Identifying environmentally and economically optimal bioenergy plant sizes and locations: A spatial model of wood-based SNG value chains
The optimal size and location of bioenergy plants with regards to environmental and economic performance are assessed with a spatially explicit value chain model of the production of synthetic natural gas (SNG) from wood. It consists of several individual models for the availability, harvest, transportation, conversion of wood to SNG, electricity and heat, and the use of these products to substitute non-renewable energy services. An optimization strategy is used to choose the optimal technology configuration for plant sizes from 5 to 200 MW and different locations for any desired weighting between the environmental performance based on life cycle assessment (LCA) and the economic performance. While the economic optima are found at plant sizes between 100 and 200 MW, the environmental optima are found in the range of 5e40 MW. This trade-off can be minimized at plant sizes above 25 MW according to the presented model. The most important driver of the environmental performance is the efficient substitution of non-renewable energy, which is a site-specific factor. In comparison to this, spatial factors such as wood availability, harvest, and transportation, have a smaller influence on the environmental performance, at least for a country of the size of Switzerland. The main drivers of the economic performance are the revenues from the sale of the SNG plant’s products and the SNG production costs, but transportation and wood costs also play a role.