Gasification of wood chips may provide clean, affordable power for community facilities
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY —A Littleton-based company says it may have a partial solution to Summit County’s ever-growing piles of slash and woodchips.
Community Power Corporation (CPC) builds modular gasification units that convert wood chips and other biomass into fuel to generate electricity without a lot of emissions, and next week, the company will meet with Summit County officials to figure out if there are some community facilities that could benefit from the system.
The standard unit, similar to one that’s being installed at the Air Force Academy, sits on a 30 by 30-foot footprint and burns about two tons of wood chips per day. It can be operated remotely using an iPhone or a Blackberry, said Phil Kastelic, speaking to a group of locals at an Oct. 14 eco-forum at Copper Mountain.
About 70 to 80 acres of beetle-killed forest provides enough fuel for a year. A standard semi-truck carries about 24 tons of chips, so one of the units would require about a truckload of fuel every six days at full operation. The chips are converted into fuel in by gasification. The two tons of chips burns down to about 70 pounds of ash, certified as clean enough to be used as a soil amendment, Kastelic said. Learn more about gasification here.
“It could create jobs in Summit County,” Kastelic said.
County officials said they’ve met with Kastelic previously, but couldn’t agree on the terms of a partnership.
“It turned into the county buying this thing, operating it, getting the wood and paying them for the electricity,” said assistant country manager Thad Noll, adding that he’s looking forward to next week’s presentation for updates to the proposal.
One thing that may change things is that CPC has been working with the federal government to access some grant funding to advance the projects.
Kastelic said he’s been working to start projects in neighboring communities, including Steamboat Springs. Working with different jurisdictions presents a unique set of challenges, he said. While some of the electric co-ops appear open to working with CPC, Xcel may be a tougher nut to crack.
Overall, Kastelic said the regulatory environment is stacked against biomass, despite a big push by some federal agencies to promote it as an important part of a renewable energy portfolio.
The meeting is Oct. 22, 10 a.m. at the Summit County Senior and Community center near Frisco.