Experience from California during the 1990s indicates that biomass plants were able to operate profitably when the wholesale cost of electricity was
Table 15.3 Biomass fuel costs
Source: US Department of Energy (Oak Ridge National Laboratory).
$0.040/kWh; they did, however benefit from a subsidy of $0.015/kWh, suggesting that they could generate power for $0.055/kWh. More generally, a plant with an efficiency of around 23% could deliver power at $0.05/kWh provided the cost of the fuel was below $1/GJ, or well below the cost at which fuel will be available in the USA in the foreseeable future. However if the plant has an efficiency of 35%, the fuel cost could rise to $2.8/GJ. It should be possible to deliver an energy crop for this price in the USA today but the energy conversion efficiency required is only currently available with co-firing.
These estimates apply to the USA and even there they can only offer broad guidance. However it seems probable that co-firing could deliver power at a competitive price today in some parts of the world whereas dedicated biomass power plants will not be able to compete effectively without some form of incentive.
1 Energy Technology - The Next Steps, published by the EU Directorate General for Energy in December 1997.
2 World Energy Council, Survey of Energy Resources, Biomass, 2001.
3 Biopower Technical Assessment, State of the Industry and the Technology, Richard L. Bain, Wade P. Amos, Mark Downing and Robert L. Perlack (January 2003) (NREL/TP-510-33132).
4 Refer supra note 3.
5 Refer supra note 3.
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