Forest Service awards $3 million for renewable energy projects

By USDA | June 22, 2011

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on June 22 announced the award of nearly $3 million in grants to 17 small businesses and community groups to develop wood-to-energy projects that require engineering services and will help expand regional economies and create new jobs.

"Biomass is a vital part of America's clean energy future as we work to decrease our dependence on foreign oil," Vilsack said. "Projects like these will help grow regional economies, create new jobs, and improve and protect our environment. We will need architects and engineers to design these plants, skilled laborers to build them and well-trained technicians to operate them."

These projects will use woody material removed from forests during projects such as wildfire prevention, and that woody biomass will be processed in bioenergy facilities to produce green energy for heating and electricity. The awardees will use funds from the Woody Biomass Utilization Grant program to further the planning of such facilities by funding the engineering services necessary for final design, permitting and cost analysis.

Examples of possible projects include the engineering design of a woody biomass boiler for steam at a sawmill, a nonpressurized hot water system for a hospital or school, and a biomass-power generation facility. The grant program helps applicants complete the necessary design work needed to secure public or private investment for construction.

The Forest Service Woody Biomass Utilization grant program has been in effect since 2005 and has provided more than $33 million toward various projects, ranging from biomass boilers for schools and prisons, to helping businesses acquire equipment that improves processing efficiencies. During this time period, 140 grants have been awarded to small businesses, nonprofits, tribes and local state agencies to improve forest health, while creating jobs, green energy and healthy communities.

The Forest Service selected 17 small businesses and community groups as grant recipients for these awards. According to the requirements, all 17 recipients provided at least 20 percent of the total project cost. Nonfederal matching funds total nearly $8 million.

The Forest Service's State and Private Forestry, Technology Marketing Unit, at the agency's Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wis., administers the grant program. The recipients were chosen from 34 applications.

The following are the 2011 Woody Biomass Utilization Grantees:

Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Palmer, Alaska $80,000

Placer County, Auburn, Calif. $50,000

Kiara Solar, Dublin, Calif. $250,000

Trinity River Lumber, Weaverville, Calif. $250,000

Community Power Corp., Littleton, Colo. $125,000

Idaho Forest Group, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho $135,000

Yellowstone Power, Emmet, Idaho $250,000

EcoPower Generation LLC, Lexington, Ky. $250,000

Stoltze Land & Lumber, Columbia Falls, Mont. $190,720

Pyramid Mountain Lumber Inc., Seeley Lake, Mont. $202,727

University of Montana, Missoula, Mont. $250,000

Burrows Paper Corp., Little Falls, N.Y. $250,000

New York Power Authority, White Plains, N.Y. $250,000

City of Vernonia, Vernonia, Ore. $25,000

ColPac Quinault Indian Nation, Montesano, Wash. $50,000

Thilmany LLC, Kaukauna, Wis. $132,400

University of Wisconsin-Superior, Superior, Wis. $250,000