Declining Wood Supply is Why Gassification Won’t Work

Transcript from KUOW

Enterprise, Oregon, for example, recently won a $275,000 federal stimulus grant to help build a small wood–burning power plant. Nils Christoffersen directs Wallowa Resources, one of the groups working on the project.
Christoffersen: “All of the electricity and heat that is produced will be used by small wood product or agricultural businesses that are co–located with the heat and power plant. So we’re not trying to sell on the grid, regionally or nationally. We’re trying to use it all here.”
Christoffersen says the subsidy helps the project make economic sense. In Idaho, several school districts have used money from the Forest Service to install wood–fired heating systems in older buildings.
O’Laughlin says, without those subsidies, many projects don’t add up. He’s a University of Idaho forestry professor. He did an economic analysis for a French–American enterprise that plans to build a large wood–fired plant near the town of Shelton, in western Washington. He says there is a big enough supply of local wood there. But he says, east of the Cascades, the economics don’t work right now. The problem he says, is the cost of trucking it long distances is too high.
O’Laughlin: “Anything beyond 50 miles just doesn’t make sense.”
There is one big wood burning plant is eastern Washington. It struggles to get enough wood. The Spokane utility Avista built it in Kettle Falls 25 years ago.
O’Laughlin: “But if that was a good idea, Avista would have put another wood–fueled generation station somewhere else in the Inland West and they have not done that.”
To bridge the transportation gap, biomass users have asked the Forest Service to provide more waste wood closer to communities. The agency is trying to oblige, but it can only do so much.

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