Archive for October, 2011

Back in July, 2011, Elizabeth Keokosky wrote a posting for this blog titled: “RPS in New York State” in which she explained the RPS. I recently received from the Public Service Commission (PSC) staff an updated New York State Renewable Portfolio Standard Biomass Power Guide, September 2011. It contains the clearest definition to date of the category in which grass finds itself: “Sustainable yield wood (woody or herbaceous) – woody or herbaceous crops grown specifically for the purpose of being consumed as an energy feedstock (energy crop). Some examples include willow, poplar, sycamore, and ash species (woody), and Miscanthus, hemp, and grasses (herbaceous). “
We have talked about the various potential users of grass energy and have generally characterized them into three groups: (1) large commercial/institutional (combined heat-and-power operations (CHP); (2) smaller commercial/institutional (example: school districts); (3) residential. Significant utilization of grass biomass for fuel is initially likely to require large-scale consumers in the first and second categories. The residential market will be the most challenging to develop. This posting will focus on the first category and its relationship to the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) in New York State. The RPS deals with electrical energy and not heat per se because the PSC has authority over electricity issues (as well as gas, steam, telecommunications and water utilities) but not the use of biomass for heat-only applications. Elizabeth noted in her posting that the heating sector is controlled only by the market, yet it represents a significant component of our fossil fuel use. Although it could be helpful if the PSC was given policy-making authority over biomass heating under a revised RPS, for now the potential markets under the RPS remain CHP projects.
The RPS classifies biomass fuels into unadulterated and adulterated. Both are eligible fuel types but have differing processing and use requirements. The Guide states: “Unadulterated biomass may be used with any of the accepted feedstock conversion and power generation technologies to generate eligible renewable generation under the RPS program.” Grass is an example of an unadulterated fuel. Adulterated biomass includes such things as paper, paperboard boxes, plywood, particle board, textiles, yard waste, leather, offal, food processing residues and mixed adulterated and unadulterated wood wastes. If grass is combusted alone or in combination with other unadulterated fuels, the electrical energy so produced is designated 100% renewable or “green” power. If grass is combusted with adulterated fuels, then things get more complicated. Basically what has to happen is that there must be: “….. separate feed and measurement systems for each fuel stream plus regular sampling and analysis of fuels to ensure that the reported eligible generation is based on an accurate measurement of heat input for each fuel stream to the boiler or other conversion system.” For example, if 15% of the heat input to the boiler/generator is from grass, then 15% of the electrical energy is renewable or green power.

Another feature of the RPS is that grass and wood are not held to the same standard with respect to sustainable harvesting. Wood can take several forms, but here I will concentrate on wood commercially harvested from forests or “waste” wood harvested as part of timber stand improvement. These two classes of woody biomass require a Forest Management Plan that is reviewed and approved by NYSERDA and the PSC. Alternatively, the biomass producer can use one of the following already-approved certifications: Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), American Tree Farm System (ATFS) or New York State Real Property Tax Law 480A Program. Grass, on the other hand, requires no such certification because it falls in the “sustainable yield wood (woody or herbaceous)” category. This is of course not to say that grass should not be managed for sustainability, but merely to emphasize that there is no pre-approval cost associated with a plan approval.

The take-home message is that under the RPS there are currently no significant regulatory constraints on the use of grass fuel for biomass-fueled CHP applications. We need to see some demonstrations of this use to establish the economics and then a scale-up of production. This will create jobs and help New York State reduce its reliance on non-renewable sources of (electrical) energy. Once production capacity has been created, grass fuel can then be attractive for heat-only applications.


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Event: Stronger Economies Together –  Tioga County SET program.  Recent flooding in our region has caused delays or relocation of services in scheduled meetings. The public was invited to attend the kick-off meeting on Thursday, September 22, to learn about this exciting new Southern Tier regional bioenergy initiative and hear, among others, two featured speakers from Cornell University.  The speakers were Michael P. Hoffmann, Director, CU Agricultural Experiment Station and Associate Dean, CU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Hilary Mayton, Biomass Specialist with CU Dept. of Plant Breeding and Genetics.  Speakers shared expertise and experiences in understanding bio-energy and innovative initiatives in NYS regions. People from Broome, Tioga and Chemung County Co-operative Extension staff, Southern Tier East Regional Development staff, Broome-Tioga BOCES staff, TC3 staff and several local farmers were in attendence.  Interests ranged from farm production to educational programs.

There are SET programs in two other “zones”, but they don’t concentrate on bioenergy.  The CNY regional is just using general guidelines and hasn’t set out a specific track.   Another regional in the North has some focus on local food and agriculture. Hopefully, those of you within those regions will take a bit of time to contact the administrative SET staff to make sure they are aware of the part biomass plays within agriculture and rural economic development.

Broome Biomass is working to help shape the Tioga SET program to educate bioenergy stakeholders. All upcoming meetings are scheduled for the 4th Thursday of the month. The next meeting will be in Candor, NY. There is no cost to attend the program.  For inquiries, contact Lois Kang, Sustainable Tioga Project Coordinator at sk479@cornell.edu.

Marketing: Governor Cuomo has released funds for people within the flood zone to upgrade appliances and furnaces. With cold weather already upon us, this would be a great time to talk multi-fuel capabilities. Not only will that promote agricultural biomass, but all forms of local heating supplies. We are anxiously waiting for the ecomonic impact spreadsheets to come back from the professor at Cornell. If anyone would like to see the overall spread sheet for NY, please feel free to contact me via email: doreen@broomebiomass.com.

Emissions: I would also like to thank Laura Colban for including myself, Jim Knight and John Bootle to be involved in a discussion with the BTEC about the support of future emissions and efficiency testing for commercial boilers. As for testing in NY, I decided to contact our regional Air Emissions Officer through the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Simply put, units less than 1 MMBtu input per hour would actually qualify as a residential scaled unit. If the unit is installed in an outdoor location, it must meet all standards for wood boilers (no matter what material is being combusted). New York requires that the same test methods as the EPA’s 28-OWHH compliance (this is voluntary testing, not federally mandated). NY states that the main concern is the Particulate Matter Emissions (PM). The requirement is to produce less than .4 lbs/MMBtu combusted. There are new revisions under way with the 28-OWHH that will require the particulate matter to be less than .32 lbs/MMBtu.

PLEASE make note that all furnaces or boilers purchased or installed after April 1st, 2011 must meet all of the installation and certification guidelines set forth by the DEC. If the unit is established inside an OCCUPIED building (not a shed or outbuilding), then the unit must comply to all federal, state and local building codes. Any unit that is not established within the above guidelines will be shut down and face heavy fines.

On commercial or industrial scaled units, the testing is to be completed via the Compliance Method Testing Part #227 (a search on the DEC website will provide the exact details). For units up to 10 MMBtu/hour input the PM limit is .70 lb/MMBtu and above the 10 MMBtu/hour input is .03 lb/MMBtu. Typically, bi-annual testing is required after the initial gateway testing for compliance certification. To learn more specific details, please contact your regional Air Quality Officer through the NYS DEC.

News: In Shik Lee from TC3 notified us at the SET meeting that the grant she filed for the college on Bioenergy promotion has been approved. I will be contacting her to see what she would like us to put together to contribute to the future development of the program.

Question: What is everyone’s opinion on having another ABIG meeting sometime around the middle of November? A phone conference to make it easier without the issue of travels during the months when the weather is unpredictable.

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