The Biomass Industry’s Beating Heart

Biomass Magazine Executive Editor Tim Portz discusses the incredible efforts that members of the biomass industry make to lead the industry to success.
By Tim Portz | April 02, 2014

This issue of Biomass Magazine opens with the first quarterly Biomass Construction Update of 2014. Five of the 24 projects listed in the report bear the stamp “Project Complete.” Drawing attention to construction may seem curious, considering this installment is our first-ever “People Issue,” but it underscores and validates our decision to build an entire edition of Biomass Magazine that celebrates the men and women who are the beating heart of the biomass industry. The 45-MW power facility that DTE Energy has just completed and brought on line in Stockton, Calif., is the final manifestation of a collection of people who put their knowledge, skill, passion and tireless energy to work. Remove any one of the hundreds, if not thousands, of people who worked on that project, or any of the other projects in the Biomass Construction Update, and the project decelerates.

That said, in an industry built to deliver Btus, MWs and gallons, people can and do get lost in the shuffle. Recognizing this, we decided to draw attention to a handful of people who make an invaluable contribution to the biomass industry. This proved to be challenging, as our potential subjects often deflected inquiries away from themselves and toward their work, the industry and the importance of expanding the possibilities of biomass-derived energy.

Themes did emerge. For example, all of the people we profiled wear many hats. It seems this commonality stems from their willingness to do what needs to be done. Bob Cleaves, president of the Biomass Power Association, ping-pongs around the country to educate policymakers at both the state and federal levels about the value of base load, renewable energy. His is a game of plate spinning, but for Cleaves, the plates are scattered across the country.

A thread of an enthusiastic curiosity for technology and technology adoption can also be found woven throughout this issue. Mel Kurtz, Les Otten and John Ackerly all recount their first exposures to various conversion technologies, and, for each, it was a watershed moment.

An industry is nothing without its people. I would even dare to suggest that the biomass industry is even more reliant on people such as those featured in this issue, because every gallon, every Btu and every MW we advocate and innovate for, and work to bring on line, emerges in spite of an entrenched incumbent. Without our people, this industry would simply wither.