Renewable Energy Gone Global

But Not So Much In The U.S.

Possibly due to the policies of the current U.S. administration, or it simply being difficult to leave a conventional (how do you say “coal”) industry behind, and not to mention gas abundance, the biomass power generation industry has hit somewhat of a snag in the United States.

Nowhere is this more exemplified than in New Hampshire, where the governor vetoed a bill that would have made biomass power an integral part of the state’s power generation industry. Taxpayer electricity bills would have increased, the governor said. The biomass power industry is not all that stable anyway, the governor added.

Since then, a couple of the state’s six biomass power plants have reportedly shut down or reduced production. Meanwhile, a large number of loggers gathered at a meeting called by the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Assn. to deliver a message to the governor that the biomass power industry is significant to their livelihoods especially with the constriction of the pulpwood market in recent years.

This situation really gets to the heart of the matter. Is it the right thing to do to pay a little higher electricity bill for the sake of renewable energy and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels? Should environmental stewardship take precedence over economics? Is it okay to say that the coal industry is a sunset industry?

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From Left: Jessica Johnson, Associate Editor; Dan Shell, Managing Editor; Jay Donnell, Associate Editor; Rich Donnell, Editor-in-Chief; David (DK) Knight, Co-Publisher/Executive Editor; David Abbott, Senior Associate Editor

These are highly sensitive questions, but they must be answered “yes” if the biomass power industry in the U.S. is to become established. As long as the philosophies of the current administration are at the forefront, those questions will be answered “no.”

The irony is that much of the rest of the world is buying into renewable energy and biomass power generation, which has become the international marketplace for large industrial wood pellet plants in the Southern U.S., such as those operated by Enviva and Drax. Other countries are increasing their wood pellet production for these international markets as well (see articles on Russia and Vietnam in this issue).

In the UK, the Drax power plant is home to four of the world’s largest biomass domes for holding wood pellets—each 50.3 meters high and 63 meters in diameter, enough to hold the Albert Hall, or in Drax’s case, 71,000 tonnes of biomass.