Conference panel features experienced project developers

By Lisa Gibson | November 12, 2010

Biomass project development often brings with it unforeseen surprises and obstacles. Prospective developers looking to learn about some of those hurdles and the development process can attend the panel Case Studies and Research in the Utilization of Wood Waste Streams for Heat and Power at the Pacific West Biomass Conference & Trade Show in Seattle, Jan. 10-12.

Panelists will discuss projects in the beginning stages of development, as well as completed and commissioned power and thermal applications. Speaker Jerry Whitfield, with BioEnergy Systems LLC, will discuss a biochar generating process under development that can use any and all kinds of biomass of any grade, he said, from premium-grade sawdust to animal manure.

During his presentation titled Development of a Combined Heat and Char Reactor to Convert Low Grade Biomass Residues into Renewable Energy, Whitfield will address the process’s feedstock flexibility, which makes it a good fit for the Pacific West region because of the area’s varying biomass opportunities and availability. “We have a vast array and spectrum of biomass material,” he said. In addition, the region has a strong agricultural industry that would benefit from the soil application of the resulting biochar.

Besides the solid, carbonaceous and porous char, the innovative pyrolysis process also produces thermal energy. “They both have their use and they have their value,” Whitfield said of the products, adding that the two open up a plethora of opportunities for applications of the system.

Ideally, three commercial applications would be installed for demonstration—one each in the east, west and Midwest—on poultry farms, Whitfield said. No site agreements are in place yet, but demonstrations are expected to occur over the next two years.

Whitfield will be joined on the panel by John Fox, CEO of renewable energy generator ElectraTherm. During his presentation, Generating Renewable Energy from Solid Waste Wood–A Case Study, Fox will discuss ElectraTherm’s heat-to-power generating system for small-scale electrical power from solid waste wood in South Carolina. He will also address the benefits of distributed biomass power for applications such as municipal solid waste sites, solid wood waste from utility line clearing and local arborists.

Eric Epner, vice president of the engineering and consulting firm Fuss & O’Neill Inc., will discuss his experience in developing a wood chip-fired heating system that currently satisfies 100 percent of the heating needs of a commercial greenhouse in Connecticut. He presentation, Real World Experience with a Wood Chip Biomass Energy Project, will address initial analysis and drivers for the project as well as touch on some key elements of such endeavors.

Also addressing attendees will be Keith Henn, remediation and carbon management services manager for California-based environmental consulting and engineering firm Tetra Tech NUS Inc. Delivering a presentation titled A Biomass Project that Makes $ense: Converting Woody Biomass into CHP, Henn will focus on a biomass-based waste-to-energy CHP project the company is developing in northern Idaho. The county-wide assessment includes feedstock from numerous sources from a county that is 92 percent forested and rich in biomass resources.

For more information or to register for the Pacific West Biomass Conference & Trade Show, visit