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Biomass capacity additions double YOY following weak 2016

Biomass capacity additions in 2017 have already doubled the amount installed a year ago, a historically weak year for the fuel type.

Through late September, 187 MW of biomass capacity has been added, more than twice the 89 MW added in all of 2016. Approximately 88 MW were installed in the first quarter of this year, 45 MW in the second quarter and 54 MW in the third quarter. The figures include all power plants that use biomass as a primary fuel source.

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At 75 MW, Georgia-Pacific LLC's Brewton Mill 4TG unit in Escambia County, Ala., is the largest completed biomass project so far this year. The steam turbine unit came online in March and is primarily fueled by black liquor, a waste product from the paper-makers industrial processes. The project cost an estimated $375 million.

The next-largest completed project, the 54-MW Albany Green Energy Cogen Plant in Dougherty County, Ga., started operating in July 2017. The plant will help power Procter & Gamble Co.'s paper manufacturing facility in Albany, Ga. The steam will also be used to generate 8.5 MW of electricity to power the nearby Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany. Output of the plant, owned by Exelon Corp., Peach Power Inc. and DCO Energy LLC, is also destined for Southern Co. under a power purchase agreement.

2016's largest completed project, the 24-MW Frank Bowerman Landfill Project came online in April 2016 in Orange County, Calif. The plant, majority-owned by Hosken Consolidated Investment, has seven internal combustion units of about 3.4 MW each. It has 20 MW of capacity contracted for 20 years under a power purchase agreement with the city of Anaheim, Calif.

The 16-MW Orchard Hills Facility (Winnebago-Ogle) owned by Hoosier Energy Rural Electric Coop Inc. was the second-largest project to come into operation in 2016. The Illinois-based plant consists of six units of about 3 MW each primarily fueled by landfill gas.

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As of Sept. 27, 1,037 MW of biomass generation capacity is in various stages of development. About 235 MW is in the advanced development stage, and 146 MW is under construction.

At S&P Global Market Intelligence, power plant projects are marked to be in advanced development when two of the following five criteria are met: financing is in place, a power purchase agreement is signed, turbines are secured, required permits are approved or a contractor has signed on to the project. Also, all units that are scheduled to come online on the same date are grouped as a single phase.

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Florida and California have the most planned biomass capacity in the advanced development stage at 79 MW and 52 MW, respectively.

The 75-MW Polk Biomass Generating Facility in Polk County, Fla. is the largest project in the advanced development stage. The plant is owned by US EcoGen LLC and is anticipated to become operational by June 2018. The project is expected to cost $330 million and has a power purchase agreement with Duke Energy Florida LLC for 66 MW. The 30-year contract will be effective from June 2018.

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Hawaii has the largest share of under-construction biomass capacity at 87 MW. As the only state in the nation with a 100% renewable portfolio standard, biomass provides a much-needed source of dispatchable power for its relatively small, disconnected island grids.

The largest project is the 51-MW Schofield Generating Station, owned by Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc. The plant, which is under construction at a U.S. Army base on Oahu, consists of six units of 8 MW each and is expected to start operating by March 2018. The station will run on a mixture of biofuels and conventional fuels, providing firm and dispatchable energy. The plant will feed into the island's electric grid, but in the event of an emergency, the project will be able to isolate itself to U.S. Army bases to provide to power the U.S. Army facilities.

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