Study recommends ways to overcome bioenergy development barriers

By Staff | July 01, 2013

The U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities Inc. released a report that assesses how community-scale, wood-fueled facilities could address forest health issues as well as losses from wildfires. The report, titled “Financing Wood Biomass Clusters: Barriers, Opportunities, and Potential Models for the Western U.S.,” is part of a series produced by the Endowment in collaboration with the U.S. Forestry Service.

The report identifies factors that have contributed to the success for failure of biomass energy projects, with the goal of understanding how bioenergy can be more widely adapted in the U.S. The analysis uses survey data collected from 73 bioenergy plants and eight producers and distributors of biomass fuel. Of the 73 facilities, five are combined-heat-and-power plants, three produced electricity only and the rest produced only thermal energy.

Barriers to the development of bioenergy facilities identified by the analysis include high upfront capital costs, lack of profitability among fuel producers and the seasonality of heat demand. Additional barriers include feedstock transportation costs, unreliable biomass fuel sources, insufficient policy incentives and risk aversion.

The report describes several specific recommendations for action, including more effective financing methods, and the use of project development best practices. The analysis also recommends the development of lower-cost, standardized biomass energy systems along with project investments in regions where there is a dependence on propane, electricity and heating oil. Additional recommendations relate to fuel supply, fuel delivery, creating nontraditional revenue sources, policy, and understanding the importance of regional differences.