Future Energy Conference: Biomass communications
By Andy Giegerich
Digital Managing Editor
The Integrated Biomass Energy Campus in eastern Oregon will eventually create 30 jobs, with another 30 independent contractor jobs generated for those working in the woods.
Could Oregon's forest-based economy be making a comeback?
Absolutely, said four speakers at a Tuesday Future Energy Conference presentation on biomass. Presenters at the Northwest Environmental Business Council's event noted that nearly half of Oregon's 63 million acres are forested. And whereas those forests used to supply building products, industry leaders are increasingly calling for Oregon to become a biomass hub.
"About 7 percent of Oregon's total economic base relies on the forest," said Matt Krumenauer, a senior policy analyst with the Oregon Department of Energy. Which translates to more than $5 billion in residents' total incomes.
Still, biomass efforts could drive those figures higher.
The term "biomass" refers to creating fuel from such waste as sawdust, chips and other residual material left over from mill processing. The strategy ties into zero-waste efforts that please environmentalists, and it can, when used expertly, save users tons of money.
That's what's happening in John Day, where Andrew Haden's Portland-based company Wisewood has completed several projects that are heating schools, a hospital and the Grant County Airport.
The Blue Mountain Hospital District uses biomass to heat its 25-bed facility. The cheaper form of heating — biomass replaced traditional gas as the hospital's energy form — saves Blue Mountain about $100,000 a year. The project, backed by state and federal grants, cost $450,000.
Wisewood also worked on projects at Grant Union Junior-Senior High School and with the Prairie City school district.
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