renewable experts says biomass is only "outstanding" sector

The current low price of fossil fuels is continuing to hurt the alternative energy business, with biomass the only real sector offering the promise of quick profits, according to a US renewable energy company.

In a statement released this week, Gary C Evans, chairman and chief executive of GreenHunter Energy, based in Texas, said that providing projects are built in the right place, the biomass sector could be profitable immediately.

"Due to depressed fossil fuel prices, the alternative energy business today offers few appealing commercial opportunities," said Evans. "The biomass business is the one outstanding sector that offers immediate profitability depending upon the location of the facility."

GreenHunter - which is involved with a variety of renewable sectors including wind, hydro, geothermal and solar - has just announced the completion of a 20-year sales agreement over a biomass project in Southern California. Managed by its GreenHunter Mesquite Lake subsidiary, the deal sees Californian utility company Imperial Irrigation District agree to buy up to 27MW of net electrical output over a 20-year period.

The sale of the power output from the new biomass facility must begin on or before 30 June 2011, GreenHunter said.

"This new power sales agreement for the electrical power output generated from our Mesquite Lake Biomass Facility located in the Imperial Valley of Southern California will enable us to complete construction and have a viable operating asset within our existing portfolio," added Evans.

Despite Evans' concerns about the impact of fossil fuels, July figures from the US Energy Information Administration show green energy generation accounted for 11.1 per cent of total electricity production in the country between April 2008 and 2009.

Input from hydroelectric sources rose 18.4 per cent to make up seven per cent of the total, while other renewables such as solar, wind, biomass and geothermal sources now account for 4.1 per cent. Wind power was the biggest success story in the renewables sector, with net generation increasing by more than a third, the report stated.

In August, energy and climate change minister Lord Hunt announced that the government has given the green light to plans for a 95MW waste-to-energy facility at Ince in Cheshire, which is expected to turn 600,000 tonnes of waste destined each year for landfill into energy.

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