Agriculture Dept. hands out money for wood energy development

Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young, both R-Alaska, said Sept. 11 that the Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) has been awarded U.S. Department of Agriculture funding to promote the development of rural wood-to-energy projects.

“Congratulations to the Alaska Energy Authority on receiving funding to develop a rural wood-to-energy project,” Murkowski said. “Not only will these funds help Alaskans find innovative solutions to their energy needs, they will also provide badly needed economic development to rural areas. Using a local, renewable energy feedstock is great way to keep energy costs down in rural communities, where power generation can be expensive and, at times, unavailable.”

“I am pleased with today’s announcement and look forward to hearing more positive developments as Alaska Energy Authority leverages the rural wood to energy partnership to bring innovative biomass solutions to the state,” Young said. “Alaska has always relied on wood-based resources for heat and power, and recent technological advancements have dramatically increased their efficiency while decreasing their impact and cost. These strides have made wood energy particularly ideal for the conditions in Alaska’s rural areas.”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack awarded $1.1m in federal funds to five organizations across the country to form statewide teams to stimulate development of wood-to-energy projects. In addition to the federal funds, $1.8m in non-federal funds – $2.9m collectively – have been put toward the wood-to-energy projects. 

The five recipients are:

  • Alaska Energy Authority, Anchorage, Alaska;
  • Idaho Governor’s Office of Energy Resources, Boise, Idaho;
  • The Watershed Research & Training Center, Hayfork, Calif.;
  • Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Saint Paul, Minn.; and
  • North Country Resource Conservation & Development Council, Gilford, N.H.

Vilsack on Sept. 11 announced a partnership agreement to expand wood energy use, which will help improve the safety and health of the nation’s forests. The new partnership includes USDA, the Alliance for Green Heat, the Biomass Power Association, the Biomass Thermal Energy Council, and the Pellet Fuels Institute.

He also announced the more than $1.1m in grants mentioned by the Alaska congressional members, which are being awarded to five organizations to form state-wide teams that will stimulate development of wood energy projects.

“Today’s announcements will help us find innovative ways to use leftover wood to create renewable energy and support good jobs in rural America,” Vilsack said. “Wood to Energy efforts are a part of our ‘all of the above’ energy strategy. Appropriately scaled wood energy facilities also support our efforts to remove hazardous fuels and reduce the risks of catastrophic wildfires.”

The partnership agreement focuses on promoting wood energy nationwide as a means to address fire risk, bolster rural economic development, improve air quality and help meet the Obama Administration’s renewable energy and energy efficiency goals. These organizations support the use of wood energy across the scale of users – from residential users, to commercial and institutional facilities, to industrial production of heat and/or electricity to drive businesses and feed the electricity grid.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.