Small coal-fired plants are particularly vulnerable to economic and environmental pressures, putting some plant owners in what seems like a no-win position. But an emerging option—biocoal from crop wastes—might give small coal units a new lease on life.
Fuel supply might be the biggest barrier to scaling-up biomass power generation, but it’s by no means the only problem. Utility projects to repower coal-fired plants face permitting challenges, ballooning technology costs and strained economics. Some owners are giving up the fight.
Energy issues took center stage this summer. To get a reality check, we sought out Gal Luft, executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security. The Washington, D.C.-based think tank focuses on the interplay between energy policy and national security.
Will power plants get caught in ethanol’s food fight?
Lori A. Burkhart
The debate over food vs. fuel never has been louder. Using corn to make the biofuel ethanol is perhaps the best known point of argument. Everyone is asking: Should the United States require a certain percentage of U.S. corn crops be turned into fuel in the face of global food shortages and exorbitant food prices? And what are the effects of diverting food croplands into producing fuel?
Fuel-supply risks stunt the growth of biomass power.
Utilities can meet state renewable portfolio standards—and reduce greenhouse gases—by burning biomass fuel. Whether utilities are prepared to jump into the biomass game, however, depends on how effectively they can manage fuel risks.
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