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Realizing Plants’ Full Potential: Electricity from Biomass. By Becky Schanz and Megan Garvey Chicago-Kent College of Law Energy Law Presentation* Overview of Presentation. Introduction and Background

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Realizing plants full potential electricity from biomass

Realizing Plants’ Full Potential: Electricity from Biomass

By Becky Schanz and Megan Garvey

Chicago-Kent College of Law

Energy Law Presentation*

Overview of presentation
Overview of Presentation

  • Introduction and Background

  • Technologies that Produce Electricity from Biomass

  • Legal Aspects

  • Conclusion


  • Biomass is plant matter or other biological material, such as trees, grasses, or agricultural crops.

  • On average, biomass is made of 75% carbohydrates and 25% lignin.

    • Lignin forms the woody cell walls of the plants.


  • Wood and Wood products


  • Agricultural Biproducts and Residues


  • Trees, shrubs, grasses and other energy crops

  • Typically fast growing


  • Bioenergy or biomass energy is any fuel, electric power, or useful chemical product derived from organic matter.

  • Bioenergy can be derived either directly from the plants or indirectly from plant-derived wastes and residues.

Environmental factors
Environmental Factors

  • Generates same amount of heat and carbon dioxide as from natural processes.

  • Renewable energy source

  • Reduces erosion by preserving soil

Environmental factors1
Environmental Factors

  • Provides a habitat for wildlife species

  • Provides moisture retention and shade, which cools our atmosphere.

  • Most wood used is remnants from the logging industry, such as tree tops and wood chips.


  • The United States has an estimated 65-90 billion tons of dry matter.

  • At 2000 energy use levels, this biomass could supply 14-19 years of energy.

  • The Department of Energy states that all of the biomass available now has an energy content that would produce an estimated 2,740 Quads.

  • 1 Quad = 1,000,000,000,000,000 Btus

Us biomass generation
US Biomass Generation

  • The US is the largest biopower generator. It produces 37 billion kWh of biomass electricity which requires about 60 million tons of biomass a year.

  • The US has more than 7,000 MW of installed capacity.

  • We have about $15 billion invested and 66,000 jobs.

Marketing incentives
Marketing & Incentives

  • Green Power Marketing provides choices for consumers to purchase power from renewable or environmentally friendly sources.

  • Customers also pay a premium to support investment in renewable energy technologies.

Marketing incentives1
Marketing & Incentives

  • The EPA Combined Heat and Power Partnership program is a voluntary partnership between EPA, combined heat and power (CHP) industry, utilities, and state and local governments that create CHP programs.

Biomass uses for energy
Biomass Uses for Energy

  • Heating – stoves, process heat

  • Cooking – developing world

  • Transportation – ethanol

  • Electric Power Production

Technologies used to produce electricity from biomass
Technologies used to Produce Electricity from Biomass

  • Direct Combustion - burning biomass with excess air to produce steam

Technologies cont
Technologies (cont.)

  • Co-Firing – replaces part of the coal with biomass, as a supplementary energy source.

Technologies cont1
Technologies (cont.)

  • Gasification – heat biomass without oxygen to produce a calorific gas

Technologies cont2
Technologies (cont.)

  • Small Modular Bio-Power – develops small, efficient, clean biopower systems

Direct fired combustion
Direct-Fired Combustion

  • Oxidation of air and biomass

  • Produces hot flue gases that produce steam

  • Steam generates electricity in generators

Small modular systems
Small-Modular Systems

  • Less than 5 MW

  • Potential to power villages

  • Consist of power generation attached to the transmission and distribution grid, which is close to the end consumer.

  • Potential to supply 2.5 billion people who are currently without electricity.


  • Two processes:

    • Pyrolysis – releases volatile compounds of the fuel

      • Bigger role here than in coal fired plants

    • Char Conversion – carbon remaining after pyrolysis reacts with steam and/or oxygen (combustion)

      • Biomass has high reactivity

Types of gasifiers
Types of Gasifiers

  • Direct Gasifier

  • Indirect Gasifier

Gasification process direct gasifier
Gasification Process – Direct Gasifier

  • Plant gets wood chips

  • Biomass is gasified

  • Air is extracted from the gas turbine and fed into the gasifier

  • Gasification steam is extracted.

  • Remaining fuel gases are cooled.

Gasification process direct gasifier1
Gasification Process – Direct Gasifier

  • Fuel gas combusts and produces electric power and a high temperature exhaust steam

  • Exhaust steam expands in a steam turbine to produce additional power

  • Steam is extracted and electricity is sent to a substation

Generating capacity
Generating Capacity

  • The United States has about 7 GW of grid-connected biomass generating capacity.

  • Coal-fired electric units are 297 GW of capacity, which is about 43% of total generating capacity.

Vermont project
Vermont Project

  • Vermont has the first industrial biomass gasification process located in Burlington.

  • The process integrates a high-throughput gasifier with a high-efficiency gas turbine.

  • Circulating hot sand surrounds the biomass particles and the particles break down and produce gas.

  • This project uses an indirect gasifier system.

Hawaii project
Hawaii Project

  • Hawaii Biomass Gasifier is part of the DOE’s initiative to demonstrate a gasification system to turn biomass into electricity.

  • Its goal is to provide competitive electric power.

  • The plant uses maple wood chips, California highway clippings, paddy rice straw, fuel from refuse, bark, paper mill sludge, and alfalfa.

  • This project uses a direct gasifier system.

Advantages of gasification
Advantages of Gasification

  • Biomass closes the carbon system and therefore reduces emissions.

  • Biomass is low in sulfur

    • Biomass contains .05 to .20 % of weight is sulfur

    • Coal contains 2-3% of weight is sulfur

Advantages of gasification1
Advantages of Gasification

  • Operates at a lower temperature and wider variety of feedstocks than direct combustion systems.

  • Can produce a Btu gas that is interchangeable with natural gas.

  • Produces nitrogen free gas.

  • Less landfill waste.

  • Future technologies are being developed

    • Fuel Cell Systems

Disadvantages of gasification
Disadvantages of Gasification

  • Some biomass plants have closed because of deregulation of the electric utility industry.

  • Hard to compete with cheaper sources, such as coal, oil, and nuclear.

  • Small amounts of tar are released in the gas. The tar can coat parts of the pipe or the equipment.

    • Catalyst reactor has been developed to decrease the amount of tar to parts-per-million.

Disadvantages of gasfication
Disadvantages of Gasfication

  • Still a new technology and the Vermont Plant has not been able to operate continuously yet for a sustained period of days or weeks.

  • Over storage of wood fuel can lead to odor problems and spontaneous combustion.


  • Capital costs of building a biomass-fired steam turbine plant is about $2000-2500 per KW of installed capacity.

  • These costs are expected to decrease in the future.

Future of gasification
Future of Gasification

  • Gasification has a bright future, once the technology is fine-tuned.

  • If the cost of the process decreases as expected, it will be able to compete economically with current energy sources.

Co firing biomass with coal and the legal governmental incentives for biomass as a renewable
Co-Firing Biomass with Coal and the Legal/Governmental Incentives for Biomass as a Renewable

Co firing biomass with coal to produce electricity
Co-firing Biomass with Coal to produce Electricity Incentives for Biomass as a Renewable

  • What is Co-firing?

    • The simultaneous combustion of biomass and coal in a pre-existing boiler of a traditional coal-fired power plant

    • 2 Methods

      • Blending

        • (+) Least expensive

        • (-) Limited amounts; higher possibility of damage

      • Separate Feed

        • (+) greater emission reductions; greater amounts of biomass tolerates; less harmful to existing boiler

        • (-) requires more resources (equipment, $)

Advantages of co firing something for everyone
Advantages of Co-firing: coal-belt.“Something for Everyone”

The Existing Power Plant

  • Existing equipment is still utilized

  • Easier to meet environmental regulations and hedge future regulations

  • Cost savings

    • Tax incentives

    • Fuel supply options

  • Good PR

Advantages of co firing something for everyone1
Advantages of Co-firing: coal-belt.“Something for Everyone”


  • Encourages development of feedstock infrastructure

  • Creates a market for residues and energy crops

Advantages of co firing something for everyone2
Advantages of Co-firing: coal-belt.“Something for Everyone”

The Environment

  • Reduces GHG emissions (CO2; CH4)

  • Reduces SO2 and NOX emissions

  • Reduces burden on landfills

  • Extends the life of coal-use for electricity generation

Advantages of co firing something for everyone3
Advantages of Co-firing: coal-belt.“Something for Everyone”

The Economy $$$

  • Provides an end use for low value/negative value products

  • Maintains existing market for coal

  • Increases domestic economic growth and job creation

  • Increase economic activity in rural/agricultural areas

  • Increase business for equipment suppliers

Disadvantages of co firing
Disadvantages of Co-firing coal-belt.

Technological issues

  • Existing boilers/systems designed (exclusively) for fossil fuels

    • Negative impact on existing boilers

    • CL-based corrosion

    • Negative impact on boiler capacity

Disadvantages coal-belt.

Diverse feedstock

  • Range of different fuel characteristics

    • Woody – Grassy

    • Residues – energy crops

    • Ash content

    • Fuel nitrogen content

Realizing plants full potential electricity from biomass

Uncertainties due to different biomass properties coal-belt.

Differences between biomass and coal

  • Higher moisture content (= low net calorific value)

  • Higher CL content

  • Low heating value

  • Low bulk density

  • Higher content of volatile matter (80%:coal 30%)

Disadvantages coal-belt.

  • Feeding methods

    • Fuel preparation and handling

  • Ash-related issues

    • Biomass = source of aerosols

    • Pure-coal ash required for concrete use

Just a couple more disadvantages
Just a couple more…disadvantages coal-belt.

  • Engineering to commercial/economical issues?

  • Requires incentives

    • Less incentives for small-scale plants

  • Might require additional investments

    • Equipment

    • Biomass material

  • Dependant on the availability and price of low-cost biomass feedstocks

Co firing programs
Co-Firing Programs coal-belt.

DOE’s Biopower Program


  • Promote biomass using the least-cost approach

  • Broaden the base of utilities employing co-firing

  • Increase the # and type of co-firing techniques

  • Provide the underpinning for advanced designs

Realizing plants full potential electricity from biomass

  • Accomplishments coal-belt.

    • Switchgrass; willow = successful bio-material

    • Biomass co-firing = technologically successful

    • Viability demonstrated

    • Pollutant emission reductions verified

    • Economic models/feeding techniques developed

Co firing programs1
Co-Firing Programs coal-belt.

  • Regional Biomass Energy Program (RBEP)

    • Federally-funded; located in 5 regions of U.S.

    • Goal = to increase the production and use of bioenergy resources

      • Best candidates

      • Full-scale analysis

    • Accomplishments:

      • Successful biomass co-firing operations from an operational and performance perspective requires…

        • Biomass price 20% less than that of coal

        • Reliable and automated procedures

Co firing programs2
Co-Firing Programs coal-belt.

  • Co-firing project at Hawaii Commercial Sugar

    • Result:

      • Sugar cane (bio-material) + coal = less NOX emissions!

Co firing programs3
Co-Firing Programs coal-belt.

  • Co-firing program for urban wood waste

    • Northern Indiana Pub. Service Co + Electric Power Research Institute + DOE

    • Urban wood waste + coal (W. bituminous and Powder River Basin)

Current power plants using co firing method on a regular basis
Current Power Plants Using Co-Firing Method on a Regular Basis

  • Northern States Power (NSP)

    • Wood residues + coal

  • Tacoma Public Utitlies

    • Wood wastes and garbage + coal

  • TVA

    • Wood waste + coal

  • Southern Company

    • Wood residues (grnd pallets/hurricane-damaged trees) + coal

  • NY State Electric and Gas (NYSEG)

    • Sawdust; furniture factory waste + coal

Furthermore numerous other power plants are exploring the benefits of co firing

Niagara Mohawk Power Co. Basis


Madison Gas & Electric

Atlantic Electric

American Electric Power

Illinois Power Company

Plains Electric

IES Utilities

Northern Indiana Public Service Co.

And MANY more!!

Furthermore, Numerous Other Power Plants are Exploring the Benefits of Co-Firing

Summary Basis

Co-Firing biomass capitalizes on the large investment and infrastructure associated with the existing coal-fired power plants while traditional pollutants (SO2; NOX) and net GHGs (CO2; CH4) are decreased!!

Legal aspects and governmental incentives pertaining to biomass as a renewable form of energy

Legal Aspects and Governmental Incentives pertaining to Biomass as a renewable form of energy



Federal Biomass as a renewable form of energy

1. Energy Policy Act of 2003 (Energy Bill/S. 2095)

  • Title II: renewable energy incentives

  • Title XIII: energy tax incentives

  • Section 206

    2. Biomass R&D Initiative of 2003

    3. Bioenery Initiative

  • Exec. Order 13134

Federal cont
Federal (cont) Biomass as a renewable form of energy

4. Ag. Risk Protection Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-224); Title III. Biomass R&D Act

5. Green Power Purchasing Goal

  • Exec. Order 13123

    6. Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvement Program

    7. CAA amendments

1 energy policy act of 2003 energy bill s 2095
(1) Energy Policy Act of 2003 Biomass as a renewable form of energyEnergy Bill (S. 2095)

  • Title II: renewable energy incentives

    • New incentives for development and use of renewables

    • Mandates assessments to assist in long-term plans

    • Reauthorizes the Renewable energy Production Incentive Program

    • Grants for turning forest material into biomass energy

Energy bill s 2095
Energy Bill (S. 2095) Biomass as a renewable form of energy

  • Title XII: Energy tax incentives

    • Previous “Renewable Electricity (and Energy) Production Credit” expired for all new projects on 12/31/2003

    • Creates a NEW Tax incentive!!

      • Extends placed-in service date for…closed-loop biomass and poultry waste facilities

      • Adds open-looped biomass, municipal bio-solids, and recycled sludge…as qualifying energy resources

      • Credit = 1.8 cents/kWh (no inflation adjustment)

      • Allows for tradable tax credits for tax-exempt entities, co-ops, and municipal utilities

      • Effective: 10/1/2004

Energy bill s 20951
Energy Bill (S. 2095) Biomass as a renewable form of energy

  • Section 206

    • Grants to improve the commercial value of forest biomass for electric energy…and other commercial purposes

    • The government found that:

      • Risk

        • (wildfire; insect infestation; tree mortality; drought)

      • …requires preventive measures

      • =by-products of biomass BUT no suitable market

Energy bill s 20952
Energy Bill (S. 2095) Biomass as a renewable form of energy

  • Section 206 (cont.)

    • Therefore, the U.S. should:

      • Promote economic and entrepreneurial opportunities in using these by-products

      • Develop and expand markets

2 biomass r d initiative of 2003
(2) Biomass R&D Initiative of 2003 Biomass as a renewable form of energy

  • DOE and USDA

    • $23 million allocated to 19 different biomass projects

3 bioenergy initiative
(3) Bioenergy Initiative Biomass as a renewable form of energy

  • Exec. Order 13134: Developing and Promoting Bio-based Products and Bioenergy

    • Policy = national strategy to stimulate the creation and early adoption of technologies needed to make biobased products and bioenergy cost-competitive

      • Expand employment opportunities

      • Create new market

      • Reduce Nation’s dependence on foreign resources

      • Decrease pollution

Bioenergy initiative
Bioenergy Initiative Biomass as a renewable form of energy

  • President’s goal = triple U.S. use of bio-based products and bioenergy by 2010

  • DOE + federal organizations = national partnership to develop an integrated industry to produce power…from biomass

4 agricultural risk protection act of 2000 p l 106 224 title iii biomass r d act
(4) Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-224) Biomass as a renewable form of energyTitle III. Biomass R&D Act

  • Recognition that biomass has outstanding potential to benefit the national interest

  • Combined efforts of DOA and DOE

  • Purposes:

    • To understand biomass

    • To develop new and cost-effective technologies that would result in large-scale commercial production

    • To ensure economic and energy security and environmental benefits of bio-products

    • To promote the development and use of agricultural and energy crops for conversion

5 green power purchasing program
(5) Green Power Purchasing Program Biomass as a renewable form of energy

  • Applicable sector: federal government

  • Goal = 2.5% renewables by 2005

  • Effective: 6/2000

  • Authority: Exec. Order 13123

    • Requires federal agencies to increase their use of renewable energy

    • Biomass systems installed after 1990 apply as “new” renewable energy resources (emphasis on “new” to reach goal)

Green power purchasing program
Green Power Purchasing Program Biomass as a renewable form of energy


  • obtaining 13% of goal

    March 2004:

  • 77% of goal !!!

6 renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvement program
(6) Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvement Program

  • Federal grant program through the USDA

  • Commercial/agricultural producers

  • Grants provided for 25% of eligible project costs

  • Producer must demonstrate “financial need”

1990 amendments to caa
1990 Amendments to CAA Improvement Program

  • Lowered baseline limitations for SO2 emissions

    • = increase in market-price of air emission allowances

    • = electricity generators will turn to bio-energy to reduce costs and meet stricter regulations

State law incentives

State Law/Incentives Improvement Program


State Improvement Program

  • Mainstay Energy Rewards Program

  • IL Clean Energy Community Foundation Grants (ICECF)

    • 220 ILCS 5/16-111.1

  • Renewable Energy Resources Trust Fund

    • 220 ILCS 687/6-4

  • Renewable Energy Resources Program Grants (RERP)

  • Renewables Portfolio Goal

    • 220 ILCS 5/16-111.1

Mainstay energy rewards program
Mainstay Energy Rewards Program Improvement Program

  • Green Tag Purchase Program = production incentive

    • Private company buys the green tags (RECs) which are brought to the market as “Green-e” certified products

    • Participating companies receive regular, recurring payments

      • Dependant on type of renewable; production of energy; length of K

    • Biomass is eligible

    • Commercial and residential sectors

    • Amount = .1-1cent/kWh (for biomass)

    • Certification fee and requirements

    • 200 current participants!

2 il clean energy community foundation icecf grants
(2) IL Clean Energy Community Foundation (ICECF) Grants Improvement Program

  • State grant program

    • Grants, loans, other financial support

    • $250 million endowment from ComEd

  • Non-profit; schools, state and local governments serving IL

  • Authority = 20 ILCS 5/16-111.1

    • IL Resource Development and Energy Security Act

      • Purposes: “Enhance the state’s energy security by ensuring that…(iv) pilot projects are undertaken to explore the capacity of new, often renewable sources of energy…”

2 icecf grants cont
(2) ICECF Grants (cont) Improvement Program

  • Effective 2001

  • How to apply?

    • Submit proposal (competitive basis)

  • Between 2001-2002:

    • ICECF awarded more than $17 million in grants for renewable energy projects in IL!!

3 renewable energy resources trust fund
(3) Renewable Energy Resources Trust Fund Improvement Program

  • Public benefits fund required in 220 ILCS 687/6-4

  • Available for the general public/consumer

  • $50 million for 10 years

  • Collection

    • $.50 cents/month from residential and small commercial electric and gas customers

    • $37.50/month from large commercial electricity customers

4 renewable energy resources program rerp grants
(4) Renewable Energy Resources Program (RERP) Grants Improvement Program

  • State grant program funded by the Renewable Energy Resources Trust Fund

  • Distributed in the form of grants (for large systems) and rebates (for small systems)

  • Involves an annual RFP process

5 renewables portfolio goal
(5) Renewables Portfolio Goal Improvement Program

  • Specific standard to IL

  • Applies to Utilities

  • 5% by 2010…15% by 2020

  • Effective: 7/2001

  • Authority: 220 ILCS 5/16-111.1

    • Contains a “goal” but NO implementation schedule, compliance verification or credit-trading provisions

Biomass utilization for electricity production

Biomass Utilization for Electricity Production = Improvement Program