June 15, 2004 | General


BioCycle June 2004, Vol. 45, No. 6, p. 53
Colorado town of Nederland uses thinnings to provide power and heat, while in Bernalillo, New Mexico wood slash and biosolids will be turned into compost.

DURING the last two years, millions of acres of forest land have burned as a result of extreme drought conditions. According to Steve Roosa of the BioEnergy Corporation in Denver, over 10,000 acres have already burned in 2004 in Arizona and over 8,500 acres in Colorado. “The fire season usually does not begin until late summer,” points out Roosa, whose company was founded in 2003 to provide communities, schools and small businesses with a way to recycle woody biomass into renewable energy. Its first Community Biofuel Projects started round-the-clock operations in Nederland, Colorado in February.
Located in what the Forest Service designates as a “Red Zone,” Nederland (pop. 1,500; region 7,500; elevation 8,233 feet) has its own wildfire mitigation program that encourages private property owners to thin defensible spaces around homes, barns and other structures. Property owners deliver the slash and woody material to a central collection site where it is processed in a chipper. The biomass chips, continues Roosa, “are then delivered to the Community Biofuels Plant, where it is burned in the low emissions boiler system that provides heat to the nearby Community Center.”
Other Colorado municipalities, like Leadville, are considering district heating solutions that would pipe steam to buildings. Another option being examined is pyrolysis where wood thinnings would be used to produce oil or a form of hydrogen. Elsewhere in Colorado, as reported in previous issues of BioCycle, wood chips are being mixed with manure to generate compost. All these utilization strategies save thousands of dollars in collection and disposal costs at regional landfills.
“Our residents are extremely interested in recycling, composting and alternative energy – keeping everything we can out of the waste stream,” says Scott Bruntjen, who recently left his post as mayor of Nederland. “We’re continuing to look for new uses for the wood thinnings – from bedding plants to making icy highways safer and heating residential homes. The environmental ethics are high here.”
Like people in most mountain towns, the residents of Nederland seek to preserve the quality of air and water in their area. The Community Biofuels Project is located in town, less than 150 yards from several homes. Notes Roosa: “Air quality impact has been minimal, and there have been no complaints from the residents about smoke.”
“Citizens also appreciate the fact that heating costs for the 30,000 square feet Center are dramatically reduced, as natural gas prices remain high. The heating system is expected to pay for itself in natural gas savings in six to seven years. Fly ash that results from biomass combustion is reported to be regularly used for fertilizer. The project has received support from the Colorado Governor’s Office of Energy Management and Conservation as well as other state and federal agencies.”
According to a report announced last month by officials with the New Mexico Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Sandoval County’s solid waste department, an $800,000 “conversion plant” will turn wood slash, yard trimmings, animal manure and eventually biosolids into compost at a Bernalillo facility (15 miles north of Albuquerque). Huge numbers of beetle-infested pinon trees removed from BLM lands were considered one of the driving forces for the project by many decision-makers, while others emphasized the need for utilizing more of the region’s biosolids which have been buried in local landfills. Drought which has gripped New Mexico and other areas of the Southwest weakened the trees, allowing native insects to cause significant damage, often killing the trees.
The new facility will use the NaturTech Composting System – developed by Jim McNelly of Renewable Carbon Management of St. Cloud, Minnesota – which involves shredding and mixing feedstocks. Initially the composting containers will be designed to accept six tons/day, with Phase 2 geared up to take up to 40 tpd. Purchases of a grinder, stump shear and screen have also been made. Biosolids will be an important feedstock in the Phase 2 operations. New Mexico BLM has given the county a $250,000 grant to help pay for the composting project; another $390,000 will come from the state legislature, with the balance provided by the county. BioCycle will report project developments in future issues.

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