Cogeneration plant to start biomass testing this week

Approximately 500 tons of dried wood pellets will be burned with coal at the Cameron Avenue cogeneration facility over the next two weeks as the University tests the feasibility of co-firing with biomass to reduce its carbon footprint. The testing is scheduled to begin Monday afternoon.

“The testing will be closely monitored and studied to provide more information about the feasibility of doing this on a regular basis,” said Ray DuBose, director of Energy Services.

The test, originally planned for November 2010, was rescheduled for spring because of delays in shipping the dried wood pellets and to avoid any interruption in service during cold weather.

Co-firing with biomass was one of the options for reducing the University’s carbon footprint that was described in the 2009 Climate Action Plan, and is a key part of the University’s strategy for achieving its goal of being coal-free by May 2020.

In September, Energy Services took one of the first steps toward that goal when a relatively small shipment of 20 tons of wood pellets was used to test the ability of the fuel handling system at the plant. That test was successful, so the larger order was placed for a more extensive test.

Wood pellets are just one form of biomass under consideration. Energy Services also plans to test the feasibility of torrefied wood in the late spring, depending on the availability of the charcoal-like fuel.