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Biomass opportunities in Washington State

Posted by Dylan Kruse on May 13, 2015

There is plenty of room for growth with biomass utilization in Washington State.

Forks-Biomass-boiler_Quillayute-Valley-School-District_600_v2
The boiler at Forks High School and Middle School is currently the only operating biomass facility in Washington State.

Despite tremendous renewable forest resources, and significant areas being without access to natural gas – the least expensive and lowest emitting of the fossil fuels, Washington State has just one facility at Forks High School and Middle School that uses woody biomass for its heating needs.

When sourced locally from forest restoration activities and sawmill operations, biomass can provide big cost savings and independence from fossil fuels. Sustainable Northwest is helping forest communities in Oregon, Idaho, and now Washington find ways to bring biomass online. 

On April 28 and 29, over 50 individuals gathered in Ellensburg, WA for the Central Washington Biomass Energy Workshop to discuss projects that can provide heat and power to schools, hospitals, commercial buildings, and industrial facilities. The workshop was part of the Washington Statewide Wood Energy Team, a collaborative agency, business, tribal, and non-profit effort to develop biomass clusters that complement forest restoration activities in Washington. 

Area community members, developers, and experts from across central Washington came together to promote biomass utilization as a way to lower heating costs, enhance forest health, and improve rural economies. Attendees had an opportunity to network with other local champions and biomass experts and discuss potential biomass projects for central Washington, project development and technology options, financing strategies, and innovative partnership models that can make the biomass vision a reality. 

Facilities now under consideration include a combined heat and power district plant for Central Washington University in Ellensburg, boiler conversions for the Darrington and Tekoa School Districts in western and eastern Washington, and a variety of other public, private, and tribal facilities, and businesses across the state.

This was the first of three regional workshops that will be presented to address opportunities to improve forest health, reduce dependency on fossil fuels, and encourage the adoption of clean, efficient, and renewable biomass energy to decrease heating costs and support rural communities in Washington State. Sustainable Northwest will be hosting two more workshops this fall and in spring 2016 in eastern and western Washington that will be developed with input from local community members, facility managers, forest collaboratives, agency staff, and renewable energy experts.

For more information about the benefits of biomass utilization in the Northwest, contact Dylan Kruse, Policy Director, Sustainable Northwest, (503) 221-6911 x115 or dkruse@sustainablenorthwest.org.