Nevada Developing Burning Interest in Biomass

Nevada, like many Western states, is facing a growing forest-fire threat as its population expands into wilderness areas and drought conditions continue. The U.S. Forest Service is accelerating forest-thinning efforts to provide potential fires with less fuel, and both state and U.S. officials see the piles of nonmarketable brush as a potential biomass fuel source.

12/01/2004


Nevada , like many Western states, is facing a growing forest-fire threat as its population expands into wilderness areas and drought conditions continue. The U.S. Forest Service is accelerating forest-thinning efforts to provide potential fires with less fuel, and both state and U.S. officials see the piles of nonmarketable brush as a potential biomass fuel source.

Around Lake Tahoe alone, officials are planning to thin up to 24,000 acres of forest around residential communities, according to a recent report in the Reno, Nev., Gazette-Journal . Although some small-diameter trees could become telephone poles or fence posts, forest service personnel say most of the cleared-out material might otherwise end up as simply decaying piles on the forest floor. Instead, officials are looking at ways to turn the waste into pellets that could be burned for home heating or used to supply new cogeneration plants.

Pilot cogen facilities are already operating or planned at several area schools, as well as at a Carson City correctional center. A recent study noted that close to 430,000 tons of biomass material could be available annually within a 50-mile radius of Carson City, the state's capital. Identifying a steady fuel supply is essential to securing investors for cogen operations, which can cost up to $5 million or more at the size Nevada officials are studying.

Proceeds from the sale of biomass to power producers could help fund expensive tree-thinning efforts. The Gazette-Journal article cites sources who say such plans will be an important part of a regional fire plan anticipated to be released in January 2005.





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