The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment) and the West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund (WPPSEF) are collaborating with the Biomass Thermal Energy Council (BTEC) to fund development of the first-ever efficiency testing standards for commercial biomass boilers in the U.S.
"As informed consumers it is vitally important that we know how to compare one product against another to determine relative value," says Endowment President Carlton Owen. "The standards that result from this project will give those who want to consider biomass commercial boilers, the same types of information that our European counterparts already have or the types of labels that allow a buyer to compare one type of heat pump for instance to another under the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) system."
"In many parts of North America, modern biomass heating systems compare favorably in terms of cost, efficiency, emissions, and other criteria, with coal-, oil-, or other fuel-systems," says Joseph Seymour, Executive Director of BTEC. "The lack of standardized efficiency standards developed by an independent third-party leave a gap that has disadvantaged the market expansion of biomass-fired systems."
Joel Morrison, Executive Director of the WPPSEF, notes "We are especially pleased to be teaming up with the Endowment and BTEC to advance this important work. If we are to meet society's growing energy needs we must have sound information upon which to base decisions regarding various fuels as well as conversion technologies."
Funding by the Endowment, WPPSEF, and BTEC members will be combined to support the year-long project that should be completed by fall 2014. Endowment funding in part comes through its Wood-to-Energy/Woody Biomass Joint Venture with the USDA Forest Service.
BTEC's member-led Technical and Regulatory Affairs Committee will direct the initial drafting of the efficiency test protocol with the assistance of an independent standards consultant. In late 2013 and early 2014, BTEC will invite feedback on the draft protocol at regional Scoping Meetings, tentatively planned for the eastern-, mid-western-, and western-U.S. Feedback from those sessions will be considered in a revised draft that will undergo a national call-for-comments in spring 2014.
"We are grateful for supporters like the Endowment and WPPSEF that have recognized the impact of such an efficiency measure on the wider use of renewable biomass," said Seymour.
Information, participation details, and updates on the protocol's development are available on the BTEC website.