While the larger conversation about plant economics and mass retirements in the U.S. has been focused on coal and nuclear power plants, the nation’s much smaller biomass power industry is grappling with similar issues in markets where cheap natural gas, wind, and solar generation resources are proliferating. See more at: “U.S. Biomass Power, Dampened by Market Forces, Fights to Stay Ablaze” in POWER’s October 2018 issue.
According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the number of biomass (or biopower) plants producing electricity from combustion, co-firing, gasification, anaerobic digestion, and pyrolysis, nearly doubled between 2003 and 2016 (from 485 to 760). Yet, biomass power accounted for only 1.6% of net U.S. electricity generation in 2017, producing 64,057 GWh. Production has fluctuated slightly—and varied widely by region (Figure 1)—since 2013, when the industry produced 60,858 GWh.
The 10 states that produced the most net biomass generation in 2017 were: California (5,911 GWh); Florida (4,941 GWh); Georgia (4,917 GWh); Virginia (4,035 GWh); Alabama (3,377 GWh); Maine (2,930 GWh); Louisiana (2,796 GWh); South Carolina (2,687 GWh); North Carolina (2,633 GWh); and Michigan (2,578 GWh). Over the past five years, Virginia’s net biomass generation surged 39%; Georgia’s, 29%; South Carolina’s, 21%; Alabama’s, 17%; and Florida’s, 11%. But California’s net biomass generation shrank 11%; Maine’s, 24%; and Michigan’s, 5%. Fourteen other states saw decreases, including Idaho (29%); Illinois (19%); and Texas (10%). Source: EIA/POWER
—Copy and data by Sonal Patel, a POWER associate editor (@sonalcpatel, @POWERmagazine); infographic by Bentham Paulos a freelance writer and consultant specializing in energy issues.