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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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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Xcel Energy to convert coal station into clean biomass power plant

Xcel Energy announces that it will submit an application to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) to install pioneering gasification technology at the Bay Front Power Plant in Ashland, Wis. to allow it to generate electricity from biomass in all three operating units of this once coal-fired power plant. When complete, the Bay Front Power Plant will be the largest biomass-fueled power plant in the Midwest and one of the largest in the United States.

In 1979, the Bay Front Power Plant became the first investor-owned utility plant in the U.S. to burn waste wood to generate electricity. Since then, the two 23-megawatt biomass units of the plant have burned nearly four million tons of waste wood to make power. Bay Front is unique in that it has been retrofitted to be a “flex fuel” plant capable of burning multiple fuels in its three boilers.

Currently, only two of the three operating units use biomass as their primary fuel to generate electricity. This innovative project will convert the existing 30-megawatt coal-fired unit to biomass gasification technology allowing the plant to use 100 percent biomass in all three boilers. This is the first time biomass gasification technology will be used to convert a coal-fired boiler at an existing base-load power plant. The project is expected to cost $55-$70 million.

In this process, biomass (waste wood) reacts with a controlled amount of oxygen at high temperatures to create a gas mixture called synthetic gas (“syngas”) that is then used as a fuel in the boiler. By converting the biomass to gas, the resulting fuel is much cleaner and has far fewer emissions than coal.
This project continues our commitment to meet the needs of our customers in an environmentally responsible, sustainable manner. In addition to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, this project will drastically reduce other air emissions. - Mike Swenson, president and CEO, NSP-Wisconsin, an Xcel Energy company
When complete and operational, the project will reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides by 50 percent, sulfur dioxides by more than 85 percent and particulate matter by 90 percent. In addition, displacing coal with sustainably harvested biomass will also reduce net carbon dioxide emissions, contributing to the state of Wisconsin’s goals.

The biomass used at Bay Front comes primarily from waste wood from area forest harvest operations. Local independent contractors secure the waste wood and transport it to the plant where it is used to generate electricity. The plant currently uses just over 200,000 tons of waste wood each year. When the project is complete, the plant will use an additional 185,000-250,000 tons per year, and be able to generate enough renewable electricity to serve 40,000 homes:
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In 2006, Xcel Energy funded a study with the Energy Center of Wisconsin to investigate the amount of biomass that could be removed from Wisconsin's forests to support sustainable energy resources and any associated environmental impacts. The study concluded that area forests within a 50-mile radius of the Bay Front Power Plant could support additional biomass removal without adverse impacts to the local ecosystem. Dedicated biomass energy plantations could ultimately provide a portion of the plant’s increased biomass needs, with additional benefits from carbon sequestration.
Xcel Energy has been a long-time leader in providing renewable energy from local sources to the citizens of Wisconsin. This biomass initiative continues that tradition. - Michael Vickerman, executive director, RENEW Wisconsin.

This project will both lessen Wisconsin's reliance on imported fossil fuels and propel us closer to the renewable energy goals of Gov. Doyle's Task Force on Global Warming. - Mark Redsten, executive director, Clean Wisconsin
The Bay Front Power Plant is also an economic engine for communities in northern Wisconsin. Through its purchases of waste wood and related services, the plant has a $20 million annual economic impact on a six-county region around Ashland. Area officials expect that support to increase as the plant purchases more waste wood from area contractors.
This is exciting news for the City of Ashland. Xcel Energy is committing to convert and further upgrade the Bay Front Power Plant to run almost exclusively on biomass. This will help further our commitment to move toward renewable energy and our commitment to the sustainable goals of being an eco-municipality. Xcel Energy has been at the forefront providing upgrades to its generating and transmission facilities in Ashland and our surrounding region. These investments not only provide jobs and a huge economic impact to the Ashland area, they also add to the stability of our economy and our sources of electricity. - Ed Monroe, Mayor of Ashland
In 2005, Ashland became the second city in Wisconsin to become an “eco-municipality” and adopt the community development principles of sustainability. “Eco-municipality” communities strive to unite an economic and ecological balance in a common development strategy based on an area’s natural resources, environmental values, commercial and industrial structure, and local lifestyles.

Contingent upon final approval by the Xcel Energy Board of Directors, the company expects to file an application with the PSCW later this fall. Following all state regulatory approvals, engineering, design and construction work is expected to begin in 2010 and the unit could be operational in late 2012.

Xcel Energy is a major U.S. electricity and natural gas company with regulated operations in eight Western and Midwestern states. Xcel Energy provides a comprehensive portfolio of energy-related products and services to 3.3 million electricity customers and 1.8 million natural gas customers through its regulated operating companies. Company headquarters are located in Minneapolis.


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