This summer, in the aftermath of a heavy storm, Duluth, Minn., residents were mostly concerned about when their electricity would be restored. They were unlikely to be thinking about how the city would dispose of all of the toppled trees. Nor were they likely wondering if the two had anything to do with each other.
Shortly after the storm, however, the city revealed in the Duluth News-Tribune that most of the trees will be reused as fuel. Specifically, they will be chipped and hauled to Minnesota Power’s Hibbard Renewable Energy Center, where the wood chips will be used as fuel to create steam for power generation.
The power generated by the recycled wood chips will fuel the nearby Verso paper and recycling mills and will generate electricity for local customers. Wood chips are considered a renewable resource because trees grow back, and they are not responsible for the same levels of carbon emissions as fossil fuels.
According to Allete, Inc., the parent company of Minnesota Power, the Hibbard Plant can consume up to 40 semitrailer loads of biomass fuel per day. The plant has been processing trees for the past couple of years, as the city has been disposing of ash trees that were cut down to halt the spread of the invasive emerald ash borer. The plant has been receiving between 400–500 tons of ash tree debris annually.
Using trees from the summer storm debris should not be a problem; although, according to Pakou Ly, Duluth city spokesperson, the amount is “rather overwhelming.”