Controversial views of biomass

Is wood biomass really an environment-friendly source of energy?

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By Rubina Obaid

www.asianbiomass.com

For the first time to our knowledge, the glass wall between coal and biomass usage within existing power generation plant has been shattered. However, the test catered only to the utility who would be the potential buyer of pellets generating energy for itself and profit for Active Energy.

Wood pellet industry is greatly responsible for rapid deforestation and replanting trees in the same pace is practically not possible which is also wreaking havoc for wildlife habitats. Biomass is widely considered as clean source of energy whereas conflicting views count it a dirty industry and proclaim its contribution in emission of tons of hazardous air pollution and greenhouse gases every year. Wood pellets are not only obtained through waste woods but also whole trees are used for fulfilling overall needs and deforestation is becoming one of the major causes of severe flooding in low lying areas. These wood pellets are transported across Europe, Great Britain and Asia to use for the generation of electricity instead of using coal. Active Energy Renewable Power is a subsidiary of Active Energy Group a British company uses the technology of CoalSwitch, that is considered to be cleaner pellet burn alternative as compared to coal in the power plants.

Active Energy organized a reveal event, four years ago at research and development facility in Centerville Utah, for unveiling its CoalSwitch technology which has been viewed as a game-changer  in the sector of energy and created a spur in the market for investors and they started buying the stocks in the company. The purpose of the event was to show that the CoalSwitch wood pellets could be burnt alongside coal or as standalone fuel in traditional power plants without experiencing any loss of heat and get burnt cleaner than coal without having spent millions of dollars to retrofit the technology.

Controversial views of biomass

The results of the CoalSwitch testing proved the group and investors’ faith in technology and the CEO of Active Energy Group said that ” For the first time to our knowledge, the glass wall between coal and biomass usage within existing power generation plant has been shattered.” However, the test catered only to the utility who would be the potential buyer of pellets generating energy for itself and profit for Active Energy. In addition to wood pellets Active Energy also operates sawmill through forest management affiliates Timberlands International in order to have control over the entire supply chain from sapling to sawlog to wood pellet. On the contrary, a terrible truth has come into the picture that biomass power plants are emitting more carbon dioxide from their smokestacks than a conventional coal plant that has been replaced. 

Active Energy and NC Renewable Power came into a joint venture in order to achieve commercial agreements for the CoalSwitch pellets but on the flip side policy analysts raised questions over combined emission from Active Energy and NCRP that could cause a hotspot of pollution in the heart of an environmental justice community. Lifecycle analyst model has been conducted by Sterman and his colleagues who calculated payback time for forests in Eastern US who contribute to supply large share of pellets to UK and also compared the emission from burning coal. Hence, Sterman stressed that he doesn’t advocate returning to burning coal but the immediate impact of switching from burning coal to wood biomass is causing increased emission that can be controlled through improved and efficient ways to generate electricity from wood. 

Reference link:

https://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2020/04/27/waiting-to-exhale-controversial-wood-pellet-plant-would-burden-lumberton-with-more-pollution/

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