Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Biomass on the Rise in N. America, Europe, UK

New projects for biomass gasification to generate power and CHP (combined heat and power) are being installed in the US, Europe, and the UK, as the possibilities of this technology are growing more clear to municipalities, utilities, power co-ops, and independent entrepreneurs. Biomass gasification can be used to drive steam turbines for power generation, or it can be used to create bio-oils, synthetic gasoline/diesel, and bio-alcohols--as well as synthetic chemicals for the chemical, plastics, and cosmetic industries. The versatility of this process combined with the near-ubiquitous nature of feedstock, makes it a logical approach to power, CHP, bio-fuels, and bio-chemicals over large parts of the Earth.

While biomass can be treated by the torrefaction process to create bio-coal--replacing coal in power plants--biomass can also be used for remediation at the sites of former coal mines.
Todd's proposal outlines four stages of recovery and development. In the first, healing is the primary focus. Drawing on his extensive experience with "living machines"—biological technologies that echo natural systems to produce clean water and environmental clean-up—Todd foresees plant-based systems that will detoxify the vast lagoons of coal slurry in the region, build new healthy soils, and yield raw products for economic purposes.

"Coal miners and some of their machinery could be employed in the process," he notes.

In the second stage, reforestation begins. Some reclaimed land will be dedicated to short-rotation fast-growing woody crops to be harvested for biomass. Other long-standing forests will capture carbon from the atmosphere, slowing global warming.

In the third stage, the economic benefits of the biomass emerge. "Already suitable Appalachian wind sites have been discovered that can provide competitive sources of energy," Todd writes, "paired with another renewable energy source like woody biomass from willows and poplars, a viable energy system can be developed."

And this biomass can be used not just for electricity but for "refining fuels, and manufacturing a wide range of products ranging from plastics to polymers and adhesives," he says.

In the fourth stage, succession is at work not just in the land but in human communities and management of the land. Initially, philanthropic organizations would purchase damaged sites and shepherd their recovery. These restored lands would be passed along to new capitalized corporations that would develop forestry and other businesses there. ___Source
There are many approaches to biomass and bioenergy that have yet to be explored. Some of these unexplored approaches will probably work well for your locality or region.

The greatest promise of bioenergy is the economic and eco-regenerative promise to small localities and regions. By keeping economic control of their own energy economy, local regions in both the third world and the developed world can create more of their own destinies. A movement from central control of energy and bio-resources to a local control of those resources is a movement of political and economic power from the big to the small.

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