Success for Biomass in Denver

By Lisa Gibson | May 22, 2012

I can’t say enough about the dynamite content of this year’s International Biomass Conference & Expo, held April 16-19 in Denver, Colo. I’ll spare you some of the details, though, since the Biomass Power & Thermal team compiled a feature article for this issue to help tell you all about it. But we would have needed to double the size of the magazine in order to get all the good stuff in. It was all good.

Particularly exciting for me this year was BBI International’s choice to include a forest health seminar. The Rocky Mountain Forest Restoration & Bioenergy Summit took place the first day of the event, overlapping with the first of two tour days, and highlighted not only the mountain pine beetle epidemic and other issues plaguing the Rockies, but also the biomass industry’s unique position to offer a helping and healing hand.

A biomass availability analysis recently conducted by the Colorado State Forest Service found 3 million acres in the state with high potential for biomass production and another 3 million with moderate potential, based on forest type, ownership, management and accessibility.

Some Colorado companies, communities and entire counties are looking to local forest thinnings for bioenergy applications. Boulder County, Colo., is using its biomass resources harvested from the tens of thousands of acres it thins every year to heat five buildings, a total of 95,000 square feet. The project is so successful from both renewable energy and forest management standpoints that another biomass boiler was set up to heat a jail. The county’s forest operations and the first district heating plant were stops on the second day of conference tours. Read more about Boulder County’s biomass solution in the event feature beginning on page 20.

Many panel discussions and presentations throughout the conference echoed the benefits of integrating bioenergy with forest health and management, referring back to the summit and its helpful and factual message. Too often, the biomass industry gets the stigma of being uncaring tree killers, focused only on profiting from the forests’ demise. That’s untrue. Holding events like this summit is a good way to start chipping away (pun intended) at that false stereotype.

The summit, the tours, the presentations, the new speakers, and the opportunities for networking culminated in a successful event, prompting a multitude of compliments from attendees. The conference drew almost 1,300 people from 32 countries, and that doesn’t even include the U.S. I had been blogging and talking about this event for months before it took place and I can proudly say it surpassed my highest expectations.