What is biomass? Is it a bird? A plane? No! Biomass is organic materials that are created by plants and animals. The organic energy in biomass can be transferred into electronic or chemical energy in the forms of electricity and fuel. The types of organic materials that can be used for biomass energy are wood, wood waste, agricultural crops, animal manure, textiles and even gas produced from landfills. Biomass is here…around and sometimes in the ground!
Biomass is a full circle renewable energy. Biomass reduces existing waste while creating energy and it’s on the rise. In 2000, only 1.7 million metric tons of wood pellets were used worldwide in biomass production. In 2016 over 28.1 million metric tons of wood pellets were used. U.S. Biomass energy production is expected to hit 4.2 quadrillion British thermal units by 2020.1 Biomass is really heating up!
Biomass production is a sustainable and renewable resource. What’s not to love about biomass?! Alaska with its unique environment and innovation can lead the way in biomass production.
Wood heating systems are becoming the first step to more sustainable Alaskan communities. Across Alaska, 13 rural schools heat with local wood. Statewide, 39 modern wood heat systems are operating, most with strong performance records. These systems range from the simple cordwood boilers popular on Prince of Wales Island to automated wood pellet boilers at the Ketchikan Airport to even micro-scale combined heat and power at the Tok School southeast of Fairbanks. The local employment benefits of using wood heat are significant and making use of local resources aligns with rural values. Wood heating technology fits the Alaskan culture.
The Alaska Energy Authority and the U.S. Forest Service formed the statewide Alaska Energy Development Task Group in 2006 to develop high efficiency, low emissions wood-fired systems in Alaska. Prefeasibility studies are offered at no cost to communities interested in wood heating. Outreach and technical support from Alaska Energy Authority and partner agencies help communities prepare for the awesome task of owning and operating a wood heating system. Creative communities have expanded the use of this inexpensive, more sustainable heat to install greenhouses to produce foods for local sale and consumption. Sustainability and local economic development can go hand-in-hand.
* All products require an annual contract. Prices do not include sales tax (New York residents only). “U.S. energy production – biomass 2040 | Forecast.” Statista, www.statista.com/statistics/264029/us-biomass-energy-production/.