Biomass show keynote is a strong biomass proponent

By Lisa Gibson | December 16, 2010

The keynote speaker for the Pacific West Biomass Conference & Trade Show Jan. 10-12 in Seattle has been supporting biomass utilization since he first stepped into his office at the Washington State Department of Natural Resources in 2009.

Peter Goldmark, commissioner of public lands, launched the Forest Biomass Initiative immediately upon taking the independently elected position. The initiative allows the state to enter into pilot project agreements with private companies and is currently supporting four across the state, including one producing liquid biofuels and biochar; one generating electricity, bio-oil, biochar and syngas; one that facilitates wood pellet production; and one that allows the replacement of an existing biomass boiler at a paper mill with a more efficient one that will allow sale of excess power to the grid.

“There are many reasons we needed to begin immediately,” Goldmark said. “Forestland conversion and clean energy generation are two general issues that have great urgency. Finding a revenue stream for forestland ravaged by poor forest health is Important, as are the jobs that come with that in-woods work. Creating clean energy instead of wasting energy potential by burning slash piles is also important.” If the state is going to move forward in a pragmatic way on forest biomass, he added, it needs to run test pilots, conduct a supply study and change some of the business processes at the DNR. The supply study will be conducted by the University of Washington’s School of Forest Resources.

The Forest Biomass Initiative was launched with multiple goals in mind, including creating jobs, keeping working forestland working, creating clean energy and generating revenue for the state’s trusts. Washington was granted land upon statehood to help fund the building of infrastructure, primarily the education system, according to Aaron Toso, director of Communications & Outreach for Goldmark’s office. “We manage trusts all across the state that have a diversity of natural resources on them,” he said. In addition to the other goals, the initiative will reduce the risk of explosive wildfires and create healthier forests, especially on the eastern slope of the Cascades, Goldmark added.

“It really will give us an idea of not just piloting how things come to the market, but they’re piloting how we enter into contracts; how we would structure things,” Toso said. The DNR will release a report this month to the Legislature on the results of the pilots and any plans for further development.

As commissioner of public lands, Goldmark is responsible for managing the trusts, including timber lands, mining lands and orchards, among other agricultural lands. He also overseas state-owned aquatic lands, which includes bed lands of rivers, lakes, Puget Sound, the coast and other lands navigable at statehood, Toso explained. The office also is in charge of protecting more than 12 million acres of state and private lands from wildfires, and overseeing timber harvests, as well as biomass harvests, on state and private lands.

With such a wide array of responsibilities and a pro-biomass attitude, Goldmark is a great fit for the keynote address at the Pacific West show. “Washington has long been a leader in innovation and technology,” he said. “It is a great opportunity for us to showcase our state and continue to bring local awareness to issues around our forest biomass.”

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