The Department of Defense (DoD), as well as other institutions, operate a large number of small energy conversion systems that burn fossil fuels that emit substantial amounts of air pollutants [sulfur dioxide (SO2) and particulate] that must be controlled. Systems fueled with biomass eliminate SO2 emissions, produce a zero net gain of carbon dioxide, reduce air toxic emissions, and help solve waste disposal problems.

The project objectives were to develop innovative energy conversion technologies fueled with biomass and demonstrate their technical, economic, and environmental feasibility for use on DoD installations, at industrial sites, and in developing countries. This project will provide the impetus needed for the development of equipment, the design of systems, and the creation of markets.

Technical Approach

The technical approach was to identify a DoD host site, partners, and the most viable technology, which then was designed, built, and tested. The biomass fuel was generated by activities on-site, in the community, and from dedicated feedstock supply systems and included timber from harvests and wind-throws. The chipped wood material was gasified in a closed system where the gas was captured and used to drive diesel-electric generators. Technical risks were minimized by the proper selection of technology based on the available site, size of system, type of fuel, qualification of operators, and lessons learned by all cooperators.

The project built on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Policy, Planning, and Evaluation and DoD study titled "Enhancing Management of Forests and Vegetation on DoD Lands: Opportunities, Benefits, and Feasibility"; the EPA National Risk Management Research Laboratory (NRMRL), Department of Energy and Agency for International Development biomass integrated gasification/gas turbine study; the U.S. Department of Agriculture work with a wood-fired combustion turbine, utilization of wood pallets, and marketing of cull trees; the National Renewable Energy Laboratory gasifier scale-up inHawaii; the Western Research Institute’s work with cofiring wood and coal in a turbine; the Regional Biomass Program’s utilization of biomass; the EPA/NRMRL multifuel combustor research; and the Office of Naval Research’s research in dedicated feedstock supply system.


The biomass fueled electrical generation system was built at Camp LeJeune, Jacksonville, NC. It has been hooked into the power grid as a supplemental energy supply. The demonstration has been successful. This project was completed in FY 1996.


The DoD benefits resulting from the utilization of biomass-fueled systems are the following: (1) reduced air emissions, (2) minimized on-site and community waste disposal, (3) savings resulting from tipping fees and the purchase of fossil fuels and electricity, (4) energy security at domestic and international military installations, and (5) promotion of exportable technologies. The technologies can be modularized to allow for varying fuel supplies and energy demand and transportability. The technologies were comprised of off-the-shelf components or of technologies that could be manufactured by existing industries. Previous efforts focused on large-scale, mature technologies and neglected small-scale, innovative energy conversion technologies. A successful demonstration could allow developing countries to get approval for financing from multilateral lenders. Developing countries and rural areas are in dire need of this type of technology because biomass waste is both a disposal and air pollution (open burning) problem and diesel fuel is too costly to import.