FPL to Play Key Role in Innovative Biomass Research: $5.8 Million Federal Grant Awarded to Humboldt State University

Humboldt State University (HSU), along with 15 regional partners including the Forest Products Laboratory, has received a $5.88 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct innovative biomass research.

The grant is part of the Biomass Research and Development Initiative, a collaborative effort between the Department of Energy and the Department of Agriculture that supports renewable energy research in the rural United States.

FPL economist Ted Bilek will lead the economic life cycle analysis group.

Under the grant, a team of scholars, industry partners and forestland managers led by HSU forestry professor Han-Sup Han will build on existing research for converting forest residues into renewable fuel and other valuable bio-based products. Forest residues include limbs, treetops and other materials left on the forest floor after timber harvesting. Often considered waste material and not effectively used, forest residues are an undervalued source of potential bioenergy. Strategic use of woody biomass has the potential to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and promote economic development in rural America.

The grant will allow research teams comprising investigators, graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and private sector partners to address technical challenges and make bioenergy technologies more marketable. The three research areas will be feedstock (processed forest residues) supply, mobile conversion technologies, and economic life-cycle analysis.

Ted Bilek, an economist at the Forest Products Laboratory, will lead the economic life-cycle analysis group. Bilek’s team will conduct a life-cycle analysis documenting the economic benefits and other environmental effects related to using forest residues.

“It’s not enough that the technologies work and produce energy,” Bilek says. “They also need to be economically viable, socially acceptable, and environmentally sustainable. These are the focuses of our group. Our research will also help to highlight areas that offer the greatest potentials to improve returns and to ensure long-term sustainability.”

The grant is titled Waste to Wisdom: Utilizing forest residues for the production of bioenergy and bioproducts. Research partners include: Green Diamond Resource Company, the University of Washington, Oregon State University, the Bureau of Land Management, USDA Forest Service, USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station, USFS Forest Products Lab, Redwood Forest Foundation, Forest Concepts LLC, Steve Morris Logging, Peterson Pacific Corp., Biochar Solutions Inc., Pellet Fuels Institute and the Forest Business Network LLC.