But Kansas is mostly empty so it's a good place for wind. I bet the people of Kansas won't want wind turbines in THEIR back yards- ask them that!
These forest plantations are no worse for bioderiversity than agriculture- they are actually better! However, such "forests" shouldn't qualify as FSC certified and I thought much of the European market for wood for energy requires that the wood come from certified forests? As for carbon emissions- burning renewable wood is a lot better than burning fossil fuels. As a forester for 40 years in Massachusetts, I favor harvesting some wood for energy but only as a by product of good silvicultural practices.
for a good source of info for biomass harvesting in the US southeast, check out: http://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/compass/2013/12/31/biomass-energy-from-southern-forests/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=biomass-energy-from-southern-forests
Ted said, "Meanwhile, the Tree farm is destroying natural habitat" and how a solar farm is far more productive. First of all, though some "tree farms" may be established just for energy, most woody biomass will not come from such tree farms, they'll come from by-products of routine forestry. So, though a solar "farm" is far more productive per acre per year for energy- where the woody biomass comes from routine forestry, the forest is also producing lumber needed by the economy and by all of us for homes, furniture, etc and those forests produce other ecosystem values.--- so the comparison only holds (possibly) with dedicated tree farms, and even there I doubt the calculations. As for "the Tree farm is destroying natural habitat. "- even the most dedicated tree farm is far more natural than a solar farm- walk in to such a tree farm someday and you'll notice birds, bugs, deer and other animals, though of course it won't have the biodiversity of a "natural" wild forest. An 18 acre solar farm was recently built behind my house in rural Massachusetts. What was a young forest- was bulldozed down to subsoil, all topsoil was removed. The subsoil is bare sand. They then installed 15,000 solar panels on this bare sand. That young forest once had several rare and endangered species- includiing blue spotted salamanders, box turtles, wipporwhils and others. The site is next to several large vernal pools, a river and a 40 acre marsh owned by the state fish and wildlife agency. This site truly was destroyed as a natural habitat, far more than ANY tree farm in the world. Also, the solar panels came from China where such production is infamous for toxic pollution of the environment and shipping those panels across the planet took a lot of energy. Also, building this solar "farm" next to a nice neighborhood drastically reduced the real estate values, so yes, I'm a NIMBY and proud of it. I'd rather have a monoculture tree farm next to the neighborhood. So, in conclusion, all forms of energy have good and bad points- so people should be cautious to demonize any form of energy- instead, we need to look rationally at all forms of energy production. No one form of energy production is going to solve the problem. It's here in Mass. that the Manomet Report was produced which showed the downside of woody biomass for large scale electric power- a report read around the world and which will caution everyone to not assume woody biomass is carbon neutral, but the same report showed that woody biomass for thermal energy is far better as a way to reduce overall carbon emissions since in a relatively short period of time, the "carbon debt" from the emissions is paid and a true carbon credit is created. Solar is best is some locations, wind in others, wood in others, geothermal in many places and even nuclear has a place, far from people, but until the disaster in Japan, few people have been injured from nuclear- but think of the wars fought over oil! And think of the huge subsidies making all renewable energy possible. It's a complex situation- so simple answers are just that simple and without foundation.
IMAGINE MEI said, "This article is not about using waste wood for energy production." Yes, I know that- but often the arguments used against such "tree farms" are used against ALL woody biomass, so I wanted to make the distinction. I doubt anyone who dislikes such tree farms is in favor of any woody biomass, anywhere. Then he/she says, "Your "by-products of routine forestry" are not a economically feasible source for a conversion plant".
Wrong! in New England, there are many woody biomass plants, some up to 70 MW which do NOT require clearcutting or monoculture tree farms.
I'm not defending giant monoculture tree farms in the southeast, just pointing out that your assumption all biomass facilities will requre such "farms" isn't necessarily correct. Most forest owners prefer to grow high value logs for high value lumber, using the slash and thinnings for pulp and biomass. That's the way it is- if you don't believe it then you have no clue.
K-J, good comments. As for woody biomass being "near net-zero CO2 energy"- I agree, but there's the rub, some people have argued that it's not. The infamous Manomet Report produced for the state of Mass. argued that it's not for several decades- but that was based on a number of questionable assumptions, focused on a single stand, not a regional forest ecosystem that's already heavily managed. That Manomet Report has stoped biomass for electric power in Mass. and probably has had an influence on energy policy in other states too. The forestry community needs to once and for all show the fallacies of that report.
"while biomass projects greater than 50 MW and all biomass co-firing plants will be excluded altogether"
Nice propaganda piece! Oh, it's all so wonderful!
"Clean energy employers are focused on maintaining the quality of life that Massachusetts provides."
not always so, if you happen to live next to a gigantic solar "farm", an industrial facility, if you thought you were living in a rural area, and now you're next to 20 acres of solar panels on land where the topsoil is stripped and left as bare sand/gravel- or if you see that the ridge behind your rural house is now covered with wind turbines--- this is nice for the rich who live in truly protected 'hoods but the poor people who get these built next to them are not so happy-- I keep asking the top state officials and politicians and enviro leaders, "when are you going to build these next to YOUR homes?". I don't get any responses. And for anyone who dismisses such critics who don't love nearby wind and solar "farms", I'll ask you too, before you dismiss the critics, do you have one built next to YOUR precious home?
but no 400' tall wind turbine on the White House grounds? If they can be put near other homes, perhaps one next to the White House might be interesting....
If all subsidies for all fossil fuels (including military costs) were ended now- couldn't renewables compete without subsidies? (especially with a modest carbon tax to discourage fossil fuels)
Thomas: you said, "Putting focus on large commercial installs that can generate power from thermal to sell back to the grid is a narrow field." You misunderstand what this is about- the goal is to produce thermal energy to heat buildings- it's not about electricity- though it's on a larger scale than individual homes- more for a community, college, hospital, office complex, etc.