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Northern Research Station
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53726
(608) 231-9318
(608) 231-9544 TTY/TDD

Sustaining Forests

Renewable Energy: Woody Biomass Utilization

Research Issue

Wood biomass consumption.  Click on image to view larger version.Renewable energy sources are the focal point of major federal and state initiatives to establish energy self-sufficiency in the United States.  While wind, solar, and hydroelectric power projects have garnered most of the past attention in the renewable energy dialogue, the contribution and growth of the corn-based ethanol industry has helped policy makers to focus attention on the largely-overlooked biomass energy potential in North America.  Even as that industry grows and evolves, technological breakthroughs and a history of successful bioenergy products from woody biomass promise to bring more and more focus on the country’s forest resources.

Most of the current woody biomass energy research focuses on the western and southern regions where softwoods dominate.  A comprehensive overview of the woody biomass energy potential of the Eastern hardwood region of the United States and the existing, proposed, and potential bioenergy projects is needed. 

Our Research

Occcurrence, size, and location of wood-fired and coal-fired electricity production in the Northeastern United States.  Click on image to view larger version.Access to relevant regional supply and market information will help states provide timely information to potential biomass energy developers, including industry and institutions such as schools.  Energy policy makers, traditional forest products businesses that compete for roundwood, and forest resource managers also will use this information in formulating policy and strategies for future operations. Ultimately, this information can lead to expanded woody biomass markets and reduced reliance on foreign energy sources.  Forest resource sustainability research results will inform the debate on the effects of competing energy developments within the Appalachians.

Research Results

Ray, Charles D.; Ma, Li; Wilson, Thomas; Wilson, Daniel; McCreery, Lew; Wiedenbeck, Janice K. 2013. Biomass boiler conversion potential in the eastern United States. Renewable Energy. 62: 439-453.

Ray, C. D.; Wiedenbeck, J.  2009.  Final Project Report (07-JV-11242300-150):  “Project-Based Overview of Woody Biomass Initiatives in the Generation of Thermal Energy, Electricity, and Transportation Fuels in the Eastern Hardwood Region of the United States. (pdf)

Wiedenbeck, J.; Grushecky, S.; Hamons, G. 2009.  “A comparison of West Virginia hardwood markets between 2001 and 2008.”  Forest Products Society’s 53rd Annual Meeting, Boise, ID.

Wiedenbeck, J.; Ray, C.D. 2009.  “An overview of the woody biomass utilization landscape in the northeastern U.S.”  Forest Products Society’s 53rd Annual Meeting, Boise, ID.

Research Participants

Principal Investigator

  • Jan Wiedenbeck, USDA-Forest Service - Northern Research Station Research Forest Products Technologist

Research Partners

  • Matt Bumgardner, USDA-Forest Service – Northern Research Station - Research Forest Products Technologist
  • Mary Beth Adams, USDA-Forest Service – Northern Research Station - Project Leader
  • Chuck Ray, Penn State University
  • Shawn Grushecky, West Virginia University

Last Modified: 01/29/2016