Design in a Time of Uncertainty
By Rives Taylor, Principal, Global Resilience Research Lead
You may not know it, but your state could be making headway towards a carbon-neutral goal by transitioning to clean or renewable energy sources. Washington, California, New Mexico, and Hawai'i have all solidified their roles in reducing carbon emissions by enacting ambitious carbon-neutrality goals.1 Washington, California, and Hawai'i are setting their sights on neutrality in 2045 and New Mexico within 2045-2050. However, to achieve these targets, a shift in the way a state looks at energy generation must occur.
Source: Tomkinson Worrall Power Ltd.
“What Is Biomass CHP.”
Biomass CHP Solutions, n.d.
The implementation of renewable energy-fueled CHP or Combined Heat and Power technology may be the tool necessary to support this transition. CHP processes can produce on-site electric and thermal energy and can also supplement energy provided from another source. CHP technology is a multifaceted solution to carbon reduction with many advantages. CHP has a wealth of capable technologies and is cost-effective. The technology also has a high operation efficiency, enhances energy resiliency, and can be fueled by renewable energy sources. When powered by biomass or biogas, the CHP process becomes carbon neutral. States aiming to achieve carbon-neutrality or even carbon reduction goals can utilize this technology and renewable fuel to ensure a net-zero carbon production emissions process.
To explain the process: biomass fuels the CHP system in the form of wood waste or woodchips, the system then dries and heats the wood in a high-temperature, anaerobic environment. In this environment, the biomass secretes gasses that are extracted by coils and filters and turned into Syngas. The gas is then used to fuel energy generation. The electricity produced can be used on-site or introduced into the grid, while the thermal power produced can be used as hot water or steam.
Utilizing wood as biomass fuel is regarded as carbon neutral because the carbon emitted during the burning or heating process offsets the carbon used and then sequestered through additional tree growth. Other incentives from CHP fueled by biomass, is the biochar produced during the process. It can be used as a natural fertilizer and improve soil's moisture-holding capacity.
Ultimately, whether you're one of the four states which has enacted a carbon-neutral policy, one of the six states that has introduced a zero-carbon standard, or one of the countless cities looking to reduce emissions, a CHP system fueled by biomass should be considered a viable option in meeting any carbon reduction goal. To increase your reduction, you must rethink your production, and, in this case, CHP is a great way to achieve those goals and targets soon.
1University of Kentucky. “Woody Biomass for Energy.” Center For Crop Diversification, January 2012. https://www.uky.edu/ccd/sites/www.uky.edu.ccd/files/woodybiomass.pdf.
Rott, Nathan. “Going 'Zero Carbon' Is All The Rage. But Will It Slow Climate Change?” NPR. NPR, June 18, 2019. https://www.npr.org/2019/06/18/724343789/going-zero-carbon-is-all-the-rage-but-will-it-slow-climate-change.