West Virginia University has received $250,000 from the USDA to explore the power of wood as an energy resource.

“West Virginia is the third most heavily forested state in the U.S. and has abundant woody biomass in both National Forest System and private lands,” said Jingxin Wang, professor of wood science and technology in WVU’s Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design.

Wang will lead and coordinate a 17-member team to facilitate bio-business development in West Virginia. The proposed team consists of extension experts, engineers, wood energy professionals and industrial representatives across WVU, state and federal agencies, and commercial companies.

Other WVU participants in this project are Shawn Grushecky of WVU’s Appalachian Hardwood Center, WVU Extension specialist in nutrient management Tom Basden, David DeVallance, assistant professor of wood science and technology, and Joseph Moritz, associate professor of animal and nutritional sciences.

“The team will analyze the techno-economic feasibility and the engineering of woody biomass heating systems for West Virginia’s large users of liquid propane and heating oil,” Wang said. “We will specifically identify potential conversion opportunities for wood energy in the poultry production sector, the largest agricultural industry of West Virginia, and potential wood energy users in other sectors will be explored as well.”

Woody biomass can be procured from many sources, such as residues from forest harvesting, stand improvement, fuel load reduction and traditional forest products manufacture, surface mining and shale gas production activities, for use as a renewable energy to further diversify the state’s energy production portfolio.

“This project will deliver workshops and community meetings targeting broad potential users of wood energy, related online wood energy sources and technical releases; engineering and financial assessments of poultry production with robust, detailed techno-economic analyses on uses of wood energy; and at least one successful installation of the most feasible wood energy system for poultry production,” Wang explained.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the award of more than $2.5 million in grants to develop wood energy teams in 11 states.

“Renewable wood energy is part of the Obama Administration’s ‘all of the above’ energy strategy,” Vilsack said. “Working with our partners, the Forest Service is supporting development of wood energy projects that promote sound forest management, expand regional economies and create new rural jobs.”

The federal funds will leverage more than $4.5 million in investments from USDA partners. Under the terms of the agreements announced today, private, state and federal organizations will work together to stimulate the development of additional wood energy projects in their states. Activities may include workshops that provide technical, financial and environmental information, preliminary engineering assessments and community outreach needed to support development of wood energy projects.

Other grant recipients are from: Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, Montana, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.


CONTACT: David Welsh, Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Design
304.293.2394, David.Welsh@mail.wvu.edu

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