The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently received a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to enhance the use of renewable wood energy systems throughout the state.
The three-year grant will help open new markets for Minnesota’s forest resources, promote economic vitality, and use renewable energy while reducing overall energy costs, said Anna Dirkswager, the DNR’s biomass consultant who will manage the project.
“We want to identify a number of commercial and institutional buildings that now use fuel oil or propane for energy and replace those systems with innovative wood energy systems,” Dirkswager said. “Our goal is to reduce the amount of non-renewable energy that is imported by deploying a less expensive, renewable fuel source to appropriate buildings in Minnesota.”
The DNR, in partnership with 22 private, state and federal organizations such as the University of Minnesota and the U.S. Forest Service, will use the grant to start the initial work that will hopefully result in the installation of wood energy systems in facilities not connected to natural gas grids.
The grant will enhance the work of the state wood thermal energy team, whose members will work collaboratively to identify and evaluate wood energy systems for 15 to 20 commercial and institutional buildings such as community centers and nursing homes. This core team will also work to complete advanced engineering and financial analysis for six to 12 of those facilities and ultimately initiate construction of three or more wood energy systems.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the grant “will help us find innovative ways to use leftover wood to create renewable energy and support good jobs in rural America.”
The $250,000 grant is part of $1.1 million in grant funds the U.S. Agriculture Department awarded to five organizations across the nation to form statewide teams to stimulate development of wood energy projects.
More information about biomass is available at www.dnr.state.mn.us/forestry/biomass/index.html.
To learn more about the Wood Education Resource Center and the grant, visit www.na.fs.fed.us/werc/.