Biomass

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

For the past few decades, New Hampshire's logging industry has been selling its wood scraps to be burned for energy. But now, after two years of failed subsidies, the state’s small biomass power plants are shutting down

It's left the forest products sector with few in-state markets for a lot of low-grade timber -- even as innovative new uses for that wood take root elsewhere in the region.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

Dartmouth College had a plan to build a wood chip burning plant to heat its campus. This would have added a new biomass market for landowners and foresters within a 50 mile radius of Hanover.  

But, after months of local pressure the College said it would reconsider building the plant. Dartmouth’s decision speaks to the complexity of using wood biomass to transition away from burning fossil fuels.


Annie Ropeik / NHPR

Two of the state’s wood-fired power plants are going offline and laying off staff, after subsidy plans failed in the legislature.

Now, the state is offering job training resources to affected workers – and a new proposal would put more funds toward helping affected workers in the timber industry.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

A group of New Hampshire biomass power plants say they're dropping a state Supreme Court challenge over an embattled subsidy plan.

It comes after federal regulators ruled the subsidies were invalid under national energy law.

The wood-fired power plants had wanted state regulators to enforce the subsidies while that federal challenge was ongoing.

Allison Quantz for NHPR

Dartmouth College says it’s reassessing its plan to build a wood burning heating plant that would replace its current oil-burning plant.

The biomass plant was one piece of a $200 million project that is part of Dartmouth's plan to reduce its emissions.

The other part, which the college still plans on moving forward with, is converting its steam heating system to a more efficient hot-water system.

Earlier this summer, prominent scientist alumni penned a letter opposing the plant, saying the college should look into a way to generate heat without burning anything.

FERC.gov

Federal regulators said Thursday that a state law passed last year to subsidize biomass power plants is invalid, marking the second big defeat in two days for New Hampshire's forest products industry. 

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is siding with New Hampshire's ratepayer advocate and a conservative lobbying group, which filed the petition against the 2018 subsidy law.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

Updated 5:50 PM — State lawmakers have overturned the governor's veto of a bill that would get rid of the three-month waiting period before a patient can get prescribed medical marijuana from a provider.

It was the lone bill overturned this week by both the House and Senate. 

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

New Hampshire state lawmakers have upheld the governor's veto of a plan to subsidize New Hampshire's small biomass power plants.

The proposal was attached to a bill that would have set up a study committee on microgrids.

It would have required utilities to add a small fee to customers’ bills. That fee would have subsidized six of the state’s wood-fired power plants for the next three years.

Cori Princell for NHPR

 

 

 Next week, when lawmakers are expected to vote on whether to override Governor Sununu’s vetoes of dozens of bills, Forest Society President Jane Difley will be rooting for HB 183. 

 “This would help support the six biomass plants in New Hampshire for a period of time,” says Difley,  who is retiring in October after 23 years leading the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.  

 

 

(Difley recently joined The Exchange to discuss her tenure at the Society. You can hear the full conversation here.)

 

What's Next for Renewable Energy Projects in N.H.?

Aug 7, 2019
Amy Quinton for NHPR

The recent defeat of Northern Pass was a major setback for the import of large-scale hydropower into the region.  Meanwhile, efforts to build more solar and wind power are still underway… and some towns and cities have set their own renewable goals. We'll look at the reliability of these technologies… and  talk about their role in the future of our region’s power grid. 

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

For the second year in a row, Governor Chris Sununu has vetoed a plan to subsidize New Hampshire's biomass power industry. 

The proposal was attached to a bill that would have set up a study committee on microgrids - local, isolated energy systems. 

Flickr Creative Commons / Brave Sir Robin

About 60 people attended a public forum Wednesday night about potential sites for Dartmouth College’s proposed biomass plant.

While some questions focused on the three possible sites for the plant, more audience members challenged the idea of having a biomass plant at all, asking the college to consider solar or other technologies.

The plant is part of Dartmouth's plan to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2025. The biomass plant would produce energy for a new hot water heating system at the college.

Hemera Collection / Thinkstock

Sullivan County will start selling thermal renewable energy credits next week from energy produced by its biomass plant.

Utilities can purchase these thermal renewable energy credits as a way to meet state requirements to produce, or purchase, a certain amount of energy from renewable sources.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

New subsidies for New Hampshire's biomass power plants may soon face a veto by Governor Chris Sununu. 

The bill awaiting Sununu's signature is a new version of a plan he tried to block last year.

This proposal would have utilities charge ratepayers a little extra to help keep six wood-burning power plants afloat.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

The state Senate has backed a new version of a subsidy plan for the state's wood-fired power sector.

The plan passed unanimously Thursday and now goes back to the House for approval.

The proposal would require energy companies to directly subsidize six struggling biomass power plants in the state. It would mean a slight increase in the average ratepayer's bill.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

Lawmakers working on subsidies for the state’s biomass energy industry have stripped funding for a trash incinerator in Concord from their latest proposal.

The Senate will vote this week on the plan, which is a version of a law passed last year.

That law is held up in an ongoing legal challenge. It would have made utilities buy more energy from struggling wood-burning power plants and the energy-producing Concord trash incinerator.

Cori Princell / NHPR

The biomass power plant in Berlin is getting half a million dollars from the state to build a waste heat recovery system that will soon power a new greenhouse.

The Burgess Biopower plant burns woodchips to make steam, which turns turbines and generates electricity.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

State senators heard three hours of testimony Tuesday from dozens in the New Hampshire forest products industry who support a plan to resurrect biomass energy subsidies.

The plan, proposed in an amendment on an unrelated bill, is a version of a law passed last year that's since stalled in a legal challenge before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers hopes to revive an embattled plan to subsidize New Hampshire's wood-fired power plants.

The biomass subsidy package that narrowly passed last year over Gov. Chris Sununu’s veto has stalled amid a federal challenge.

Todd Bookman / NHPR

A group of wood-burning power plants wants the New Hampshire Supreme Court to intervene in a dispute over a controversial new state law.

The law, in part, would require Eversource to buy power from the state’s biomass plants at a discounted rate for three years.

iStock Photo

State regulators say they won’t force Eversource to buy more wood-fired energy – at least not while a new state law on the issue is still in dispute at the federal level.

The law in question would subsidize the state's biomass power plants. It narrowly passed over Gov. Chris Sununu's veto last year and is supposed to take effect Friday.

Sarah Gibson for NHPR

On cold days, Berlin City manager Jim Wheeler can stand on the steps of city hall and see plumes of steam billowing from the wood chip burning plant Burgess BioPower.

The plant sits on the former site of the city’s pulp mill factory on the Androscoggin River.

“One of the things about biomass plants is that they make a lot of steam, and that's energy that goes to the sky,” Wheeler says.

Now, Wheeler wants to harness the heat that makes this steam for a snowmelt system.

woodfin / Flickr CC

New research suggests New Hampshire forests could help store more climate-warming carbon dioxide while growing higher-value trees.

The study, from Clark University and the Nature Conservancy, says better land management – especially reforestation – could store up to a fifth of America’s climate-warming carbon emissions. 

A lobbying group that has supported Gov. Chris Sununu’s energy policies wants federal regulators to invalidate a new state subsidy for the biomass industry.

The legislature passed the subsidy by one vote, over Sununu’s veto earlier this year.

It will require utilities to buy energy from biomass and trash-burning power plants at a discounted rate, passing the extra cost onto customers, for the next three years.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

Members of New Hampshire's energy industry joined lawmakers Monday at the state’s annual energy summit, which helps set priorities for next year's legislative session.

They debated the policies – and politics – that could help lower the region’s high electric costs, diversify and stabilize fuel supplies, and reduce reliance on imported fossil fuels.

Governor Chris Sununu and Democratic rival Molly Kelly presented contrasting ideas on those issues at the start of the summit.  

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

New Hampshire’s timber industry scored a major victory today as legislators narrowly voted to overturn Gov. Chris Sununu’s veto of a bill subsidizing biomass plants.

But lawmakers fell just short of overturning another energy veto that had become intertwined with the biomass bill – one subsidizing net metering.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

State legislators vote Thursday on whether to override two controversial vetoes of bills about energy.

One would subsidize biomass power plants. The other would expand net metering in New Hampshire.

Governor Chris Sununu says both bills would cost residents and businesses too much.

But supporters from the state’s established timber industry and its newer renewable energy sector disagree.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

Thursday is veto day at the State House. Lawmakers will vote whether to override several controversial vetoes Gov. Chris Sununu handed down this year.

Sununu vetoed six of the bills legislators passed in their 2018 session. Two, dealing with energy, have been especially high-profile.

The vetoed bills would subsidize biomass power, and expand towns' and businesses' ability to sell renewable energy back to the grid.

The timber industry has led the charge to overturn those vetoes, though it's not clear yet if they have the votes to do it.

The Debate Over N.H.'s Biomass Industry

Sep 7, 2018

We unravel the complicated debate over N.H.'s biomass industry.  This spring, the governor vetoed two energy-related bills designed to subsidize the biomass industry and expand the state's net metering program.  The governor says the bills would inflate already-high electric rates while supporters argue subsidies are crucial for the forest industry and renewable energy.  The veto created an uproar and an effort is underway to overturn the vetoes on Sept. 13, the legislative "Veto Day." 

GUESTS:

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

Hundreds of people from the timber and renewable energy industries crowded the New Hampshire State House lawn Thursday, rallying for legislators to overturn two vetoes they say could put them out of business.

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