Vermont’s latest biomass power plant: about as green as week-old toast

(click here for PFPI's letter on the Beaver Wood Energy air permit)
Will Beaver Wood Energy in Fair Haven, Vermont, be “one of the cleanest burning plants in the nation” as developers claim? Not hardly. Actual numbers from the facility’s air permit and technical analysis show the biomass power plant will emit twice as much smog-forming chemicals and one and a half times as much sulfur dioxide as a larger biomass facility recently proposed in Massachusetts.  
But that’s not all – a smaller wood burner to be used for pellet drying at the facility will have no emissions controls for some pollutants at all, and will increase pollution even further.
It’s fair to say the Beaver facility will be one of the biggest polluters in Vermont, once it’s built. Yet by low-balling its emissions numbers in its permit application, BWE is avoiding buying emissions offsets for smog-forming chemicals. The legal emissions thresholds for nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at which a facility like BWE are set at 100 tons per year for NOx, and 50 tons per year for VOCs.  The air permit states, though, that the plant will emit 99.9 tons of NOx, and 49.9 tons of VOCs. What an amazing coincidence! (though it seems less a coincidence once one sees the backflips the facility performed to get in under those thresholds).
BWE will be a huge source for greenhouse gases, too, emitting almost 500,000 tons of CO2 just from wood-burning, alone. So much for the “clean and green” power – Vermont is fast on the way to building some of the dirtiest power generation in the nation.
PFPI comments question the draft permit’s unscientific assumptions of biomass power’s “carbon neutrality,” demonstrate how emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants are higher than that of a coal plant, contest developer claims of “most stringent emissions rate” by comparing emissions to other less-polluting biomass proposals, and point out errors in calculations.
PFPI also took the opportunity to warn the State of Vermont of the imminent threat posed to forests by the expansion of biomass power, a point reinforced by a statement from the former head of the Biomass Energy Resource Center in Montpelier, VT. BWE needs more wood for fuel than can be realistically supplied from "forest waste", meaning that in addition to the hundreds of thousands of tons of wood that the facility will need for pellets, even more will be sent up in smoke in the name of generating "clean and green" power.