Three Biomass Furnaces to Be Tested in Minnesota

biomass furnaceStudents at Minnesota State University in Mankato will be conducting experiments throughout Minnesota to test emissions from large woody biomass furnaces.

The Mankato Free Press reports that Prof. Bruce Jones and students from his Automotive Engineering Technology class will assist the state in measuring emissions from three biomass furnaces in the upcoming fall semester. The students are to test furnaces in Cloquet and Altura.

Jones and his students have considerable experience measuring emissions from automobiles, lawnmowers, diesel trucks, residential furnaces, and other motorized devices.

“The way you measure that is similar to how you measure vehicle emissions, so that’s how we got into it. It’s not a huge stretch from what we do to do this,” Jones said.

Many furnace experts such as Jones recommends that residential furnaces should be inspected every few months, especially its filters. In fact, some suggest that the filters should be inspected every 30 days of operation.

The testing will be funded by grant money from the state’s Department of Agriculture via its NextGen Energy initiative, which itself is part of the Agricultural Growth, Research and Innovation program. This project will determine how capable woody biomass is of replacing propane as a heat source, which is important in several parts of Minnesota that do not have access to natural gas.

Dave Frederickson, the Minnesota Commissioner of Agriculture, is enthusiastic about the upcoming tests.

“These projects cover various sectors of the state as well as different technologies for biomass heating,” Frederickson said. “This may help develop markets for the use of wood as fuel in an environmentally responsible way.”

The biomass furnace at Cloquet uses wood chips to meet 88% of the heating requirements for the Fond du Lac Sawyer Community Center near Lake Superior. Over 15,000 gallons of propane are predicted to be replaced and 85 tons of carbon dioxide emissions are expected to be cut.

The Altura biomass furnace is a wood chip forced air furnace near a chicken farm. The farmers there are hopeful that the furnace will completely replace the farm’s propane consumption. The third furnace, also in Altura, is located in the greenhouses on Whitewater Gardens Farm, and its farmers are also hopeful that it will replace the 10,000 gallons of liquid propane it uses every year.