Woody Biomass Energy

Woody biomass – parts of trees and woody plants that are the byproducts of forest management – may result from hazardous fuels reduction, insect and disease treatments, ecosystem restoration projects, and many other activities.  Using woody biomass as a bio-energy source promotes energy efficiency, creates family-wage jobs in rural areas, saves money when used for heating, reduces carbon dioxide emissions, and provides a source of renewable, sustainable energy. 

The Forest Service’s woody biomass and bioenergy program is accomplished through many collaborative partnerships.

Accomplishment highlights

  • Woody Biomass Utilization Grants (WBUG): Since 2005, the PNW Region has funded 35 WBUGs in Oregon for over $7.5 million and 16 WBUG’s in Washington for almost $3.0 million.  These projects address biomass and bioenergy issues, with particular emphasis on creating resilient landscapes and fire adapted communities on the Eastside of Oregon and Washington.  This program is now call Wood Innovations.
  • Oregon Wood-to-Energy cluster pilots are small clusters of projects focused on forest restoration activities in Eastern Oregon.  The PNW Region is working closely with collaborative partners to develop wood-to-energy projects that benefit rural communities by increasing transportation efficiencies, lowering the cost of capital for small projects, and aggregating demand for forest biomass.  Grants are used to expand demand for woody biomass while increasing federal wood supply and maintaining existing mill infrastructure.  Most of the pilot projects are located in the Region’s Cohesive Wildfire Strategy and Eastside Forest Restoration efforts.  Example: Mt. Bachelor Resort, which is conducting a detailed technical and economic analysis for a central biomass heating or combined heat and power system that would displace over 10,000 gallons of propane a month while using wood to heat up to 150,000 square feet of existing and planned building space.  If this project is successful, Mt. Bachelor’s parent corporation is interested in converting their other eight facilities throughout the U.S.


Contextual issues

  • Anchor Forests are large, contiguous areas of land with four characteristics: (1) a reasonable expectation for sustainable wood commodity production; (2) production levels sufficient to support economically viable manufacturing, processing, and work force infrastructure within accessible transportation; (3) long-term management plans; and (4) institutional and operative capacity for implementation.  Anchor forests share common goals with the Eastside Forest Restoration and Cohesive Wildfire Strategy such as retaining healthy working forests; developing strategies to support and maintain manufacturing, processing, transportation, and workforce sectors; and preserving options to address uncertainties in forest land tenure and climate change.  Example: A grant to the Intertribal Timber Council will be used to explore the use of Anchor Forests to balance economic and ecological needs to keep forests healthy through collaboration with tribes; the Forest Service; other federal, State, and local agencies; universities; and non-profits. 
  • Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP):  All five of the PNW Region’s CFLRPs have a strong biomass utilization component.  They are all located on the eastside of Oregon or Washington, and thus, are an integral part of the Cohesive Strategy and Eastside Restoration efforts. 
  • Cohesive Wildfire Strategy Biomass Grants:  The Forest Service (FS) and Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) worked closely to select four proposals.  Project dollars were provided to ODF from the FS to convert oil- and propane-based boilers to woody biomass from hazardous fuels reduction operations in five counties of the State.  These grants support a variety of efforts to cultivate markets for the byproducts of forest restoration through the advancement of combined heat and power, thermal energy production, and district energy development.


Looking forward

  • State Wood Energy Team (SWET):  Both Oregon and Washington have SWETs, funded by the Agency.   The  SWETs are multi-disciplinary groups whose membership include federal, state, and local governments; tribes; private industry; environmental organizations; non-government institutions; universities; and other stakeholders.  They inform the public and private sectors about the economic benefits of developing forest biomass as a source of renewable energy and other byproducts, while imparting best practices for energy development and biomass management.  SWETs advance the USDA initiative to expand wood energy use that supports forest management.  Funds help communities do initial planning, educational outreach, and preliminary assessments to identify promising wood energy opportunities. 
  • Cross Laminated timber (CLT):  CLT is an engineered wood product where panels are built from narrow planks laid side by side with each succeeding layer laid perpendicular to the preceding one.  The layers are glued and pressed, then cut to the required dimensions.  CLT is renewable; sequesters carbon; creates markets for material generated from hazardous fuels reduction; takes less energy to make than concrete and steel; possesses both strength and rigidity; has fire resistant characteristics, performs well seismically; possesses simple beauty; and is versatile.  USDA has designated CLT as an emphasis area and the Forest Service is providing technical and financial assistance to help develop this market.  For instance, the FS is working with Oregon State University and the D.R. Johnson Lumber Company out of Riddle to help develop the first CLT manufacturing facility in Oregon.


Staff contact:  James Archuleta, Regional Biomass Coordinator, james.archuleta@usda.gov, 503-808-2346