed the oil companies for using what the government (under duress from environmental factions) mandated.

  76. Gunnar Strandell says:
    November 9, 2013 at 8:18 am

    “If CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is the problem, biofuels are NOT the solution!”

    All these measures are not applied to solve the problem of CO2 because it simply doesn’t exist.
    It’s al designed to increase costs an therefore undermine the living standards of humans.

    It’s all Agenda 21 BS.

  77. I can see it now: the UK converts (has converted) one of its best coal-fired power stations to bio-mass, sourced from USA, and then EPA change their mind about CACC – and the UK is b*ggered when it can’t get enough wood. Great plan. NOT

  78. Doing a little number crunching, the 70,000 tons of wood per day for that one British power plant means harvesting approx. 300 acres per day, or 109,500 acres/year. Which is approx 171 sq miles. Atlanta, Ga is only 132 sq miles. The USA has about 747 million acres of forest, total private and public. But figuring in the loses from fires, and other uses for timber (from railroad ties to houses, furniture, paper, etc.) we really don’t want to burden our forests any more than they already are. And when forests are clearcut, the costs include everything else that depends on them, including wildlife, soil erosion, etc. This is such a bad idea I can’t believe it.

  79. GunnyGene: “Which is approx 171 sq miles. Atlanta, Ga is only 132 sq miles.”

    By memory, and probably faulty at that, the turn over rate in softwood tree farms is 20 years. So about 3,420 square miles to keep those numbers going at a constant clip. Or a bit more than half again as large as Delaware.

  80. Do the logistic requirements to transport the wood to Drax even exist, or can be made to work ?
    If they currently use 140 trains a week to transport 36,000 tons of coal, but they now need to transport 70,000 tons of wood which will presumably need a greater number of trains each week, perhaps double. That’s 40 trains a day, which presumably are not allowed to run all night, say 40 trains over a 16 hour day, that’s a train every 24 minutes that has to be unloaded and moved on before the next one arrives.

    I really hope it all goes horribly wrong for them. Once people in the USA see the environmental destruction becoming all too visible to vast areas of their land then we can hope to see sufficient protest to bring the exports to a stop and Drax converted back to coal until such time as the eco-loon politicians finally wake up and smell the thorium.

  81. kalsel3294 says: @ November 9, 2013 at 12:39 am

    … But that’s not all folks. Perhaps the biggest tragedy is the nutrients that are being dragged out of the soil by the trees which must be replaced if the soil is to remain productive and not rendered infertile over time. The supply of essential nutrients is in my opinion going to become one of the greatest challenges for future generations as the world attempts to feed an ever increasing population.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Boy have you got that right.
    I had the timber harvested off my land BIG MISTAKE. It was too much of a mess, too rutted and too step to sow grass seed on with a tractor and I couldn’t do 80 ac by hand. Within 6 months all the topsoil was gone and all I have is gravel and very hardy weeds. (Send in the goats) The wood not suited for lumber was chipped and hauled off to the nearest power plant to be burned so there were no limbs left to slow down erosion.

    Add in mono-culture corn, a heavy feeder that depletes the soil and the cutting down of the wind barriers in the mid west planted after the 1930s dust bowl and you have a real problem. Especially when the land is owned by multi-billionaires only interested in turning a high profit and not preserving it for their grand children.

  82. We have two wood-fired power plants in Vermont – the 50 MW McNeil Station in Burlington and the 20 MW Ryegate power station. In addition dozens of schools, hospitals and other municipal buildings have switched to wood chips mostly for heat and a few for CHP cogeneration of electricity. Vermont experienced the hysteria of bulldozing the forests when McNeil was proposed but that did not happen. Vermont has enough wood in its forests to sustain these two plants. Biomass works in Vermont on a limited scale because the plants are surrounded by their fuel supply. The McNeil plant was upgraded to run on both natural gas and wood. See https://www.burlingtonelectric.com/page.php?pid=75&name=mcneil for details on wood chip operations. The Ryegate plant emissions permit is here: http://www.anr.state.vt.us/air/permitting/PermitsTAs/95031permit.pdf.
    The North Country hospital wood chip CHP cogeneration numbers are here: http://www.nrbp.org/publications/biomass-chp/appendixa.pdf
    A summary of biomass CHP technolgies is here: http://nebiomassheat.com/pdfs/2012/biomassCHP/olmsted_chp.pdf
    Wood consumption numbers are here. http://truenorthreports.com/biomass-in-the-vermont-comprehensive-energy-plan.
    Expanding biomass power production beyond McNeil and Ryegate is unsustainable.
    The shutdown of Vermont Yankee’s 650 MW power plant by a 30-year anti-nuclear crusade cannot be replaced by biomass.

    http://www.vermontbiz.com/news/august/entergy-close-decommission-vermont-yankee-beginning-2014.

    In the imagination of some this lost power will be replaced by moonbeams and unicorns. A portion of the lost power will be replaced by an agreement with Hydro-Quebec to supply 225 MW. http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2010/08/vermont-utilities-hydo-quebec-sign-long-term-hydropower-deal
    The other 300 MW ( after deducting for biomass, moonbeams, and unicorns) will be purchased on the open market unless new production facilities are built.

  83. The Gray Monk says: @ November 9, 2013 at 1:01 am

    ….What it is really all about is driving industry out of the UK and population reduction. Then we can all return to the Wordsworth and Shelley idyll of charming country-bumpkins weaving and spinning in little cottages, buccolic farmers using biomass to fertilise their “bio” foods all locally produced and grown.

    Yeah, I know, dream on …
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Meanwhile Cornell University is busy doing research on the amount of food that can be ground in a hundred mile radius called a “Foodshed” using money from a grand from the USDA.
    “… the Local Foodshed Mapping Tool main Page!
    This instrument is the product of a larger USDA CSREES funded project entitled “Mapping local food systems potential in New York State.” This project, hereafter referred to as the “Mapping Local Food Systems Project.” investigated the capacity of agricultural land in New York State to meet the food needs of the state’s population centers….

    …What is a “foodshed”?
    Though it may be unfamiliar, >b>the term “foodshed” was used almost 80 years ago in a book entitled How Great Cities Are Fed (Hedden, 1929) to describe the flow of food from producer to consumer. Seven decades later, the term was used to describe a food system that connected local producers with local consumers (Kloppenburg et al., 1996). In this project, the general definition of a foodshed is a geographic area that supplies a population center with food….”

    http://css.cals.cornell.edu/extension/foodshed-mapping.cfm

    Why are we going back to a food system the became obsolete?

  84. phillipbratby says: @ November 9, 2013 at 1:40 am

    ….Due to policies of the three “main” political parties, the UK is going down the pan at a tremendous rate. The Industrial Revolution is being undone by a single generation of idiotic politicians, who have all come from the same mold. Or is that mould?
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>
    I would think it is Slime Mold

    Picture of Fuligo septica, the “dog vomit” slime mold care of Wiki

    Look familiar?
    I think my dislike of parasites politicians is showing.

  85. This activity is so beyond stupid, it’s painful.

    If anyone but the climate mob did it (or even suggested it), they’d be vilified for being anti-green. Why are these people getting away with such nonsense? Add to that hundreds of thousands of birds and bats killed each year in the windmills…

    Seriously, the same rules have to apply to them as they would to anyone else. I believe the going fine for killing each bird is something like $250,000 – what is it for tearing down forests at such a rate?

    Here in Australia a year or so ago, we had the local greens promising to put a stop to a man selling wood that he collected from his own land. They didn’t succeed as the local council supported him (thankfully), but all the same. According to the greens and their fellow zealots, we shouldn’t be allowed to harvest or burn wood in our homes, but it’s okay to harvest 70,000 tons of wood every day for electricity production?

    HOW can ripping up living forests be better for the planet than digging out dead coal?

    Environmentalists used to chain themselves to trees to Save the Forests – anyone remember that? Now they’re driving the bulldozers. How can any Greenie not be deeply ashamed of the damage they are doing?

    It is beyond time to stop these people. This sickness has gone too far.

  86. @ Jquip says:
    November 9, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    GunnyGene: “Which is approx 171 sq miles. Atlanta, Ga is only 132 sq miles.”

    By memory, and probably faulty at that, the turn over rate in softwood tree farms is 20 years. So about 3,420 square miles to keep those numbers going at a constant clip. Or a bit more than half again as large as Delaware.
    *******************************************************************

    Sounds about right. I have 20 acres planted in loblolly pine that’s 30 yrs old. By my calculations that would feed the British plant for about 1 hr. It’s a totally ridiculous scheme. Especially considering the multitude of adverse outcomes. I have deer on my land that helps feed my family for the last 15 years; they would disappear if I clear cut to feed some power plant.
    ************************************************************
    @ Gail Combs, it’s nice to know that someone else really understands what this is all about. :) The Ipod generation really doesn’t seem to get it.

  87. PS: It should also be noted that about 30% of the weight of green timber is water. Which has to be gotten rid of before the wood is suitable for burning. So add some more processing cost for that.

  88. Gary Hladik said @ November 9, 2013 at 10:00 am

    Looks like the coal-huggers are well on their way to conserving their precious coal seams and destroying those evil forests!

    ROFLMAO! Made my day…

  89. GunnyGene said @ November 9, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    PS: It should also be noted that about 30% of the weight of green timber is water. Which has to be gotten rid of before the wood is suitable for burning. So add some more processing cost for that.

    Moisture content varies with species. Green balsa holds 4 times its own weight of water and thus its saturated moisture content (SMC) is said to be 400%. Ironbark is a particularly dense Australian timber. (I have self-insulating electric fence droppers made from it.) The SMC of ironbark is 40% when green.

    The goal with firewood is to achieve 20% SMC or better. Final moisture content is a function of atmospheric humidity so achieving a final moisture content much lower than this is difficult.

  90. The same goofy folk won’t allow the burned trees on federal land from the recent Rim fire in California to be harvested. There’s about a 2 year window where the trees will be useful. After that, it’s a beetle fest. Why not burn it for electricity instead?
    Fortunately private land owners are not under those same restraints.

  91. What’s been said here about Drax is only part of the problem. Drax was built to burn coal, and a particular grade of coal at that. You cannot simply put another carbon fuel into it, hence the conversion costs. But however much is done, it cannot compensate fully for the fact that Drax will now be burning wood pellets. Under combustion, these are burned at different temperatures with different combustion gases being produced. All of these will be at temperatures and conditions for which the plant was not designed.

    Hence, Drax will inevitably have higher operating and maintenance costs, and accelerated breakdowns.

    The insanity of wood-burning in an industrial age was established centuries ago. The mediaeval forests largely disappeared by the end of the 15th century, burned down by the charcoal burners to make steel. Even by the 13th century, despite being illegal, coal was in everyday use in European cities. Quite literally in 1250 you couldn’t bring enough wood in through the city gates every day to meet the day’s baking and heating needs.

    What does it say when modern policymakers are more ignorant than mediaeval barons?

  92. “catweazle666 says:

    November 9, 2013 at 10:56 am”

    Thanks for confirming my suspicions, I knew a politician would be involved in this madness somewhere. The UK clearly needs another Guy Fawkes.

    Another post was made up thread about ash. A by product of coal fired power stations is fly ash. Some of it goes into land fill, almost half is recycled and is used in concrete construction. I wonder what use wood ash would be put to?

  93. Patrick said @ November 9, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    I wonder what use wood ash would be put to?

    It’s an excellent source of potassium and sodium hydroxide used in soap-making. It also contains a significant amount of other nutrients that are useful in gardening and farming.

  94. Ah, sometimes called potash. Yes, makes sense now. So a tree stands all it’s life absorbing plant food, CO2, is burnt to provide a useful source of energy and then to potentially become plant food (And other useful products).

    On another note, one thing that has been bugging me with CO2 driven alarmism in Australia is the use of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2-e). What it seems to mean, from what I have read in Govn’t documents, is that any source of a greenhouse gas is classed as “carbon” and is calculated as the effect, equivalent to a tonne of CO2, has on climate (Which is laughable beyond reason), multiplied by 3.76. I have no idea where the number 3.76 comes from if we consider that 1 tonne of coal burnt generates ~2.8 tonnes of CO2 (I have seen some commenters state that 1 tonne of coal CONTAINS 2.8 tonnes of CO2) and 1 tonne of dry wood burnt generates ~1.8 tonnes CO2. So if the figures in the article are correct that twice as much wood as coal (~70,000 tonnes as apposed to ~35,000) needs to be burnt to maintain it’s current power output suggests MORE CO2 is emitted, in fact closer to the multiplier the Australian Govn’t uses to calculate CO2-e figures.

  95. Even though I have no interest in chemistry, never have, I found that a really interesting read, especially the sections relating to the heating values of coal and wood. Clearly, converting Drax to burn wood, which it was not designed to do so, is insane! Coal is king. It is concentrated sun light after all!

  96. @ Patrick

    The Git was born in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, UKLand where he lived until 1965. While coal mining began in the area in the 14th C, it boomed in the 17th C transforming the local economy. Not only did the coal bring much needed wealth to the community directly, it also fuelled a major brick and tile industry. I miss living there like I’d miss having an extra large hole in the back of my head :-)

  97. @ The Pompous Git says:
    November 9, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    GunnyGene said @ November 9, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    PS: It should also be noted that about 30% of the weight of green timber is water. Which has to be gotten rid of before the wood is suitable for burning. So add some more processing cost for that.

    Moisture content varies with species. Green balsa holds 4 times its own weight of water and thus its saturated moisture content (SMC) is said to be 400%. Ironbark is a particularly dense Australian timber. (I have self-insulating electric fence droppers made from it.) The SMC of ironbark is 40% when green.

    The goal with firewood is to achieve 20% SMC or better. Final moisture content is a function of atmospheric humidity so achieving a final moisture content much lower than this is difficult.
    *******************************************************
    I’m aware of the MC variation by species and such. Didn’t think it necessary to belabor that, since the point was that it must be dried before using, thereby increasing cost.

    However, this very variation would also drive the harvest for power plants to take more expensive (and slower growing) hardwoods, than fast growing softwood species such as pine, especially since hardwoods generally also burn hotter than softwoods.

    This practice would also lead to a conflict (and ripple effect higher costs ) with other more traditional uses of hardwoods, such as fine furniture manufacturing. Oaks, walnut, cherry, etc. are expensive as it is, and burning these and other hardwoods for electricity production would be just plain stupid.

  98. By the time Drax is ready there will be masses of fracking in the UK, new nuclear stations already built & commerical fusion power on the horizon.
    BUT instead of taking fracking gas for free we are going to pay money to Americans and transport 76KT/day of wood past US power stations and across the Atlantic resulting in electricity costing 4 times that of electricity from coal. Really you think it’s going to happen ?

    .. It is possible that its a scam cooked up between mad greens and greenhedgefundsubsidymafia to close down Drax

  99. EPA Bans Most Wood-Burning Stoves

    Wood-burning stoves offer warmth and enhance off-grid living options during cold weather months, but the tried-and-true heating devices now are under attack by the Environmental Protection Agency.

    The EPA has banned the production and sale of the types of stoves used by about 80 percent of those with such stoves. The regulations limit the amount of “airborne fine-particle matter” to 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air. The current EPA regulations allow for 15 micrograms in the same amount of air space.

    http://www.offthegridnews.com/2013/10/02/epa-bans-most-wood-burning-stoves/

    Old stoves “traded in” must be scrapped.

  100. @ Speed says:
    November 10, 2013 at 4:32 am

    EPA Bans Most Wood-Burning Stoves
    ***********************************************************************
    I guess that means no more burning off of farm fields, timber waste, fall leaves and brush, etc. in your back yard either. All of which are very common in rural parts of the country. Might be real tough to enforce this rule where I live. EPA people are not welcome around here.

  101. Steve Goreham:

    Thankyou for your fine essay.

    DRAX burning wood chips illustrates the underlying problem of low energy intensity in biomass.

    Waste materials including wood and wood chips have disposal costs. Burning them and obtaining the resulting energy for use is a sensible and profitable action in many cases. But growing forests to burn them is a very different issue. Coppicing was a form of growing trees for use as fuel for centuries but was abandoned when fossil fuels became readily available.

    Biomass is solar energy collected by photosynthesis by plants which grow over a small area and a few growing seasons and are not compressed and not dried. Fossil fuels are solar energy collected by photosynthesis in plants grown over large area and several centuries that is in a compressed and dried form. Hence, energy intensity is much greater in fossil fuels than in biomass.

    Energy is consumed by farming, harvesting and transporting biomass to its point of use. There is a net loss of energy if the farming, harvest and transport consume as much energy as the use of the biomass provides. This sets a limit on the area of biomass which can be grown for profitable use in any one place because ‘renewable’ biomass contains little collected solar energy compared to the solar energy stored in fossil fuels.

    Indeed, there is a net consumption of energy if the total energy required to produce ‘renewable’ biomass per year is greater than the solar energy collected each year by the ‘renewable’ biomass (and, of course, an increase to emissions from that increased energy use). Indeed, the use of firewood as fuel is not ‘renewable’ in the Third World because more wood is burned than is grown with resulting depletion of forests.

    This sets a limit on the distance between how far ‘renewable’ biomass transported from where it is farmed to where it is used. And it requires the use of much land. For example, the European Commission admits that achieving its target of 5.75% of its transport fuels by use of biomass will require substantial imports of biomass despite turning more than 14% of EU agriculture over to biomass production. Clearly, much of the import will not be from ‘renewable’ sources.

    The import of wood chips to DRAX is the start of a policy which is economic madness based on ignorance of the laws of physics.

    Richard

  102. GunnyGene said @ November 10, 2013 at 3:05 am

    However, this very variation would also drive the harvest for power plants to take more expensive (and slower growing) hardwoods, than fast growing softwood species such as pine, especially since hardwoods generally also burn hotter than softwoods.

    Not all hardwoods are slow growing. My own woodlot consists of Eucalyptus globulus (Tasmanian Bluegum). I commenced harvesting at 15 years, but it’s 80 years to full maturity. Mind you, there’s plenty of places on the planet that regret importing the species — California for example. Bluegum has a tendency to become a weed and the oil content of the leaves make wildfires in plantations particularly fierce. The leaves also contain a herbicide that reduces competition from other plant species.

    Transporting wood fuels almost any distance at all purely for electricity production makes no sense whatsoever. That it was contemplated at all shows how far removed from reality some people are.

    While spontaneous combustion of stockpiles was mentioned above, there is another potential danger. Legionella the gram-negative bacillus that causes Legionellosis (Legionnaires’ disease) and Pontiac fever is known to proliferate in woodchip stockpiles here in Tasmania. I have no idea of the true risk factor and am deeply suspicious when such fears are promoted by greenies. However, a successful campaign against Drax could well be modelled on the obviously effective fear campaigns the greenies are famous for. Heck, you could even promote the fear among the greenies and let them do the hard yards of preventing this madness taking place :-)

  103. @ The Pompous Git says:
    November 10, 2013 at 9:43 am

    GunnyGene said @ November 10, 2013 at 3:05 am

    However, this very variation would also drive the harvest for power plants to take more expensive (and slower growing) hardwoods, than fast growing softwood species such as pine, especially since hardwoods generally also burn hotter than softwoods.

    Not all hardwoods are slow growing. My own woodlot consists of Eucalyptus globulus (Tasmanian Bluegum).

    ***********************************************************

    I’m not all that familiar with Aussie trees, so I’ll yield on that. Here in Mississippi tho, and other parts of N. America, our hardwood forests are under a lot of stress as is. White oak is one such, which you may or may not know is essential to the aging of fine bourbons in hand made casks, which are subsequently shipped to Europe for aging of fine wines. In fact, I have a 400+ year old white oak on my land, which if harvested for furniture, etc. would fetch several thousand dollars, but if taken for some power plant would only be worth a few hundred at most, since trees for that purpose are paid by the ton, rather than the board foot.

  104. Slightly off-topic – but I love the description I’ve seen elsewhere for wind turbines…
    ‘Prayer wheels…’

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