Biomass Power Association Responds to Report

Bob Cleaves, president and CEO of Biomass Power Association (BPA), via teleconference addressed a report released by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) on biomass fuels that BPA described as misleading. Contrary to the report, Cleaves emphasized that BPA and its members do not advocate harvesting trees for energy production and the vast majority of biomass facilities utilize wood waste material and industry byproducts to produce clean energy.

“The study has no relevance to how biomass power is generated in this country today and no relevance to how it will be generated in the foreseeable future,” said Cleaves.

EWG’s report stated that a typical 50 MW biomass plant burns more than a ton of wood a minute. Two wood-burning plants recently proposed in Massachusetts would generate a combined 97 MW and require the equivalent of cutting 12,000 acres of forest annually, more wood than is currently harvested in the entire state each year. Permitting documents reveal that whole-tree harvesting would provide one-half to two-thirds of the fuel for at least one of the plants, the report stated.

But BPA said they are not aware of any facilities that use whole trees for energy and that it is not an economically sustainable approach to biomass as the cost of cutting down one tree outweighs the potential energy benefits.

Cleaves also disagreed with the EWG’s allegation that biomass power would be unable to meet the 2025 renewable energy goals without harvesting trees. The report from EWG stated that in order to reach the goal of 25 percent of U.S. electricity being generated from renewable sources, biomass plants would require the equivalent of clear-cutting between 18 and 30 million acres of forests over the next 15 years.

The analysis also found that under the American Clean Energy and Security Tax the treasury would forfeit about $10.5 billion in tax revenues over the next 15 years as taxpayers subsidize the construction of biomass power plants, most of which they said will be burning whole tress. Cleaves challenged that notion saying that the tax credit and the investment tax credit passed by Congress last year are only available for waste wood products and other organic by-products and not merchantable timber.

To learn more about the report, click here.

This article was reprinted with permission from Power-Gen Worldwide as part of the PennWell Corporation Renewable Energy World Network and may not be reproduced without express written permission from the publisher.

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