Keep cool Michigan: Biomass has your back

There going to be a lot of debate in Lansing this year on how to make up a projected shortfall in electrical generation capacity starting next year as new regulations force power companies to pull coal-fired power out of the mix because it doesn’t make economic sense to upgrade emission controls on those 50-year-old plants.

The big winner will likely be natural gas – a clean and abundant source of energy, some of which comes from right here in the Great Lakes state. But, there’s another affordable solution: biomass.

Ensuring there’s enough electricity to go around – especially during peak usage periods like the middle of summer – is a big part of the nation’s power infrastructure. “The Grid” can’t store energy in giant batteries to save for those times when people crank up their air conditioners and freezers work overtime to ensure there is ice for everyone’s tea – sweetened, if you happen to be from the South.

That means electric companies need the ability to turn up the power when people want it most, or to supply backup power when major storms cause disruptions in service. “Capacity” in power sector terms means the ability to generate as much power as is needed, precisely when it’s needed. That means having a little extra on the side for those “just in case” moments.

Starting next year Michigan will begin to fall short of the capacity that regulators say is necessary to ensure power stays on when temperatures soar and storms rake across the state. That’s because the state’s power producers will begin to shut down coal-fired plants that can’t economically meet new U.S. EPA air standards.

Biomass power provides “capacity” just like natural gas. Electricity produced from sources like, tree tops left from timber harvest, and crates and pallets diverted from landfills isn’t affected by these new environmental rules and will continue to bring cost effective reliability to Michigan’s electricity customers, just like they’ve been doing the past 30 years.

So, this summer you can sit back, relax and enjoy that second tall glass of tea, knowing that biomass power producers in Michigan will make sure there’s plenty of ice to keep you and your beverages cool as a cucumber.