Cheap natural gas a challenge for cogeneration plant

In 2006 when a Minnesota group announced a $60 million biomass cogeneration plant, spot prices for natural gas topped $13 per million Btu. By the time the power plant began operating in May 2009, they had plunged below $4. Operators say they’ve stayed viable by cutting costs and upgrading efficiency.

Tribes explore renewable energy prospects

Native American tribes in the Northern Lower Peninsula and Upper Peninsula are seeking to develop renewable energy, but a lack of money is impeding many projects, experts say.

Michigan tribes have a potential for wind energy and wood-based biomass, said Roger Taylor, the principal project manager of the Tribal Energy Program.

Scientists to Congress: Count carbon from burning biomass

Echo recently covered the prospect of the Great Lakes states supplanting their steady diet of coal with biomass — that’s trees, crop waste and other plants that can be burned for energy. It’s an attractive but tricky plan. If done right, it could be a “carbon-neutral” fuel because crops can be managed to absorb carbon dioxide and the vegetation would theoretically decompose and release its carbon anyway. If done wrong, we’ll rack up a carbon debt from still-recovering forest resources instead of fossil fuels. If it wasn’t already complicated enough, try figuring out how biomass emissions ought to figure into Senate climate legislation released this month by Sens.

MONDAY MASHUP: Wood to Energy

The Great Lakes region receives 4 percent of its energy needs from biomass resources, according to a regional biomass energy program. But some estimates put the potential for biomass at 15 to 20 percent.