Forest BiomassBlandin Foundation staff and partners have been busy following up on the energy and good ideas shared by the 40 plus folks who came together in Eveleth on April 29th to talk about harvesting woody biomass for energy. A summary of the event and links to the research reports written to inform the meeting, including “Woody Biomass for Energy in Minnesota: Consumption and Availability” are available on the Blandin Foundation website.

Based on existing evidence, report authors Jim Bowyer and Steve Bratkovitch of Dovetail Partners, Inc., conclude there appears to be room for significant expansion of biomass consumption for energy production in Minnesota. Forum participants received this news with some skepticism, however, cautioning that the data on availability need to be filtered through economic and environmental costs and sustainability implications.

Third generation logger Peter Wood asserted that his industry was ready to do the harvesting, as long as end users were ready to pay what it costs to get the job done. “Let the market work,” he said.

MCEA’s Matt Norton reminded the group that the higher end of the state’s maximum allowable cut established by the GEIS was based on the assumption that the recommended mitigations would be in place, which is not the case.

A small working group has met since the meeting to begin charting next steps. They are likely to include:

    • A phone survey of land managers to compile a more detailed picture of what forest biomass harvesting efforts are planned for the near term.

    • Development of a Scope of Work to invite a proposal to build a database to support information sharing and monitoring of biomass harvesting efforts

    • Design and delivery of a minimum of two biomass harvest guideline implementation demonstrations, under the leadership of MLEP with assistance from University of Minnesota Extension staff.

MNPost reporter Ron Way has written a nice overview of the issue, Once seen as waste, forest materials find a market, referencing several participants from the April 29th forum.

The Foundation welcomes your comments and ideas. As we move ahead, we want to be sure that our efforts to embrace this opportunity for forests, forest industry and forest-reliant communities benefit from lessons learned in other renewable energy market development efforts and avoid unintended consequences.