Bioenergy production from forest biomass, sometimes called forest ‘waste’ or waste wood, offers a unique solution to reduce wildfire hazard fuel while producing a useful source of renewable energy. However, removing the biomass raises concerns about reducing soil carbon and altering forest site productivity. Transport of waste wood from forests to processing facilities can also be cost prohibitive.
A possible solution to the soil carbon issue is biochar, a solid material obtained from a process that heats the waste wood in an oxygen-limited environment. Developing machines to process the biomass on-site, as either biochar or fuel pellets, is a possible solution to the transport issue.
With this in mind, RMRS scientists and collaborators from the Montana Department of Conservation, the University of Montana, and Washington State University recently added two videos produced by the Forest Service on the use of waste wood for fuel pellets or for soil supplementation as biochar to the Forest Service YouTube channel. Both videos demonstrate how scientists, land managers, and local businesses can work together to find solutions to reduce potential wildfire fuel, produce renewable energy, and protect and replenish the soil. The next step is the development of a spreader to apply the biochar to mitigate soil carbon loss and cycle nutrients back into forest soils. Testing begins in October.