Making a Case for a Wood Heating Policy
By Chuck Ray | Posted: 03/04/2014 12:30PM
Last fall I received the following note from Collin Miller at the Northern Forest Center.
Dear Friends and Colleagues:
Ever wonder why more U.S. homes, businesses and institutions aren’t heating with wood? In fact, 84% of the fossil fuels consumed in the Northeast are used to heat buildings. Yikes!
We’re trying to change that but we need your help…
Click here to sign onto our letter by October 11th to show your support for federal policies that give biomass (chips, pellets, bi-products of ag/forestry co-products) a fighting chance as a renewable thermal energy source. Read on for more context….
The letter goes on to provide background on the organizations and the justification for their lobbying effort on behalf of biomass thermal heating. Specifically, the letter we we were asked to sign lobbied our national government to:
- Provide tax credits for the installation of woody biomass energy systems.
- Fund the Forest Service Woody Biomass Utilization Grants Program to advance the design and engineering of biomass energy systems.
- Reauthorize and fully fund the Community Wood Energy Program in the next Farm Bill.
In total, 3,495 oil and coal boiler units in industrial and commercial buildings, and 1,067 major wood energy facilities in the 37 eastern states were identified. These represent a subset of existing and potential conversions from fossil fuels to woody biomass. Based on this sample and energy consumption data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), we estimate that there are currently 31,776 oil, coal, and propane boiler units over 0.5 MMBtus/hour capacity in these 37 states, representing a total energy consumption of 1.7 quadrillion Btus, or roughly the equivalent of 287 million barrels of oil. Were these units all converted to woody biomass fuel, they would consume a total of 121 million dry tons of wood per year, about three times the most recent US DOE estimates of woody biomass availability in those regions. Since only the most economical conversions typically occur, the reality of woody biomass market availability combined with thermal fossil-fuel consumption patterns suggests that roughly one-third of all potential projects could be achieved under sustainable utilization of existing biomass feedstocks in the three regions.
Analysis of the results indicates that a targeted response to wood-conversion initiatives will yield the most successful program of fossil-fuel replacement in thermal applications. A ranking index developed in this study through analysis of existing boiler installations and availability of wood feedstocks suggests that the top ten states in the eastern United States on which to focus future messaging, feasibility studies, and policy development for potential woody biomass conversions are: Maine, Texas, New York, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Pennsylvania (in that order).
About the Author
Chuck RayDr. Charles D. “Chuck” Ray is Associate Professor of Wood Operations Research at Pennsylvania State University. His specialty is in the area of operations research, specifically those operational issues that confront the majority of the wood products sector. He previously spent 15 years in research and quality management for two large building products corporations, Temple-Inland Forest Products and Louisiana-Pacific. Ray is the sixth generation of his family to work in the sawmill industry, the Ray Brothers Lumber Company, established in East Texas before the turn of the last century. He can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @ChuckDRay. He maintains an Extension website for Penn State at http://extension.psu.edu/woodpro and also writes a blog on all wood issues called Go Wood which can be found at http://gowood.blogspot.com.