Green Campus Initiative Fall 2013 Forum : Biomass Energy in the Northeast – Past, Present, Future

For our Fall 2013 Forum we focused on biomass energy and its potential for widespread usage in the Northeast region of the United States. It was moderated by Rose Petersky, our energy chair, and it was a great success! There was about 20 in attendance and some great food. The speakers who came were Mike Kelleher the Executive Director of Energy & Sustainability at SUNY ESF , Tim Volk Senior Research Associate and faculty in the department of Forest and Natural Resources Management, and Alice Brumbach of the New York Biomass Energy Alliance, you can check out their website at .


Here are our discussion points and answers from each speaker:

What do you or your company do?

Ms. Brumbach works for the NY Biomass Energy Alliance (NYBEA) and they network, provide outreach, and do event planning for potential of biomass with stakeholders, policy makers, and residents. Tim Volk is  involved in research of willow biomass, commercialization of the biomass economy, and its application. Mike Kelleher teaches and work on research projects on biomass. He also worked at major utilities and is interested in gasification,as his house runs on biomass for heating purposes.


Can biomass be sustainable on large scale? – Maybe the size of the city of syracuse approximately?

Tim Volk stated that in a  sustainable way, research says biomass is one part of energy solution, can approximately be  20% of energy in Onondaga County, and Mr. Kelleher stated that we should seek feasibility of biomass energy in a certain area, and utilization. For example, he stated heating more feasible than electricity for biomass energy usage.


How would you/your industry contributing to future without fossil fuels?

Mr. Kelleher is utilizing solar energy,as well as wood gasification (Biomass Energy)  for heat at home. Tim Volk is introducing more education to students, and more publication. He wants to let them to know what biomass is. Landowners will also be growing willow for biomass, and he asks the question what are challenges of harvesting. Mr. Volk and Ms. Brumbach stated that the government needs to approve biomass as a renewable to obtain government subsidies. The NYBEA supports different sectors of the industry. Also they all agreed that to keep from using too much fossil fuels, biomass production should be in a small distance  from where it would be utilized, like a 25 mile radius.


What do you think represents successful biomass facility?

They agreed that education and outreach to the surrounding community and sectors alike would allow for success. Continuing the thought was Mr. Volk who stated that economic viable, community benefit, and clear education, being environmentally sound, illustrating improvement of system that was/is in place, and minimize negative environmental  impact. Mr. Kelleher stated that smaller systems and less travel would make it successful, adhering to less output of greenhouse gas with movement of materials.


Career prospects in the biomass industry?

Mr. Volk states that uncertainty from policies is causing need for investment for growth. He states that the Northeast seems to be more feasible as 80% of jobs in one study from production and harvesting of biomass. Mr. Kelleher states that there are careers out there, one would  need specialty mechanisation experience. Ms. Brumbach stated that anyone interested should have an engineering background.


What has changed in the industry  in the past 5 years?

They all stated that there was more capital investment, and now there is less support for the industry. The NYBEA is a small and unified group working to get more support for biomass. Mr. Volk states that systems are being put into place, but there are more publications criticising the industry instead of supporting it.

Lets all do our research and continue the push for biomass and other sustainable energies for the future!!


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