What To Do With That Christmas Tree?

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Once the holidays are over and the glitter and glam is stripped from the fir, chances are the Christmas tree ends up in the trash. Perhaps the trees could be useful even after they lose their glow. Why not turn them into woody biomass for energy? A few companies, such Biomass One, are doing just that.

Biomass One, which has been recycling Christmas trees for the past four years, estimates it will receive 4,500 trees this year. According to Biomass One Vice President Gordon Draper, this amount “equals out to approximately 56 dry tons of wood biomass, which can provide about an hour and a half worth of power to the company’s wood-fired cogeneration power plant.” This is only a tiny amount compared to the 325,000 dry tons of wood it grinds up annually to power the plant. And an even smaller amount compared to the woody biomass the state of Vermont is using to heat schools and other public buildings.

Burning wood for energy is, of course, an ancient technology, but as Steven Bick points out in a new PERC case study, wood can provide an economic and environmentally viable solution for high heating costs in many parts of the country.

Bick goes on to explain that beginning in 1985, the state of Vermont developed a program using mill waste to power boilers in public schools. At the time, most schools in the state were heated with expensive electricity. Replacing electric heaters with wood-powered boilers resulted in considerable savings in heating costs. Vermont is now home to nearly half of the facilities in the United States using woody biomass for heat. Other states are starting to replicate Vermont's success and few  private companies, including Lockheed Martin, are beginning to convert to woody biomass heating.

“Thermal energy from woody biomass is not a panacea to all heating needs,” writes Bick, “but Vermont and other cold locations have proven it is a viable and renewable option.”

You can read the case study here.

Huggins is a research fellow and director of outreach with PERC as well as a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Her association with PERC goes back several years, and she officially joined the staff in Bozeman in 2005.Huggins coauthored with Terry Anderson Property Rights: A Practical Guide to Freedom and Prosperity...
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