Evaluation tool assesses viability of biomass technology in NH

By Matt Soberg | August 10, 2011

The “Community Roadmap to Renewable Woody Biomass Energy: A Step-by-Step Decision-Making Tool for New Hampshire Communities” was developed as an evaluation process to help communities determine whether woody biomass technology makes sense at a facility or district level. The guide provides information to organizations interested in utilizing renewable energy to achieve energy-related goals. 

The roadmap was developed for the North Country Resource and Conservation Development Area Council in New Hampshire. The $20,000 project was funded by the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Fund. 

The council contracted with Yellow Wood Associates Inc. and the Biomass Energy Resource Center to create the roadmap. Yellow Wood focused on the community engagement aspect of the project, while BERC provided the technical science behind woody biomass.

“This important tool was created so that communities will have the information they need, and a logical process to follow, to make informed decisions about the role biomass may play in their energy future,” said Samantha Dunn, Yellow Wood representative. The guide is user-friendly, accessible, and answers questions regarding alternative energy solutions without the need for specialized knowledge, Dunn added.

The roadmap states that biomass is a locally available fuel source that increases energy independence while stimulating the economy. Using wood helps support the forestry industry while creating markets and jobs. The guide focuses on wood chips and wood pellets as biomass fuel.

While the guide was developed for use by New Hampshire communities, it can act as a useful resource for interested parties in many states. The evaluation process for determining biomass viability is applicable nationwide, Dunn said. The roadmap aids community decision-making, however it stresses it is not a substitute for a full feasibility study.

As an example of viability, the roadmap details the biomass heating facility at the Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center in Greenfield, N.H. The 1,400-acre facility installed a wood chip heating plant that heats 315,000 square feet of building space. The plant consumes 3,300 tons of wood chips annually, and expects $2 million in energy savings during the first five years of operation.