Pennsylvania to fund five biomass projects

By Erin Voegele
Web exclusive posted Feb. 4, 2009, at 9:40 a.m. CST

Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell recently announced the state will fund 49 clean energy and biofuel projects. "These are difficult times for businesses to raise the capital needed to develop new products and processes, even for the renewable energy and biofuels industries that had been among the fastest growing globally just a few months ago," Rendell said in a press release announcing the grant funding. "And even though energy prices have subsided recently, we've seen how volatile these markets can be and how high energy prices can hurt an economy."

The projects will be funded through two state grant programs. The Energy Harvest program will contribute $7.2 million in grants, while the Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant program will award $6.5 million to the projects. Grants awarded through the Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant program aim to assist companies that produce and market alternative fuels and biofuels, related infrastructure, and assist consumers that purchase hybrid vehicles. The Energy Harvest program is designed to promote awareness and build markets for cleaner or renewable energy technologies.

It's estimated that the 49 projects will leverage more than $53.1 million in private investment, create at least 77 jobs, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2.5 million tons. Combined, the projects will reduce consumers' energy costs by nearly $46 million annually.

The energy cost savings will be achieved in three primary ways. Approximately 25.1 million kilowatt hours of electricity is expected to be saved through efficiency programs or offset through the generation of clean electricity, enough to power more than 2,500 homes. The programs will also offset the use of 250.1 million gallons of diesel and #2 heating oil, and 37,564 million British thermal units of natural gas each year.

Five biomass-to-energy projects were awarded funding through this round of grants. Three of those projects were granted awards to complete anaerobic digester projects.

Blair County-based Southern Alleghenies Conservancy Inc. will receive $480,479 on behalf of Pleasant View Farms for an anaerobic digester and electrical generation systems. The system is expected to replace all of the farm's current annual electricity consumption and generate more than $86,000 per year from the sale of excess electricity.

The Indiana County Conservation District will receive $46,950 to increase the generation capacity of the Brookside Diary anaerobic digester from 80 kilowatts to 107 kilowatts. The existing engine will be turbocharged to increase generation capacity by 30 percent and utilize the excess biogas.

In Lackawanna County, the Lackawanna River Basic Sewer Authority will receive $397,961 for two 65-kilowatt microturbines to generate electricity from unused anaerobic digester gas at a wastewater treatment plant. The microturbines are expected to generate more than 1 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year and save the authority $130,497 annually n electricity and natural gas costs.

In addition, two awards will be used to complete heating projects. Cambria County-based Glendale School District will receive $350,000 for a biomass-fired boiler system that will be part of an expanded, system wide set of improvements through energy service performance contracting. The Pennsylvania-made boiler will displace 45,800 gallons of #2 heating oil each year, saving the district $123,000 annually.

The Snyder County Conservation District will receive $61,356 on behalf of Windview Farm for a manure combustion hot water boiler to heat poultry barns. The project will reduce the amount of manure that is land-applied by approximately 500 tons annually, resulting in better nutrient management and reduction of phosphorus into the Chesapeake Bay watershed by 17.85 tons annually. The project will save the farm approximately $30,000 in annual fuel costs.