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Community Biomass Energy Feasibility Study.

Zoet, Adam.

The citizen’s group known as the Cook County Local Energy Project (CCLEP), in conjunction with the Cook County Board of Commissioners, is exploring the feasibility of community-based biomass energy production within Cook County. This group is especially interested in understanding the short and long-term environmental, social, and economic impacts of utilizing woody biomass. The CAP-Biomass project was initiated to help inform the feasibility study and guide the future direction of biomass energy in northeastern Minnesota. Five distinct case studies were produced as the project’s final deliverables and include different sites within Minnesota that utilize biomass through different applications. They provide a narrative of individual biomass application as well as technical detail to help inform the decision-making of others who are considering biomass for energy or heating usage. The project’s results will be presented to CCLEP members and posted on the project webpage.

Despite the fact that this project’s case studies are fairly distinct from one another, they do share commonalities that can help illustrate some general lessons endemic to other biomass projects. All of the interviewed sites described heating with biomass (regardless of the type of the heating technology, fuel, and capacity used) as being significantly more “hands-on” compared to
conventional gas or oil fired heating systems. Assessing whether adequate staffing and technical resources are available is critical when determining the success of biomass projects. Having a local supply of fuel is vital to keep heating costs manageable. Reducing heating costs was one of (if not the) primary impetus for all five of the sites choosing to adopt biomass. Lastly, the developed case studies illustrate that there is no one-size-fits-all method for choosing the right biomass system. It takes extensive research and years of improvements to develop a system that meets the individual needs of an organization.

Publication date: 
Prepared in partnership with Dovetail Partners by the Community Assistantship Program (CAP), which is administered by the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) at the University of Minnesota.
51 pp.
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