Can coal-fired plants be converted to burn biomass fuels?
In Oregon, efforts are underway to see if Portland General Electric's 550-megawatt power plant can process "torrified" wood instead of coal after its scheduled closure.
From the article on Oregonlive.com:
It's an uncertain, embryonic effort, but some believe the payoff could be substantial. The conversion of Boardman and other coal plants could extend the life of existing equipment, benefiting ratepayers, while helping utilities comply with state renewable power mandates. It could cut pollution from power plants and logging operations. And it could boost forest restoration efforts, particularly in overstocked national forests east of the Cascades, by creating a viable market for the small trees, tree tops and limbs left over from thinning and logging projects.
"There are job creation opportunities. We can take more material out of the woods. It's a big winner — if it works," said Bruce Daucsavage, president of Prineville-based Ochoco Lumber Co., which operates the only remaining sawmill in Grant County.
Yet many conservation and climate advocacy groups are hoping it won't work. Biomass may be a renewable resource, they say, but it is not clean, particularly when it comes to emissions of greenhouse gases. Replacing coal with another carbon-emitting resource is a step in the wrong direction, they maintain, and would only pillage forests that sequester carbon and help combat climate change today.
It's a hot debate. But biomass energy projects are inching forward in Oregon.