U.S. Endowment announces awards of more than US$1.4M in woody biomass JV funds to promote markets for low-value wood, further domestic energy production, grow rural jobs, retain healthy, working forests

GREENVILLE, South Carolina , September 27, 2010 (press release) – Carlton Owen, President & CEO of the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment) today announced awards of more than $1.4 million in Woody Biomass Joint Venture Funds to support six projects designed to advance sustainable uses of woody biomass. These projects are the first anticipated under what the partners hope will be a multi-year initiative announced in June of 2010 by the USDA Forest Service and the Endowment. At that time, Owen noted that “Our goal is to develop and promote markets for low-value wood, further domestic energy production and grow jobs in rural America while retaining healthy, working forests.”

Projects funded under today’s announcement are:

Agri-Tech Producers, LLC of Columbia, South Carolina, for the purposes of developing a “demonstration torrefaction unit and to provide torrefied materials to various users for testing in their boilers.”

Environmental Defense Fund of Raleigh, North Carolina in support of “developing economically viable models of wood biomass procurement to conserve forest land, enhance ownership profitability and produce sustainably-grown biomass.”.”

Greenwood Clean Energy of Bellevue, Washington, to “confirm market potential of an indoor EPA Phase 2 biomass gasification central heating appliance.”

HM3 Energy of Gresham, Oregon, to “build and operate a torrefaction pilot facility to supply woody-biomass-based energy to off-set use of coal in electricity production.”

North Carolina State University to support research in “Balancing in-woods drying tactics with delivered biomass payment practices.”

Phoenix Energy, LLC of San Francisco, California, to “develop a gasification process and equipment testing facility to produce green energy and biochar from woody biomass.”

The Forest Service and the Endowment each committed $2 million in the initial phase of the partnership. Funded projects will provide at least a 50% local match extending the impact of the initiative to more than $6 million. Projects funded were chosen from more than 70 candidates that the Endowment received in response to a request for proposals earlier in the year.

The Forest Service and the Endowment share a belief that while there are clear limits to the amount of energy that can and should be supplied from woody biomass (including the potential threat of competition for fiber that could result in job loss in traditional forest products companies), there are also potential benefits. “In many parts of the country forests are unnaturally dense with small-diameter, low-value or dead and dying trees that are not being sought in the amounts available by traditional industry. Without additional markets for these low-value trees, such as for biomass energy production, forest landowners are faced with limited management options and higher risks to overall forest health and productivity,” Owen said.

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