Once hailed, wood power fizzles in Mass.
By Jay Lindsay
BOSTON—Burning wood for electricity was once a hot idea in Massachusetts.
Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration committed $1 million to spur wood power plant development, which a 2007 state-funded report predicted would bring hundreds of jobs and an economic boost worth tens of millions of dollars.
The best part? It was seen as green, a way to meet the state’s clean energy demands with a renewable energy source as old as the campfire.
… Advocates argue wood power is carbon neutral because the carbon released by burning wood is eventually reabsorbed by new forest growth. But opponents, led by the citizens group Stop Spewing Carbon!, say it’s a dirty technology that releases much more carbon than trees can quickly absorb.
A state-commissioned report last year by the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences indicated that burning a certain type of wood at large-scale plants would give off more carbon emissions by 2050 than coal-fired plants.
In response, the state promised to write stricter rules for the wood plants. Stop Spewing Carbon! then dropped a planned ballot question that would have required the tighter rules.
Massachusetts’ proposed rules now demand unprecedented efficiency from large wood power plants in order to qualify for renewable energy credits that such plants need to be financially viable. Right now, the plants would operate at about 25 percent efficiency. The new rules say they must operate at 40 percent efficiency to qualify for even half a credit.
Cleaves said that standard can’t be reached yet. He said large wood plant developers who invested millions believing they had state support have been badly burned by “a precedent that I have never seen anywhere in the United States.”
He blamed misinformation from Stop Spewing Carbon!, which he called a “small, vocal, extreme minority,” for pushing the Patrick administration into a purely political decision. (Associated Press) [em added]