Even with sound information it is difficult to make good decisions; without it, bad outcomes are likely. That is why the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment) convened a group of experts in Washington, DC, in October 2012, to assess information for the U.S. wood-to-energy sector.
Wood-to-energy, the most ancient of fuels to meet human needs, in its modern form can yield thermal (heating), combined heat and power (steam, heat, and electricity), chilling, or even liquid transportation fuels. Benefits of the wood-to-energy sector include domestic energy from a renewable resource; reduced environmental impact over fossil fuels; family-supporting jobs; retaining energy dollars locally, and providing much needed markets for low-value wood fiber to help sustain forest health.
“In 2010 the Endowment and our partners at the USDA Forest Service and Natural Resources Canada invested in the creation of a database to track the state of wood-to-energy systems across the continent. The result was Wood2Energy.” says Endowment President Carlton Owen. “As this sector has rapidly evolved we felt we needed to review all sources of information.”
The results of the October convening are today being released in the form of a brief report – “The State of Information Databases Tracking Wood-to-Energy Facilities.” The goal of this review was to ensure that industry, decision-makers, investors, and the public have the best, most up-to-date information on this important industry. An improved system will help facilitate continued, strategic growth of this sector.
“In short, what we found is that there are a myriad of databases – both public and private ones accessible for a fee – that track some segment of the sector. None, however, approached completeness nor fully met growing needs. All agreed that Wood2Energy.org was the most holistic and complete, but that, it too, needs scrubbing and enhancements,” said Owen. As a result the Endowment is working with a team of contractors to test improvements in Wood2Energy.org. The project began with a pilot phase, starting first with the northeast region of the U.S., where wood-to-energy projects are common.