Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Agricultural Economics

Committee Chair

Wallace E Tyner

Committee Member 1

Otto C Doering III

Committee Member 2

Richard Meilan

Committee Member 3

Tristan R. Brown


This study evaluates the feasibility of a 100% biomass direct firing biopower plant in Indiana. As a major biomass fuel, short-rotation coppice (SRC) poplar (Populus spp.) is chosen because of its high biomass productivity. The poplar plantation yield and moisture content data were collected from an actual field trial conducted in southern Indiana (Southwest Purdue Agricultural Center, SWPAC) beginning in 2013. Biomass Bubbling Fluidized Bed (BBFB) boiler and steam-turbine technology is used as the electricity-generating unit. For the three stochastic parameters (yield, moisture content, and planting costs), we estimate the system break-even price distribution through Monte Carlo simulation. We find that the biopower plant is not economically feasible in Indiana, as the estimated system break-even price (21.1 cents/kWh) is six times higher than the current wholesale electricity price in Indiana.

Given this infeasible project condition, we find a few strategies to improve system economics. First, we estimate the optimal biomass production level to lead to the least break-even price is 0.8% more than the power plant’s biomass demand, with the possibility of purchasing woodchips from the market. Second, we find that the system break-even price could be lowered by 1 cent/kWh when a woodchip market is available, compared to the non-market condition. Third, selecting excellent land (high yield and expensive land cost) mitigates the system break-even price estimation risks. However, the opportunity cost of such land likely prohibits its use.

Our LCA analysis shows the net emissions of this biopower plant is negative (-1.28kg/kWh) because of the SRC carbon sequestration. Based on this net emission, a carbon tax above $90/ton CO2 equivalence can make the biopower plant competitive with other power plants (coal and natural gas) in Indiana.