Residents of Ellicottville recently received the mailing, “Clearing the Air; The Facts About Woody Biomass Renewable Energy in Ellicottville”, from Laidlaw Energy Group, Inc. The mailing attempts to address five points of concern relating to the proposed biomass plant.
Perhaps my “suspicion factor” is still at a high level from the past few weeks of debunking negative political advertisements, but I find this mailing to be simplistic in its approach, and it leaves me with more questions than answers. I’ll be the first to admit, however, that I don’t have the access or background to completely break down this mailing’s points, but lets give it a try.
Laidlaw’s Five Points and their True or False answers:
1. Ellicottville’s revewable energy will come from woody biomass – a clean, green energy resource… TRUE! Woody biomass power is the most widely used renewable energy resource in the U.S. It is “stored solar energy” – the oldest, most reliable energy source on the globe – and it plays a vital role in New York State’s “Green Power” and “EnergySmart” initiatives.
Area residents are concerned that chemically-treated materials from pallets, furniture remnants, and other sources will make its way to the plant.
2. Ellicottville’s woody biomass renewable energy may damage the quality of life for those who live, work, and vacation here… FALSE! By creating 25 full-time, “green collar” jobs and generating over 50 Million kilowatt hours of low cost, clean, green, renewable electricity – enough to power 6,000 homes and businesses – using woody biomass will have a cleaner environmental footprint in Ellicottville than the area’s existing electric power sources.
These benefits will come from a modern, environmentally friendly facility that at its highest point will stand no taller than a typical, mature maple tree.
Local residents have considerable concern for the consistent amount of delivery trucks that will travel to and from the plant not only in the area of traffic on two-lane roads, but also for the emission/pollution increase. Additional environmental concerns are addressed in Points #3 and #4.
Twenty-five jobs would be nice, but will the generated electricity actually be used in the immediate area for 6,000 homes? From our post Possible Laidlaw Co-Generation Plant To Be Discussed:
In the case of the Ellicottville facility, conversion to wood biomass will dramatically reduce the facility’s operating costs, while allowing for increased electric capacity and the production of heat and steam for kiln drying hardwood at highly competitive prices. LLEG believes this strategy can be replicated in order to convert other facilities rendered uneconomic by high fossil fuel prices or as an alternative to coal generation, which can often result in significant hazardous emissions.
So, will the energy by used for commercial, residential, or commercial AND residential use? Also, typical, mature maple trees” in this area can and do reach 40+ feet in height. There is no dispute that the facility, “at its greatest height”, would be noticeable.
3. Snow making machines on Ellicottville’s ski slopes generate greater emissions than will woody biomass renewable energy… TRUE! According to their own NYSDEC operating permits, the diesel-powered snow making machines at Ellicottville’s local ski resorts release more greenhouse gases and particulate emissions than will the state of the art biomass facility in Ellicottville.
(This point also contains a graph that illustrates emission factors lbs/mmbtu for carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, particulate matter, and nitrogen oxides for biomass, local ski resorts, oil-fired, and coal-fired entities.)
While all five points of this mailing are “suspect”, this is the point that really stands out. The snow-making machines look to be the worst offender on all levels with the exception of sulfur oxides emissions – coal fired and oil fired have more. The biomass plant is the least offender on all levels.. What is not mentioned, and all that live in Ellicottville and Great Valley are fully aware, is that the snow-making machines do not run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They don’t run 24 hours a day even during the ski season. Depending on the amount of snow pack, the usage also varies from year to year.
The chart lacks certain factors, and I feel that it makes dishonest comparisons. A better, more honest method would have been to include some sort of “time” reference; i.e., average the hours per year for the snow-making machines using a five or ten year base for the average; then compare those emissions figures to the yearly totals for the biomass emissions. I imagine the chart would have quite a different look.
4. Ellicottville’s woody biomass renewable energy will generate dangerous levels of air contaminants and pollutants… FALSE! Safer and cleaner than the area’s many active wood burning stoves and fireplaces, Ellicottville’s renewable energy will come from clean, unadulterated woody biomass. The facility’s continuing commitment to its stringent Federal air quality permit will help ensure the operation is “smokeless”.
Unlike fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas – the current sources of Ellicottville electricity – woody biomass will not contribute to the creation of acid rain and will reduce the causes of global warming.
I refer to our post Possible Laidlaw Co-Generation Plant To Be Discussed:
While the future of the co-generation plant in Ellicottville remains a real possibility, the newly developed “Citizens for a Better Ellicottville” support group continues to dig deep for the truth of Laidlaw’s intentions. According to the group, the following air contaminants and hazardous air pollutants will be released annually from the plant: Nitrogen Oxide-111 tons, Sulfur Dioxide-9 tons, Particulate Matter-4 tons, Carbon Monoxide-111 tons, Volatile Organic Compounds-18 tons and Hazardous Air Pollutants (including Benzene, Formaldehyde and Hydrogen Chloride)-19 tons.
I am not a scientist, but is the above data not a point of concern? It is worthy to note that this information was not included in the Laidlaw mailing, and I find it hard to believe that the ski resorts’ snow-making machines emit comparable totals on an annual basis.
5. Coal, Oil, and Gas are better, lower cost alternatives to clean, green, woody biomass renewable energy… FALSE! Presently, New Yorkers export $1,800 for every man, woman and child to pay for imported energy. Biomass is locally owned, locally produced, and creates sustainable, local “green collar” jobs – keeping Ellicottville dollars right here at home and circulating in the local economy, not in the hands of people and governments unfriendly or hostile to the United States. Woody biomass is clean, green, renewable and made in the USA.
I am not knowledgeable enough to argue some of the finer points made here. Is it locally owned? I don’t know, but I’ve heard that perhaps local in this case means New York City. The $1,800 cost? No source of methodology is given for this figure; therefore, it means little/nothing to me. Again, does locally produced relate to local residential usage?
While twenty-five jobs are nice, how much of a local, economic impact will it generate? Most of the wages generated will not be spent in the local Ellicottville area; the majority of local business is geared to the resort trade. Quality Market and some of the local restaurants may see a slight increase, but Olean, Springville and Bradford businesses will more likely be the main recipients of disposable income. (This would be the case no matter the source of new jobs in the immediate Ellicottville area.)
I also find it interesting that Laidlaw is playing the “National Defense and Homeland Security” card here, (as stated on the front of the mailing). While it could help in making the country less dependent on foreign oil, the effort is comparable to “a drop in the ocean”. Most electricity used in this area is generated through the Niagara Falls Power Plant, which, to my understanding, is not owned by an entity that is hostile to the US.
My sense is that the majority of Ellicottville residents do not desire having this biomass plant in the area. They have fact and/or emotional-based reasons/concerns in their opposition to the project. But, one point is certain – they are united in their cause, and I don’t believe that the Laidlaw mailing was successful in changing many opinions.