Setting the Record Straight

A forester and biomass supplier attempts to quash misinformation about Florida’s biomass availability.
By Lisa Gibson | September 20, 2011

While he understands the concerns and doesn’t place blame for the lack of understanding, Richard Schroeder, forester and president of biomass supplier BioResource Management Inc., wants to dispel misinformation regarding the biomass supply for the proposed Gainesville Renewable Energy Center in Gainesville, Fla.

Worries about an increase in wood fiber pricing and insufficient biomass supply to feed the plant have circulated in the region, even among foresters. Schroeder coolly explains in a letter to the editor of the Gainesville Sun that there is indeed an adequate supply for the 100-megawatt facility, and that it will bring extensive benefits to landowners, timber producers and mills currently using other forest products.

Gainesville-based BioResource Management will be the biomass supplier for the GREC, securing about 580,000 dry tons of woody biomass per year, sourcing more than 40 percent from the urban landscape including tree canopy material, Schroeder explains. A number of in-depth studies to which Schroeder refers have found that there is plenty of unused biomass generated annually to sustain the facility.

“This biomass use is not reducing existing inventory,” he writes. “It is harvesting more of what is being grown each year.” The plant will use stunted, low-grade and otherwise nonmerchantable wood that needs to be thinned to prevent forest fires, but lacks a market. The material is fuel for devastating wildfires, common where population is encroaching into wild areas, he says. “The logical way to mitigate that is to remove the fuel,” he says.

Schroeder further assures worried parties by referring to the due diligence process, including extensive research into sustainability and impacts to related industries, every biomass plant developer must complete in order to secure that all-important and often difficult aspect of a project: money. “In order to get a plant financed, you have to go through a mountain of due diligence,” he says. “Ask the loaners and the bankers.”

GREC will be the fifth start-up project in BioResource Management’s portfolio, Schroeder points out, adding that his experience tells him this one will be a success. “This project is a reality and will begin receiving biomass material in about 20 months.”

Schroeder says his hope is that the GREC will be good for all landowners, and with his letter to the editor, set out to clear away unfounded and unnecessary worry, specifically addressing a previous letter sent by a fellow forester that outlines concerns with wood price increases. “All I wanted to tell him was there’s a lot of good reasons that shouldn’t happen,” Schroeder says.

—Lisa Gibson