As part of a private nonprofit, BERC is independent and impartial and provides fair and objective feasibility studies, maintaining technology neutrality, and conducting routine due diligence on equipment vendors and their technology claims. There are a number of vendors in this emerging industry and as many claims to their technology’s capabilities. BERC’s ability to cut through marketing hype and determine a system’s actual capabilities will ensure the best choice for a facility’s heating needs.
BERC has learned that the most cost-effective approach to studying the feasibility for a biomass energy project is to approach the study in stages. We advise not spending too much time, effort, or money on a full feasibility study before discovering whether the potential project makes basic economic sense. So at the outset of considering a project, BERC generally suggests undertaking a pre-feasibility study. This is a basic assessment, not yet at the engineering level, to determine the project's apparent cost effectiveness.
As a result of the pre-feasibility study, BERC will candidly suggest what prospects for biomass energy production appear worth studying further, and what the key issues need resolving for successful design and implementation. We will report on whether available technologies are right for the potential project, or if emerging technologies may be better-suited, and, if so, when they are likely to become commercially available in proven form.
The pre-feasibility study builds confidence among stakeholders and potential users of a project. If the project then proceeds to the next level, BERC can oversee a new level of study, by certified professional engineers. For a larger-scale project, we may recommend several stages of feasibility studies. For smaller projects, such as biomass heating systems for schools, BERC has been working to develop the simplest, easiest possible process of reliably studying feasibility. We seek first to learn as much as possible from existing data and via phone contacts, and then recommend whether it makes economic sense to bring professional resources on site.
A feasibility study may include some or all of the following components:
Site Assessment. BERC conducts site assessments to evaluate the availability of space for the installation of a biomass energy system at a particular site, including identifying locations with adequate room (either within existing construction or for new construction), good street access for delivery trucks, and sufficient space for these tractor trailer trucks to maneuver in delivering woodchips. Site topography and any permitting constraints due to water sources, wetlands, or historical buildings are also considered in the site assessment.
Economic Feasibility. BERC has developed a life-cycle cost (LCC) analysis tool that is used to analyze the cost effectiveness of purchasing, operating, and maintaining a biomass heating system over its 30-year life. The LCC tool looks at multiple inputs, including the consumption and price paid for both fossil and woodchip fuels and the cost of installing and maintaining the biomass system. The LCC is a decision-making tool that allows the user to compare the cost of a new woodchip heating system to the cost of an existing fossil fuel heating system.
Permitting and Air Quality Requirements. BERC can incorporate into its feasibility studies an assessment of the air emissions issues around the type(s) of fuels and technology being employed. BERC works with local air quality regulators to determine whether emissions control equipment should be installed and to identify any potential permitting requirements at the site being studied.