UM Home | UM A-Z | UM Search


2014 course offerings that will apply toward a Climate Change Studies minor

Students share their stories and impressions from studying in Vietnam

College of Forestry and Conservation

The University of Montana Logo

Biomass Buzz

By Joel Zoch
Monday, August 22, 2011

Pyramid Mountain Lumber Company is thinking about installing a cogeneration plant to make electricity by burning woody debris. They started plans for building the plant back in 2003, but haven’t yet moved forward because it doesn’t yet make economic sense.  After construction of the plant, it would cost them 6 cents per kilowatt-hour to generate power.  Electricity in the valley currently only costs 3 cents per kilowatt-hour, and they have been told that they will continue to receive power for this cheaply until at least 2018. Loren Rose of Pyramid Lumber talking with us about the economics of biomass.

It is understandable that building a cogeneration plant is now not economically feasible for Pyramid Mountain Lumber Company, but what about other mills throughout the country? Other mills may find the idea of building a cogeneration plant more friendly if they receive electrify for more them 6 cents per kilowatt-hour. If other mills were also located in zones of high beetle kill, like the Swan, they would have plenty of woody debris to burn to produce the electricity. Burning woody debris isn’t completely clean power because it still emits carbon dioxide into the air, but if all those beetle killed trees were left out they would decay and release these greenhouse gases anyway, and so burning wood for energy is, in my estimation, better than burning the carbon that’s stored in fossil fuels.  

If the price is right, burning biomass for heat and power could be a stepping stone to clean energy.