Biomass at Charter Street

Looks like one of the UW's power plants is doing a little changing.

The new biomass boiler will be online in the heating plant before the end of 2012.

The boiler will be able to burn 100 percent biomass fuel, up to 250,000 tons a year.

Biomass fuels range from wood chips to switchgrass pellets.

I don't think a power plant is the best way to implement alternative fuels because plants are good places to burn dirty stuff. To burn coal cleanly takes equipment. Plants produce a lot of energy so economies of scale make buying big cleaning equipment and large systems more worthwhile than if everyone at their house had to have a small set of equipment.

There's a certain amount of energy capacity out there and if power plants were to switch away from fossil fuels, their demand will decrease, lowering their cost which provides an incentive for other energy consumers to switch to the cheaper source of fuel. It would be better to encourage houses to switch to biofuels and keep the coal at plants than to switch the plants to biofuels and do nothing for houses.

Also the article doesn't address how the fuel will be making its way to the plant. Coal comes by train all the way from the mine. Trains are the most efficient way of moving stuff on land.

For more on the actual plant, I posted a tour of the plant with photos more than a year ago.