Analysis addresses impact of biomass cost, logistics on biopower projects
A recent analysis completed by Pike Research has found that the costs and logistics associated with sourcing, aggregating and transporting biomass feedstocks will likely continue to inhibit growth in the biopower industry.
“Biopower market growth is tied to the ability of facilities to access a continuous and consistent supply of feedstock,” said Pike Research Senior Analyst Mackinnon Lawrence. “While most estimates conclude that sufficient biomass resources are available to support robust biopower growth over the next decade—especially with the potential for dedicated energy crops to expand the feedstock supply—a number of obstacles still remain.”
Pike’s study found that uncertainties related to feedstock supply and government support have led to the downsizing of proposed biopower projects, along with a corresponding increase in projects that aim to co-fire biomass feedstocks with coal. Examples of this phenomenon in Europe offered by Pike include Drax and E.ON, which are reducing the size of planned dedicated biopower projects. In the U.S., Pike noted that pending regulatory changes and abundant natural gas resources are working against additional dedicated biopower project development. However, the Pike analysis also reveals that combined heat and power systems are becoming more feasible.
Overall Pike projects that the worldwide biomass power generation capacity will grow from 58 GW in 2011 to 86 GW by 2021.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration recently released statistics that show 13 percent of electricity in the U.S. was produced from renewable resources in 2011. Renewable resources including solar, geothermal, biomass waste, biomass wood, wind and hydropower. Within that 13 percent, approximately 4 percent was generated from biomass waste, and 7 percent from biomass wood.
The EIA’s report also noted that biomass waste used to generate energy in the U.S. is comprised primarily of municipal solid waste that is burned as fuel in power plants. Alternatively, most of the electricity generated from woody biomass is generated at lumber and paper mills, which use their own waste products to generate steam and electricity.