New Deal Will Send Parks Department’s Wood Waste to Rubbertown Biomass Boiler

Metro Government will start selling landscaping debris gathered from Louisville parks to a Rubbertown facility that will burn it for energy.

Last fall, a company called Recast Energy took control of a boiler in Rubbertown that supplies steam to the Lubrizol and Zeon Chemical plants. The boiler used to be coal-fired, but Recast engineered it to run on biomass.

Now, Recast has inked a contract with Metro Parks that will help keep the boilers running. The company will buy all of the woody material the department clears out of the city’s parks, like fallen trees and branches that usually end up in a landfill. This will save the city money, because typically Metro Parks has to hire contractors to grind up the biggest trees and branches. Plus, Recast will pay the city for the waste, generating anywhere from $7,000-$12,000 in revenue.

Metro Parks Forestry Manager Mesude Ozyurekoglu says the deal is good for everyone, especially as the invasive Emerald Ash Borer insects take their toll on Louisville’s trees.

“As Parks Department we are capable of dealing with the problem,” she said. “But disposing of the wood that we are going to be producing is somewhat a concern, so this agreement is going to help tremendously.”

Biomass is a form of renewable energy, though it’s not as sustainable as, say, solar or wind power. The practice has been criticized because sometimes trees are planted specifically for biomass and aren’t harvested sustainably. And the practice does release carbon dioxide, and if mature trees that would otherwise go toward paper or lumber are burned, biomass energy will have a negligible effect on lowering greenhouse gases.

Recast President and COO Matthew Markee says in this case, the facility will just use waste wood that would otherwise be left to rot in a landfill or in the forest. He says using biomass will result in “a dramatic overall reduction in things like sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxides and the total carbon emission reduction is significant from a coal-burning facility to the tune of 75-90 percent, depending on the particular pollutant.”

Other city departments could also eventually provide wood waste to Recast.

Erica Peterson

Erica Peterson reports on energy and the environment for WFPL.

@ericampeterson

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