Last week in Washington, D.C., the National Mall was lit up by contestants in the Wood Stove Decathlon, sponsored by the Alliance for Green Heat.
Twelve teams from around the world brought their best designs, aimed at finding the cleanest, cheapest, most renewable ways to heat with wood. After five days of testing and judging, the New Hampshire company Woodstock Soapstone claimed the $25,000 first prize with a hybrid design.
A great article and video from National Geographic provides more detailed information on the various stoves, their designers, and the testing process.
Mark Knaebe, a Natural Resources Specialist at the Forest Products Laboratory, was one of the contest judges. In a previous Lab Notes post on the decathalon, Knaebe explained that many wood stoves and boilers are not very efficient, and the competition provides a way to both educate and encourage the development of “pollution-free burning devices.”
Production of renewable energy from biomass can help reduce greenhouse gases, improve energy security, and provide jobs. Uncertainties remain, however, regarding how the agriculture and forest sectors might work together, responding to increased demand for biomass that can be used as raw material for energy production (i.e., bioelectricity feedstocks). Potential environmental consequences of increased biomass production are also a concern.
Ken Skog leads FPL’s Economics, Statistics, and Life Cycle Analysis research unit
A recent paper in the journal Energy Policy focuses on these complexities. Ken Skog, supervisory research forester at FPL contributed to this research along with lead researchers from Oregon State University’s Department of Forest Engineering, Resources and Management and contributions from the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station.
Researchers used an economic model to examine how the agriculture and forest sectors might jointly contribute to meet increased demands for bioelectricity under simulated future national-level renewable electricity standards.
Agricultural and forest-based biomass will both be needed to meet part of the nation’s future energy demands. Because of ready availability, researchers say, the forest sector would be the initial primary provider of biomass, mostly in the form of logging residues. As demand increases over time, however, the agricultural sector would provide most of the biomass via energy crops such as switchgrass and some crop residues.
At the highest targets for bioelectricity production, the research team projected that more forest land may be converted to agricultural land to support agriculture biomass production. Greenhouse gas emissions from both the forestry and agricultural sectors, a key concern in judging the value of future energy contributions, are projected to involve only minor increases. Similarly, crop prices were projected to be generally stable in the face of increased bioelectricity demand and displacement of traditional agriculture crops.
As national concerns about the multiple uses for our forests increase and international concerns over global warming and greenhouse-gas generation also rise, governmental support for biological fuels is likely to increase.
FPL research has helped advance technology to convert woody biomass to ethanol.
New technologies are needed to derive transportation fuels and valuable chemicals from wood and FPL has a strong history of handling and treating wood through multidisciplinary efforts.
Experts in wood structure, wood chemistry, microbiology, enzyme technology, chemical engineering, and economics work together to promote the use of sustainable, bio-based, environmentally neutral technologies. This research advances the use of lignocellulose (materials such as wood flakes, particles, and fiber) as a raw material for transportation fuel and other biochemicals.
FPL researchers use advanced microbiology and chemistry laboratories in the Centennial Research Facility to help increase processing efficiency and profitability for biorefineries. In 2012, the U.S. Forest Service awarded nearly $4 million in grants for wood energy projects around the country to help expand regional economies and create new jobs. These grants are managed by the FPL Forest Products Marketing Unit.
Biorefineries can use previously under-valued wood from forest restoration projects to produce energy.
Through its work on bioenergy and biofuels, the FPL addresses several developments:
- Pretreatments that make more cellulose available for enzymatic saccharification or to derive value from lignin
- Value from resistant (recalcitrant) cellulose
- Co-production of specialty chemicals with greater value than ethanol and paper pulp
- Improved gasification with less char and a higher energy yield
- Transportation fuels and higher value chemicals from producer gas
- Ways to integrate ethanol production with pulping and composite products
- Enzyme modeling, life cycle assessment, and biomass case development
- Greenhouse gas modeling
FPL’s work in biorefining:
- Promotes sustainable development
- Moves the U.S. toward energy independence
- Mitigates climate change
- Supports local economies, and
- Promotes sustainability of natural resource production and use.
Biomass from restoration projects, like these wood chips from forest thinnings, can help promote forest health while providing valuable raw material for biofuel and other bioenergy products.
Assessing the carbon and energy impacts of alternative biofuels is essential to understanding best strategies for moving into a sustainable, efficient, and carbon neutral future.
A series of new articles published by the Forest Products Journal report on the life-cycle analysis of various bioenergy processes (i.e., gasification, fermentation, and pyrolysis) and feedstocks (raw materials used to convert biological matter into usable energy) including those from mill and forest residues, thinnings, and short rotation woody crops.
Ken Skog, an FPL supervisory research forester, is co-author on two of these benchmark reports:
— Comparing Life-Cycle Carbon and Energy Impacts for Biofuel, Wood Product, and Forest Management Alternatives, and
— Carbon Emission Reduction Impacts from Alternative Biofuels.
Understanding the complex life-cycle issues related to biofuels production will help meet demands to reduce dependence on foreign fossil fuels and to reduce carbon emissions.
Heating the Midwest with Renewable Biomass is hosting their 2nd Annual Conference and Expo April 25-26, 2013 in Carlton, Minn. Highlights of the conference include pre-conference tours of biomass heating facilities (April 24), keynote presentations of biomass vision, breakout sessions, and project presentations.
This conference will build on momentum from the 2012 Conference and Expo established by over 175 individuals and 100 different organizations working towards more affordable and efficient renewable biomass innovation.
Heating the Midwest is a group of volunteers with a serious interest in growing awareness and usage of biomass thermal fuel for heat in the Midwest. Their mission is “To advance biomass thermal heating in the Midwest for a more sustainable future, while improving the economic, environmental and social well-being of the region.”
Driven and directed by an interdisciplinary steering committee, Heating the Midwest includes industry, government, non-profit organizations, university representatives and tribal representatives. It is an efficient group of biomass advocates working to promote biomass to a larger constituency across the Midwest, including policymakers, nonprofits, consumers, and private businesses.