Why We Power Our Operation with Renewable Biomass Fuel

In Blog, Recycle, Reuse, Wood is Good by Morgan Dix

Sustainability is one of our key priorities here at DCI. Part of our mission as a company is to make sure that our operation has net neutral impact on the biosphere.

One key way that we reduce our ecological footprint is by using biomass fuel to power our manufacturing facility. This is what allows us to have a Zero Waste manufacturing plant.

But first, what is biomass and why is it sustainable?

What Is Biomass Fuel?

biomass fuel sawdustBiomass fuel is a renewable resource because, unlike fossil fuels, no matter how much plant material you use, there is no limit to the amount you can replace. It’s created by making energy from organic material like trees and plants.

In our case, we burn wood waste from our industrial processes to power our factory with heat and electricity. That wood waste is our biomass fuel source.

You see, trees absorb and store solar energy from the sun through photosynthesis. Photosynthesis converts solar energy into chemical energy. When we burn our waste wood, that chemical energy is released and we can use it to displace non-renewable fuel sources like oil and gas.

Biomass Fuel at DCI

Here’s how it works at DCI. We build most of our furniture from solid hardwood. Usually maple, oak, and ash. In the process of making our furniture, we generate a lot of wood waste in the form of wood chips,  rough cuts and sawdust.

Today, all of our machinery is equipped to capture that sawdust. And we generate an enormous amount of saw dust. That sawdust is the primary biomass fuel for our steam boilers which generate the heat and some of the electricity that powers our factory.

It’s an efficient closed loop system, and it eliminates waste.

In fact, by using a wood boiler to power our kilns and heat our factory and offices, we are saving an average of 68 gallons of petroleum oil an hour or over 200,000 gallons of oil per year.

Speaking of petroleum, let’s take a look at how biomass fuel stacks up against other sources of energy like fossil fuels?

Biomass Fuel Vs Fossil Fuels

First, this biomass video primer hits the high points and demonstrates why it’s such a better energy source than fossil fuels.

1. Carbon Neutral

Unlike fossil fuels, biomass fuel is carbon neutral. Forests sequester a huge amount of C02. That storage is part of the natural carbon cycle. So is the release of C02 that comes from burning wood biomass.

The carbon that’s released is offset by the growth of new forest, which stores much more carbon than mid to late succession or climax forests. By displacing fossil fuels with wood biomass, we are reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

And as an aside, by making all our hardwood furniture from wood harvested here in the Northeast United States, we are helping to create small patches of new forest and increasing the carbon storing capacity of those forests.

2. Renewable

As you probably know already, fossil fuels are not renewable. Once we use them, they’re gone. Trees, on the other hand, are in limitless supply and grow faster than we can cut them. And the beauty of a tree is that all it requires to thrive is sunlight, soil, water, and air.

3. Plentiful

Another advantage of biomass is that it’s abundant. And when it comes to trees, it’s important to note that trees in the Northeast United States are growing twice as fast as we can cut them. And in America in general reforestation categorically outpaces deforestation. According to Seattle Pi:

In the United States, deforestation has been more than offset by reforestation between 1990 and 2010. The nation added 7,687,000 hectares (18,995,000 acres) of forested land during that period.

And this Boston Globe article puts those numbers in context. In the 19th century:

…only about 30 to 40 percent of the region was covered with forest; Massachusetts was down to 28 percent. Today, according to researchers at the Harvard Forest, New England is back to 80 percent forest.

Of course it’s the opposite with fossil fuels. They are limited in supply and diminishing all the time. They’re also expensive and hard to access.

4. Cheaper

At DCI, we save a great deal of money by using our wood waste to power and heat our factory. It’s waste, so we literally spend nothing on it. These energy savings are passed on to you, our customers.

We can keep our prices competitive because practicing sustainable business saves us money and makes economic sense.

Oh, I almost forgot another biomass fuel fun fact. During the summer months—when our factory has less heating demands—we donate the sawdust to our neighboring dairy farms for animal bedding.

It’s a great opportunity to support the local farms.

This was just a quick primer on the benefits of biomass fuel. In the end, using biomass doesn’t work for everyone. But at DCI, it’s one of the pillars of our sustainability mission.

If you’d like to learn more about our Zero waste VIP, please read: How To Craft Climate Friendly Furniture That Creates Zero Waste

(Photos via Fickr CC: PSNHDept of Energy and Climate Change)