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Have the current incentives been working with Biomass?

Edited by Alessandro Guercio

The common method used to evaluate the effectiveness of the European Renewables incentives scheme is the measure of the new installed power, or better, the energy production. In this way the Renewables have often got the fixed targets.

Now the question is: is the final goal of the European Renewables incentive schemes to achieve the EU targets or is it to drive the Renewables to the grid parity?

The solar and wind power systems have seen, along the years, a dramatic reduction of the specific cost of electricity production, approaching, in some conditions, to the grid parity.

This is not happened with Biomass. In the last years the specific cost of electricity production from Biomass source has not seen an important reduction. The reasons are many. To understand them we have first to understand the differences between Biomass and other Renewables.

The Biomass plants need to be fueled, obviously with Biomass. The Biomass represents a cost for the plant but it is also an opportunity to exploit wooden and other local organic residues and create new jobs.

The Biomass plants can generate electricity only jointly with a big amount of heat. Typically the net electric efficiency is between 10% and 20% respect the Biomass input. The residual 80% to 90%, apart of 10% to 20% of losses, is available as heat, as well useful to substitute fossil fuels.

The Biomass plants are programmable, it means the production can be stable and constant or it can adapt to the thermal or electric demand. This is a good news for the electric grid management.

The Biomass plants need always a grade of customization, due to different available technologies depending on the size, different lay outs, different form and composition of the local Biomass, different levels of temperature requested by the thermal users. All these aspects impact on the investment costs.

The European strategic plans for the development of Biomass Combined Heat and Power (CHP) focuses on small size, distributed on the territory, using local available Biomass and capable to allocate the majority of the co-generated heat. But, however, the big potential market remain unexploited.

A different approach should be considered, starting from all the processes where Biomass is available and heat is contextually demanded.

District heating with easy access to biomass, pellet production, sawmills, wood based panel production and all the wood based industry, are some examples of processes where the Biomass CHP could be easily implemented. In the district heating and pellet production many references are already available, in wood based panel production much can be done.

The are many available technologies for solid biomass CHP on the market, starting from 500kW heat demand or less (50-100 kW co-generated electric power) and capable of producing heat at the level of temperature requested by the main industrial and civil users.