Columbia Water and Light to Buy Biomass

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Water and Light Advisory Board approved the purchase of biomass fuels for the Columbia power plant Wednesday morning. The fuels will be used for a trial period to see if the renewable fuels are feasible and viable.

The trial period will begin in January and last approximately one week. The biomass fuel made of grass, corn stover and hay will be bought from Enginuity worldwide. Enginuity is partnering with the Missouri Corn Growers Association and local farmers to supply the materials. The cost of the test will be betweeb $250,000 and $375,000 depending on if Columbia receives a grant from the American Public Power Association.

During the first test of biomass fuels last October, there was too much moisture in the biomass pellets and they were not durable enough. This caused the pellets to break apart and not be able to be burned for fuel.

Christian Johanningmeier, power production superintendent, said "I think the fuel itself will burn just fine. We just need to find a better way to get the fuel packaged so it will get into the boiler and combust."

If the test is successful, Water and Light will then have to determine if it can get large quanitites of the fuel at a reasonable price. Johanningmeier said residents should not see significant increases in utility bills, because law only allows utility bills to be increased by a maximum of three percent.

Nancy Heimann, President of Enginuity Worldwide said the biomass fuels have been engineered to be more durable and transportable. They will be used as a supplement to coal. She said if the plan succeeds it will help reduce carbon emissions and improve the local economy.

"The natural resources of Missouri, especially in Missouri, where we have one hundred percent importable energy we can transfer ourselves into a homegrown economy based on using our own resources," said Heimann.

If the trial period is successful, Heimann said she hopes the power plant can start using the biomass fuels shortly after. The process would need to be approved by the city.

For more information on biomass fuels, view the memorandum to the Water and Light Advisory Board.

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