Maine Is Turning Landfill Materials Into an Electricity Source

SOURCE: National Journal

Oil is to Saudi Arabia as forests are to Maine.

That’s why the most heavily forested state in the U.S. – with 86 percent timberland cover to second-place New Hampshire’s 78 percent – has turned to biomass to diversify its energy supply, a sustainable energy source derived from recently living plant materials and organic wastes, such as scrap lumber, forest debris, agricultural cuttings and human sewage. These are “materials that would otherwise be discarded into landfills or open burned,” Bob Cleaves, president and CEO of the Biomass Power Association, wrote in a recent op-ed.

Biomass may be converted to electricity in several ways. It’s typically burned to produce steam, which in turn drives turbines to generate electricity. However, some new uses of biomass are proving even more efficient and clean. One, called “co-firing,” involves mixing biomass with coal and burning both in an existing coal plant. This reduces both the plant’s operating costs and emissions.

Another process, called “gasification,” involves heating biomass under controlled conditions to produce a combustible byproduct called syngas. Syngas can be burned to drive steam turbines or co-fired with natural gas at a gas-fired power plant.

One drawback of raw biomass is water weight, which can make it uneconomical to ship long distances. (Water can account for half the weight of green, woody biomass.) The solution is to dry, grind and press biomass into pellets. This makes it far cheaper to handle and ship and has opened up markets for U.S. biomass in Japan and Europe.

Though biomass represents just a small source of U.S. electricity — 5 percent overall – in Maine, biomass is king.

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After years of research and a series of unpleasant experiences concerning the current child protection services system, Alec Cope decided to combat the cancerous corruption through information. Freelance writing articles as a form of protest and distributing them throughout his former high-school and local area, Alec struck special chords with whomever he was in contact with.

Alec has been involved in activism such as sit down protests as well as Idle No More gatherings. Being independent for the majority of his time, Alec became a member of the WeAreChange family to assist one of the organizations that inspired him to become active in the first place. With a larger platform and positive support Alec has committed the majority of his time to research, writing, and maintaining social media with the goal to continue expanding the awakening sweeping throughout all levels of society.

Growing up within a rural area in Northern Michigan as well as being a native American descendant, Alec is seeking to expose environmental abuse in his state as well as globally. A high-school dropout, Alec chases his passion for writing and empowering individuals while showing any isolated person that they too can overcome the odds with a community that will support them. Alec lives in the lower peninsula of Michigan near Kalamazoo.

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