USDA awards $3 million in wood-to-energy grantsWASHINGTON, DC -- Wood manufacturing firms may see new revenue streams as biomass gets a boost in the form of monetary grants totaling $11 million: nearly $3 million from the USDA plus non-federal matching grants of $8 million.

The money goes to 17 organizations around the U.S., include several wood and lumber companies, power firms, and educational institutions:

 Western lumber concerns among the beneficiaries, include Trinity River Lumber, Weaverville, CA received $250,00; Idaho Forest Group, Coeur d'Alene, ID netted $135,00; Stoltze Land & Lumber, Columbia Falls, MT, $190,72; and Pyramid Mountain Lumber, Inc, Seeley Lake, MT, $202,72. But power companies and municipalities across the company also received grants, in states ranging from New York, Colorado,  Kentucky and Alaska, possibly opening new markets for local wood manufacturers as providers of waste wood fuel.

Producing renewable fuels from biomass in the United States not only provides another source of energy it also offers an innovative edge in the global market for clean energy technologies.

Calling biomass a vital part of America's clean energy future and part of the country's move to less dependence on foreign oil, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the award of grants to 17 lumber firms, power companies and community groups to develop wood-to-energy projects. The monetary awards, ranging in value from $250,000 to $25,000, are part of the USDA Forest Service's Woody Biomass Utilization grant program in effect since 2005. In that time, 140 grants have been awarded to small businesses, non-profits, tribes and local state agencies to improve forest health, create jobs and green energy. The grants may fund a range of projects, such as a woody biomass boiler for steam at a sawmill, a non-pressurized hot water system for a hospital or school, and a biomass-power generation facility.

Biomass initiatives are driving wood industry revenues. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) have joined forces in a project designed to help "bioenergy companies in the U.S. support responsible forest management through their procurement of woody biomass." Woody material removed from forests during projects such as wildfire prevention will be processed in bioenergy facilities to produce green energy for heating and electricity.  Record fires across the Southwest and Southeast have underscored the need for greater attention to the removal of woody material, also adding to the interest in biomass.

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