In biomass fuel handling, the wood yard is a key component of the overall system. An efficiently-designed wood yard leads to efficiencies in the fuel handling process; a wood yard that is haphazard and poorly-designed brings inefficiencies that result in higher costs.
There are three essential ways to design a biomass wood yard:
- Fully automated (or automatic)
The key differentiating factor is the amount of hands-on activity that goes on in the wood yard. With fully automated systems, no fuel is ever handled by a human, with few exceptions. The biomass fuel leaves the delivering truck, goes into the hopper, is transported via conveyor systems to the plant, and goes into the boiler – all without human interference.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are manual, or non-automated, wood yards. In these installations, human workers handle every aspect of the fuel delivery process, from unloading trucks to putting the fuel in the delivery system, where it goes into the boiler.
In semi-automated systems, the wood yard functions via some combination of the two.
Determining Factors in Choosing a Wood Yard Layout
The main determining factor in which wood yard a biomass plant chooses for its fuel handling needs is cost – in acquisition and construction, and in long-term operation.
Fully-automated systems are more capital-intensive at the beginning, since sophisticated equipment needs to be constructed to handle each load in a seamless process. Yet, these yards can be more efficient, which contributes to more savings in the long run, and they result in less human capital needed for operation.
Manual yards, by contrast, cost less to construct but can be more expensive to run, thanks to higher overhead.
To compromise, many wood yard owners are incorporating automated features into their manual wood yards. Via this method, owners can reduce their operational costs while saving on capital needs.
Another determining factor is mass and volumetric flow of material through a plant. Many yard owners design their yards to handle an average material flow to meet average demand. However, when demand reaches a peak, the system can become backlogged. Thus, it’s a good practice to design a yard to handle peak mass and volumetric flows so that capability is there when demand spikes, as it often will.
How a wood yard is designed and operated can go a long way toward determining the overall efficiency of the biomass plant.