Recycling Power From Old Industries
As a world supplier of primary resources like lumber and oil, Canadians were once stereotyped a “hewers of wood” working in a pristine green wilderness of fresh water and never-ending forests. Nowadays, thanks to the Eco-PR efforts of organizations like Greenpeace, Canada has gained more notoriety for oilsands that are widely regarded as a filthy and enormously wasteful source of fossil-fuel energy. A source of fuel who’s extraction is made economically feasible only by high price of crude oil yet without factoring in the environmental impact and future cleanup costs down the line. So much for “Green” stereotypes.
Forestry and Agriculture, on the other hand, are still a clearly green and renewable resources that are poised to turn into major sources of power production via the alluring prospects of widespread BioMass generation methods. No longer will we simply see crops and trees as a source of food for cities, construction materials and wooden poles for transmitting power along roadways, but rather as sources of feedstock for secondary green industries that can use otherwise wasted bio-mass to actually generate power for those very same hydro lines.
The question is, what stands in the way of displacing coal and natural gas from our current power supply, and how will bio-mass be different than burning any other fuel for electricity?
Challenges and Rewards
The challenge to realizing the potential power in otherwise wasted biomass lies in developing the complex cooperative networks that will be required from such enormous industrial sectors as Agriculture, Forestry, Government, Business, Academia, and of course various Communities and local power producers themselves.
Luckily, here in Ontario we’re seeing a genuine desire to move away from the volatility of natural gas prices, and the toxic filth of coal-fired power, which creates a positive environment for developing BioWaste fueled alternatives. Therefore a combination of public policy and market forces are aligning themselves to assure that proper methodologies are developed for the supply, processing, storage, and distribution methods that will be required to create a new BioMass-based economy for Energy, Agriculture and Forestry.
This is one of the many initiatives that the Ontario Power Workers Union is helping to promote to the Public by showing Ontarians, and the rest of the world, how emerging technologies can convert old industries to new ones, using existing resources and infrastructure that’s already in place!
Recycled Power Plants
Ontario already has valuable generating assets in it’s much maligned coal-fired generating plants at Nanticoke, Lambton, Thunder Bay and Atikokan, that are already starting to be mothballed as the province phases out coal-generated electricity. Yet the Ontario Power Generation Corp. (OPG) has a vision that goes past the end of coal, as it has demonstrated that the 6000 Mega-Watt(Mw) capacity of these plants can indeed be converted to BioMass fueling!
BioMass is already being used to co-fire Nanticoke in order to prove that the fuel pellets can be stored and fed via the same systems currently used to feed coal to the burners and boilers. The Atikokan plant has even proven that 100% biomass is feasible, and sets the stage to convert the remaining fleet of coal-fired plants according to OPG’s vision to reduce greenhouse gas emissions according to the following verified facts:
The use of BioMass pellets would reduce CO2 emissions by 91% and 78% relative to coal and natural gas systems, respectively.Compared to coal, using 100% pellets reduces NOx emissions by 40−47% and SOx emissions by 76−81%.
As such, OPG is committed to eliminating coal by 2014, and now sees the way to this goal by replacing the coal used in electrical production, with renewable BioMass sources such as harvested plant material or by-products of processing operations like wood chips, grain milling by-products and crop stover or stubble.
The idea behind BioMass is that unlike coal, oil, and natural gas which releases enormous amounts non-recoverable carbon that was stored (fixxed) in plant mass millions of years ago, BioMass is a closed-loop system that can reabsorb emitted carbon via it’s managed fuel sources in the agriculteral sector. It also greatly reduces NitrousOxide and Sulphur Dioxide emissions as shown above.
This approach to bio-fueled electricity does more than simply displace coal as a source of energy. It actually creates infrastructure for future growth as well. OPG and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), with the support of the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure (MEI), have combined their efforts to initiate a project that will analyse the feasibility of a fully commercialized agricultural biomass industry here in Ontario.
This initiative will not only eliminate coal-fired generation from Ontario’s electrical energy systems, it will also stimulate a local green economy for the production and consumption of renewable energy via BioMass. This would result in the creation of processes and infrastructure to stimulate demand and implement distribution of these base materials. This infrastructure will not only supply near-term BioMass projects, but also develop other more complex technologies to enable BioGas and BioChar methods as well.
In essence, by creating and economy for the base BioMass materials, new methods will become more commercially feasible. Methods which promise to fix (store) even more carbon dioxide and sustain local agriculture into a post-modern era of negative CO2 emmisions that will reduce fossil-fuel demands, and greatly reduce the energy intensive man-made fertilizers required by current agricultural practices.