This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

July 07, 2010

USDA Awards $4.2 Million in Woody Biomass Utilization Projects

Just in time for the wildfire season, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded more than $4.2 million in grants on June 24 in six states to small businesses and community groups developing innovative renewable energy projects using biomass from hazardous fuel reduction projects on National Forest land. Of 185 applicants, 13 from Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, and Oregon were selected to receive the USDA funds. Grant recipients are required to provide at least 20% of the total project cost, meaning non-federal matching funds total more than $9 million.

Woody biomass includes small-diameter and low-value wood residue such as tree limbs, tops, needles, and bark that are often byproducts of forest management activities. Enterprising uses of such biomass can help offset expensive thinning operations and enhance growth forest ecosystems. In Arizona, for example, Cooley Forest Products will purchase a mobile canter saw, which squares or shapes logs, allowing them to process small logs at a forest landing, thereby reducing transportation costs. West Range Reclamation in Colorado can now acquire a delimber/debarker, enabling them to efficiently process beetle-killed trees. The U.S. Forest Service began the woody biomass utilization grant program in 2005. Biomass is a key source of renewable fuels. Earlier in June, USDA released a report detailing how biofuels can help meet the Renewable Fuel Standard, a provision of the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005. See the USDA press release, an article on the USDA biofuels report from the June 30 edition of the EERE Network News, and the Woody Biomass Utilization Web site.