Funding for Forest Biomass

With all the uncertainty surrounding the biomass industry’s financial incentive programs, it’s easy to overlook those that aren’t in danger of falling off the map.
By Lisa Gibson | December 30, 2011

With all the uncertainty surrounding the biomass industry’s financial incentive programs such as cash grants in lieu of tax credits, the production tax credit and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, it’s easy to overlook some of the incentives that aren’t in danger of falling off the map.

The USDA Forest Service hasn’t forgotten about us and will continue its Hazardous Fuels Woody Biomass Utilization Grant Program in 2012, with a balance of $3 million and an individual award cap of $250,000. The program is designed to fund energy projects that require engineering services and will use woody biomass such as material removed from forest restoration activities, wildfire hazardous fuel treatments, insect and disease mitigation, forest management from catastrophic weather events, and thinning overstocked stands.

This incentive for fuel removal appeals to the child in me who wants to shout “Take that!” to people who insist removing all those materials is bad for forests, and we should just let them grow naturally. It also reminds me of a Massachusetts forester who laughed heartily at that idea, and offered this explanation: people who argue in favor of letting forests grow naturally without removing those hazardous materials have no forest research in their backgrounds whatsoever.  It seems strange (and a bit pretentious) that they would continue to argue their point, despite strong evidence and testimony from the Forest Service itself, not to mention programs like this that really drive home the agency’s position on the issue.  Anyway, I’ve gotten off topic.

The 2012 Hazardous Fuels Woody Biomass Utilization Grant will award funding, no less than $50,000 per recipient, to qualifying projects that require engineering services. The list of eligible applicants includes state governments, county governments, public housing authorities, small businesses, private institutions of higher education, and others. That could include the design of woody biomass boilers for steam at sawmills, schools or hospitals; non-pressurized hot water systems for multiple applications; and biomass power plants.

The program’s main goals are to reduce forest management costs by increasing the value of biomass from hazardous fuels reduction; create incentives to reduce the business risk of increasing woody biomass utilization; implement projects that help remove economic barriers to using woody biomass for renewable energy; and to produce that energy.

It seems to me the program will be more than capable of satisfying all those objectives.

The application deadline is March 1. Click here for more information and application details.