It’s a match made in renewable heaven. After two years of collaboration Vancouver-based Nexterra Energy, developer of biomass gasification systems, has partnered with GE Energy to create modular biomass combined heat and power (CHP) plants of between 2 and 10 megawatts in size. Nexterra has optimized its system to work with GE’s Jenbacher high-efficiency gas engines. Specifically, it has upgraded the syngas that comes out of its system so that it meets the fuel specifications of the Jenbacher engine.
“We believe the combination of biomass gasification and internal combustion engines is a breakthrough for biomass power generation,” said Prady Iyyanki, CEO of GE’s Jenbacher division.
The biomass CHP system is ideal for on-site heat and power applications at universities, hospitals, and other government facilities, as well as food and beverage plants, waste management facilities and forest product mills. Independent power producers — perhaps part of community co-ops — could also use the systems as standalone power generators for their communities.
The companies said they will take the next 24 months to test and demonstrate the modular system, at a cost of about $30 million. It will start this year as a 250-kilowatt test system at Nexterra’s development centre, followed by a 2-megawatt commercial-scale system demonstrated at a customer site. “Our objective is to exploit this opportunity by creating a new standard of small-scale biomass power solution that has widespread application as a distributed generation solution,” said Nexterra president Jonathan Rhone. “We believe this approach has significant advantages over large-scale, centralized combustion-based biomass power plants in terms of higher efficiency, lower fuel risk and reduced emissions.”
This is an excellent product offering, particularly in places — such as B.C. (read: pine beetle waste) and Northern Ontario — where woody biomass is plentiful. In Ontario, where Ontario Power Generation is exploring setting up a massive biomass supply chain to support a coal-to-biomass plant conversion, it would make sense to plug these biomass systems into the supply network that develops.