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Small Scale Biomass

What do we mean by "Small-Scale"?

When it comes to burning biomass to generate energy, “small-scale” means different things to different people. For those working in the energy industry, anything generating 2MW (megawatts) or less is “small”. The 6.8 Mmbtu/hr (million btu per hour) district heat system proposed for Grand Marais would generate approximately 2MW of power. So for some, this qualifies as “small scale”.

For our purposes, we are defining “small scale” as those biomass systems or appliances designed to provide heat energy to a single residence, building, or a small number of buildings in a relatively limited area.
The brochure Heating with Wood produced by Dovetail Partners, Inc. in conjunction with Cook County Local Energy Project (CCLEP) is available below as a PDF document and offers a general overview of burning wood for heat in a residential setting.

What biomass fuels are we talking about?
At this scale, the great majority of systems accomplish their purpose through the combustion of biomass in the form of cordwood, wood pellets, wood chips or corn. However, some can burn wood waste from lumber processing or furniture manufacture, or locally available alternatives such as walnut hulls.

Improvements in Technology

Wood burning technology has improved dramatically over the last 25 years such that wood is safer, more efficient and more convenient.

v  New firebox designs capable of burning wood more completely, cleanly, and at higher efficiencies

v  Pellet stoves that are capable of providing at least 24 hours of unattended heating

v  New types of glass doors that can withstand and transfer heat while providing a clear view

v  Reliable installation safety standards that provide clear guidelines for safe installation and certification requirements for installers and inspectors

v  Outdoor wood furnaces that burn 90% cleaner than unqualified units

EPA Issues News Standards for Wood Heaters

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is finalizing standards to limit the amount of pollution that wood
heaters, which will be manufactured and sold in the future, can emit. These standards, which were last updated in 1988, reflect the significantly improved technology that is now available to make a range of models cleaner burning and more efficient. The final rule will provide important health benefits to communities across the country and will be phased in over a five-year period, giving manufacturers time to adapt their product lines to develop the best next-generation models to meet these new standards. For more information on the new standards - click here
Contents – In the Section

      Generating biomass energy at a small-scale

      Using biomass to heat larger buildings or a group of buildings

      Using biomass to generate power or combined heat and power (CHP) on a small scale

           HelpfulResources (work in progress)




If you have comments or suggestions which you feel will increase the value of this site to Cook County residents currently using or considering using biomass as an energy source, email