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Evaluating woody biomass options for North Carolina's electricity future

Dana Haine, University of North Carolina, School of Education

In this activity, students learn about the pros and cons of co-firing woody biomass fuels with coal to produce electricity.

Activity takes about three to four 45-minute class periods.

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Different sources of energy and the different ways energy can be transformed, transported and stored each have different benefits and drawbacks.
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Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Good tips are included in the lesson.
  • Worksheets with a wealth of resources are provided.

About the Science

  • As coal-burning power plants seek ways to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions, some are evaluating co-firing with woody biomass for the generation of steam heat and/or electricity.
  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

  • This is a problem-based authentic assessment.
  • Students assume the role of various stakeholders and participate in a discussion with classmates who represent officials from a local power plant that is seeking to substitute twenty percent of its coal with woody biomass.
  • Students evaluate available woody biomass options (forest residue, mill residue, urban wood) and come to a group consensus about which option, if any, is best from economic, environmental, and public health perspectives.
  • Very engaging and well-designed format.
  • Activity focused on the standards set by the North Carolina Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard REPS but can be easily adapted to other locations.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Easy-to-use lesson plan.

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