USDA funds 18 projects to increase wood energy markets

By Erin Voegele | May 16, 2016

The U.S. Forest Service has announced more than $8.5 million to expand and accelerate technologies and strategies that promote the use of wood in heat and power generation, commercial construction, and other wood product innovations that also benefit forest health.

Of 42 projects funded, 18 increase wood energy markets and 24 are focused on expanding wood products markets. According released by the USDA and Forest Service, the projects address a wide ranges of issues, including replacing coal with torrefied wood at power plants, establishing district energy systems, and identifying market opportunities for beetle-killed trees. The funding will also allow Statewide Wood Energy teams to be established in Maine and Nebraska, along with a Statewide Wood Utilization Team in Michigan. The $8.5 million is expected to leverage more than $18 million in investments from business, university, nonprofit and Tribal partners, for a total investment of $27 million.

According to the Forest Service, the funds will stimulate the use of hazardous fuels from the National Forest System lands and other forested lands to promote forest health while generating rural jobs. A total of 77 proposals were received for the Forest Service’s Wood Innovations grant program.

"We are looking for opportunities to reduce forest restoration costs and create more jobs through strong forest products markets," USDA’s Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "This funding supports improving forest health on the National Forest System lands and other forested lands and promotes the economic and environmental wellbeing of rural communities."

Since 2005, the USDA indicated more than 200 grants have been awarded to small businesses, nonprofits, tribes, states and local governments to improve forest health while creating jobs, renewable energy and healthy communities. Since 2013, the funding has also helped establish 20 Statewide Wood Energy Teams and five Statewide Wood Utilization Teams.

A full list of the 42 projects that were awarded through this round of funding can be downloaded from the Forest Service Wood Education and Resource Center website.