Markets

Biopower systems encompass the entire cycle -- growing and harvesting the resource, converting and deliverin g electricity, and recycling carbon dioxide during growth of additional biomass. Biomass feedstocks can be of man y types from diverse sources. This diversity creates technical and economic challenges for biopower plant operator s because each feedstock has different physical and thermochemical characteristics and delivered costs. Increase d feedstock flexibility and smaller scales relative to fossil-fuel power plants present opportunities for biopower marke t penetration. Feedstock type and availability, proximity to users or transmission stations, and markets for potentia l byproducts will influence which biomass conversion technology is selected and its scale of operation. A number o f competing biopower technologies, such as those discussed previously, will likely be available. These will provide a variety of advantages for the U. S. economy, from creating jobs in rural areas to increasing manufacturing jobs.

The near-term domestic opportunity for GCC technology is in the forest products industry. A majority of its powe r boilers will reach the end of their useful life in the next 10-15 years. This industry is already familiar with use of it s low-cost residues ("hog" fuel and even a waste product called "black liquor") for generation of electricity and heat for its processing needs. The higher efficiency of gasification-based systems would bolster this self-generation (offsetting the need for increased electricity purchases from the grid) and perhaps allow sales of electricity to the grid. Th e industry is also investigating the use of black liquor gasification in combined cycles to replace the aging fleet of kraf t recovery boilers.

An even more near-term and low-cost option for the use of biomass is co-firing with coal in existing boilers. Co-firing biomass with coal has the potential to produce 10 to 20 GW in the next twenty years. Though the current substitution rate is negligible, a rapid expansion is possible using wood residues (urban wood, pallets, secondary manufacturin g products) and dedicated feedstock supply systems such as willow, poplar and switchgrass.

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