FPL Works to Support Advanced Biofuels and Biorefineries

As national concerns about the multiple uses for our forests increase and international concerns over global warming and greenhouse-gas generation also rise, governmental support for biological fuels is likely to increase.

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FPL research has helped advance technology to convert woody biomass to ethanol.

New technologies are needed to derive transportation fuels and valuable chemicals from wood and FPL has a strong history of handling and treating wood through multidisciplinary efforts.

Experts in wood structure, wood chemistry, microbiology, enzyme technology, chemical engineering, and economics work together to promote the use of sustainable, bio-based, environmentally neutral technologies. This research advances the use of lignocellulose (materials such as wood flakes, particles, and fiber) as a raw material for transportation fuel and other biochemicals.

FPL researchers use advanced microbiology and chemistry laboratories in the Centennial Research Facility to help increase processing efficiency and profitability for biorefineries. In 2012, the U.S. Forest Service awarded nearly $4 million in grants for wood energy projects around the country to help expand regional economies and create new jobs. These grants are managed by the FPL Forest Products Marketing Unit.

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Biorefineries can use previously under-valued wood from forest restoration projects to produce energy.

Through its work on bioenergy and biofuels, the FPL addresses several developments:

  • Pretreatments that make more cellulose available for enzymatic saccharification or to derive value from lignin
  • Value from resistant (recalcitrant) cellulose
  • Co-production of specialty chemicals with greater value than ethanol and paper pulp
  • Improved gasification with less char and a higher energy yield
  • Transportation fuels and higher value chemicals from producer gas
  • Ways to integrate ethanol production with pulping and composite products
  • Enzyme modeling, life cycle assessment, and biomass case development
  • Greenhouse gas modeling

FPL’s work in biorefining:

  • Promotes sustainable development
  • Moves the U.S. toward energy independence
  • Mitigates climate change
  • Supports local economies, and
  • Promotes sustainability of natural resource production and use.

Capabilities and Challenges of Wildfire Response FS Chief Testifies Before Senate Committee

U.S. Forest Service capabilities and challenges in the face of increasingly extreme wildfires were the focus of Chief Tom Tidwell’s recent statement before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“On average, wildfires burn twice as many acres each year as compared to 40 years ago. Last year, the fires were massive in size, coinciding with increased temperatures and early snow melt in the West,” said Tidwell. “The largest issue we now face is how to adapt our management to anticipate climate change impacts and to mitigate their potential effects.”

The Forest Service estimates a total of almost 400 million acres of all vegetated lands are at moderate to high risk from uncharacteristically large wildfires. (Credit: www.shutterstock.com)

Nearly 400 million acres are at moderate to high risk from uncharacteristically large wildfires. (Photo: www.shutterstock.com)

Tidwell highlighted the development of a National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy, which focuses on restoring fire-adapted ecosystems, building fire-adapted human communities, and responding appropriately to wildfire.

The Chief spoke about the impact of increased fire suppression costs, now nearly half of the entire Forest Service budget, as well as the Agency’s ability to protect life, property, and natural resources in the face of continuing budget challenges.

The Forest Service’s ecosystem restoration projects were also addressed, including the Woody Biomass Utilization Grant program, which has contributed to the treatment of over 500,000 acres and removed and used nearly 5 million green tons of biomass at an average cost of just $66 per acre. The grant program is administered through FPL’s Technology Marketing Unit.

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2013 Woody Biomass Utilization Grant “Request for Proposals” Now Open

Sharpen your grant-writing pencils, folks. Project proposals are now being accepted for the 2013 Hazardous Fuels Woody Biomass Utilization grant program.

Application deadline is April 8, 2013. The official language reads a little something like this:

To address the goals of Public Law 110-234, Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, Rural Revitalization Technologies (7 U.S.C. 6601), and the anticipated Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriation Act of 2013, USDA is requesting proposals to address the nationwide challenge of using low-value woody biomass material to create renewable energy and protect communities and critical infrastructure from wildfires.

View the official Federal Register Announcement.

Successful projects will process woody biomass in a bioenergy facility using commercially proven technologies to produce thermal, electrical or liquid/gaseous bioenergy. Funds from the Hazardous Fuels Woody Biomass Utilization (WBU) grant program must be used to further the planning of such facilities by funding the engineering services necessary for final design and cost analysis.

To join in support of the public interest and general welfare to protect communities and critical infrastructure, the applicants to this program should be seeking assistance to complete design work required to secure public and/or private funding for construction for developing local enterprises to better utilize woody biomass. In particular, USDA Rural Development has established grants and loan programs that might help fund construction of such facilities. The lack of engineering design often limits the ability of an applicant or business to receive federal, state or private funding.

Recipients of 2012 WBU grants can be seen here.

Forest Service Awards Nearly $4 Million for Renewable Wood Energy Projects

The U.S. Forest Service announced the award of nearly $4 million in grants for wood energy projects around the country to help expand regional economies and create new jobs. The grants, totaling $3.92 million, will be distributed to 20 small businesses, tribes, and community groups to develop renewable energy projects that require engineering services.

“Woody biomass is a valuable part of America’s clean energy future as we work to decrease our dependence on foreign oil,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Projects like these will help grow local economies, create new jobs, and improve
and protect our forests. We will need architects and engineers to design these plants, skilled laborers to build them, and well-trained technicians to operate them.”

The projects will use woody material such as beetle-killed trees removed from forests to aid in wildfire prevention. The material will then be processed in bioenergy facilities to produce green energy for heating and electricity. The awardees will use funds from the Woody Biomass Utilization Grant program to secure the engineering services necessary for final design, permitting, and cost analysis.

“These grants continue our legacy of improving access to affordable energy for rural schools, community centers, universities, and small businesses.”

The grant program, administered by FPL’s Forest Products Marketing Unit, helps applicants complete the necessary design work needed to secure public or private investment for construction. Examples of projects include the engineering design of a woody biomass boiler for steam at a sawmill, a nonpressurized hot water system for a hospital or school, and a biomass power generation facility.

The Forest Service selected 20 small businesses and community groups as grant recipients for these awards in 2012. The recipients were chosen from 34 applications. According to the requirements, all 20 recipients provided at least 20 percent of the total project cost. Non-federal matching funds total nearly $8 million.

2012 Woody Biomass Utilization Grantees:
California Department of Forestry
Sacramento, California — $124,875

City of Montpelier
Montpelier, Vermont — $248,556
City of Nulato
Nulato, Alaska — $40,420

Clearwater Soil and Water Conservation District
Orofino, Idaho — $110,000

Coquille Economic Development Corporation
North Bend, Oregon — $145,000

County of Sullivan New Hampshire
Newport, New Hampshire — $250,000

Evergreen Clean Energy
Gypsum, Colorado — $250,000

F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Company
Columbia Falls, Montana — $250,000

Greenway Renewable Power LLC
LaGrange, Georgia — $250,000

Longwood University
Farmville, Virginia — $250,000

Mineral Community Hospital
Superior Montana — $190,000

Nippon Paper Industries USA Co. Ltd
Port Angeles, Washington — $250,000

Oregon Military Department
Salem, Oregon — $250,000

Plumas Rural Services
Quincy, California — $70,125

Port Angeles Hardwood LLC
Port Angeles, Washington — $250,000

Quinault Indian Nation
Taholah, Washington — $205,000

Riley County Schools
Riley, Kansas — $90,000

Sanpete Valley Clean Energy LLC
Salem, Utah — $250,000

Southern Oregon University
Ashland, Oregon — $250,000

Yosemite/Sequoia Resource Conservation and Development Council
North Fork, California — $134,225