It’s not just woodworking plants, but entire cities now are powering up using bioenergy made from woodwaste.
Bioenergy is a growing business, not only in the United States, but also abroad, being fueled in part by the recent meltdown of the atomic facility in Japan. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal detailed the growing number of rural communities in Germany that produce heat and energy from wood-chip/crops/manure fuel plants built just a few years ago. According to the article, more than 70 small communities in Germany, including Juhnde and Oberrosphe, now consider themselves "full-fledged biovillages," and the number — and monetary savings — continues to grow.
Although growing in the United States, the bioenergy movement has not been without its share of controversy. When the USDA Farm Service first announced its Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) rule, wood chips were not recognized as being used for high-value products. However, the revised BCAP, which was passed last year, protects existing markets for hardwood and softwood chips, stating “eligible materials may not qualify for matching payments for BCAP purposes if USDA determines that in those distinct localities that the materials are used for pre-existing markets,” including the production of composite panels.
Just recently, the U.S. biomass industry has been fueled by monetary grants totaling $11 million: nearly $3 million from the USDA plus non-federal matching grants of $8 million. The grants were awarded to 17 organizations, including several wood and lumber companies, power firms and educational institutions.
And although we've made progress in bioenergy usage and research in the United States, it has not yet reached the extent as in Europe. I've yet to hear of entire towns completely power up using woodwaste, although the Sauder Woodworking 4.5 million-square-foot "compound" is perhaps the closest I've seen to date. Back in 2007, when I visited the company, it was producing about 1,700 tons of sawdust per week. Of that, slightly more than half, 1,000 tons each week, were burned in the company's on-site co-generation facility, for steam and power. At the time of the article, Sauder's extensive recycling and reuse program was realizing $3.2 million in benefits. Of that amount, $700,000 came from the co-generation of power; $50,000 for steam energy; $500,000 from wood waste recycling; $150,000 from additional recycling efforts; $1.7 million was saved through landfill avoidance of wood waste; with another $100,000 saved from landfill avoidance of all other materials.
Perhaps if more U.S. towns followed the lead of Sauder, and the European communities, we could all save.
Read more of Karen's blogs.
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