Biomass energy is vitally important to electrical power plants that generate electricity from the burning of wood pellets particularly in northern Europe and the United States where the new renewable portfolio standard has been enacted. Biomass is a huge industry in northern European countries, like Sweden or Denmark, where wood pellets are used to fire biomass district heating or combined heat and power (CHP) plants. A market known as co-firing is growing rapidly, whereby biomass energy is created by using wood pellets to partially substitute coal in larger power plants in Belgium, The Netherlands and The UK. Demand for wood pellets, particuarily wood pellets with a high British thermal units count - BTU - is growing at a rapid rate with many European power plants investing in future biomass wood pellet tree plantations as far away as Canada and the United States due to a short supply of large tracts of land in Europe.
Unfortunately, these power plants are using wood pellets primarily made from a mix of softwoods that have substantially lower BTU rates than hardwoods. Lower BTU quotients means lower electrical outputs and less money for the plant. Tree Plantation can help these companies increase power production and profits by supplying select hardwood tree seedlings for fast grow biomass wood lots.
British Thermal Units - BTU
A BTU - British Thermal Units is a measure of heat (energy) produced from a single cord of wood. The BTU comparison chart below illustrates the advantages of planting a hardwood tree plantation for biomass compared to softwoods.
Black Locust is our first choice for a wood pellet biomass plantation due to its high ranking on the BTU comparison chart, its rapid growth, quick time to harvest and stump regeneration properties. Although, Paper Birch wood has a lower BTU rating, it is a good second choice for biomass due to an even faster growth rate.
Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS)
Many countries have created a law forcing power providers to generate a minimum percentage of electricity from renewable resources such as wood biomass rather than coal. In the United States, this law, the Renewable Portfoilio Standard, pegs this percentage at 30% while in Europe it is much higher. Incentives such as lower tax rates and carbon credits are just some of the benefits that can be gained by wood burning power providers.
Power companies are locating plants in rural areas in close proximity to the electrical grid and with enough land to plant their own biomass material. Biomass plantations near the plant lowers costs and creates a predictable wood resource. Tall tree seedlings would shorten the harvest cycle by half and staggered biomass plantings comprising several acres each would create a sustainable biomass supply.
One 5 MW power plant will use 50,000 tons of green biomass wood per year using an 80-90% operation capacity, 8,000 hrs per year, and 4,300 btu/lb green biomass wood.
On average, a typical biomass tree plantation yields 100 tons per acre every 10 years. That means a 5 MW power plant would need to have approximately 500 acres in production. To create a sustainable biomass supply each year, the plant would need 10, 500 acre parcels of land.