U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Advanced Manufacturing Office
Universities and Companies Aim to Convert Biomass to Energy
December 1, 2004
Universities and companies throughout the United States have been
pursuing new ways to convert biomass—plant-derived materials—into energy. Researchers at the University of North Dakota's Energy &
Environmental Research Center (EERC) have developed a biomass gasifier
that successfully turns wood chips into a gas that fuels a diesel
engine. At the University of California at Davis (UC Davis),
researchers are preparing to fire up an anaerobic digester to convert
three tons of organic waste into about 600 kilowatt-hours of
electricity each day. But you don't need to be a researcher to use
biomass energy: the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) notes that two
companies in the Northeast are blending biodiesel with their heating
oil this year, and the State of Maine is using biodiesel blends to
heat several government buildings, including the State House.
See the press releases from EERC, UC Davis, and the NBB (PDF 19 KB). Download Acrobat Reader.
On a larger scale, a project in New Jersey will soon convert waste oil
and byproducts from a vegetable oil processing plant into heat and
electricity. Northern Power Systems won a $1.7 million contract from
Aarhus United USA Inc. to develop a system that will meet 12 percent
of the heating requirements and 65 percent of the electrical needs at
Aarhus United's facility in Port Newark, New Jersey. The system will
produce power using a Stirling engine from STM Power, Inc. See the
STM Power press release (PDF 16 KB).
The Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH) is carrying out the largest
project of all: an effort to convert a coal-fired power plant into a
power plant fueled with wood chips. The Northern Wood Power Project
will produce 50 megawatts of power, with much lower emissions than the
coal plant, when it is complete in 2006. See the PSNH press release.