Mining Damage Opinions:
    FL Division of Forestry
    University of Florida
    Florida Sierra Club
    Our Restoration Efforts

Renewable Energy Opinions:
    Solar Vs. Biomass Costs
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Vision, Mission Statement, Strategies, Needed Work-Tasks


Vision Statement: By developing energy crop use, we are striving to achieve two equally important environmental goals:

  • Restoring severely damaged mined lands to native habitats by using energy crops as a "bridge crop" to (1) stabilize sites that have been invaded and are now dominated by harmful exotic plants; (2) repair soils (organics, carbon/nitrogen ratios).
  • Key Point: As a result of phosphate mining, thousands of acres in Florida have been invaded and are now dominated by plants such as cogongrass (according to the USDA, the third most damaging weed in the world) -- creating vast "wildlife sterile" prairies and a major cause of catastrophic wildfires.

  • To make a "real difference" in reducing air pollution. For example, co-firing energy crop biomass fuel at just one medium size power plant (250 MWs) would have the equivalent impact on reducing CO2 emissions of installing 20,000 large Solar PV panels, or removing 17,000 cars off the road.
  • Key Points: The primary obstacle in achieving meaningful levels of renewable energy use is high technology costs. Biomass co-firing directly addresses the issue of high costs by utilizing the infrastructure of existing power plants (i.e., boilers, turbines, transmission, etc.) to create green energy resources.

    Mission Statement:
    Business Objective: Develop and utilize market driven economics to create demand for the use of energy crops.

    Environmental Objective: Build understanding and working relationships with Environmental Organizations through "sound-science based" education outreach, research, and demonstration.

    Our Views on Marketing & Example Strategies: While we support actions like renewable energy portfolio standards, we are not counting that this will occur in the immediate future -- especially within politically conservative Southeastern States. Also, we view with skepticism the broad based "education efforts" by Marketers to achieve meaningful levels of market penetration (e.g., usually around 1%).

    We believe that developing well defined strategies, targeted to specific potential customers are the keys for both near term (e.g., jump-starting our Vision) and long-term success (e.g., achieving meaningful levels of market penetration/renewable energy use).

    Our Marketing Strategy is to establish and demonstrate the win/win environmental and economic links between our Vision Goals (mining reclamation and renewable/biomass energy) to three target groups:

  • Environmental Organizations like the Sierra Club and Audubon Society.
  • Phosphate Mining Companies (e.g., Cargill, IMC, CF).
  • State and Local Governments (e.g., Florida Department of Environmental Protection).
  • Since the 1970's, the State of Florida has imposed a "severance tax" on each ton of phosphate extracted in order to fund reclamation of mined sites. From the standpoint of Environmental Organizations, two problems have existed with this current law:

  • Deficiencies in funding for Reclamation of older mined sites (mined prior to 1975). A major cause of this inadequacy in funding is the result of having to use sizable amounts of the severance tax fund to address environmental damage and risks at the bankrupt Coronet Mine.
  • The legal definition of what constitutes "reclamation" inadequately addresses the amount and quality of actual flora and trees re-established on a mined site.
  • Strategies: We have two Strategies based on tapping into "severance tax" monies to establish energy crop tree farms on closed mining sites. In our first strategy, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) would agree to fund several demonstration projects to test the viability of using energy crop trees as a bridge crop to attain 100% native re-forestation. Our second Strategy is to have legislation passed (e.g., Florida Senate and House) which allows State Agencies to use "severance tax" monies to purchase renewable energy (i.e., to pay the premium) derived from energy crop fuel grown on closed phosphate mining sites. We believe that the creation of demand for energy crop fuel (which achieves mining reclamation) would be much more cost effective than State money spent to reclaim sites.

    Needed Work Tasks: The following is a list of work tasks and issues that need to be favorably resolved in order to achieve success:

  • Bridge Crop Demonstrations: In order to achieve the critical buy-ins needed from Environmental Organizations, we have to show that we are indeed "walking the talk". We need to successfully demonstrate with Partners (e.g., Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission's Tenoroc Preserve, The Natives Nursery in Davenport, Cargill, University of Florida's Weed Science Department, etc.) the ability of energy crop tree farms to stabilize mined sites, establish native understory flora, and re-introduce native trees (e.g., cypress, red maples, blackgum, etc.).
  • Harvesting: Harvesting costs using traditional harvesting methods (fellerbunchers, skidders) can represent approximately 65% of total energy crop production costs (i.e., cost of establishing & maintaining a tree farm, harvesting, chipping, transportation to a power plant). In our opinion, research and demonstration on how to reduce harvesting costs (e.g., the Claas Harvester as used in Europe) is the most critical work task that needs to be performed.

  • Wood Grinding for Power Plant Use: Primarily, the state of technology for wood grinding equipment has evolved from the Pulp and Paper Industry -- which mainly utilize bottom grates in their power plant boilers. However, for electric utility co-firing applications (primarily pulverized coal boilers) solid fuels are introduced very high in the boiler with suspension burning/firing occurring as the solid fuel (e.g., coal, biomass) falls through the combustion zones of the boiler. If the biomass fuel does not fully combust before reaching the boiler's bottom, significant operational problems will occur (especially with wet bottom boilers). We believe that significant research and demonstration needs to be performed on cost-effective grinding technologies (e.g., achieving necessary mesh size reductions with one grinding/processing pass).
  • Coppice Growth & Weed Control: In initial (and limited) coppice tests performed at our energy crop tree farm in Lakeland, coppice re-growth of trees has been disappointing -- approximately 50% of the yearly growth rates for uncut trees. Additional research needs to be performed as to the cause of these reduced yields. If weed competition is found to be the primary cause for these reduced yields, additional weed research needs to be performed.
  • Section 45 Income Tax Credit: Currently, only two power plants in central Florida qualify for the Section 45 Income Tax Credit -- (1) Tampa Electric's Polk Power Station; (2) Wheelabrator's Ridge Generation Station. On March 14th, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee introduced major Energy Policy Tax Legislation. In Senate Bill 587, Co-firing of Energy Crops (closed loop biomass) in ANY coal fired power plant (including power plants owned by Municipalities and Co-operatives) would qualify for the Section 45 Tax Credit. The current cash economic value of the Section 45 Tax Credit is ~2.86 cents per kWh. Stated another way, this Tax Credit equates to a subsidy of ~$26 per green ton for energy crop fuel. Passage of this federal legislation would greatly enhance the economics for energy crop fuel use at all coal power plants.
  • Sierra Club Accreditation Process for Energy Crop Biomass Co-firing: The Florida Chapter of the Sierra Club has developed a "methodology" by which to evaluate the overall environmental impacts/benefits of potential biomass energy projects (such as biomass co-firing at existing coal-fired power plants, landfill gas). This innovative methodology uses a holistic approach encompassing and weighting all aspects of a potential project (ranging from air emissions, water use, mining reclamation benefits, etc.) to determine total environmental value. We believe that the Sierra Club methodology can be a national model used by all Environmental Interests, and will strive to implement the use of this methodology in Florida.