Power companies in dairy regions have known for years that there is a distributed source of energy underfoot: cow manure. Using anaerobic digestion, manure can be converted into biogas and combusted in a generator to produce electricity. However, anaerobic digesters aren't cheap. It takes collaborative funding and diligent project management to bring multiple anaerobic digesters on line within a power district-and that's just the beginning.
Similar to cellulosic ethanol, there have been challenges to overcome in developing and advancing torrefaction. Now on the brink of commercialization, the thermochemical
treatment process has the potential to serve as a substantial upgrade for coal and biomass combustion, co-combustion and gasification applications.
In Europe, wood pellets are used as fuel for utility, commercial and residential applications to produce electricity and heat, but in the U.S. pellets have largely been relegated to the residential markets. Effective policy drivers and a different mindset exist in Europe, while in the U.S. it's hard to compete with cheap coal.
The use of anaerobic digesters on a small scale could provide localized energy sources while reducing the negative effects of greenhouse gases.
While economies around the world slow and credit options dwindle, the biomass-to energy industries keep churning
forward. Capital exists for those looking to develop projects.