These power projects make significant contributions to the environment, too. Every kilowatt of power they produce replaces one made from fossil fuel, helping reduce greenhouse gases, acid rain and mercury emissions associated with power produced from coal, the most common fuel source for power generation.
Biomass power is the ultimate example of "reduce, reuse, recycle," extracting the last bit of value – energy – from the state's wood resources, from forest to landfill, cradle to grave. In doing so, we keep these materials off the landscape and mitigate their impact on the environment.
Biomass energy is not the "lead" in the forest products industry. But in its supporting role as an ancillary market, it augments the stewardship and sustainability practices that mitigate the risk of wildfire, aid regeneration, and aid in the control of pests and disease.
In fact, about 25% of all products from Michigan's forest resources are energy related. That's more than 3 million tons of wood residuals that would remain in the forests every year, where it would inhibit growth, facilitate the spread of infection and disease, increase the risk of wildfire, and decay into methane, a potent greenhouse gas. In the absence of higher-value markets, biomass may help offset the cost and improve the effectiveness of these treatments.
Biomass power is a cleaner alternative to power generated with fossil fuels. Biomass does not have mercury or sulfur emissions that require control technologies like a coal plant. Other emissions are regulated by air permits, continuously monitored and managed with best available control technologies.
Studies show that power produced from sustainable sources, such as forest residuals, helps reduce greenhouse gas accumulation in the atmosphere by preventing the carbon in biomass from becoming methane. The carbon dioxide produced instead is 25 times less potent than methane, and is taken back in by growing plants, completing the "biogenic" carbon cycle.
Biomass power plays a key role in helping manage solid waste by extracting energy from materials that would otherwise be thrown away or left in the environment. We glean wood from the waste stream, stump to landfill, and provide alternatives for materials that don't belong in the landscape, like railroad ties and scrap tires (tire-derived fuel). Both of these materials are banned from landfills, and are instead managed as alternative fuels for power plants.