While I do not agree with Reuben Hudson’s Jan. 24 BDN analysis of the carbon neutrality of wood-burning heating plants, wood biofuel has a much smaller overall carbon footprint than wind power. My quibble with simplistic carbon-neutrality arguments is that no energy source could ever be totally “carbon neutral” (CO2 in = CO2 out.) It’s really a question of how much extra CO2 is expelled to get renewable energy to market. Harvesting and transporting wood expels extra CO2 from skidders and trucks. If you convert wood to pellets, more CO2 is expelled.
By comparison though, wind development expels an enormous amount of extra CO2: in building and transporting turbines, clearing mountain tops and roads far from population centers, and installing carbon-intensive concrete bases needed to support 500-foot tall turbines. In addition, more CO2 is expelled as traditional power plants must stay online, ramping up and down inefficiently to produce electricity when the wind does not blow.
Unlike wind power, wood biofuel is easily stored and dispatched as needed. A wood-burning power plant requires a fraction of the land used by wind projects. Harvesting and transporting Maine’s indigenous biofuel provides a much needed boost to the forest products industry and forest landowners, especially as paper mills are shuttered. By my calculation, wood biofuel is a much better renewable energy investment for Maine – and the planet.