HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - It is promoted as a clean, green energy source that can create jobs in Eastern Kentucky, but a recent study found power plants that burn biomass - wood and other plant material - pollute more than coal plants.
Authors of the study say a proposed wood-fired power plant in Perry County would hurt the region.
Biomass advocates say trees could be the answer to lost coal jobs, while reducing greenhouse gases blamed for climate change, but a recent study by the Partnership for Policy Integrity suggests the "green" reputation of wood-fired power plants is unfounded.
"Yes, trees grow back and they tie up an equivalent amount of carbon in time that is released by burning, but that takes decades," said Mary Booth, the energy policy group's director.
For years, a 58 megawatt biomass power plant has been in the works to be built in Perry County.
"Loggers and landowners can only harvest the best quality trees, and a lot of times there are some poor quality logs left on top of that tree that don't really, or haven't had, a good market. We're going to change that," said ecoPower Vice President for Fuel Procurement Grant Curry in 2009.
Perry County Judge Executive Denny Ray Noble says he has not heard much recently about the project, and says its future is unclear.
Authors of the report say building it would be a mistake.
They say wood-fired power plants emit almost 50 percent more carbon dioxide than coal-fired plants per unit of energy produced.
"And it's not just carbon dioxide either, because biomass plants are so inefficient, conventional pollutant emissions are more per megawatt hour as well," Booth said.
Booth says wood-burning plants do not deserve subsidies offered to renewable energy sources, and says it is in the best interests of the region to leave the trees where they are.
The study looked at 88 pollution permits for biomass power plants in 25 states.
WYMT tried to reach ecoPower for comment, but calls were not returned.