Environmental Issues

Two primary issues that could create a tremendous opportunity for biomass are: (1) global climate change and (2) the implementation of Phase II of Title IV of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (CAAA). Biomass offers the benefit of reducing NOx, SO2, and CO2 emissions. The environmental benefits of biomass technologies are among its greatest assets. The first issue, global climate change, is gaining greater salience in the scientific community. There no w appears to be a consensus among the world's leading environmental scientists and informed individuals in the energ y and environmental communities that there is a discernable human influence on the climate, and that there is a lin k between the concentration of carbon dioxide (i.e., greenhouse gases) and the increase in global temperatures. Th e recognition of this link is what led to the signing of the Global Climate Change treaty. Co-firing biomass with fossi l fuels and the use of integrated biomass-gasification combined cycle systems can be an effective strategy for electri c utilities to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases.

The second issue, the arrival of Phase II emission requirements, could also create a number of new opportunities fo r biomass to be used more widely in industrial facilities and electric power generating units. The key determinant wil l be whether biomass fuels offer the least expensive option for a company when compared to the installation of pollution control equipment or switching to a "cleaner" fossil fuel.

The second, and more restrictive, phase of the CAAA goes into effect in 2000. CAAA is designed to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), that make up acid rain, and are primarily emitted by fossil-fue l powered generating stations. The first phase of CAAA affects the largest emitters of SO 2 and NOx, while the second phase will place tighter restrictions on emissions not only from these facilities, but also from almost all fossil-fue l powered electric generators of 25 MW or greater, utilities and non-utilities alike. The impact of Phase II will b e tempered by the fact that most of the utilities that had to comply with Phase I chose to over comply, thereby creatin g a surplus of allowances for Phase II use. The planned strategies for compliance by utilities suggest that fuel switching will be the compliance of choice. Fuel switching will be primarily to low sulfur coal. Other strategies include co-firing with natural gas, purchasing of allowances, installing scrubbers, repowering of existing capacity, and retirement o f existing capacity. An opportunity exists for biomass, especially if credit is given for simultaneous reduction i n greenhouse gases.

Use of biomass crops also has the potential to mitigate water pollution. Since many dedicated crops unde r consideration are perennial, soil disturbance, and thus erosion can be substantially reduced. The need for agricultura l chemicals is o ften lower for dedicated energy crops as well leading to lower stream and river pollution by agri-chemical runoff.

Renewable Energy 101

Renewable Energy 101

Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable. The usage of renewable energy sources is very important when considering the sustainability of the existing energy usage of the world. While there is currently an abundance of non-renewable energy sources, such as nuclear fuels, these energy sources are depleting. In addition to being a non-renewable supply, the non-renewable energy sources release emissions into the air, which has an adverse effect on the environment.

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