Energizing Wood Power

Replacing Fossil Fuels in a "Clean Energy" Economy

Three towering smokestacks rise from the fossil fuel-fired Schiller Power Station in the quaint New England city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Built more than 50 years ago, Schiller is a striking example of a dirty, coal-burning power plant constructed during the mid-20th century. An archaic plant exempted from Clean Air Act standards for major sources of pollution and known as one of the "dirty dozen" power plants in New England, Schiller is a facility that environmentalists loathe and traditional energy advocates say our nation cannot live without. Ray Faulkner, who lives a few miles downwind from Schiller, recalls several occasions when his children’s toys were blanketed with a film of black coal dust. Now, he says, "I"m fed up."

Coal-based power plants, which constitute more than half of U.S. electricity production, are some of the most nefarious polluters in the country, and Schiller is no exception. But something revolutionary is in the works: Schiller expects by December 2005 to become the first coal-fired power plant in the nation to fully convert one of its boilers to burn a renewable source of fuel known as "woody biomass"—typically wood chips, wood waste and small trees.