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Rutgers report assesses New Jersey bioenergy potential

By Anna Simet | September 29, 2015

A recent Rutgers University assessment on bioenergy potential in New Jersey found that the state producers over 7 million dry tons of biomass annually, over 4 million of which could be recovered and used to generate power, heat or vehicle fuel.

The project was initiated to serve as an update of feedstock and technology assessments performed in 2007, and takes a fresh look at statewide waste and biomass resource by location, greenhouse gas reduction potential, and policy recommendations to propel New Jersey’s bioenergy industry forward.

A major finding of the assessment, the potential 4.11 million dry tons of recoverable biomass could generate up to 654 MW of power, 6.4 percent of New Jersey’s electricity consumption, or 230 million gallons of gasoline equivalent, 4.3 percent of transportation fuel consumed in the state. Noted is the project that between 2010 and 2025, New Jersey’s population is expected to grow by about 5.77 percent, adding approximately 500,000 more people and increasing the amount of MSW—a potential bioenergy feedstock—by nearly 13 percent by 2025.

Of course, all is contingent on whether appropriate technologies and infrastructure are in place, and the report details main challenges. Barriers to feedstock utilization include lack of collection and transport infrastructure for certain feedstocks, particularly agricultural and forestry residues, as well as current comingling of significant quantities of biomass with other wastes, such as food waste and C&D wood, and competition from existing uses.

The assessment makes recommendations that may facilitate growth of the state’s biofuel and bioenergy sectors, including support of new technologies, integration with existing New Jersey petrochemical and refining infrastructure, addressing regulatory roadblocks and inconsistences, capitalizing on existing policies and practices and developing new polices to provide better access to biomass resources.

Specific policy recommendations outlined in the report include development of a comprehensive bioenergy industry development plan that incorporates harmonization of state policies, targets most abundant and readily available feedstocks and streamlines regulatory process; building collaborative relationship with other states working to accelerate its bioenergy sector, such as California; development of a utilization policy for publicly managed lands for harvesting biomass from these areas and growing energy crops, and evaluation of the economics of collection of these resources, as well the economics of their conversion to energy.