The solution grows on trees

Posted by Renee Magyar on November 11, 2013

The National Thermal Biomass Network is promoting woody biomass as one energy solution for forest communities.

Photos by Marcus Kauffman

Rural Americans are struggling to keep up with the cost of heating their homes and businesses, yet a more affordable, renewable source of thermal energy is widely available right here at home. Instead of importing oil, we need to take better advantage of woody biomass - the energy solution growing in our nation's forests.

The Northern Forest Center in New Hampshire and Sustainable Northwest are working to break down the Federal barriers that are currently limiting the expansion of renewable wood heat energy. Our growing National Thermal Biomass Network so far includes over 200 community-based organizations, businesses, elected county officials, and private landowners from 25 states that support strong, smart, and sensible energy policies that connect the needs of rural America to available resources. 

We recognize that woody biomass can play an important role in supporting rural economies and the transition to renewable energy. It is a commercially available, cost-effective, and renewable source of thermal energy that provides diverse economic, social, and environmental benefits. Increasing the use of efficient wood heat can reduce America's dependency on fossil fuels, save money on heating costs, create local jobs, and support forest restoration and landscape health.

In many cases in the West, materials for woody biomass heating products are coming from forest restoration thinning projects. The Forest Service often piles the residual materials at the end of a project, and if there isn't an affordable outlet for them, like a nearby mill with infrastructure to process small trees and branches into marketable products, then the slash piles are burned in the forest. This means increased emissions and wasted energy opportunity. 

To maximize the potential of woody biomass energy for the benefit of rural communities and our nation as a whole, as part of the National Biomass Network, we're pushing for legislation that simply allows biomass thermal energy systems to compete on a level playing field with other renewable energy technologies like geothermal, wind, and solar. In addition we're asking for funding for Federal programs that accelerates the use of woody biomass energy where it's needed most. Last week, U.S. Senators Angus King and Susan Collins, and Representative Mike Michaud sent letters to their fellow Members of Congress requesting their co-sponsorship of the Biomass Thermal Utilization (BTU) Act of 2013 (S. 1007 and H.R. 2715), a bill that will meet these needs.

How you can get involved

Now that the co-sponsorship letters are officially circulating to your House Representatives and Senators, we need your help in contacting those that represent you in Congress to encourage their support for the BTU Act.

Our friends at the Biomass Thermal Energy Council (BTEC) have a very helpful app for finding who your Senators and House Representatives are, and how to contact them. Call or send an email to your Members of Congress urging their support for the BTU Act.

Resources presented by the BTEC

Learn more about the BTU Act here.

Read the economic analysis of the BTU Act here.

For more information, please contact:

Dylan Kruse, Sustainable Northwest by email or call (503) 221-6911 x115

Maura Adams, Northern Forest Center by email or call (603) 229-0679 x114