An Abundance of Opportunities

By Lisa Gibson | February 21, 2012

The word sustainability has broad definitions, but many of us in the bioenergy industry  associate it with ensuring the health and vitality of the feedstock source after a biomass harvest, whether it’s cropland, forestland, forestry residue, or another resource.

It certainly isn’t a new concern and is a vital aspect of every biomass project’s feasibility study. But sustainability doesn’t only revolve around feedstock. A successful, well-planned and well-executed biomass project can bring economic sustainability, also. A biomass producer and collector tax credit in Oregon has done just that, and therefore, has been extended through 2018. The credit has created jobs along the woody biomass supply chain, enhanced forest health, and brought revenue to the state. A research team discovered the positive impacts while analyzing the economy with and without the tax credit. The results are clear. Read more about it in a feature article by Associate Editor Luke Geiver, beginning on page 18.

Elsewhere, however, the biomass industry is facing the loss of many incentives supporting development. In February, leaders from the Biomass Power Association, National Hydropower Association and Geothermal Energy Association wrote a letter to Congress urgently calling for an extension of the renewable energy production tax credit, set to expire in 2013. Don’t wait until the end of this year to extend it, they say, as it would mean the loss of an entire construction season for all their industries. I like to see renewables groups pushing together for support and I see it happening more, as concern about incentives mounts among all of us. The federal government could take a lesson from Oregon.

As the state has shown, the biomass industry has an abundance of advantages to offer citizens, communities, states and even entire regions. The U.S. Midwest, for example, could benefit from existing resources in agriculture and purpose-grown biomass. In another feature in this issue, beginning on page 24, Associate Editor Anna Austin explores and expands upon existing research into the region’s cropland biomass resources and their ability to jumpstart a robust bioenergy industry that stimulates the economy. 

The biomass industry is continually discovering more potential to flourish and make a difference in the U.S. domestic energy sector. This issue of Biomass Power & Thermal highlights just a few intriguing opportunities in a growing list that includes feedstock options, as well as expansions of successful financial incentives.