Though not new to Hampton Lumber or the forest products industry, the energy in woody biomass is gaining recognition as an environmentally preferred alternative to the traditional sources of fossil fuel. The new Darrington sawmill cogeneration system reduces manufacturing costs by burning mill residual wood waste (biomass) instead of more costly fossil fuel to produce steam for drying lumber. In addition, the steam is converted to electricity by a turbine and generator.
The electricity produced is sold to the local utility, Snohomish Public Utility District, and because biomass is utilized as the fuel source, the electricity produced qualifies as renewable energy. Renewable energy has an additional value component for the environmental benefit of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Each component generates additional revenue contributing to the mill’s bottom line.
“Green Tag” is the common name for the property rights to the environmental benefits from generating electricity from renewable energy sources. Green Tags represent the emissions from conventional electricity generation that are displaced when electricity is generated from biomass, wind, solar, geothermal and (some) hydro sources. Each Green Tag sold represents 1 Megawatt hour (MWh) of renewable energy produced.
Most states have enacted legislation to help facilitate the sale of renewable electricity by setting timelines by which utilities are required to sell minimum percentages of electricity produced from renewable sources. An alternative to help a utility meet the requirement is to purchase Green Tags as a substitute for purchasing actual renewable energy. Today the market for Green Tags in Oregon and Washington is based on voluntary demand, however both states recently enacted legislation requiring compliance thus a mandatory market will exist soon here as well. The financial value of each Green tag can be expected to increase as the demand increases.
Green Tags are available for purchase by homeowners and businesses through certifiers or retailers. You may be able to choose green power from your regular utility provider for your own home. If there is a renewable energy provider on your grid, your utility company is already buying green power. In addition to purchasing renewable energy, there are other ways you can green your home’s utility bill. Performing an energy audit can help identify energy saving strategies in your home. You can do this yourself, hire a professional or your utility company may perform this service for free. You can significantly decrease your electricity use (and CO2 emissions) by replacing your light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) and unplugging electronics when not in use. Another way to cut down your electricity consumption is to upgrade your appliances to Energy Star models. Even small steps towards decreasing energy consumption can add up to make a big difference in your energy bill and your home’s environmental impact.