WEIRD WEDNESDAY: Chocolate Power!
Electric power production in New Hampshire got a little bit greener this month—and the air may even smell a little bit sweeter—thanks to a collaboration between Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH) and premium chocolate maker Lindt USA. On March 3, 2009, PSNH’s Schiller Station in Portsmouth tested a new fuel mix combining the coal it normally burns in the unit with a new ingredient: cocoa bean shells. Designated by the state of New Hampshire as biomass, cocoa bean shells are a byproduct of the production of chocolate.
When Lindt USA begins producing its own chocolate from raw cocoa beans, as it expects to do at its Stratham facility by the end of 2009, the company will produce these shells each week. The test burn at Schiller will determine the feasibility of putting these shells to use as a fuel source.
“Sending shells to Schiller Station would be a win-win for us,” says Thomas Linemayr, Lindt USA’s President and CEO. “Not only would it be a quick, local solution for disposing of a byproduct, but it would afford us another opportunity to reduce our carbon footprint as we bring our chocolate production in-house.”
Currently, Lindt & Sprungli subsidiaries in Europe process the chocolate that Lindt USA uses for products such as the iconic Lindor Truffles collection. The chocolate is shipped in the form of huge blocks, across the Atlantic to the Stratham facility.
When Lindt USA imports the beans directly from the source and manufactures its own chocolate, the company will eliminate the need for these overseas transports and will become one of the only US chocolate manufacturers to manage the chocolate-making process from raw material to final product. Although shells from some of Lindt’s competitors are reused as garden mulch, Linemayr is not aware of any other cocoa-bean-shell-to-energy projects in the U.S. chocolate industry.
For PSNH, the addition of cocoa bean shells to its fuel mix is not expected to bring any significant changes to Schiller Station, since the ratio of shells to coal is so small: about 1 part shells to 33 parts coal. Still, the company sees it as another opportunity to expand its green-energy repertoire.
“At PSNH, we are always looking for ways to increase our use of cleaner, renewable, local energy sources,” says Schiller Station Manager Dick Despins. “If all goes well with the test, our collaboration with Lindt will allow us to replace a portion of coal with a portion of biomass, and each step we take toward replacing a fossil fuel with green power is a step in the right direction.”
In 2006, another boiler at Schiller Station (Unit 5) became one of the largest renewable energy projects in the country, when PSNH permanently replaced the 50-megawatt coal-burning boiler with a wood-burning boiler of the same capacity. In addition to reducing emissions levels from the plant, the Northern Wood Power Project, as the conversion was called, qualifies Schiller Station to produce Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) that are required by various states’ Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS).
Renewable Portfolio Standards require energy suppliers to support the growth of new renewable energy sources by purchasing RECs from generators that produce fuel from wind, solar, biomass, etc. PSNH can use RECs it produces at Schiller Station to meet its requirements under the State of New Hampshire’s Renewable Portfolio Standards.
The burning of biomass at a PSNH generation facility also reduces the amount of fossil-based carbon dioxide (CO2) the power plant would otherwise emit. That helps meet requirements of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or “RGGI.” RGGI is a cooperative agreement among 10 states in the Northeast, including New Hampshire, to reduce CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel power plants to a target level that is 10 percent lower than 2002-2004 emissions levels by the year 2018. The RGGI compliance rules went into effect on January 1, 2009.