Posts tagged “biomass”
The biggest constraint to renewable energy growth in the US is the availability of tax equity to support project investment. There is not nearly as much tax equity investment as is needed to support financing and building all of the renewable energy projects in development – as a result the pace of project financing and construction is being severely constrained. Many new investors will begin to enter this tax equity investment space in pursuit of outsized returns with virtually no risk created by a significantly undersupplied investment market. These new tax investors will usher in a period of unprecedented growth in the construction of renewable energy projects.
The Strange Market of Tax Equity Investing
Investment in renewable energy comes from three sources. (1) Project Equity –the investment that actually owns the clean energy facility, this includes the risk of operation and the long-term value of the asset, and there are plenty of investors willing to participate as part of (or all of) this investment. (2) Debt – this is generally traditional project equity lending, and as with project equity there are plenty of lenders – big banks, small banks, private debt funds – ready to lend to all kinds of renewable energy projects. For these traditional sources of project financing project risks are increasingly well understood and, provided there is enough project revenue to cover debt repayment, this money is readily available. (3) Tax Equity – this third, and vital source of capital are investments made in the project that will be repaid primarily through tax credits and other tax savings to the tax equity investor. There simply is not currently enough tax equity to support the pace of growth in renewable power development in the U.S. CONTINUE»
A report written by the British arm of Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace titled “Dirtier than Coal” criticizes their government’s plan to burn trees to make electricity. In my opinion, these two organizations seem to get things right about as often as they get things wrong, so you would be just as well off flipping a coin.
For me, this is largely an academic exercise. As a species, I suspect that we are incapable of overriding our instinctive drives for self-promotion, subconscious biases, and propensities for self-deception to the point of tackling a problem of this magnitude — global warming. We will always find ways to rationalize what we do and think, especially if doing so brings home the bacon.
In this case they got one thing right (IMHO) by calling for the withdrawal of public subsidies for making electricity by burning imported trees (roundwood and sawlogs). Their report is based on input from Tim Searchinger who was asked to review the studies done by the British Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
In this week’s episode of R-Squared Energy TV, I give a short presentation on the pros and cons of using biomass for energy. People tend to have strong feelings on this topic in one way or another, and I will explore a bit of the reason for the controversy. Some of the topics discussed are: Can energy from biomass replace oil? Can energy from biomass be sustainable? What are the risks of using biomass for energy? Readers who have specific questions can send them to ask [at] consumerenergyreport [dot] com or leave the question after this post (at the original source). Consider subscribing to our YouTube channel where you’ll be able to view past and future videos. Link to Original… Continue»
Why We Love Trees I don’t often talk about my job, but I am going to today just a bit. I am the Chief Technology Officer for a renewable energy company. Our primary goal is to develop affordable and sustainable energy for a world that we believe will struggle from the impacts of oil depletion. My company favors forestry as a cornerstone of our biomass to energy platform. On a recent business trip, I heard a story that perfectly explained the reason that we believe trees offer a source of sustainable biomass for energy production. One of my metrics for sustainability is to presume that we are using a plot of land to produce an energy crop, and then ask… Continue»
Back in June, I gave a presentation on Peak Oil at the Global Footprint Conference in Siena, Italy. (More on the event here). Following my presentation, I was asked to do a pair of interviews. One was for an upcoming documentary called Critical Mass. The second was for the conference itself, and that interview has just been made available and is embedded below. Peak Oil Interview for the Global Footprint Conference Some of the ground covered in the interview includes: The misconception that Peak Oil means we are running out of oil The idea that oil will be very difficult to replace, and impossible to replace solely with biomass The danger posed by false solutions (which I denoted the ‘fake… Continue»
Previously, I described a portion of my role in the early development of the MixAlco Process. Developed in the laboratories of Professor Mark Holtzapple at Texas A&M University, the process has undergone significant further developments, which I report on in this essay. Details of the MixAlco Process Here I will describe the process in a nutshell, but Wikipedia describes the process in significant detail. In fact, the details there are so thorough I suspect it was written at least in part by Professor Holtzapple’s graduate students. The MixAlco process utilizes naturally occurring microbes to convert cellulose into chemical intermediates and fuels. The focus of the early work was to identify organisms that utilize cellulose as an energy source, and then… Continue»
In this essay, I am going to talk about my graduate school work at Texas A&M. Since leaving A&M there have been a lot of developments related to the technology I worked on, so in the essay following this one I will discuss more details on the nature of the technology and the developments toward commercialization. My Ag Background I may have mentioned once or twice that I grew up on a farm in Oklahoma. Farming is still very much a major activity within my extended family, and needless to say I have had a lifelong interest in agriculture. After receiving undergraduate degrees in chemistry and mathematics, I decided to attend graduate school at Texas A&M University. For those who… Continue»
Wouldn’t it be great if you had a bank account that automatically filled back up no matter how much you spent? You could just ignore how much you spent. Amazingly, the bioenergy industry has succeeded so far in convincing legislators here in the U.S. and around the world that bioenergy offers just such a carbon account. According to the industry, we only need to look at the carbon that biomass absorbs, not the carbon emissions it releases. The industry has convinced policymakers that no matter how much carbon is “spent” when biomass is burned for energy, there will magically be enough income in the form of regrowth to cover all expenses. Because of this magic, the industry would have us… Continue»
A study commissioned by MA Department of Energy Resources and released last week reaches the conclusion that burning trees to make electricity is worse for the climate than burning coal at least through 2050. In fact, the study by the Manomet Center for Conservation Science finds that between the release of carbon when trees are burned and the slow reabsorption as the trees regrow, that this source of biopower would increase emissions by 3% compared to coal power over 40 years. This will come as a shocker to some, but it really shouldn’t. Wood contains less energy per pound of carbon and forests, especially in the northeast grow slowly. So when we burn a tree, we’re releasing more carbon and… Continue»
Yesterday I wrote about 90 leading scientists calling on Congress and the Obama administration to carefully account for the greenhouse gas emissions from burning biomass. I want to underscore again that now is the time for Congress to pass a climate bill, and the House ACES bill and Kerry-Lieberman APA provide a solid framework. (You can link here, here and here for more information on the bill’s various provisions,) Today I’m digging into some DOE data that gives a measure of how important it is to get the biomass accounting right and casts some light on how final legislation can ensure the treatment of biomass supports the carbon reduction goals. It’s easier to understand why the biomass loophole is wrong… Continue»