"On Wood, Burning Questions"

"PORTSMOUTH, N.H. -- Along the banks of the Piscataqua River, an ancient energy source is being transformed into retro chic renewable power.

Every minute, a conveyor belt dumps about a ton of matchbook-sized wood chips into a seven-story-tall boiler that generates enough electricity to power 50,000 homes and, in the process, supporters say, helps combat global warming.

Wood -- or biomass as it is often called -- is hailed by many environmentalists, scientists, and politicians as a renewable energy source because it can easily be replenished by planting trees -- and because the new trees will, over time, absorb the greenhouse gases the power plants emit.

But with more than 10 wood-burning power plants proposed throughout New England -- including three extraordinarily controversial proposals in Western Massachusetts - wood’s green credentials are coming under attack. Just like wind projects, where concerns about bird safety and aesthetics have stalled dozens of proposals, biomass is the latest alternative energy source to undergo deep public scrutiny."

Beth Daley reports for the Boston Globe July 26, 2009.

Monday, July 27, 2009