Tag Archives: oregon

[NEWS] Baker City, Oregon to Discuss Biomass Opportunities

– August 17, 2016, My Eastern Oregon

baker-city

Baker City, Oregon

A meeting has been arranged by Economic Development Director Greg Smith with PGE for next week in order for Baker County Commissioners as well as Baker City Representatives to discuss the opportunity to utilize Baker County bio mass in their generation for electricity.

According to Commissioner Mark Bennett with the recent fires and the upcoming “Face of the Elkhorns Project” Baker County is well situated to provide a significant source for the green power requirements of PGE.

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[NEWS] Oregon State University Eyes Biomass Energy

– July 13, 2016, KTVZ

OSU-Cascades-logoA grant from the U.S Department of Agriculture could enable planners at Oregon State University–Cascades to move closer to achieving net zero energy usage across the future campus by studying the potential of integrating a woody biomass thermal energy system and campus-wide biomass district energy to provide heat to campus buildings.

The $193,910 grant was awarded by the USDA Forest Service’s Wood Innovations grant program and will be used to determine the technology and space requirements of a campus-scale biomass thermal energy system.

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[OPINION] Wildfire: Dead Trees Vital to Forests

[Read the opposing view to this opinion piece, “Wildfire: Thinning Forests for Biomass Energy Can Reduce Fire Severity,” by John Buckley, Executive Director, Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center]

– by George Wuerthner, Ecologist

Dead. Most of us have negative associations with the word. So it’s not surprising that most of us tend to view dead things as undesirable, unless we are talking about mosquitoes and rattlesnakes.

We impose this cultural bias about dead things to our forests as well. Public land management agencies spend billions annually trying to contain wildfire and insect outbreaks based upon the presumption that these natural processes are destroying the forest by killing trees.

And this bias feeds the biomass industry. After all if dead trees are a “wasted” resource, why not burn them to make “clean” energy? That is the prevailing idea behind many biomass proposals.

For example, throughout much of the West, advocates of biomass burning suggest that forest thinning projects, particularly removal of bark beetle-killed trees or the aftermath of a wildfire, could be used to accomplish two goals: making the forest “healthy” and producing power.

But the idea that removal of dead trees or reducing tree density to preclude wildfire and/or beetle outbreaks is based upon flawed ecological knowledge.

A new perspective is slowly taking root among forest managers, based on growing evidence that forest ecosystems have no waste or harvestable surplus. Rather, it seems that forests reinvest their biological capital back into the ecosystem, and removal of wood—whether dead or alive—can lead to biological impoverishment.

Large stand-replacement blazes and major insect outbreaks may be the ecological analogue to the forest ecosystem as the hundred-year flood is to a river. Scientists are discovering that dead trees and downed wood play an important role in ecosystems by providing wildlife habitat, cycling nutrients, aiding plant regeneration, decreasing erosion and influencing drainage and soil moisture and carbon storage.

Dead trees are important to wildlife. Think woodpeckers. But a lot more species than just woodpeckers depend on dead trees and downed wood for food and shelter.

But it’s not just the use of snags for nesting, or even feeding as with woodpeckers, that attracts birds and other wildlife to recently killed forests. Burned forests also are used extensively by seed-eating species that are attracted by the abundance of new seeds shed by cones and colonizing plants.

Some two-thirds of all wildlife species use dead trees or downed wood during some portion of their life cycle. Among Pacific Northwest vertebrates, sixty-nine species depend upon cavities for shelter or nesting, while forty-seven other species are strongly associated with downed wood.

It’s easy to identify an ecosystem for its most photogenic species, but there are dozens of small cogs that are of equal importance.

One of those is ants, and downed logs are their preferred home. Ants are among the most common invertebrate in forest ecosystems and, not surprisingly given their abundance, are critical elements in forest ecosystems. The most obvious value of ants is as food—from birds such as flickers to much larger animals like bears.

Dead logs and snags are also home to pollinating insects.

Healthy forest soils also require decomposing material. Below the litter layer in the soil is yet another layer of life that depends on dead wood.

People commonly assume that wildfire destroys trees and leaves a smoldering pile of ashes. In truth, some live trees and a lot of dead wood physically survive blazes. Beyond the value of dead trees as feeding, hiding and resting habitat for wildlife, downed logs play an important role in forest regeneration.

Snags and downed logs modify micro-sites that can affect seedling establishment. For instance, snags provide some shade and reduction of drying winds, creating more favorable conditions for tree seedling survival.

Trees heated and killed by fire create sapwood that resists rotting and lasts longer in the ecosystem. Trees dead prior to the fire tend to become blackened and charred. Charred trees are also resistant to decay. Thus, wildfire creates long-lasting biological legacies that can survive for a century or more.

Wildfires and/or insect outbreaks create downed logs that fall into streams and across slopes. Downed logs, by slowing the velocity of the water, allow sediment to settle out and help return sediment flows to pre-burn levels.

The loss of salmonids in many parts of the west can be attributed to the absence of wood in streams.

The criteria for healthy ecosystems can’t be easily defined or exhaustively listed. But healthy ecosystems have a full array of processes operating unimpaired, including hydrologic function, soil productivity, carbon sequestering, provision of wildlife habitats, and keystone disturbances such as fires, floods, storms and insect outbreaks.

One crucial element present in unmanaged, healthy systems is a significant amount of dead trees and downed wood.

George Wuerthner is an ecologist and publisher of 38 books on environmental subjects, including Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy.

[NEWS] Seneca Biomass Power Facility Wins Additional $1 Million Subsidy

– by Christian Wihtol, June 18, 2016, Register Guard

Biomass-Receiving-Station

Photo: senecasawmill.com

Seneca Sustainable ­Energy LLC, the company that operates a wood-burning power plant north of Eugene, has prevailed in its lawsuit against the Oregon ­Department of Energy, winning an extra $1 million ­taxpayer ­subsidy.

The state Department of Energy previously had issued Seneca a tax credit subsidy worth $10 million. Seneca had sued, arguing that under state rules it was due $11 million.

The case, in Lane County Circuit Court, was put on hold while another lawsuit on the same general topic, in relation to a new biogas plant in Linn County, was being litigated. The biogas plant owners, SIF Energy LLC, prevailed in the Oregon Court of Appeals in December, winning an additional subsidy of $444,000 for themselves. Based on that ruling, the Oregon Department of ­Energy decided to concede the ­Seneca case and award Seneca the additional $1 million subsidy it was seeking, the state said in a filing in the Seneca case.

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[NEWS] Dispute Over Seneca Biomass Property Tax Bill in Eugene, Oregon

– by Christian Wihtol, June 6, 2016, Register Guard

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Photo: Register Guard

Rising 100 feet tall, burning truck-load after truck-load of wood waste, and, in cold weather, belching plumes of white steam high into the air, the Seneca Sustainable Energy LLC power plant north of Eugene cuts an eye-catching profile.

But how much is the innovative 38-acre facility worth?

Seneca and government tax authorities have fought quietly in Oregon Tax Court over that question ever since the local Jones family built the wood-burning electricity plant and opened it in April 2011.

Given what’s at stake — potentially many millions of dollars in property taxes over the plant’s life — the sides are digging in and the disagreement may drag on for more years.

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[NEWS] John Day, Oregon Biomass Collaborative Awarded USDA Funding

– May 17, 2016, Wallowa County Chieftan

johnday2.pngU.S. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon is applauding the U.S. Department of Agriculture decision to award a groundbreaking project with funding to continue its innovative work using wood waste for renewable energy.

The Oregon Torrefaction Project will convert forest wastes to a low-carbon product that can be used to heat and power homes and businesses. Processing in John Day will create access to rural jobs and reduce transportation costs.

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[NEWS] Eugene, Oregon Pays Triple the Cost For Biomass Energy

– by Christian Wihtol, May 5, 2016, Register Guard

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Photo: Chris Pietsch/Register Guard

After refusing for nearly six years to disclose any part of its contract to buy power from the Seneca woodburning electricity plant north of Eugene, the Eugene Water & Electric Board has agreed to disclose most of the contract and pay The Register-Guard $70,000 for legal costs the paper incurred fighting for the release.

The settlement between the paper, EWEB and Seneca Sustainable Energy LLC, which is owned by the local Jones family, comes just before the dispute was to go to trial in Lane County Circuit Court.

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