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Research continues into alternative biomass for coal-fired plant

US-based Portland General Electric (PGE) is delving deeper into alternative biomass sources to help replace coal at the Boardman power plant.

According to plant research and development director Wayne Lei, 18 different products have been tested in scaled-down apparatus at Washington State University. Of the 18, it has been decided that corn stover, wheat straw, poplar chips, special biomass sorghum and cow manure waste from digestion processes will be further tested.

PGE believe the plant would need about 8,000 tonnes of biomass a day to power the generator, with giant cane leading the pack at this moment.

‘Giant cane is set to be the anchor crop for this project,’ Lei was quoted as saying. ‘But, if other biomass proves usable, we could reduce the acreage needed. We have not explored prices yet, we're just looking at how it all physically works.’

The Boardman plant has a power generating capacity of 550MW but remains the last coal-fired facility in the state of Oregon.