GRU’s IRP presentation misrepresents biomass CO2 emissions


GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gainesville Regional Utilities is holding community engagement meetings on the development of its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which is an assessment of future electric needs and the plan to meet those needs; the first meeting was held on May 9.

A presentation given at the meeting includes a slide (page 11) titled, “GRU Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Emissions,” showing that CO2 emissions decreased sharply when the biomass plant (Deerhaven Renewables or DHR) came online. The chart claims a 55% reduction in CO2 since 2000 and credits the drop in 2013 to the operation of the biomass plant.

However, a report that was created in January 2022, similar to other monthly reports produced during the tenure of former GRU General Manager Ed Bielarski, shows different data for 2018, 2019, and 2020 (see page 26).

Specifically, the IRP presentation states that GRU produced about 1.2 million tons of CO2 in 2018, while the 2022 report says the amount was almost 2.1 million; the IRP presentation lists about 1.1 million tons for 2019, while the 2022 report lists 2 million tons; the IRP presentation lists a little over 1 million tons in 2020, while the 2022 report lists 1.5 million tons.

The 2022 report shows that GRU’s fossil fuel plants, as a whole, produce 0.72 tons of CO2 per MW-hour and that the biomass plant produces 1.36 tons of CO2 per MW-hour – nearly double the emissions of the fossil fuel plants.

After Bielarski was fired, beginning with the January 2022 report that was on the consent agenda of the March 17, 2022, City Commission meeting, GRU stopped reporting emissions data for the biomass plant, stating that “DHR CO2 is not included in the YTD since DHR is carbon neutral.”

Alachua Chronicle tried to determine the basis for the claim that “DHR is carbon neutral” in April 2022 and asked for any studies GRU relied on to declare the plant “carbon neutral” as well as an estimate of the carbon payback period for the biomass plant. GRU’s response to the question about studies was, “GRU has no records responsive to this request,” and their response to the question about the carbon payback period was, “Please provide a specific record that you are requesting.”

GRU has in the past stated that biomass can be considered carbon-neutral because the federal Environmental Protection Agency sent a letter to Congress supporting that view in 2018, “provided the use of forest biomass does not cause conversion of forests to non-forest use.” The U.S. Energy Information Administration adds, “the plants that are the source of biomass for energy capture almost the same amount of CO2 through photosynthesis while growing as is released when biomass is burned.”

A Scientific American article published in 2018 questions the conclusion that biomass plants are carbon-neutral. In the article, William Schlesinger, a biogeochemist and former president of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, says, “Recent evidence shows that the use of wood as fuel is likely to result in net CO2 emissions.” Beverly Law, an expert in forest science and management from Oregon State University, says, “We call it ‘slow in,’ as in it takes a long time for the carbon to accumulate in the forest, and ‘fast out’—you’re burning it so it goes into the atmosphere rapidly.”

The emissions data previously reported by GRU do not take into account emissions from the many trucks that deliver wood to the plant every day; a 2019 video demonstrates the large number of trucks that deliver wood to the plant.

We asked GRU to explain the difference between the data shown in the IRP presentation and the data in the 2022 report; David Warm, GRU’s Communications Director, responded, “The chart on the IRP presentation is measuring fossil fuel CO2 only, so Deerhaven Renewable Generating Station (DHR) isn’t included in that analysis. The old report from the Utility Advisory Board presentation includes emissions from DHR. You can see on page EP4 of the UAB report [shown below] that the numbers with and without DHR correspond to the two graphs. Thanks for pointing this out. We’re going to make it more clear on the IRP slide moving forward.” Warm did not explain why DHR’s emissions were omitted from the chart.

Page EP4 of the 2022 report

Ed Bielarski sent us the following statement, “Pretending that DHR doesn’t produce CO2 emissions is disrespectful of the public’s right to know. Informational and data gymnastics are not in keeping with the mission of a municipally owned utility. However, it is yet another reason Rep. Clemons found it necessary to sponsor his bill, which is awaiting the signature of the governor.”

  • In addition to the carbon footprint of the trucks hauling the trees to the biomass plant, what is the carbon footprint of the diesel equipment cutting down those trees in the harvested lands? Also, what is the loss of CO2 conversion after cutting down those trees. That needs to be calculated and added to the sum total.

    I support using renewable energy, but the reality is all energy production is dirty. To manufacture solar panels is harmful to the environment starting with diesel equipment collecting raw materials, diesel equipment delivering raw materials to the manufacturer, the energy required to manufacture the panels, and all the waste material and chemicals used in manufacturing.

    Then add the carbon footprint of the diesel truck, moving the panels from manufacturer to the port. Then the diesel container ship being loaded by diesel equipment at the port. Then the diesel container ship traveling across the ocean to another port where more diesel equipment is used to unload those containers. And then diesel trucks used to deliver to a distributor and eventually a diesel truck delivering to the retailer.

    • Great story good comment above too! It’s much worse than you are being told. Even the Obama energy plan he issued in his last year didn’t include woody biomass! Don’t see anymore being built do you? NO! That’s because they determined it’s not anywhere near carbon neutral for 100 YEARS plus! And that’s optimistic. That tree cut down would have been sucking up CO2 for years, then would have slowly rotted gradually releasing C02 for many more years. With biomass all carbon is released in just a few seconds, not 100 years. And that doesn’t include the trucks, saws and bulldozers mentioned above. The only reason Gainesville officials started saying it was “renewable” and “carbon neutral” was because they got brow beat and laughed at for agreeing to the worst biomass contract in the entire US!!! The TX plant by the same salesmen was only for 20 years and was scuttled, destroyed and sold for scrap metal by much larger Austin Energy after only 5 years. Our biomass plant is a farce and the biggest financial mistake ever made in North Central FL. Just accept it. Poe was the last Mayor to have voted for it (as a commissioner).

      • We can also add the promise of Biomass carbon re-capture over future decades of re-planted forestry is all wild speculation with no oversight or accountability from year-to-year. Biomass production from the US is currently shipped to he EU because they already depleted their harvestable forests.

  • How many tons of hardwood and acres of forest have to be cut and burned before the replenishment starts in 30 to 40 years? How much c02 is produced over say nuclear or natural gas for the same amount of electricity produced? Don’t forget to include the pollution (as described by the left) from the endless train of trucks delivering it to the wood burner.

  • Hey , Fat Harvey, Please tell us again how your lovefest with Biomass is a real thing? You the City of Gainesville lawsuit group and GRU get 6 Pinocchio’s. Thanks for sealing the deal , looks like your are all fired. Shutdown that tower of toxicity the Sierra Club and your special Alachua County homer EPA allowed this thing to ever get fired up. I smell another entity that needs the States investigation. The Circle back on the School Board.

  • Nice report, yet even given the stats as presented, the progressive left will say the data you have collected has been fabricated. They are blinded by their own political bias, their own addiction to the lies being perpetrated by those they follow without question.

    Thanks for calling out the deceitful charade being carried out by local leadership on the voters of Gainesville & Alachua County. Things need to change, before it’s too late.

  • Thanks Len and Jenn for producing a very informative report on GRU Biomass.

    We’ve all known from the time of plant start up the negative affects on our quality of life, misplaced environmental concerns and financial disaster that this plant would eminently bring. The comparison of emissions to natural gas, and even coal was made my thoughts wonder.

    All the previous comments are right on. Yesterday, while the fermentation of the wood chips spread its odor of Turkey Creek, I remembered our struggles to get the smoke stack noise issues addressed. The way that was implemented to reduce smell was to spray some time of chemical on the wood chips. I’ve never seen a report on what components would be released into our environment after burning.

    Furthermore, where are the reports on how are the wood chips monitored for protection from arsenic and other such toxins?

    • As you recall, part of the biomass chip payload ends up blowing in the wind as “fugitive dust” all over US 441 and adjacent housing developments when the trucks enter and leave the site. Fugitive dust and poor storage of biomass can lead to growth of phytopathogens (fungus and yeast) that increase health risks to patients with already compromised lungs and airways. Playing golf downwind of this risk is taking chances.

    • Hopefully the commission & government types who support and orchestrate these fiascos will be decommissioned soon.

  • You mean Pegeen and the supporters of the Biomess Plant lied? They claimed that this plant would produce carbon neutral energy, when the truth is that it puts out more CO2 than coal. So instead of reducing our carbon footprint, they’ve made it worse. It might not be so bad if we didn’t have to spend the next 30 years paying for their lies.

    • You beat me to it Fred…where’s Pigeen now? She implemented UN
      Agenda here and ruined our utility.
      F the WEF, UN and great reset. No Vax passports. Mask wearers are nutters.

    • I picture her as an eco-religion kook, not unlike a member of some rural church in the South where people handle rattlesnakes, hope not to get bit, and consider that a religious experience. Unfortunately, the whole town got bit by the kooky eco-religious woman’s rattlesnake, and it is a serious, permanent injury. Burning up trees to produce energy obviously wasn’t the answer, Pegeeeen.

    • Actually paying for 34 years because it was 4 years in when the commission decided to buy the plant for $750 million starting the 30 years all over again in 2018. Annual amount less of course but it didn’t help since Poe, Ward and lackeys Senor Hayes-Shltos and Arreola spent up all savings and more on useless dem lib ideas that provided no value to the city. All savings so far, and more, completely wasted by elected DEC candidates. Don’t elect another one.

      • I read the useful life of a biomass plant is only 20 to 30 years. It’s not some magical eco-diety that is going to live on and on.

        • Exactly….and good luck finding enough local debris and timber in 20 years to even power it.

  • Doomsday climate cult is committing a global human sacrifice. It’s that simple. Their demonic twin the UN previously made the 3rd world use childhood vaccines, where people had 10 kids each to compensate for infant mortality for millennia previously — now exploding and migrating across Europe and America.
    Two global demonic cults trying to kill us all.

  • Follow the money: (1) The individuals holding planted pine collect an agricultural exemption on their property. (2) They sell the pine to the biomass plant. (3) They replant the pine and (hopefully with the present administration) will be able to collect carbon credits for replanting. (4) They sell the carbon credits to the biomass plant. (5) They become very wealthy. Connect the dots.
    Here is the downside: (1) The price of electricity in Gainesville will skyrocket. (2) The environmental impact is an unknown, because of the enormous amount of diesel fuel burnt by the log trucks in an unmonitored manner as well as the burning of the pine trees. (3) The terrible damage to the roads and road beds that we already cannot afford to repair. (4) The statistical likelihood of injury and death due to the enormous increase in truck traffic.
    Finally, the sad reality is that the coal that we would be burning will be burnt anyway, in China, and in a far less regulated manner, making the Global Warming argument moot.
    Here are the results of a few simple calculations made using readily available information. These results are based on the attached spreadsheet and are based on the constant operation of a 100 MW biomass plant burning locally grown planted pine. I welcome input concerning these calculations.
    • 914918 cords of pine will be required annually.
    • This will require approximately 48 square miles of mature planted pine annually.
    • Assuming 20 years to maturity for the planted pine, this will monopolize 953 square miles of land. There are approximately 970 square miles in Alachua County. As another illustration, assuming the state is 120 miles wide, this is a swath of land 8 miles wide running from coast to coast.
    • The annual number of loads delivered to the plant will be 61978 or 170 a day.
    • Assuming a 50 mile average round trip per log truck (100 miles total per trip), the consumption of diesel fuel for transportation is estimated as 1,032,972 gallons.
    • Based upon accident statistics nationwide, there will be 22 accidents involving these trucks per year, with an unknown economic cost, time and wages lost, medical costs as well as pain and suffering. Additionally statistics predict a life lost every 4 ½ years.
    • The damage that will be inflicted to our already failing infrastructure remains unknown. What is known is that heavy trucks exact most of the damage to the roads, with passenger vehicle traffic resulting in a vanishingly small percentage of overall damage.
    • The 1032972 gallons of diesel fuel required for this transportation will produce 22931969 pounds of CO2. That is 22.9 Million pounds of Co2 annually.

  • Smoke & mirrors folks. Just another example of ” nuthin to see here folks, move along.”
    For those who remember the former Hudson paper mill in Palatka, the rancid smell of processing chemicals called “black liquor” drifted all the way to G’ville.
    Ronnie, get off your butt and sign that bill cause you aren’t cut out to be president.

  • I will be glad when the State takes over and gets their hands on the books will be interesting what else they have lied about sure would like to see several of these idiots brought down a notch or two

  • Thank you Mr. Bielarski for your truthful statement about about DHR & CO2 emissions. ☀️

  • So, the answer to whatever problems GRU faces is – according to Beilarski’s quote in the article –
    to give control to an unaccountable board appointed by a governor with no scientific, technical, or business experience and who’s primary motivator is political calculation and partisan warfare.


    What could go wrong, and just think how easy it will be to replace the board if they are just incompetent political hacks, like the guy who appointed them?

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