6. Biomass: Wood

E. Biomass Milestones

1890Wood as a primary fuel supplyWood was the primary fuel for residential, commercial, and transportation uses.
1930Wood displaced by new fuelsKerosene and fuel oil began displacing wood for some commercial, transportation, and residential uses.
1950More new fuels displacing wood Electricity and natural gas displaced wood heat in homes and commercial buildings.
1973Wood use at all-time lowHigher oil and gas prices and oil embargoes hit the country at the time that wood consumption for energy was at an all-time low of roughly 50 million tons per year.
1974Rise in woodstove sales, switching by some industries from coal to waste woodThe oil crises of 1973-74 prompted significant increases in woodstove sales for residential use. The paper and pulp industry also began to install wood and black liquor boilers for steam and power displacing fuel oil and coal.
1978Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) passedPURPA guaranteed nonutility generators a market to sell power by mandating that utilities pay ■avoided cost■ rates for any power supplied by a qualifying facility.
1984Startup of Burlington Electric plant Burlington Electric (Burlington, Vermont) built a 50-megawatt wood-fired plant with electricity production as the primary purpose. This plant was the first of several built since 1984.
1985Standard Offer #4 contracts beginThe Californian biomass power industry began to grow, eventually adding 850 megawatts of power due to fuel cost escalation clauses in the Standard Offer #4 contracts which were based on predicted oil costs of $100 a barrel. These 10-year contracts guaranteed power purchase rates.
1989-90First trials of direct wood-fired gas turbines conductedPilot direct wood-fired gas turbine plants were tried for the first time by Canadian Solifuels, Inc. (in Canada) and Aerospace Research Corporation (in the United States).
1990Biomass generating capacity at 6,000 megawattsElectricity generating capacity from biomass (not including municipal solid waste) reached 6 gigawatts. Of 190 biomass-fired electricity generating facilities, 184 were nonutility generators, mostly wood and paper plants.
1992Rise in biomass prices to $55 per dry ton in CaliforniaThe industry overbuilt capacity, with little regard for supply limitations, resulting in escalating feedstock prices as the last of the Standard Offer #4 contract power plants came on line. New ources of biomass eventually reduced costs to an average of $35 per dry ton.
1994Hot gas cleanup identified as key to gasification success.Successful operation of several biomass gasification tests identified hot gas cleanup as key to widespread adoption of the technology. Promising high efficiencies were achieved.
1995Half of the California biomass power industry shut downAs of the end of August 1995, 15 biomass power plants (500 megawatts) had been closed through sales or buyout of their Standard Offer #4 agreements, primarily as a cost reduction strategy by the local utilities required to buy the power, which had sometimes risen to more than 10 cents per kilowatthour, depending on the contract.

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