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Tribal Energy and Environmental Information Clearinghouse: Environmental resources for tribal energy development
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Biomass Energy Construction: Resource Requirements and Impact Sources

Most land-disturbing activities would occur during the construction phase. Construction of a biomass energy project would affect the entire project area.

Construction would affect the entire project area temporarily and include activities such as clearing; construction of access and on-site roads and rail spurs; preparation and use of material and equipment laydown areas; construction of the electrical substation, central biomass power or biofuel building, ancillary buildings, cooling systems, and storage silos and tanks; and installation of utilities. Concrete ingredients (sand and aggregate) may also need to be extracted and hauled to the site.

The following factors could affect whether an environmental impact could occur at a biomass energy facility and whether it would be considered an adverse effect:

  • Acreage — The biomass power plant or biofuel facility site would encompass a range of a few acres to several hundred acres. Temporary disturbance (3 to 100 acres) would occur during construction of the main plant and ancillary facilities, such as cooling towers and storage tanks. Acreage for access roads would vary by project depending on project location. Landfills vary from tens of acres up to several thousand acres (the largest landfill that is currently being used for biogas generation and recovery, the former Fresh Kills Landfill, Staten Island, New York, is about 2,900 acres). Algal production in ponds is still in the development stage, but a series of "racetrack" ponds covering hundreds of acres are being considered.
  • Emissions — Construction activities would produce fugitive dust, vehicular and equipment emissions, and volatile organic compounds from storage and the use of fuels for equipment.
  • Waste Generation — Industrial wastes routinely associated with industrial facility construction activities (waste oils, lubricants, and coolants from the on-site maintenance of construction vehicles and equipment; spent solvents; cleaning agents; paints; small amounts of wastewater) and solid wastes, such as containers and packaging materials.
  • Water Needs — Construction activities would require water for fugitive dust control (depending on local conditions) and making concrete, potable water for construction crews, and fire-fighting.
  • Workforce — Workforce size varies but could require as many as 80 to 500 individuals during the peak period of construction. The general construction crew would be relatively constant throughout the construction phase. Typically, none of the workforce would reside on site, but minimal support facilities might be required for weather contingencies.
  • Time and Materials — Construction of a biomass facility would occur over a period of about 12 to 30 months.
  • Utility Requirements — Utility requirements would vary depending on location; the use of on-site generators is possible.