Biomass Power in the Wake of Disaster

By Anna Simet | November 02, 2012

Debating what to write about today, I realized this is the last blog I will author before the election.

The last several days haven't been nearly as politically charged as the last several months, due to the disaster in the Northeast, and that's been a relief. As I watched the news this morning, my heart ached for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. The election is obviously far from their thoughts, and I can't help but wonder, how many people won't able to vote as a result of the storm?

This morning, however, the presidential race is back in the face and minds of the rest of the country, with the release of the monthly jobs report. It's not in Obama's favor with the jobless rate moving up a percentage, but who knows whether or not that's enough to sway a voter.

Something else on my mind this morning as I bundled my daughter up for the ride to daycare is the fact that people have been without heat and power for days. Here in North Dakota, every once in awhile we have a nasty blizzard and we might go a couple of days without both, but since we expect instances like these, we're usually prepared. I have to add that having using wood for heat is very advantageous during such a time--if the power is out, that's not a problem. If there isn't any heating oil available, there's plenty of fuel in our backyards.

In the aftermath of Sandy, there is going to be an enormous amount of waste as a result of clean up, and a huge amount of wood. While some will likely be cleaned and used again, there will be a good opportunity for biomass energy utilization. Obviously, that's after getting through all of the red tape. I'm not sure if there is certain protocol that will be followed—you'd think there would be some framework developed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina or 9/11—but I'm really not sure. It would be a shame to see it buried or wasted.

Finally, with the upcoming election, we here at Biomass Magazine obviously want what's best for our industry, but we also want what's best for the other renewable energy sectors—we do compete, but we also work together on many aspects—the U.S. energy industry as a whole, and most important, the economy.

That said, I'll talk to you after the election. Get out there and vote!



1 Responses

  1. Warren Dexter, Oregon Resource Innovations



    Sadly, the debris will mostly end up as municipal solid waste at the landfills because on-site equipment operators generally do not have the ability to sort the various wastes/fuels that are in the mess. Biomass needs to find its inroads through incremental innovation. If the market for biomass as a commodity existed, the same fellows that are rushing around in the northeast looking for valuable metals, jewelry and electronics, would be loading tons of biomass for energy conversion as well. In fact, we know that biomass heat potential is well recorded and that its use predates all other forms of commercial power generation, but as an industry, we have a lot of growing to do. The expectation that we can "Convert" to biomass in time to save Christmas is certainly not realistic, but we really can make a difference through baby steps. Great companies like N-Viro International and regional utilities such as Detroit Edison have focused on converting Waste from water treatment (sludge cake) and also from agriculture because the source stock is not only readily available, but it is pre-sorted. I expect that there is also a lot of that sort of yuck in the mess back east, but I think it makes the point that the real value of biomass systems development needs to focus on the areas that we CAN develop and not just on our desire to save the world.


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