Department receives biomass energy project grant

Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE – The Department of Municipal Services is one of just three recipients in the state to receive an energy system award grant for a biomass demonstration project.

“These grants demonstrate Michigan’s ongoing commitment to developing renewable energy sources as a means of reducing our fossil fuel dependence and growing Michigan’s economy,” said Stanley Pruss director of the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth in announcing the grants Nov. 24.

The information gathered and experience gained through the projects will serve as the cornerstone and a reference as biomass energy use spreads throughout the state in the future.

Biomass is organic matter that is available and naturally renewable. Crop residue, animal manure, woodchips and some municipal solid wastes are biomass. Scientists say finding a successful way to convert biomass to produce electricity, heat, biogas, fuel or another valuable material is the where the challenge exists.

The Municipal Services project will involve burning woody biomass pellets, similar to chipped wood, in the city’s power plant.

“The value is that we can use the wood waste to offset some of the coal,” said Melanie McCoy of Wyandotte Municipal Services. “Hopefully this saves us money down the road.”

She said wood waste is both renewable and schedulable.

“Compared to coal, that’s the test now,” McCoy said. “Wood chips are now more expensive that coal. But once they get this process in place, it may be less expensive.”

Under Public Act 295, by the year 2015 all electric utilities in Michigan will be required to meet a renewable portfolio standard of 10 percent renewable energy.