Rolls-Royce, Volve CE and Air Burners partner to create BioCharger

Rendering of the BioCharger disposing of vegetative waste, generating electricity, storing electricity, and charging machinery.

Air Burners has partnered with Rolls-Royce and Volvo Construction Equipment to develop and test the new BioCharger – a portable machine that turns biomass waste into energy.

The BioCharger combines three innovative steps to generate off-grid power from vegetative waste. First, it eliminates vegetative waste using air curtain technology, which minimizes harmful particulate matter entering the atmosphere. Then, it converts the residual heat energy into electric energy and stores it in a connected battery storage module. Finally, with the accompanying charging mechanism, the BioCharger allows for off-grid electric vehicle and machinery charging.

“While electric machinery becomes increasingly popular in the fight against climate change, when it comes to forest management, we must have practical solutions for charging electric machinery away from traditional power sources,” said Air Burners President Brian O’Connor.

“The Air Burners’ BioCharger provides that solution and manages wood waste, all done in an economical and environmentally conscious way.”

Air Burners consulted with Rolls-Royce in developing the battery storage module within the BioCharger, a 450-kWh charging station that can recharge multiple battery-electric machines and tools, from chainsaws to excavators.

The BioCharger creates and stores enough energy daily to recharge three to six battery-powered machines. In addition, the BioCharger retains enough energy to start itself and continue the cycle the next day.

“The BioCharger is a unique application for our mtu EnergyPack battery energy storage system that I think shows just how versatile energy storage can be,” said Kevin McKinney, Sales Director at Rolls-Royce Solutions America. “The BioCharger’s ability to reduce emissions and generate energy through responsible handling of vegetative waste perfectly aligns with our targets to support our customers with innovative solutions for the transition to clean power generation.”

To prove the effectiveness of the BioCharger, Air Burners partnered with Volvo CE to test its charging ability on the 23-ton EC230 Electric excavator, which is currently in its pilot testing phase.

“This collaboration with Air Burners for the BioCharger allows us to demonstrate one of the more non-conventional sources to fast-charge our equipment in off-grid locations,” said Dr. Ray Gallant, Vice President of sustainability and productivity services at Volvo Construction Equipment.

Unlike biomass power plants, the BioCharger is a portable machine that can be relocated to a new site and be operational in about 6 hours. The machine accepts whole logs, root balls, pallets, crates and any other clean wood or vegetative waste without sorting, crushing or grinding. As well, air curtain burners do not require secondary fuel sources like natural gas, reducing costs and easing installation. 

Vegetative waste is a significant and growing problem. In the United States, 70 million tons of wood waste are collected annually, but only 48 per cent of that waste is recycled, leaving the rest to open burns or decomposition, which releases particulate matter and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

The BioCharger permanently eliminates up to 20 tons of vegetative waste per hour without emitting harmful greenhouse emissions like methane or black carbon – the second biggest contributor to climate change after carbon dioxide.