The Latest News in Biomass

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According to fortune.com, the Drax power station in North Yorkshire is in the final stages of commissioning Europe’s first trial of negative emissions technology. The goal is to capture carbon dioxide, instead of only limiting emissions. Carbon dioxide will be generated by burning biomass using a new solvent developed by C-Capture, a spin-off from Leeds University.

With successful lab results so far, the project aims to trap one ton of carbon dioxide a day with a capture rate of 90%. This falls directly in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement of 2015, which aims to keep global warming to less than 35.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change wants to stress the importance of biomass with carbon capture and storage.

“Not only stopping [carbon dioxide] emissions, but starting to extract carbon dioxide is absolutely crucial,” said Chief Executive of Drax Power, Andy Koss. Drax began converting its coal-fired boilers to biomass in 2012, and now says that the forests they’re sourcing from are growing faster than they’re being extracted from, proving great progress in their climate goals. While Drax hasn’t yet figured out how to store the carbon dioxide once it’s captured, there is interest from businesses in a variety of sectors, and they’re on the right path.

With Biomass Subsidy Law in Dispute, N.H. PUC Won’t Force Eversource to Comply

State regulators say they won’t force Boston’s Eversource to buy more wood-fired energy—at least not while a new state law on the issue is still in dispute at the federal level. This specific law would subsidize the state’s power plants and, after narrowly passing over Governor Chris Sununu’s veto last year, went into effect Feb. 1.

Opponents of the law are hoping the federal regulators find that the law violates federal energy policy, but there is no timeline so far of when that case will be resolved. Eversource says it simply doesn’t want to promise money to the biomass plants that it wouldn’t be able to recoup later if the law is thrown out.

The state Public Utilities Commission has come to the conclusion that it can’t force Eversource to sign any contracts. The state’s ratepayer advocate Don Kreis is among the biomass law’s opponents, and calls the situation a “stand-off.” “The wood plants, I think, are expecting the money spigot to turn on February 1,” Kreis said.

If the law does take effect, it could cost residential customers of Eversource around $10 million over the next year.

New Biomass Plant will Increase Dartmouth’s Sustainability

Dartmouth is currently seeking proposals to build a biomass energy heating facility and transmission system to replace the existing central heating system on campus. This will be a major step in the institution’s sustainability commitment to reduce carbon emissions and transition to renewable energy sources by the year 2025. This system will change how heat is both produced and delivered on campus, and is expected to improve heating efficiency by 20 percent. The transition will involve replacing the existing steam pipes that are in more than 110 buildings on campus, and is estimated to cost over $200 million.

The goal is to have the new facility operating by late 2025, and is a big step toward keeping the promise Dartmouth made on Earth Day 2017. The project will be financed, built, and operated by a private company in partnership with the College, and Dartmouth officials will be reviewing potential company partners over the coming months. The 16 Dartmouth employees who currently work at the heating plant will be offered jobs with the private company project partner, and will receive pay and benefits comparable to what they receive from Dartmouth. The College plans to name their chosen project partner in the summer of 2020.

This massive project will allow Dartmouth to stop burning the millions of gallons of No. 6 fuel oil used in the current heating plant. Instead, the new plant will burn biomass sourced as locally as possible. The existing plant will be decommissioned, and the land will be available for other uses.

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