Woody Biomass Utilization Grant program a success

The Ecosystem Workforce Program at the University of Oregon announced the release of a new report. The Impacts of the Woody Biomass Utilization Grant Program in Eastern Oregon and Eastern Arizona evaluates the value of the USDA Forest Service’s Woody Biomass Utilization Grant program in eastern Oregon and eastern Arizona. These areas, according to the University of Oregon, “have extensive public lands, high wildfire risk, and limited biomass businesses.”

Even small investments in woody biomass utilization can have substantial impacts.

Even small investments in woody biomass utilization can have substantial impacts.

The authors (Emily Jane Davis, Anne Mottek Lucas, Yeon-Su Kim, Cassandra Moseley, Max Nielsen-Pincus, and Ted Bilek) analyzed the program’s effects on enterprise and industry capacity, state economies, and acres treated and green tons removed. According to the report released today, “This relatively small ($5 million authorized nationwide annually) program’s most clear accomplishments were its significant contributions to regional biomass processing capacity, which occurred despite challenging market and economic conditions.”

They concluded, “Given the complexities of public land management and associated business development, strategies such as the Woody Biomass Utilization Grant program are critical to increasing biomass utilization, but are likely to achieve greater outcomes when incorporated with other tools to improve federal agency and stakeholder capacity, active land management, and long-term industry sustainability.”

In 2013 the U.S. Forest Service awarded nearly $2.5 million in grants to 10 small businesses and community groups across the United States. Administered by the FPL Forest Products Marketing Unit, the biomass utilization grants support renewable wood-to-energy projects and expand regional economies through rural development and job creation.

Nano work at FPL inspires public-private venture USDA Sec. Vilsack announces partnership: "We believe in the potential of wood- based nanotechnology ..."

Supervisory Research Chemist Alan Rudie tours Secretary Vilsack through FPL’s new Nanocellulose Pilot Plant and shows nanocellulose samples.

Supervisory Research Chemist Alan Rudie tours Secretary Vilsack through FPL’s new Nanocellulose Pilot Plant and shows nanocellulose samples.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday announced a public-private partnership to rapidly advance the development of the first U.S. commercial facility producing cellulosic nanomaterial, wood fiber broken down to the nanoscale. The partnership is between the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (Endowment) and the U.S. Forest Service.

“We believe in the potential of wood- based nanotechnology to strengthen rural America by creating sustainable jobs and adding timber value while also creating conservation opportunities in working forests,” said Vilsack. “This public- private partnership will develop high-tech outputs from the forest products sector, and promote the invention of renewable products that have substantial environmental benefits.”

The three-year partnership will promote cellulosic nanomaterial as a commercially viable enterprise by building on work done here at the Forest Products Laboratory. The partnership seeks to overcome technical barriers to large-scale wood-based nanotechnology processing, while filling gaps in the science and technology that are needed for commercialization. Initial funding comes from the Endowment and the Forest Service. The partnership is currently seeking additional public and private sector funding.

USDA, the Endowment, and the Forest Service have previously collaborated on numerous ventures: the potential of biotechnology to address forest health; technical advice given to African American forest landowners; and wood-to-energy projects that support the growth of jobs in rural America.

Together with partners, this new venture will:

  • Emphasize the potential of wood- based nanotechnology for the economy and the environment.
  • Overcome technical barriers to commercialization of wood- based nanotechnology.
  • Demonstrate commitment to creating high paying jobs in rural America through value- added manufacturing and high value products.
  • Showcase the commitment of USDA and the Forest Service to innovation.


Almost Famous FPL Research Heads to Hollywood

FPL research led to the creation of Hollywood’s first 100 percent sustainable studio set.

FPL research led to the creation of Hollywood’s first 100 percent sustainable studio set.

Hollywood’s first 100 percent sustainable studio set was created for 20th Century Fox’s  comedy series “Raising Hope” thanks to the efforts of the Forest Products Laboratory and NOBLE Environmental Technologies (NET).

The set was created using ECOR, a strong, light-weight bio-based panel.

The set was created using ECOR, a strong, light-weight bio-based panel.

Much of the set was created using ECOR®, a strong, light-weight bio-based panel that was developed through the collaborative efforts of FPL and NET. The project is also featured on the USDA Blog.

A recent San Diego KUSI-TV morning show segment also featured ECOR® technology. Bob Noble, founder of NET, talks about how his company partnered with USDA to develop a valuable, sustainable product that promotes job growth in the San Diego area.

Bob Noble, founder of NET.

Bob Noble, founder of NET.

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Small Business Owner Touts Benefits of Partnering with FPL

Researchers at the Forest Products Laboratory have worked in partnership with Whole Trees Architecture for several years through Small Business Innovation Research grants. The joint projects involve studying the use of whole trees as construction material in place of traditional components. 

Recently, Amelia Baxter, co-founder of Whole Trees, was interviewed on “WisBusiness.com: The Show” where she discussed how working with FPL can be very favorable to small businesses, and has been invaluable to moving their business and vision forward. The segment starts at the 3:30 mark:

Long-standing Partnership Continues to Benefit Consumers

Research at the FPL aims to improve forest health while boosting the economy and improving quality of life for the public. Developing products that are commercially viable helps meet that goal, but getting new technologies into the marketplace can be challenging. Often, creating partnerships with private companies helps to move newly developed products out of the laboratory and into the hands of the people who can benefit from them.

Noble Environmental Technologies (NET, San Diego, Calif.), a leading sustainable materials developer and manufacturer, has had a long and successful partnership with FPL. Recently, NET announced its exclusive license to commercialize technology based on two patents that were filed jointly with FPL.

NET and FPL previously partnered under a cooperative agreement that resulted in the development of three-dimensional engineered molded fiber (3dEMF). NET named the new manufacturing technology and resulting products “ECOR® Advanced Environmental Composites.”

“This license agreement is another milestone in our long-standing collaboration with the FPL, where environmentally superior fiber-based structural technologies have been a focus for decades,” says NET Founder and CEO and ECOR® inventor Robert Noble. “Many industries and markets worldwide will now have access to a large variety of design-versatile, nontoxic, 100% recycled content, 100% biobased products for an almost infinite variety of market and product needs.”

John Hunt, Research General Engineer at FPL, has worked closely with NET and is pleased with the outcome. “The collaboration between the FPL and NET is a perfect example of how government and industry can work together to meet society’s needs,” says Hunt. “By combining our unique capabilities, we were able to turn research results into tangible products—products that bring improved options to consumers and promote the sustainable use of resources, all while creating jobs and contributing to the economy.”

ECOR products provide solutions to designers and architects searching for materials which are versatile and can provide imaginative design opportunities. Extraordinary characteristics, including environmental sustainability, distinctive shaping, compound curves, and significant strength-to-weight ratios make ECOR unique. The product can be used in countless applications ranging from furniture, interior architecture and decor, signage and displays, automotive, aviation, marine, rail, industrial and manufacturing, military/logistics and consumer products.

Dr. James Torti, NET’s President remarks, “Fiber resources and underutilized raw material sources are ubiquitous worldwide. NET’s work with FPL provides the platform for utilizing the widest array of raw materials to provide significant economic and environmentally sustainable opportunities within farm, forest, and urban redevelopment locations. We are proud to be moving together to the next level of commercialization of these great technologies.”

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By Rebecca M. Wallace, FPL Public Affairs Specialist