Coast Guard, USDA strategize for biomass in southeast Alaska

By Anna Simet | July 31, 2012

In an effort to reduce overall heating costs for its larger Alaskan facilities, the U.S. Coast Guard is making efforts to convert from heating oil to wood pellets and is collaborating with the USDA’s Forest Service to further progress.

The Coast Guard recently signed an interagency agreement with the Forest Service to support this and other forest product and renewable energy initiatives. Per the agreement, Coast Guard engineer and agency biomass expert Robert Deering, along with Dan Parrent, USFS Wood Biomass & Stewardship program manager, will work closely with the USDA’s Southeast Alaska forest products and renewable energy workgroups, the Alaska Division of Forestry, Alaska Southeast Conference and the Alaska Energy Authority.

Beginning in October, Deering will work for the Tongass National Forest for one year, a position that will be funded by the Forest Service and the Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry. One of Deering’s jobs under the agreement will be to develop a strategy and action plan to facilitate conversion of oil heat to biomass, and to initiate implementation of priority projects identified in the plan, according to the Forest Service.

The use of wood pellets in particular at Coast Guard facilities could potentially create a large commercial demand and provide an anchor client for wood pellets, furthering development of the industry in Southeast Alaska, according to state forester Chris Maisch. It could also create new jobs in the region.

Other purposes identified for the interagency agreement include identifying deficiencies in the regional logistics and production supply chain, and developing solutions for addressing those deficiencies.

The agreement with the Coast Guard ties in with the Southeast Alaska USDA Investment Strategy, which has a prominent focus on job creation through four economic sectors, one of which is renewable energy.