[NEWS] Booming Wood Pellet Production Inching Toward Watershed Forests
– by Jeff Day, August 25, 2016, Bay Journal
A growing industry that’s harvesting “woody biomass” from forests for energy generation could gain a toehold soon in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Like virtually every other form of energy, it’s also generating intense debate about its environmental impact.
Biomass from trees is already used to generate a small amount of power in the United States; wood chips generate electricity at several small plants owned by Dominion, the Virginia-based energy company. (The term “biomass” generally refers to any plant material used for fuel. Woody biomass is made from trees.)
The big demand for pellets made from woody biomass, though, comes from utilities in Europe and the United Kingdom that are trying to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels. This is driving the harvesting of low-value trees and “slash,” or debris left by logging, in the Southeastern United States, from just south of the Bay watershed to the state of Mississippi.
A spokesman for the nation’s largest wood pellet manufacturer, Enviva Partners LP, said that the company has no plans to move farther north, but added that “it’s not outside the realm of possibility.”