Ore. working group outlines strategy to improve biomass industry

By Luke Geiver | August 07, 2012

The Oregon Forest Biomass Working Group has issued a forest biomass strategy which includes four key initiatives. Made up of more than 40 stakeholders from the forestland management, conservation, government and other related industries, the FBWG believes following the four market development measures will expand the biomass industry in Oregon.

First, the strategy calls for more development in the biomass thermal sector. Second, distributed generation of heat and electricity at existing wood product facilities will build a successful forest biomass industry. Third, the strategy notes the need to expand existing markets by utilizing landscape bark, shavings, bedding and other commercial products. And fourth, FBWG points to emerging markets and the need to further commercialize and develop biofuels, biochar and cellulosic ethanol.

Of the state’s 63 million acres, nearly one-half are covered by forest, FBWG noted in its draft. “Many of these forests are overcrowded and at risk of uncharacteristically severe wildfire, insect outbreaks and disease,” adding that “rural economies and communities connected to these forests are in need of revitalization.”

Since 2005, the FBWG has helped promote biomass utilization in the state, but now, according to the group, changes in the economy, state and federal policy and even within the industry have driven the group to continue and advance the knowledge of public policy makers, agencies and industry stakeholders on the subject of biomass.

For each of the four initiatives, the draft recommended several steps to improve the biomass industry. For the biomass thermal portion, the draft pointed to establishing a thermal energy baseline that would account for all of the state’s thermal energy production, a process that would include an entire state-wide assessment of all state-owned facilities. The baseline would allow policy makers to create thermal application incentive programs, the group said.

For greater biomass-based power production, the working group recommended support for distributed generation and a purchasing preference that would allow industry clusters to purchase biomass power and partake in a “Produced with Oregon Bioenergy” certification program that would add value to their brand.

A comment period on the draft strategy is open to the public through September 30, 2012.

For a complete version of the draft, including a list of participants in the biomass strategy document, click here.