What is “forest biomass?”
Forest biomass means the by-products of current forest management activities, current forest protection treatments authorized by the agency, or the by-products of forest health treatment prescribed or permitted under Washington’s forest health law. Forest biomass does not include wood treated with creosote, pentachlorophenal, or copper-chrome-arsenic. Biomass is not wood from old growth forests, wood required to be left on site under the state forest practices act and implementing rules. Also, biomass does not include municipal solid waste.
Why is biomass based energy important?
As Washington’s forests face the challenges that arise from a changing climate, the risk of forest fires and the prevalence of forest pests and diseases are increasing. These risks are magnified when coupled with unmanaged forests and the buildup of forest biomass due to past fire exclusion. Elevating Washington forest biomass-to-energy industry will not only help address these issues by creating markets for treatment to reduce the fuel load in our forests, but promise to contribute to Washington’s clean energy economy and create green jobs in the process.
Encouraging the industry for forest biomass can provide a market for products that come from forest health treatment (materials that are currently burned or left to decay). This will not only reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from burning, but can also incentivize treatments that many forests in our state need. Forest treatments are often left undone because economics don’t support them.
Forest biomass and sustainability
The Department of Natural Resources is committed to integrating the principles of sustainability into all of our activities, including our biomass initiative. The economic and ecological benefits of using forest biomass as an energy source include:
- Reduce home and industrial energy costs.Create rural green jobs.
- Reduce risk of forest fires.
- Reduce carbon emissions that result from forest fires.
- Reduce dependence on foreign oil.
- Reduce loss of forest resources to pest and disease outbreaks.
- Reduce sulfur and heavy metals released into the environment (products released through the combustion of fossil fuels).
As part of our efforts to ensure that the harvest of biomass for use in clean energy products is done in a manner that does not harm ecosystem services, we conducted a state-wide supply study on all forest lands in Washington. We will use this data to assist us in determining the volume of product that we authorize removing from DNR-managed forests.
Washington’s forests have an abundant, renewable supply of woody biomass. Using some of this material for liquid transportation fuel, heating, and electrical power generation will play an important role in Washington’s emerging green economy and help to address climate change. Removing biomass from forests in ecologically sustainable ways can provide income for forest landowners while improving forest health, creating jobs in rural parts of the state, and reducing wildfire risk and greenhouse gas emissions.
The Department of Natural Resources’ forest biomass initiative is occurring against a backdrop of existing state and federal policy direction. These policies act as guides to the emerging industry and signal opportunities for future expansion.
Reports to the Legislature
Bioaviation Fuel Production from Residual Woody Biomass:
Update to the 2012 Washington State Legislature on DNR’s Forest Biomass Initiative
The report includes updates on the agency’s work on supporting Washington’s leadership in developing technologies for transforming residual forest biomass to bioaviation fuel, on the Washington State Forest Biomass Supply Study and on the Forest Practices Biomass Work-group. The report was required by the 2011 Washington State Legislature in SHB 1422
Forest Biomass Initiative: Update to the 2011 Washington State Legislature
The report includes updates on the forest biomass-to-energy pilot projects authorized in
HB 2165, an update on the status of the agency’s ability to exercise its authority to enter into long-term contracts for biomass supply from state-managed lands under
2SHB 2481, and the literature review on the carbon neutrality of forest biomass required in Section 13 of 2SHB 2481.