Related Posts for biomass

By Charlotte Duren | KTSK Radio: Wrangell is taking a close look at its future energy needs. The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) held a meeting in Wrangell recently to discuss the issue and the role biofuels are playing in many Alaska communities. KSTK’s Charlotte Duren has more on some of the Southeast projects, as well as what some Wrangell residents are already doing.

As heating oil costs continue to rise, many Alaskans are looking for cheaper alternatives to meet their energy needs. One method is converting plants, paper, or wood waste into biomass to use as a renewable energy source.

“Probably about 5-years ago the fuel prices got extremely high for a period of time and I was burning about 12-hundred gallons of oil a year in my house and I knew I needed to do something different,” he says.

That’s Wrangell resident Carl Johnson. Johnson has been heating his two-story home with wood pellets for 5-years. He says it cut his heating costs dramatically.

“I went from about $4,500 a year in oil to about $1,200 in pellets. I spend about half in wood pellets than I would in oil,” he says.

He buys in bulk from a manufacturer in the Lower-48, as well as from a retailer in town. He says heating could cost even less if he could buy from a local manufacturer.  At a recent meeting, SEACC Organizer Jeremy Maxand proposed just that.   

“What we want to do is take a look at what the potential market penetration is for biofuels and look at the feasibility of building a manufacturing plant in Wrangell,” he says.

According to Southeast’s draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), a long-term generation and transmission study; there’s been a 50 percent increase in load on the hydropower system over the past 5-years. The IRP recommends the use of biofuels in homes and government buildings to help cut down on the load, as well as heating oil costs.

SEACC recently conducted a survey of residents in Wrangell and Petersburg to find out what types of energy people are using to heat their homes. It also asked whether people would be interested in using locally manufactured biofuel. Maxand, who is also Wrangell’s mayor, says 233 surveys were completed between the two communities.

“What we found in Wrangell and Petersburg, particularly in Wrangell is that 38% of respondents would be willing to purchase or use a locally manufactured product. And that is really important to know before you get too far down the road, to be able to know what the level of interest is,” he says.

Throughout Southeast Alaska, a number of successful biomass boiler projects have been developed. Sealaska Corporation’s Juneau headquarters has switched from oil to wood pellet heat. Craig and Thorne Bay heat school with waste-wood boilers.

Wrangell is considering manufacturing wood and paper briquettes that can be used in home wood stoves. Unlike pellet stoves, briquettes or “bio bricks” can be used just like regular firewood. Maxand says ultimately the conversion to biomass comes down to the needs of each individual community.

“We need to realize we are in a perfect storm right now between the Integrated Resource Plan, state funding, grant opportunities, small mills, municipal solid waste problem, you bring all these things together and you basically end up with an opportunity that can at least solve the heat side of the energy issue in Wrangell,” he says. Read more

By Ed Schoenfeld of CoastAlaska News: Backers of biomass energy pitched wood-pellet heat as a money-saver during a legislative hearing today (Feb. 21st).  Alaska Energy Authority staff and others talked to the House Committee on Economic Development about the Southeast Alaska Integrated Resource Plan. The document recommends developing more pellet and other wood heat, as well as some expanded hydroelectric generation.

AEA Biomass Program Manager Devany Plentovich said high fuel prices have driven many residents to heat with electricity instead of oil.  “Unfortunately, as we’ve switched so much to the space heating, we’ve seen the reserve hydro just disappear to a remarkable rate. It’s at the point where our utilities are having to supplement the hydro during the winter season with diesel generation.  And that’s very high-cost diesel generation,” she said.

Southeast lawmakers and other officials have called for more hydroprojects with more connections to more communities.  But the resource plan calls for a larger focus on wood heat, in businesses, offices and schools.  And some are already making the switch.  Plentovich said wood-pellet heat costs less than oil-powered systems, and has about the same price tag as electric ones. And, she said, boiler conversions are short-term investments.

“The Sealaska building, that’s going to pay back in about four and a half years. The Kake school, if that gets funded through the renewable energy fund, that’s got about a six- to seven-year payback. The Coast Guard in Sitka is looking at about a five-year payback. So these projects have a great economic story,” she said.  Read more

By Amy Condra FOR THE JUNEAU EMPIRE: Water is abundant in Southeast — it falls freely from the sky throughout the summer and fall, filling rivers and creeks that tumble down our mountains, into the lakes, channels and canals, the bays and straits that wind their way throughout the land. Here, this water has sustained humans for thousands of years, providing fish, fur and a means to navigate the region.

And for more than a century it has generated power for homes, offices and industries.

Southeast has a significant number of hydroelectric power projects, and these plants have been a reliable and relatively inexpensive source of locally produced, renewable energy for many of our communities.

But according to a draft of the recently released Southeast Alaska Integrated Resource Plan, while Southeast might have plenty of water to generate hydroelectricity, it is running short of ways to store it.

“We are storage-challenged,” said Dave Carlson, CEO of Southeast Alaska Power Agency and a member of the Advisory Work Group that assisted with the SEIRP. “(The draft plan) identified the problems we know of here, that we had more than a sense were coming. The winter time heating loads have just been skyrocketing.”

Why? Because as heating oil costs have risen dramatically over the past few years, Carlson said, “people have felt it in their pocketbooks, and have decided it’s cheaper to heat with electricity than with oil. It’s a dilemma.” Read more

By Jonathan Grass, Alaska Journal of Commerce: Alaskan Brewing Co. has entered the final stage of a 16-year process in setting a precedent in renewable energy. The Juneau-based brewery has a new boiler to make its own malt waste a sole energy source and has been selected for nearly $500,000 in federal money to finish the job.

Alaskan Brewing is in the commission and testing phases of a $1.8 million steam boiler fueled entirely by the company’s own spent grain. The grain is a protein-rich material that lends itself thoroughly with the combustion technology the company has been perfecting.

The idea is that the new boiler will eliminate the brewery’s fossil fuel use in the grain drying process and displace more than half of the fuel needed to create process steam in the brew house.

The brewery is currently a fairly intensive oil-related operation, currently running the grain dryer and other process heating from oil. Engineers estimate the completed boiler will help save an overall energy usage from oil and corresponding carbon emissions by more than 70 percent. This translates to a savings of nearly 1.5 million gallons of oil over the next 10 years.

The boiler was actually built last year and did an initial startup toward the end of the year. Testing showed the need for additional modifications. The company currently is waiting for additional design modifications to come and engineers hope it will be back up within a few months.

Brewing operations manager Brandon Smith said the entire system hopefully would be completed and running by the end of the first quarter this year and no later than the second quarter.

“This fuel, nobody’s ever burned it commercially before,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has selected Alaskan Brewing for $448,366 in Rural Energy for America Program funds to support the development. Despite being a capital city, Juneau’s demographics still qualify the brewery for a rural development grant. Alaskan Brewery communications manager Ashley Johnston said the grant would hopefully offset up to 10 percent of the overall system costs. Smith said paperwork is under way for the official approval, which will be done after the completion of the project. This grant represents the highest amount an Alaska business has been awarded from the USDA Rural Development’s business division. This has been active in Alaska for three years, during which it has approved 49 projects.

USDA business and energy specialist Chad Stovall said the business division typically gets $200,000 to $250,000 a year for projects. The national office must approve anything over that amount, which was how Alaskan got its unusually high appropriation.Read more

A Ketchikan mill is slated to begin producing wood pellets this winter. As Deanna Garrison reports, Tongass Forest Enterprises is hoping to capitalize on a recent surge in interest in processed wood heating products in Southeast Alaska. Listen to the full story here

By JEFF RICHARDSON,The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: It’s been more than a year since used paper and cardboard began piling up at K&K Recycling, gradually filling a warehouse at the Richardson Highway business in the form of half-ton bales.

Later this month, that unusual bounty will finally be put to use. K&K owner Bernie Karl plans to burn it, taking advantage of a new technology that will convert its heat to electricity.

Karl and a business partner, Connecticut-based United Technologies, have spent the past year developing the biomass generators. Company officials will arrive in Fairbanks Tuesday to complete the process, which Karl said should result in a new electricity source for Golden Valley Electric Association by Dec. 20.

“Everything is coming together,” he said. “It’s like a funnel, and we’re getting to the bottom of the funnel.”

The process takes recycled cardboard, paper and wood, then shreds it and forms the product into candy bar-sized pellets. Karl said those pellets will be fed through a hopper into five generator units at K&K, where they’ll be burned to create heat that will ultimately fuel an electric-generating turbine.

At least 5,000 tons of biomass pellets are required to fuel the generators each year. Karl said emissions from the generators, which will burn the pellets at 2,300 degrees, will meet state and federal pollution standards.

Karl said the project will initially produce 300 kilowatt hours of electricity before boosting its output to 500 kilowatt hours after the early bugs are worked out. That represents just a tiny portion of the electricity used by Golden Valley Electric Association customers, who consume roughly 200 megawatts of power per hour during winter.

Despite its modest size, the project is also appealing to GVEA, which has a self-imposed goal of generating 20 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2014. Projects like Karl’s allow the utility to incrementally build up the amount of renewable sources in its system, said Mike Wright, GVEA’s vice president of transmission and distribution. Read more

By Reba Lean of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Workers are finishing construction on a wood chip biomass boiler at the Delta High School. The boiler will provide heat for the 77,000-square-foot high school building and possibly other buildings around the school in the future.

The 5 million Btu boiler is the second in the state to be installed for a school. Tok had the first, and its boiler powers its school’s electricity in addition to heating.

Kent Scifres, project manager in Delta, believes only good will come from Delta’s new system.

“For this area, this project makes sense because we have lots of trees,” he said.

The boiler, made by Messersmith Manufacturing out of Michigan, will feed on wood chips from slab wood provided by Dry Creek’s Lumber and Milling Association. Trailers will dump tons of chips into a storage area inside the building, where augers will then feed the chips onto a conveyor belt into the boiler itself. Large particles are collected at the bottom of a 65-foot stack, where exhaust travels out the top invisibly.

“You won’t see any smoke go out it’s so clean burning,” Scifres said.

The boiler heats water heaters inside the building, which pipe into an existing system inside the school. The former fuel system won’t kick on unless the new boiler goes offline for some reason.

“It just ties into the existing system and circulates all around.”

Money for the boiler building’s construction came from a $2 million grant from Alaska Energy Authority and $800,000 from the state.

The move to biomass heat is a cost-cutting one for the school district.

The high school spends about 102,000 gallons of heating oil per year, which is priced at around $4 per gallon. It will cost $60 per ton of wood chips, and the school plans to use about 2,000 tons per year. Read more

By Joe Viechnicki  of KFSK: A new report released this month outlines 33 recommendations for creating new jobs in the forest products, seafood, visitor and renewable energy industries in Southeast Alaska. The recommendations were developed by four groups of industry, government and stakeholder representatives, called “cluster groups.” The report is part of an ongoing U.S. Department of Agriculture strategy called the “transition framework” aimed at diversifying the economy in the region. Hear the full report

BY ZAZ HOLLANDER of the Alaska Star: Despite some concern among Anchorage Assembly members, plans are moving ahead to spin Anchorage’s garbage gas into electricity. Doyon Utilities LLC wants to provide power to the military base with electricity generated from the methane gas that seeps in large quantities from the Anchorage Regional Landfill just off the Glenn Highway at the Hiland Road exit.

The Anchorage Assembly on May 26 approved spending a $2 million state energy grant on the new gas-to-energy project in a 7-3 decision. The money comes from an Alaska Energy Authority renewable energy grant and can pay only for construction. Doyon will operate the facility and buy the gas produced for the next 20 years under the terms of the agreement with the municipality. The contract also includes two 10-year option periods.

In return, Doyon will compensate the city for the gas it uses. At today’s gas prices, the money coming back to the city could range from $1.3 million to $1.5 million a year, according to the city’s solid waste services director, Mark Madden.

“By taking that huge amount of methane out of our emissions, it’s good for the environment and on top of that we do get a fairly nice benefit of getting electricity out of it – and revenue,” Madden said. “It’s a green project in more ways than one.” Read more

By Ben Anderson in Alaska Dispatch: Consider this: Airlines that service the United States alone burn through about 17.5 billion gallons of jet fuel a year, according to an industry trade group. Back in the early part of 2008, during a spike in gas prices, 25 airlines around the world went bankrupt or out of business, in large part due to high petroleum costs.

With gas prices again high around the nation — and jet fuel partly responsible for record-high airfare prices — the commercial aviation industry is investing in research and science to wean itself off of petroleum. The Northwest and two of its industrial titans, Boeing and the Alaska Air Group, have set sights on the “biomass production capabilities” of the region, and the potential this renewable resource offers in transitioning away from petroleum and powering the airplanes of tomorrow.

A new study jointly funded in part by Boeing, Alaska Air and the Washington State Department of Commerce suggests that Northwest biomass could someday help stabilize the volatile jet fuel market. Biomass won’t offer a “magic antidote” or complete independence from petroleum-based fuels, the study warns. But the mind-boggling amount of biomass – biological material derived from living, or recently living organisms — available in the Northwest, with its millions of acres of forests, excess timber industry waste (think sawdust), biofuel-friendly agricultural crops, and even algae, makes it an attractive prospect with the potential for huge economic benefits that are sustainable, renewable and American-made. Read more

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