FutureMetrics explains benefits of coal-to-biomass conversions

By Erin Voegele | May 13, 2020

FutureMetrics LLC on May 6 published a whitepaper discussing how converting existing coal-fired power plants to be fueled with wood pellets offers a low cost, easy-to-deploy way to generate low-carbon electricity.

William Strauss, president of FutureMetrics and author of the paper, noted coal-to-biomass conversions has been the topic of previous whitepapers published by the company. “However, given the current COVID-19 induced disruption to our global economy and how that may impact energy policies, it’s important to remember that there is a relatively low-cost, easy-to-deploy, and highly carbon beneficial energy source solution for power generation,” he wrote.

The whitepaper discusses the conversion of the Drax and Lynemouth power stations in the U.K., and their use of wood pellets sourced from renewing working forests. The power produced at those stations is not intermittent and variable, Strauss stressed. Rather, biomass power plants produce baseload power that is impossible to achieve with solar or wind.

“Wood pellets produced from sustainably managed forestry operations, when used to produce power, do not increase the net stock of CO2 in the atmosphere,” Strauss wrote. “The basic necessary condition for an area of managed forests is if forest growth rate equals or exceeds the harvest rate then the net stock of carbon held in the forest is constant or growing. Thus, the CO2 released in combustion is contemporaneously absorbed by the new growth and no net new CO2 is added to the atmosphere.”

Within the paper, Strauss describes arguments made by those who oppose the use of wood pellets for power generation and debunks their claims. “There is no rational logic that can show the use of materials from responsibly and sustainably managed forests can result in a net addition of CO2 to the atmosphere,” he said. “As climate change consequences exponentially increase even nations like the United States will see the value in converting some existing high-efficiency coal fueled power stations to use wood pellets.

“That strategy avoids stranding some coal power station assets,” he continued. “And the strategy is complimentary to a rational and pragmatic transition to a more decarbonized future by providing renewable, reliable baseload on-demand power.”

A full copy of the whitepaper can be downloaded from the FutureMetrics website