from the Eugene Register-Guard, Sunday, May 24, 1964

“Power Use Double Answer to Wood Waste Problem”

Turning Oregon’s wood wastes into electrical power is a practical solution to the waste disposal problem, according to a special report by a Corvallis engineering firm.

Austin Evanson, chief mechanical engineer at Cornell, Howland, Hayes & Merryfield, concludes in his study report that action along the lines he recommends could eliminate “at one stroke” both the huge waste of resource and a major source of air pollution.

The firm had Evanson do the study as a public service.

Evanson found that forest products industries of the Pacific Northwest now produce some 15 million tons of waste per year on a dry weight basis.

Burning is the principle method of disposal for the waste, and Evanson found that unless this heat is converted into energy, there will be no appreciable elimination of such waste in the foreseeable future.

When this material – sawdust, chips, bark, etc. – is obtained as waste, the report finds, the fuel cost for thermal (heat) output is considerably less than the equivalent costs for coal, oil, or gas, even when transportation is figured in.

Some of the yield can be utilized within the industry itself, for heating boilers, for instance, but there would still be a large surplus, Evanson reported.

The only practical means of using the material outside the forest industries is to turn the thermal energy into electrical energy, he found.

The report examined in detail the economics of electric power costs and prices, and investments required to produce wood-fuel generation.

The value of electric power to the region is discussed, together with possible methods of reducing the cost of generating power from wood waste to a figure which makes the power saleable at a profit to both the producer and distributing agency.

If the waste is burned under conditions necessary to produce electricity, Evanson said, it will be a major factor in eliminating mill burners and, therefore, air pollution.

Because of the public benefits, the report suggests two government actions:

  • That an industry that installs equipment for electrical generation be able to depreciate (write off) the equipment in five years for tax purposes. This, applied to those firms which use less than half of the power they manufacture, would encourage investment.
  • That the power so generated and fed into a system such as Bonneville Power Administration, should be paid for by the agency at a rate greater than the current C-4 rate .. the rate now paid for power produced outside the system. Evanson reports that a rate of 5.6 mills a kilowatt hour would be sufficient to insure some return on the investment, and points out that the federal agencies may have to pay as much as 8.5 mills per KWH in the future to buy power generated by some means other than hydroelectrically.

“Our methods of dealing with wastes produced by civilization have advanced little since the beginning of recorded history,” Evanson reported.

There are really only three methods of waste disposal – burn it, bury it, or throw it in the river. There’s no room left for burying much, burning produces pollution and so does throwing it in the river.

Burning waste costs a lot, the report said. In 1962, about 1,600,000 illnesses were traced to bad air. “It seems safe to assume that twice as many victims didn’t go to the doctor. so the true figure is probably 5 million people.

Evanson cites a study recently made by a group of German Scientists who reported that air pollution may be the major factor in the increase of death from lung cancer “at least as much responsible for the increase as cigarette smoking.”

Why not then, the reports asks, turn wood wastes into production of electricity, rather than keep on dirtying up the air?


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