Stand-alone biomass plants that create electricity from sawdust, logging and lumbering scrap, and other plant waste can have a difficult time being profitable. However, in Maine and other areas, the logging industry depends on selling their scrap to biomass plants to stay solvent themselves. So, it’s complicated. Plus, biomass plants provide a service in creating electricity from leftovers that would otherwise be burned openly or dumped in landfills.
In biomass carbon-neutral? Maybe. It depends how the trees are grown. Also, is the carbon expended by trucking the scrap to the biomass plant included in the carbon footprint?
Biomass can be used for other things besides burning to generate electricity. It can generate heat, steam, and be used in commercial products. One promising development is Combined-Heat-and-Power biomass plants onsite at a commercial facility. Robbins Lumber in Maine is upgrading their existing biomass plant to be more efficient. No additional trucking of biomass is needed. They will use the scrap they produce to generate power and heat, then sell leftover electricity into the grid.
They were selling the 90 tons of wood chips they produce a day to paper mills. However those mills are closing. Now they can use the wood chips to become more self-sustaining.
The CHP plant will generate electricity from wood waste and capture heat to use on-site, thus increasing the energy efficiency ratings. After Robbins Lumber heats their buildings, dries lumber, and provides electricity to their facilities, they will sell about 7.5 megawatts to Central Maine Power. Robbins is also looking to attract other businesses to use some of the energy the plant will produce for local use.
[Maine Sen. Angus] King is pushing efforts to help reorient the forest products industry towards new technology and uses, including wood-based bioplastics and generating electricity, heat and steam from woody debris.