As coal-burning power plants seek ways to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions in response to the North Carolina Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (REPS), some are evaluating the use of woody biomass for the generation of steam, heat, and/or electricity by co-firing with coal. In this lesson, students will learn about and assess the potential for various types of woody biomass to replace coal with emphasis on North Carolina’s biomass resources and their region specifically. Students assume the role of various stakeholders and participate in a discussion with classmates who represent officials from a local power plant that is seeking to substitute 20% of its coal with woody biomass. The class will evaluate each available woody biomass option and come to a group consensus about which option, if any, is best from an economic, environmental and public health perspective.
Woody Biomass options to be evaluated in this lesson include: wood waste/forest residues (chips made from bark, sawdust and other byproducts of milling timber and making paper; logging waste); torrefied wood; and pellets from higher value wood, including roundwood and short-rotation woody crops.