Biomass in the Garden State
In order to map out New Jersey’s strategic vision for the use, management and development of energy in the state over the next decade, Gov. Chris Christie’s administration spearheaded the crafting of an Energy Master Plan, released in early December.
In conjunction with development of the energy plan, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities established four working groups comprised of subject matter experts to provide the BPU with specific recommendations on various topics, including biomass.
Biomass Work Group Co-Chair Gail Richardson, who is Vision Energy vice president for programs, says the group represents virtually all of the sectors in the state closely connected to the biomass arena—solid waste, management, wastewater treatment sectors and agriculture, as well as public utilities, engineering firms and others. “So we feel that in tackling the important questions that the Board of Public Utilities posed to us, we have had a very good high-level input,” she says.
The mission of the BWG was to determine what New Jersey can do to incentivize bioenergy development, and report its recommendations for integration into the Energy Master Plan. The major recommendation the group made—which was adapted in the plan—was that the state take action under a new initiative to facilitate the rapid construction and operation of renewable biomass facilities to produce electricity and vehicle fuels.
That recommendation stems from the fact that biomass energy potential in New Jersey is substantial. According to an assessment ordered by the BPU, New Jersey produces an estimated 8.2 million dry tons of biomass annually, approximately 65 percent of which could be available for energy production. The plan points out that agricultural and forest residues, along with municipal and industrial waste, are underutilized resources that could be used to fuel power plants. The amount of biomass in the state could deliver up to 1,299 MW of power, approximately 9 percent of its electricity demand, according to the plan.
Findings in the plan will be used to facilitate the development of energy from biomass, including the assessment of current state incentives and implementation of new ones. The plan notes, however, that practicality and cost effectiveness should be investigated and confirmed before any substantial new incentives are implemented. That includes the development of an objective and systematic process of sustainability determinations that will facilitate environmental permitting.