WOODY BIOMASS IS THE OFTEN-OVERLOOKED RENEWABLE CHAMPION, AND AN OUTSTANDING U.P. ASSET.
IT IS UNINTERRUPTIBLE, WHICH MEANS IT CAN PROVIDE BASE LOAD GENERATION – CAPABLE OF BACKING UP WIND AND SOLAR.
FINLAND HAS BEEN GROWING ITS WOODY BIOMASS ECONOMY SINCE THE 1970s, AND HAS EMERGED AS A WORLD LEADER IN THE EXPORT OF THEIR BIOENERGY EXPERTISE.
OUR AREA OF THE UPPER PENINSULA IS VERY LUCKY TO HAVE ASKO OJANIEMI, BENET OY, AS A RESOURCE:
THE PHYSICS: FOR EVERY UNIT OF ELECTRICITY PRODUCED THROUGH COMBUSTION, THERE ARE TWO UNITS OF HEAT.
THE MOST EFFICIENT APPLICATION OF WOODY BIOMASS USES THE HEAT. THIS OFFSETS THE COST OF ELECTRICITY GENERATION AND BRINGS IT TO AN EVEN MORE AFFORDABLE LEVEL.
Biomass harvesting, transporting, and processing are labor intensive. Some estimates suggest that for every job created at a biomass energy facility an additional ten jobs are created in the forestry, equipment, and related support businesses.
The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) published an excellent brochure regarding renewables and economics entitled: “Dollars From Sense: The Economic Benefits of Renewable Energy”,excerpted here:
“There are two main reasons why renewable energy technologies offer an economic advantage: (1) they are labor intensive, so they generally create more jobs per dollar invested than conventional electricity generation technologies, and (2) they use primarily indigenous resources, so most of the energy dollars can be kept at home. According to the Wisconsin Energy Bureau…renewables create three times as many jobs as the same level of spending on fossil fuels.”
The Multiplier Effect: A Little Goes a Long Way
The multiplier effect is sometimes called the ripple effect, because a single expenditure in an economy can have repercussions throughout the entire economy, much like ripples spreading across a pond. The multiplier is a measure of how much additional economic activity is generated from an initial expenditure…for example, $1.00 spent on consumer goods in a local store generates $1.90 of economic activity in the local economy. This occurs as the dollar is re-spent; the store pays its employees, who purchase more goods, all with the same original dollar.”
The Upper Peninsula’s economically challenged status, situated in a prime location for woody biomass development, certainly creates an opportunity to develop and sustainably harness this resource for its own economic stability and that of its future generations.