February 17, 2006 | General

How Oregon Is Using Biomass Energy

BioCycle February 2006, Vol. 47, No. 2, p. 47
Using varied forms of government financing, programs are in development to turn by-products into energy.
Mark Kendall

OREGONS’ Methane Energy and Agricultural Development (MEAD) BioGas Methane Facility provides a simple, cheap conversion of dairy farm waste to clean electrical power and marketable by-products. The Port of Tillamook Bay has constructed a centralized digester to biologically process the manure from 4,000 of the county’s 30,000 dairy cows. The project has been 14 years in development as MEAD. The facility is owned and managed by the Port, and uses simple, proven cost-effective digester, solids separation and biogas-to-electricity technology currently being employed at over a dozen sites nationally.
Manure is picked up by facility personnel, treated, and a portion returned to participating farms. Transportation costs are offset by sale of electricity as “green power” and by sale of fiber recovered for use by a potting soil manufacturer. System benefits to the Tillamook community include: reductions in odors, pathogenic organisms, weed seeds, manure quantities and nutrients to be land applied.
Waste products are placed in storage tanks where natural bacteria go to work producing biogases from anaerobic digestion. Leftovers from this process are used as potting soil, while the methane generated is used to fuel a power generation plant. In a place where the cows outnumber the humans, that’s good news!
Figure 1 is a flow diagram of the centralized digester in Tillamook. Two digesters operate in the middle of an existing concrete pad. The digesters are immediately adjacent to one another, sharing a long wall. The digestion and manure processing portion of the system consists of: One manure collection tank, covered, with two days’ holding capacity (30′ by 30′ by 14′); Two concrete rectangular digester tanks with internal heating and insulation, a flexible impervious top, and sized for 20 day manure retention (approximately 140′ by 30′ by 14′), heated with waste heat (100°F); One concrete rectangular effluent storage tank, sized for four days’ retention (approximately 27′ by 60′ by 14′), covered with a wooden deck.
Just one digester produces annually: Enough clean electricity for 150 average homes – $180,000 worth; 100 protected dairy industry, family-living wage jobs; Produces 23,000 tons of high-quality potting soil; Returns 17 million gallons of odor-free, pathogen-free liquid fertilizer to the farmers’ fields; Eliminates ozone-damaging CO2; and Self-perpetuates by financing more digesters via its profits.
Multiple, locally centralized digesters also offer the advantages shortening transportation to quick, local-hauls, eliminating fees to the participating farmers with minimal debt service. They also allow alternatives in flood and disaster times, while maintaining uninterrupted methane and electrical production. Cost is estimated at about $1 million per centralized digester.
With seven rivers spilling into Tillamook Bay, surface and groundwater quality is a major concern – especially to the Creamery Association, makers of the famous Tillamook Cheese. Tillamook Peoples Utility District and Tillamook County Soil & Water Conservation District joined together to develop the MEAD Project. The Oregon Department of Energy and the United States Environmental Protection Agency provide financial assistance to the project.
Last year, a request for proposal by the Energy Trust of Oregon, Inc. for projects turning organic waste into electricity resulted in 25 viable ones. “As far as we know, this is the first time Oregon has gone out looking specifically for biomass-fueled power generation,” reported Adam Serchuk of Energy Trust. Entities proposing projects included wastewater treatment facilities, dairies, landfills and lumber mills.
Following is a summary of state programs that support development of renewable energy: Renewable resource projects of all types (wind, biomass, solar, geothermal, ocean energy) enjoy significant incentives in Oregon. Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) provides Oregon businesses with a tax credit of up to 35 percent of a project’s cost, limited to $10 million per project. Research, demonstration and development projects may qualify for this incentive provided they are a renewable resource or energy conservation project that once demonstrated are likely to produce substantial energy savings, or produce energy in Oregon. Over $50 million in renewable resource projects have received these incentives.
The Small-Scale Energy Loan Program (SELP) provides Oregon businesses with fixed-rate, long-term financing for energy efficiency, renewable resource (biomass), recycling and alternative fuels projects. Projects eligible for this financing need to show evidence of energy cost savings, renewable energy production revenues or waste reduction savings. This is not venture capital or business start-up funding. These loans are backed by State of Oregon General Obligation bonds and eligible firms must meet specific credit standards to qualify. Nearly $30 million of the $230 million loan portfolio is for renewable resources.
According to a Department official, “this program is an important contribution to the state’s long-standing effort to support biomass and other renewable resources. Our combined incentives help turn the by-products of industrial, agricultural and manufacturing processes into energy.”
The Residential Tax Credit program provides an incentive of up to $1,500 for Oregonians who invest in passive, active, or photovoltaic solar, geothermal, wind or microhydro projects. It also helps homeowners reduce home energy loads by providing credits for purchase of premium efficiency appliances, heating systems with sealed ducts or high efficiency boilers or furnaces. Over 15,000 solar domestic water heaters in Oregon have used this incentive.
Renewable resource public purpose charges in Portland General Electric and PacificCorp service areas (80 percent of Oregonians) add up to nearly $11 million per year. The Energy Trust of Oregon has a strategic goal to supply 10 percent of Oregon’s electric power from renewable energy sources by 2012. Based on current forecasts, this would amount to about 450 average megawatts (aMW) of power. The Trust administers those funds to offset the above market cost of renewable resources. Incentives include up to $4 per watt for biomass solar electric, wind anemometer loans.
Mark Kendall has been in the energy field over 26 years and at the Department of Energy since 1989. He serves as Chair of the Board of the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance as the Governors’ appointee for the State of Oregon. He was recognized as the Energy Manager of the Year for 1997 by the national Association of Energy Managers. Kendall develops statewide policy for energy efficiency, renewable resource development and promotes the use of the most innovative technology.

Sign up