Maine’s nine wood-fired power plants may be threatened by a new Massachusetts study which concluded that cutting trees to generate electricity can release more greenhouse gases than burning coal.
The study found that the net emissions of greenhouse gases from biomass would be 3 percent greater than coal by 2050. The conclusion was based on the amount of carbon dioxide released from harvesting and burning the wood, compared to the amount of the gas absorbed from the atmosphere by living trees.
The controversial findings are contained in a study done by the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences for the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources. The agency is preparing new sustainability rules for the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, the policy by which power plants are paid more for generating power from renewable energy.
The role of biomass in this policy is being debated in Massachusetts, where four proposed wood-fired power plants have been proposed in the western part of the state. But it also could do collateral damage in Maine, where nine, rural power plants sell power to Massachusetts and depend on above-market rates from the renewable incentive. Besides power, these Maine plants create $108 million a year in economic value and employ 1,000 people in direct operations, wood harvesting and other jobs, according to the Portland-based Biomass Power Association.
The trade group, which represents 80 plants in 20 states, pushed back Friday against the study, calling it “misleading and irresponsible.”

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