We just signed the contract on a grant for a pilot project to heat a college classroom building while making biochar from forest thinning waste biomass. Here is the press release:
September 21, 2018
Two local businesses have been awarded a US Forest Service Collaborative Forest Restoration grant for a woody biomass utilization pilot project in partnership with Northern New Mexico College. Southwest Energy Integrators, an innovative building energy systems design/build business, and The Trollworks, a biochar equipment manufacturing company, have teamed up to create what they call Biochar+Energy Systems. The project will run three years on a $358,086 budget.
“Biochar” is a form of charcoal that is effective in improvement of soil health and for water purification and mine reclamation. Waste woody biomass is heated under controlled conditions to produce smoke, which is burned for energy, leaving the valuable char behind. Char can persist in the soil for thousands of years and is an effective way to sequester CO2 from the atmosphere.
Gordon West, CEO of The Trollworks, said, “Our Biochar+Energy Systems extract carbon from the air (through plants) and put it back in the ground, while generating energy and improving the environment, and makes money in the process. The coal industry extracts carbon from the ground and puts it in the air, at great environmental cost. We are “reverse coal mining”, in every way.”
The project will install a Biochar+Energy boiler system, manufactured in Santa Clara at Gila WoodNet, to heat a campus classroom building, processing biomass into feedstock pellets used both to heat the building and to make biochar. This system, designed and built by The Trollworks, is a new technology that utilizes low-value biomass (small trees, brush, slash, bark, and other agricultural wastes) while making biochar.
“When you account for the biochar sales, this system will actually make money for NNMC while heating the building, instead costing over $30,000 in propane expense,” said Kurt Albershardt, owner of Southwest Energy Integrators here in Silver City. “The list of benefits is amazingly long, but the most impressive is that the end result is significantly carbon negative - it will reduce the amount of CO2 in the air instead of increasing it.”
NNMC students will participate in experiential learning related to: biomass harvest and processing; Biochar+Energy production; use of biochar in soil; carbon sequestration; and biochar for mine reclamation and aquifer contamination remediation. The system will provide a focus for hands-on STEM and business education. Regional public education will be conducted via annual expositions of the system, and collaborators will share information on the project through their existing regional, national, and international networks, including the International Biochar Initiative and the US Biochar initiative (see the IBI website for more information on biochar).
You can’t solve a problem without first understanding what the problem is.