Industry leader, CHP project awarded for contributions to biomass

By Luke Geiver | April 18, 2012

The International Biomass Conference & Expo, held in Denver, Colo., April 16-19, included an industry award ceremony, the first in the annual event’s history. The Excellence in Bioenergy Award was given to William Strauss, president of FutureMetrics LLC, and the Groundbreaker of the Year Award recipient was Ameresco’s Savannah River Site Biomass Cogeneration Facility near Aiken, S.C.

Strauss earned the award based on his ability to go above and beyond in his efforts to drive the conversation in the biomass industry, according to Tim Portz, program director for BBI International. “He’s been a consistent voice with a common sense approach,” Portz said. One of Strauss’s main talking points over the past year has been a contested and controversial greenhouse gas emissions report generated by the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences. Strauss worked to debunk the accusations in the Manoment study that claimed woody biomass emits more greenhouse gases per unit of energy than coal. “His work is devoured and consumed by most of us in this room,” Portz said.

“I will continue to carry our message,” Strauss told the crowd during his acceptance speech. Part of that message, he explained, is the potential for the wood pellet exports to Europe, a market that could bring $3.2 billion in investment over the next five to 10 years. Strauss also talked about the importance of building and maintaining sustainable biomass operations, pointing out that a 2012 study revealed that 97 to 98 percent of all scientists not only agree that climate change is real, but that it is caused by man. “Would you want to take a bet on the future of the world’s climate?” Strauss asked the crowd. “A bet that has a three percent chance of winning?”

Following Strauss’s speech, Jon Puckett, fuel procurement manager for Ameresco, accepted the Groundbreaker of the Year award. “This is why we are here,” Portz said, pointing to the success of Ameresco. “We are all better off when facilities are built. The services and parts and pieces needed for these incredible facilities are significant.”

In his acceptance of the award, Puckett said he is proud of the 20 MW combined-heat-and-power facility, which came online in January. The plant features two fluidized bed boilers, one steam turbine, and uses mostly forest residues from a 40 mile radius. The facility will need 325,000 tons of biomass per year, all of which will be delivered by truck. The amount of water drawn from the Savannah River will be decreased by an astounding 1.4 billion gallons per year as the facility now replaces a 55-year-old coal plant that Puckett said was not only old, but rapidly deteriorating.