Test to Tradition

With double the events from last year, National Bioenergy Day is evolving into an annual tradition.
By Katie Fletcher | November 21, 2014

Seeing is believing. This adage was the driving force behind facilitation of National Bioenergy Day, which just celebrated its second year with a series of nationwide events held on and around Oct. 22. Last year, Bob Cleaves, president of the Biomass Power Association, said the goal was to bring audiences to biomass facilities to witness firsthand what goes on. Building on the inaugural's momentum, the BPA saw participation nearly double this year to around 50 coordinated events in 22 U.S. states and Canada. 

The events provided opportunities for those attending to equip themselves with factual information about bioenergy. Cleaves considers the day an important vehicle for bioenergy proponents to rally together to dispel the many myths about bioenergy that persist. If nothing else, an awareness of local bioenergy use can be accomplished. “Many events show people there is bioenergy being used in their area and they may not even know about it,” says Jay Smrekar, civil engineer with the U.S. Forest Service.

Events featured displays and demonstrations of biomass-to-electricity, thermal heat generated from wood, wood pellet manufacturing and forestry. National Bioenergy Day serves as a means to unite all aspects of the bioenergy supply chain, including foresters, landowners, manufacturers, power producers and consumers. Although the event is national in scope, the focus is on the local level. Or, as Cleave puts it, “The role bioenergy plays in communities.”

One such local event was held at the newly constructed U.S. Forest Service Chippewa National Forest Ranger Station in Walker, Minnesota, a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified (LEED) facility. As part of the construction for the LEED federal government certification program, the USFS installed a WoodMaster Commercial Series-CS80 pellet boiler. This bioenergy installation has an output of 272,000 Btu per hour and will serve as the facility’s primary source of heat during the cold Minnesota winters. The pellet boiler is fully integrated with a propane boiler that will run when the facility needs to be heated in the morning and cooled in the afternoon. The pellets feeding the system arrive in bulk from Marth Wood Shavings Supply Inc. They produce an average of 8,000 Btu per pound with less than 5 percent average moisture and 0.5 percent average ash content. They are automatically fed into the pellet boiler from a 29.9-ton Schuld/Bushnell storage bin located just outside the facility.

Visitors to the Walker Bioenergy Day event had the opportunity to tour the LEED facility and visit with the boiler manufacturer, pellet producer and representatives from the USFS about the boiler application. “Our hope is, as people look at these different installations, they will begin a discussion about how they can use bioenergy themselves,” Smrekar says.

This thermal application event was joined by other bioenergy celebrations across the nation. SunWood Biomass hosted an event at the Waitsfield, Vermont, Washington County Courthouse, where a 1 million-Btu wood pellet boiler system, consisting of three boilers with 1,300 gallon heat storage, heat the 45,000-square-foot building and domestic hot water loads. Greenwood Clean Energy opened the doors of its Development and Innovation Center in Redwood, Washington, during the week of Bioenergy Day, inviting local residents and lawmakers to learn more about the bioenergy industry and Greenwood wood boilers.

The company held another event in Burdett, New York, which was accompanied by other events across the state over the week in celebration of Bioenergy Day. A tour of SUNY-ESF's wood pellet-fired, combined-heat-and-power system, which is among the first in the nation, was part of the state’s activities on Oct. 22, as was a discussion of the state’s $27 million Renewable Heat NY Program. Oct. 23, the New York Forestry Resource Center offered a tour to see a wood pellet boiler, a residential high-efficiency/low-emissions cordwood boiler in action, and a screening of Community Biomass Energy Film in Rensselaer, which was followed by a residential pellet heating open house in Ithaca on Oct. 25. The series of New York events concluded with the U.S. Army and ReEnergy Holdings LLC participating in a renewable energy project signing ceremony to commemorate the largest renewable energy project in the U.S. Army history at Fort Drum.

Mt. Poso Cogeneration Co. and its partners DTE Energy Services and Macpherson Energy Corporation hosted an open house for Kern County workforce development organizations and students to showcase job opportunities in the energy field. The 44-MW Mt. Poso plant was completely converted to run on biomass fuel, sourced from construction waste, tree trimming and agricultural resources, instead of coal. Murray State University in Kentucky hosted representatives from statewide agencies in the energy sector to observe Bioenergy Day. Sessions included a discussion of energy strategies, as well as the official lighting of Murray State’s bioburners and an announcement of a state wood energy grant. The bioburners use the animal manure from the University of Kentucky Ag Equine Program to heat the arena.

A number of other events were hosted across all regions of the country, celebrating locally the national effort to spread information about nature’s energy source. “The more awareness there is about bioenergy, the more use there will be. The more use, the better the markets are, and the better the markets, the more manufacturers and suppliers and the more innovation,” Smrekar says. “In the end, there will be more environmental benefits for everybody.”

Author: Katie Fletcher
Staff Writer, Biomass Magazine