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    Mongabay, a leading resource for news and perspectives on environmental and conservation issues related to the tropics, has launched Tropical Conservation Science - a new, open access academic e-journal. It will cover a wide variety of scientific and social studies on tropical ecosystems, their biodiversity and the threats posed to them. Tropical Conservation Science - March 8, 2008.

    At the 148th Meeting of the OPEC Conference, the oil exporting cartel decided to leave its production level unchanged, sending crude prices spiralling to new records (above $104). OPEC "observed that the market is well-supplied, with current commercial oil stocks standing above their five-year average. The Conference further noted, with concern, that the current price environment does not reflect market fundamentals, as crude oil prices are being strongly influenced by the weakness in the US dollar, rising inflation and significant flow of funds into the commodities market." OPEC - March 5, 2008.

    Kyushu University (Japan) is establishing what it says will be the world’s first graduate program in hydrogen energy technologies. The new master’s program for hydrogen engineering is to be offered at the university’s new Ito campus in Fukuoka Prefecture. Lectures will cover such topics as hydrogen energy and developing the fuel cells needed to convert hydrogen into heat or electricity. Of all the renewable pathways to produce hydrogen, bio-hydrogen based on the gasification of biomass is by far both the most efficient, cost-effective and cleanest. Fuel Cell Works - March 3, 2008.

    An entrepreneur in Ivory Coast has developed a project to establish a network of Miscanthus giganteus farms aimed at producing biomass for use in power generation. In a first phase, the goal is to grow the crop on 200 hectares, after which expansion will start. The project is in an advanced stage, but the entrepreneur still seeks partners and investors. The plantation is to be located in an agro-ecological zone qualified as highly suitable for the grass species. Contact us - March 3, 2008.

    A 7.1MW biomass power plant to be built on the Haiwaiian island of Kaua‘i has received approval from the local Planning Commission. The plant, owned and operated by Green Energy Hawaii, will use albizia trees, a hardy species that grows in poor soil on rainfall alone. The renewable power plant will meet 10 percent of the island's energy needs. Kauai World - February 27, 2008.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Austin Energy plans $2.3 billion investment in biomass power

Austin's municipal power company is planning a $2.3 billion, 20-year deal to draw renewable electricity from a biomass plant in East Texas. Austin Energy says that the plant would run on waste wood and generate 100 megawatts of power. It would open in 2012.

Austin Energy spokesman Ed Clark said power from the biomass plant would move the city closer to its goal of getting 30 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2020. Nacogdoches Power LLC would build and run the plant and Austin would buy all the power. The price tag would include the cost of fuel and operating expenses.

The 100 MW wood-fired biomass electric generating facility consist of a wood fuel handling feed system, a wood-fired system generator, a condensing steam turbine generator with an evaporative cooling tower and auxiliary support equipment. The project will employ the latest in boiler and emissions control technology to achieve the best available emissions.

The biomass fuel will be comprised of forest residues, whole tree chips, municipal tree waste and mill residue.

The steam generator will be a bubbling fluidized bed boiler. The boiler will be equipped with a baghouse to control particulate emissions. A Selective Non-Catalytic Reduction (“SNCR”) system will be provided for NOX control.

The project will be unique among renewable energy projects in that it will have an extremely high availability factor (approximately 90%) and will be capable of operation as a base load generating resource:
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Further, the project will qualify for renewable energy credits, (RECs) under current Texas law and Public Utility Commission rules. The project will help Texas meet the legislatively established requirement of 500 MW of new non-wind renewable generation and the overall goal of 5,880 MW of renewable generation by 2015 under Texas Senate Bill 20, enacted in July 2005.

In addition to using state of the art emission controls, the power plant will offer other significant environmental benefits. The project will use logging residue as a wood fuel source, improving sustainable forest management practices and reducing the impact of greenhouse gases created by the decomposition of logging residue.

The project is located in the town of Sacul, Texas. The proposed site is a 130 acre parcel which is situated in the northwestern portion of Nacogdoches County. The area is rural with a low population density. The site is partially cleared with mature trees on the portion of the property to be developed for the Project. The site has adequate space for the footprint of the power generation facility, fuel delivery and handling as well as for construction.

Biomass is gaining a foothold in Texas. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates most of the electric grid in the state, draws power from 37 generating plants producing 97 megawatts of power from biomass. Most of those plants are powered by landfill gas, and the rest draw from agricultural byproducts, like the proposed Nacogdoches Power plant. A 45-megawatt plant, running on agricultural byproducts is expected to come online in Lufkin next year, but the Austin Energy partnership will be the largest planned biomass plant in the ERCOT area.

Austin Energy serves 388,000 customers in Austin, Travis County and part of Williamson County. It owns 2,600 megawatts of generation from three natural gas-fired plants near Austin and owns shares of a coal plant in La Grange, a nuclear reactor in Bay City, and wind farms in West Texas.

Nacogdoches Power is a joint venture between Bay Corp Holdings, Ltd and Energy Management, Inc. BayCorp, is a privately held energy company that has been in existence for 20 years. Until November 1, 2002, BayCorp owned a 15% (174 MW) joint ownership interest in the Seabrook Nuclear Power Project in Seabrook, New Hampshire through its two principal operating subsidiaries, (Great Bay) Power Corporation (“Great Bay”) and (Little Bay).

EMI is a privately held energy company with more than 30 years of experience in energy conservation and energy development. In 1975, EMI began developing energy conservation and pollution control projects for institutional and industrial facilities. A decade later, the company transitioned to developing independent power projects. In 1986, EMI developed, financed and constructed Alexandria Power Associates, a 15 MW wood-fired power production facility in Alexandria, New Hampshire. Following Alexandria, EMI developed six natural gas-fired electric generation projects totaling more than 860 MW of capacity and including the first true independent and merchant power projects in New England. At one point, facilities developed by EMI represented $800 million in construction and 8% of New England’s base load capacity.

In 2000, EMI’s principals sold their interests in its portfolio of natural gas-fired facilities and changed their focus to developing renewable energy projects. EMI is also currently developing the Cape Wind Project, a 468 MW offshore wind project to be located in Nantucket Sound off the southern coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.


Nacogdoche Power: project description.

Statesman: Austin Energy plans $2.3 billion biomass plant - July 26, 2008.

Dallas News: Austin considering $2.3 billion biomass contract - July 25, 2008.


Anonymous Omar said...

It seems the project, like many similar others, isn't environmentally friendlly: it requires wood and that means trees. 'Waste wood' will simply lead to cutting of trees later.

1:32 PM  
Anonymous Jonas said...

Well, eventually all renewables will end up by using depletable resources. Biomass is the only resource that regenerates itself (unlike copper, or indium, used in other renewables.)

You can grow trees and energy crops in an environmentally friendly manner, can't you?

Or are all reforestation projects evil, perhaps?

There is no pristine ecosystem left on the planet. Virtually all ecosystems are man-made, and that means we have to manage them in the best way possible.

Planting trees for energy is a very good option, considering the alternatives (burning coal, which, if we do it for too long, will burn up the last bits of remaining rainforest; or we could decide to spend way too much money on uncompetitive renewables which come with their fair share of environmental and efficiency drawbacks too.)

Planting grass in a grass field to use it for energy, after which you replant the grass in the grass field - is it really that environmentally problematic? If you do it carefully, it's not, I think.


11:30 PM  
Blogger Lou Gold said...

Whether or not tree plantations for fuel, etc are environmentally friendly depends on the context -- especially on what is being replaced by the tree crop. If the plantation is simply a choice of what to plant in an already established crop system there's no problem and much benefit. BUT, if the plantation is replacing a plant community of native diversity, the move toward a monocrop of a favored tree species will rob the area of the ecosystem services of a forest or native grassland.

Also, the waste-to-resource strategies of integrated wood products management can be a mixed blessing where the tail can wag the dog. For example, chips for in-demand pulp or energy can force trees to be harvested when the demand for wood products (lumber) is low.

1:55 PM  

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