PPL Challenge #1
Look at creative
ways to convert biomass into electricity. Research the issues (types of biomass
energy resources, costs, benefits, impediments, etc.). Develop a business case
that provides a well-researched direction that PPL could pursue to increase
energy production from biomass resources.
Attention: Students of the winning team for this Challenge will
receive two shares each of PPL Corporation Stock.
2003/04 FINALS RESULTS & PHOTOS!
PPL Biomass Challenge
diverse fuel mix of fossil fuels, nuclear power, renewables and new technology
to generate electricity is a sound business strategy. In the area of renewables,
there is potential to generate electricity from biomass resources. But some key
questions arise: Is biomass cost effective? If it is more costly than existing
resources, will customers pay extra because of its environmental benefits? Is
there a sufficient demand to warrant investment into biomass as an energy
resource to make electricity?
So what is
biomass? Essentially, biomass is any living or recently living organic matter,
chiefly plant matter. The definition extends itself to materials and wastes
produced by or from living matter, such as paper, cardboard, lumber, even manure
and sewage. Also, much of garbage burned at municipal solid waste incinerators
is classified as biomass, as is landfill gas that results from the decomposition
of organic material in landfills.
the United States Department of Energy (US DOE), biomass materials that are
byproducts from activities such as wood products manufacturing, construction,
agriculture, and forest harvesting or management are referred to as
"residues." In many cases, these residues represent an inexpensive and clean
source with which to produce energy.
Conventional and advanced technologies such as boilers, turbines, Sterling
engines, gasifiers, fuel cells and others can be used to produce thermal and
electrical energy from biomass feedstocks/fuels.
the second most used renewable power generation resource in the U.S., having
more than 12,300 MW (megawatt) of installed capacity. The 71 billion kWh
(kilowatt-hour) of electricity produced each year from biomass is more than the
entire state of Colorado uses annually.
Pennsylvania generated a little over 2 billion kWh of electricity from biomass
sources. This is just over 1% of the total electricity generated in the state
for that year. The US DOE estimates that 10.8 billion kWh of electricity could
be generated using renewable biomass fuels in Pennsylvania. This is enough
electricity to fully supply the annual needs of 1,080,000 average homes, or 26
percent of the residential electricity use in Pennsylvania.
states may have similar potential for biomass use.
Among the benefits of using
renewable fuels, such as biomass, are the reductions in air pollutants, which
contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, acid precipitation, excess
nitrogen deposition (eutrophication) in watersheds such as the Chesapeake Bay,
and the number of reported respiratory ailments.
old large power plants are completely paid for and more cost effective to
operate than building new power plants (you may want to research the benefits of
co-firing, the mixing of fuels, when using biomass).
is there sufficient demand from the public to warrant constructing or modifying
existing power plants to utilize biomass feedstocks for environmental and health
Consumer Cost – is
the public willing to accept any price increases that may be realized by
generating power from a cleaner, renewable energy source?
a power generating company must be assured that sufficient feedstock material
can be obtained for many years and at a reasonable cost to warrant construction
and/or operation of newly powered station.
information and confidence –
is there enough information available to decision makers and consumers about the
technology, benefits, costs, etc. to enable an educated decision and feel
is difficult –
change, sometimes because of its uncertainty, is difficult to implement and
Case Considerations –
A professionally presented Business Case can have various formats, but should
address certain key items including key assumptions and risks, short and long
term objectives, resource requirements, and expected revenue. An executive
summary that explains your findings and recommendations is desirable.
Technical Considerations –
Consider investigating the opportunity of establishing multiple small sources of
biomass power that might capitalize on local or regionally abundant feedstocks,
such as forestry or agricultural residues. Think about the benefits that such a
“distributed power” network might provide over a larger centralized power plant.
Consider the optimal size of a plant and concerns associated with transportation
of the biomass material. Research opportunities or drawbacks of Renewable
Portfolio Standards (RPS). If in place, a RPS obligates each retailer seller of
electricity to include a certain amount of electric generation from renewables
in its resource portfolio.
remember that it is hard to qualify something if you don’t quantify it. In
other words, include as much data in your response as possible. This might mean
defining the tons of biomass material available within a certain mile radius of
a proposed site, the number of kWh or mWh or Btu’s that could be generated, an
approximate cost for ton of material, and more.
Suggested Research Areas:
PA Biomass Fact sheet:
PA Energy Resources:
The Northeast Regional Biomass Program:
Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS):
The US DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory Bioenergy Information
A directory of bioenergy businesses in the US and
US DOE's Biopower web site:
A link to determine the quantities of wood residues, state and by
Information from a technology vendor on waste to energy
Two anaerobic digester fact sheets from PSU:
A publication on biomass technologies:
A publication on biomass co-firing:
A publication on direct firing biomass:
A publication on biomass gasification:
A publication on biomass feedstock availability by state and
—You must submit your written proposal for the PPL Challenge by
— Your team coordinator will be notified by
April 2, 2004 whether or not you are selected to
give an oral presentation. If you are, the presentation will be held on
6, 2004 at PPL Headquarters in Allentown, PA. You will be sent directions
and an agenda.
PPL Awards for Winning Teams:
Each student on the team winning of the PPL Biomass Challenge
will receive 2 shares of PPL Corporation Stock. Each student on the runner-up
team (if one is selected) will receive one share. Also, the winning team will
receive a team trophy suitable for the school’s trophy case, and each student
taking part in the PPL Oral Presentation will receive a Let’s Get Real T-shirt.
About PPL Corporation:
PPL Corporation is a
worldwide energy corporation. PPL generates electricity at power plants in the
northeastern and western United States, sells electricity in key U.S. markets,
and delivers energy in Pennsylvania, the United Kingdom, and Latin America.
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