Wednesday, March 30, 2016

What Time Is It? Time to Try Obtainable Energy

Waste biomass is the low hanging fruit of alt-energy.

Stems, stalks and woody debris classified as "waste" can be converted to clean energy and biochar  OR landfilled OR burned out in the open air.  Conversion happens on-demand, exactly when the energy is needed.
"It is obvious that the sun keeps our earth warm with its radiant energy. It is perhaps not so obvious that all living and once living matter on this planet is a form of solar battery, storing the suns energy in chemical bonds.."  - Larry Dobson

On-demand availability makes biomass a fail-safe back up that can reduce physical plant requirements for wind and solar systems during times of high demand.  The technology is already, all ready.  Conversion equipment is easily scaled to the requirement, down to the level of a single home, home generator or vehicle.

Oak Ridge National Laboratories - Agricultural Waste to Energy, 2003

One quad = one quadrillion btu, = 180 million barrels of oil equivalent.  3.73 quads is about 670 million barrels of oil equivalent energy.

Every place water, photosynthesis and soil turn seeds into plant growth, biomass is obtainable.  Every place excess biomass is burned, or wood is landfilled, the potential for clean energy, plus biochar is wasted.  Much effort and expense is often expended to speed up the waste cycle.

Lied Lodge, the hospitality showcase for Arbor Days Farm implemented a wood energy system over twenty years ago.  The Arbor Days folks give tours of the system for guests.

Lied Lodge - Nebraska City, NE
The original plan was to use SRIC, Short Rotation Intensive Cropping, of fast growing wood species, 3-6 tons per year per acre, for energy.  Shortly after installation, local wood waste became the primary source and has been abundant since.  Lied Lodge saves 60-80 percent on energy costs versus similar sized hospitality enterprises by using locally provided urban wood waste.

Beyond Waste - Land and Forest Improvement

Dr. Karl Frogner reports in "Estimated Low Tech Biochar Production by Small Scale Diversified Farmers" 2 tons of excess biomass per acre on small (less than 10 acre) plots in Thailand with rice, maize, and agroforestry cropped in equal proportions.  That is 320 million btu per plot of excess energy, equivalent to about 280 gallons of gasoline per acre, while improving soil, water, and economic conditions.

REAP Canada reports that switchgrass planted on marginal lands in Ontario produces 60 million more btu per acre per year than the energy required to plant and harvest it.  That is equivalent to about 525 gallons of gasoline per acre, per year, beyond the energy required to plant and harvest.

Switchgrass was the native species in the "Great Plains" prior to the dust bowl days.  The deep roots hold soil and water, create excellent habitat for wildlife, excellent forage for herbivores.
"American demand for wood continues to rise, yet the nation's forests are growing faster than they're being harvested." - Biomass Energy - State of the Technology, US Dept of Energy -1993
Timber stand improvement includes thinning.  Decaying wood on the ground produces methane, an even more potent greenhouse gas than the carbon dioxide produced while burning.  The number for the amount of wood that needs to "be gone" varies widely, but over 1 ton per acre seems to be a rule of thumb average.

Slashing and charring one ton per acre in advanced clean kiln designs would produce about 11 million btu of energy plus 500 pounds of biochar, per acre per year.  That is the energy equivalent of almost 100 gallons of gasoline PER ACRE, PER YEAR USING THINNINGS THAT IMPROVE FOREST QUALITY WHEN GONE!

Invasive species management, wildfire prevention, etc, etc.  There is a whole lot of energy right where it needs to be.  It is ready to use, obtainable with very little effort, on a small local scale.

"one moment can change a day,
one day can change a life,
one life can change the world"
Gautama Buddha

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