Development of an outreach program to promote wood residue utilization for bioenergy in West Virginia

Project Overview

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2007: $24,962.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Northeast
State: West Virginia
Project Leader:
Dr. Jingxin Wang
West Virginia University

Annual Reports


  • Additional Plants: trees


  • Education and Training: workshop
  • Energy: bioenergy and biofuels, renewable energy

    Proposal abstract:

    Working together with the state agencies, local community and industry people, the project manager will develop an outreach program that will be conducted through workshops/industry tours to agencies, professionals, farmers, woodlot owners, and the general public. The Appalachian Forest Heritage Area has been selected as the target area for this pilot program. Information will be relayed during the workshops, but will also be extended through the Biomaterials and Wood Utilization Center website at West Virginia University. There will be examples provided to the audience concerning wood residue utilization for heating and energy requirements for small rural communities or school systems. The workshops will also cover wood residue estimation, economic analysis, biomass policies, and biomass conversion techniques. Upon completion of this project, a comprehensive outreach education packet for wood residue utilization for bioenergy will be provided, which can be used as a framework to facilitate the sustainable forest management, business development, and promotion of the rural community economy in West Virginia.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    West Virginia, located in the central Appalachian region, has abundant woody biomass resources. The state of West Virginia is the third most heavily forested state in the U.S. and has 12 million acres of forest land (Griffith and Widmann 2003). However, West Virginia has an unemployment rate of 5.4% for 2005, which includes 44,820 people and 0.3% higher than the nation’s average (US Bureau of Labor 2006). The proposed study will address the community education of wood residue utilization for bioenergy so as to promote the rural community economy in the region. Specifically, the project will concentrate on the Appalachian Forestry Heritage Area (AFHA) that consists of 17 counties located in West Virginia and Maryland. Of these, 13 counties are all rated as non-metro with urban population under 20,000 (Rurality code 6 or higher). In fact, none of them have a town larger than 9,999. 6 of the counties are all rural with no population center over 2500. A recent survey stated that there are over 40,000 tons of wood residues produced by primary and secondary wood products industries on a weekly basis in the form of bark, chips, and sawdust in West Virginia (Wang et al. 2006). Also, during timber harvesting operations, over 10 tons per acre of wood residues are left on site. The efficient utilization of these residues and by-products seems to be a necessity. The utilization of woody biomass in these rural areas of West Virginia for heating or energy needs would increase employment in these small communities. At the same time utilizing these resources would help to develop technologies that would benefit the entire state. Much of the research emphasis on renewable energy has been on agricultural crops or waste to produce bio-based transportation fuel (Brown 2003). However, with the forestry resources that West Virginia possesses, it seems necessary to focus our attention on the optimal use of these abundant wood residue resources. Increasing the use of woody biomass for energy could also lead to improved economic development and poverty alleviation, especially in AFHA, since it attracts investment in new business opportunities for small- and medium-sized enterprises in the fields of biofuel production, preparation, transportation, trade and use, and generates incomes (and jobs) for the people living in and around these areas. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO 2005) states that “bioelectricity production has the highest employment-creation potential among renewable energy options, since it can create several times the number of direct jobs than the production of electricity using conventional energy sources, and with lower investment cost per job generated.” During the course of this project, five conference/workshops and two industry tours will be developed to provide information on wood residue resources and the potential to use these resources for bioenergy and/or heating of businesses in a small community. The information gained should lead to a biomass conversion plan that will be implemented for bioenergy and/or heating responsibilities for a small community or business. The AFHA will play an integral role in providing a networking avenue to survey interested people who are working with wood residues and have the opportunity to pursue wood heating/energy possibilities in the region. The workshops to be developed can be offered in the evenings to inform the general public, farmers, and woodlot owners on the opportunities of using woody residues for heating/energy needs. The sessions will deal with residue availability estimation, economic analysis, and energy aspects for heating using a variety of furnace models based on size and output needs. The industry tours will focus on wood pellet production in West Virginia and community heating modular application. Informing local woodlot owners and farmers on wood heating/energy possibilities will allow them to decrease their costs and efficiently utilize wood residue resources in rural communities. Based on the recent established Biomaterials and Wood Utilization Center at West Virginia University with the assistance of West Virginia Development Office, this proposed will be evolved as a business analysis framework and a pilot demonstration project to facilitate the expanded use of wood residues in West Virginia and help position West Virginia on the forefront of a new economy fueled by biomass. According to a report entitled “Biomass Resources, Uses, and Opportunities in West Virginia” recently developed by West Virginia University (Wang et al. 2006), there are several options for converting the woody biomass into bioenergy or heat. Wood residues can be burnt directly for heat and electricity or can be converted into solid, liquid or gaseous fuels using conversion technologies such as carbonization, gasification, fermentation and wood densification (Crisp 1999). The process to be used will be dependent on the product that is produced from the timber harvester, sawmill, or chipping plant. The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association states that “There are three different types of biofuel systems: direct-fire, co-firing, and gasification. Direct-firing involves burning biomass directly to produce steam. This steam is then captured and directed to spin a turbine that produces electricity. This system is very similar to conventional power production that uses coal or oil to generate electricity. The important benefit with biopower is that it relies on a renewable resource with significantly less harmful emissions” (NESEA 2006). Any of these three systems could be implemented depending on abundance of material and existing fuel type used.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.