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"A society built on green design, sustainable energy and closed loop systems, a civilization afloat on a cloud of efficient, non-toxic, recyclable technology." ~~Alex Nikolai Steffan

10.18.2007

Biomass, wood pellets and exporting our energy resources

Recently the Palm Beach Post reported a conversation between the British Consulate and Florida Power and Light Group, Inc., and indicated that FPL has sold products to biofuel and other renewable energy technology companies, according to the head of trade and investment in Texas and Florida for the British Consul General.

Reference was also made to a biomass operation in north Florida (St. Joe) that will convert biomass timber into wood pellets (made from compressed saw dust) for fuel and that the plant plans to ship the wood pellets to Europe (while Florida imports a significant portion of its energy). Since 2005, in the US, demand exceeds the supply of wood pellets as fuel for specially adapted wood stoves that burn these pellets. Pellet burning stoves, originally more efficient that conventional wood burning stoves, now are closer in efficiency to the newer models of stoves. Given the cost of wood pellets in the US, it may not be an alternative as a "green" energy choice.

Costa Rica has launched a large wood pellet production effort backed by the UN.to convert large stockpiles of sawdust and other polluting residues from wood industries into the profitable pellets. Sawmills in these countries occupy large amounts of space and often pollute local rivers, while their decay leads to emissions of methane contributing to greenhouse gas. In some cases, the residues can ignite spontaneously.

However,
another question is cutting down virgin rainforest creating these large stockpiles of sawdust being touted as a new "green" energy source?

It's of interest to note that over 20 years ago, scientists (P H Smith, University of Florida and J R Frank, T D Hayes of the Gas Research Institute) documented small field plant experiments in 1985 using invasive water hyacinths. A biomass-to methane system had the potential to produce all the 1982 gas needs for the Lake Apopka district north of Orlando. "If new technologies are developed providing lower cost than unconventional natural gas, gas from advance coal gasification processes and methane from biomass these sources will become supplements. . .by 2010." But, as we know, those investments in new technologies weren't made in the '80's and the old is once again new.



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