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Nebraska hopes grants stoke use of wood as fuel

The Nebraska Forest Service says it is
offering up to $200,000 to assist business, charities and governments
with converting their buildings to heating systems capable of burning
wood.

“The grants will
help cover the upfront costs of installing wood-fueled energy systems,”
said Adam Smith, who heads the forest products utilization effort at the
forest service. “Historically there has been a lack of capital
assistance for the development and installation of these energy
systems.”

Using what Smith calls abundant supplies of wood
waste can save up to 50 percent on utility costs, he said. Funding for
the program originated from the Wildfire Control Act of 2013, which
calls for the development of markets for woody biomass generated from
forest thinnings.

There might be ample prospects among building
managers throughout the state: There are at least 300 boilers in
Nebraska that are part of aging heating systems that need replacing,
according to the Nebraska Labor Department’s boiler inspection service.

“We have already had a lot of interest,” Smith said. “We are excited about it.”

Applications must be received by the forest service by Oct. 31, Smith said. Information is available at www.nfs.unl.edu/trees-heat-nebraska.
Smith also said energy produced from wood boilers currently heats two
Nebraska colleges, the Arbor Day’s Lied Lodge and Conference Center,
many small manufacturing facilities, and is used to dry and pelletize
alfalfa for animal feed.

“Extensive renovations are generally not
required,” Smith said. In most cases, he said, much of an old heating
system’s guts can remain, with the addition of a boiler capable of
heating water via wood burning.

He said he the forest service envisions its best
prospects among schools, hospitals, prisons, city buildings and nursery
and greenhouse operations.

The forest service grants are authorized to cover
50 percent of the costs of converting up to $200,000. Additional grants
are available from the federal government, Smith said, and the Nebraska
Energy Office has low-interest loans to help pay for remaining amounts.

As for fuel, Smith said there is plenty
available. In the state’s forested areas, forest service tree thinnings
create enormous amounts of wood that can be burned to create heat. Also
adding to the supply are lots of stuff authorities are trying to keep
out of landfills, such as residential tree and garden trimmings and wood
waste created from manufacturing products such as pallets and
furniture.

Smith said the plan also takes waste and turns it into heat that might otherwise be generated using fossil fuels.

“Otherwise, a lot of this stuff gets burned out in the open in a field somewhere,” Smith said.


Read More:  Wood Fuel Boilers

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