Federal recovery act grants announced this week will send about$17 million to sawmills in the Northwest to boost renewable energy from biomasswood wastesuch as tree trimmings and wood chips. DNR already has been at work towards developing pilot demonstration projects, one in western Washington and one in eastern Washington, to create a market for biomass. The DNR pilots, which are separate from the federal grants announced this week, will require partnerships with biomass suppliers, researchers, conversion facility owners, and others.
DNR will release details in July about how it will identify favorable partners for the biomass initiative. The department plans to select partners for the demonstration projects by September.
TheDNR Biomass Initiative was launched by Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark in February 2009 and approved by the state legislature in April 2009. Signed into law by Governor Christine Gregoire, House Bill 2165 is anticipated to create new jobs while aiding efforts to control climate change.
Biomass includes left-over wood after an area has been harvested for lumber, as well as brush and other natural materials that have been cleared out of forested areas to limit risk of fire. Previously popular disposal methods for this mass, burning or leaving it in place to decompose, emitted harmful gases into the atmosphere.
Under this initiative, these materials will now be turned into usable fuels, creating a renewable energy source. DNR will work with private industry and other entities to use existing technologies to turn this mass into energy.
Recipients of the recent federal grants include Vaagen Brothers Lumber in Colville, which gets a $250,000 grant for new equipment to chip logging slash that can be used to generate electricity. Another recipient is Kulzer Energy, which receives $4 million to develop an integrated facility that uses woody biomass to produce heat and electric power.
The new use of these materials will help to reduce Washingtons carbon footprint by lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Disposing of forest waste for use as a beneficial energy source will save money in fire prevention efforts, and contribute towards minimizing the risk of forest fires. Information about fire prevention can be found onDNRs fire prevention webpage. The U.S.Forest Service announced in May that DNR will receive $2.5 million in stimulus funding.DNR is using those funds for wildfire prevention by helping private landowners to thin and remove small trees, brush and other potential fuels for wildfires.