Heating the Midwest summit planned in Minnesota

By Lisa Gibson | January 31, 2011

Following in the footsteps of the well-known and successful Heating the Northeast with Renewable Biomass effort, a number of organizations have collaborated to develop an intriguing agenda for a Heating the Midwest with Renewable Biomass Summit, slated for Feb. 9 at the Black Bear Casino Resort in Carlton, Minn.

The goal of the summit is to define and support a long-term vision for using biomass to create thermal energy for space heating, hot water and industrial heat applications in the Midwest. An eight-person steering committee solicited presentations addressing the regions’ demographics, biomass availability, combustion technologies, benefits resulting from biomass utilization, and the need to rally support for the vision. The presentations will be region-specific draft outlines of the specific topics, comparing and contrasting each with regional information identified at the Northeast event.

“I attended the initial Heating the Northeast conference and it was so well presented,” said steering committee member Chris Wiberg, COO of Superior, Wis.-based Twin Ports Testing Inc. “You could just tell that group had really done their homework.” The Midwest summit will differ from the Northeast conference, however, in that it is an open discussion forum to determine whether or not the region has the leadership, resources and expertise to outline such a vision. Breakout sessions following the presentations will facilitate discussions between presenters and attendees, providing opportunities for continued dialogue and filling any gaps identified.

“The goal isn’t to make the same claims as Heating the Northeast, but look at theirs and see how they did it,” Wiberg said, adding that the Midwest differs from the Northeast in demographics, biomass resources and other important elements. “This is our attempt at pooling together experts for a day.”

A moderated open forum discussion after lunch will focus on modifying the draft vision statement outlined in the morning presentations, drawing from the open discussions. The summit will end with a planning session to establish schedules, timelines and tasks, as well as a discussion to determine the next step, possibly a conference in 2012 more like the Northeast’s events.

If the Heating the Northeast vision—25 percent of residential heating from renewables, 75 percent of that from biomass—were adopted in the Midwest, about 176 trillion Btus  of the 940 trillion Btus used for residential heating in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Dakota and South Dakota would come from biomass, according to summit organizers. Organizations represented on the steering committee—all from Michigan, Minnesota or Wisconsin—include Indeck Energy, LLC, Area Partnership for Economic Expansion, University of Minnesota Duluth, Agricultural Utilization Research Institute, BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota, Marth Wood Shaving Supply Inc., the U.S. Forest Service Wood Education & Resource Center, and Twin Ports Testing.

Wiberg anticipates a crowd of between 30 and 40 people representing industry, government agencies, non-profit organizations and universities. It’s not a “come one, come all,” he explained, but instead is reserved for experts with ideas to offer in sculpting the vision. “This is designed to determine whether we have the leadership to do this.”

To register, click here.