This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

December 01, 2004

Universities and Companies Aim to Convert Biomass to Energy

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.