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Making the Most of Woody Biomass

In my time as a project manager, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a
number of projects involving the combustion of wood biomass. These
projects have included applications such as district heating for
university campuses and process steam for manufacturing. I’ve seen some
organizations make highly effective use of the technology, while others

What sets these two groups apart? While every project has its own
distinctive challenges, nuances, and advantages, the organizations that
are most successful in their decision-making are the ones that have
most carefully considered the following three questions:

• How readily can you source wood biomass?

If you have to source woody biomass from across a great distance,
expending a great deal of transportation fuel in the process, then the
prospect of burning biomass suddenly grows less green, less efficient,
and less cost-effective.

As with any fuel source, decisions about biomass should be made
with a high degree of geographical and contextual awareness. Facilities
that are located in regions with a heavy concentration on forest
products are particularly well-positioned to take advantage of wood
biomass as a fuel for district heating, process steam, etc. As the
distance between the facility and the fuel source increases, the
rationale for wood biomass becomes less compelling.

Of course, for smaller-scale wood biomass burning solutions,
other sources of wood fuel might be available, leading to the next

• Does your organization already produce suitable wood byproduct?

Although they may not be located near traditional sources of wood
biomass fuel, many businesses, such as those working with plywood,
furniture, or wood mulch, may be ideally situated to burn wood biomass
in a highly efficient way, making use of waste products that are
generated by their operations. Businesses of these types would do well
to consider how a wood biomass boiler might be integrated into their

Regardless of how much promise biomass seems to have for a given
business, however, it must have a good answer to the third question:

• Have the business’s decision makers made an informed, organizational commitment to biomass?
lone voices can dominate discussions about energy strategy. But in
order to serve an organization most effectively, a biomass solution
requires sustained, organization-wide commitment.  Once a singular,
driving voice is no longer present, a promising effort may fall apart.

Before making the decision for woody biomass, an organization’s
decision makers must all be on the same page and be prepared to commit
to sourcing and upkeep for the long haul. This may require in-depth
consultation as well as education for the organization’s decision

Biomass brings powerful opportunities for sustainability and
efficiency for well-situated businesses and institutions that are
willing to make a long-term commitment. Through careful analysis and
implementation, an organization that has the resources and the will can
leverage those opportunities very effectively for the long term.

Read More: Wood Boilers