With the advent of changing markets and federal and state policies (e.g., Minnesota’s 1994 Biomass Mandate, 2007 Renewable Energy Objective, and 2007 Renewable Energy Standard), the number of potential users of woody biomass for energy production has increased. These increased demands present both significant opportunities for economic development and ecological restoration, as well as substantial challenges in our use of woody biomass for energy (such as maintaining ecological functions of the site and minimizing impacts to water quality).
To address some of these opportunities and concerns, the MFRC developed guidelines for the sustainable harvest of woody biomass, and in 2008 funded research to investigate the ecological impacts of woody biomass harvesting.
We took a lead role in clarifying the status of woody biomass use for energy in the forested portions of the state by compiling information from state agencies, nonprofits, private industry, research institutes, and others. This information included definitions of woody biomass, current and potential users, other guideline development efforts, completed and current research efforts, and various availability assessments.
Using this information, we recommended a statewide assessment of woody biomass availability that will include consideration of technical, economic, and ecological constraints. Subsequently, a University of Minnesota study of these constraints on total availability was funded by the Next Generation Energy Board (established by the Minnesota Legislature to develop biofuels policies and recommendations for legislative consideration), in conjunction with the University of Minnesota’s Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment.
We also worked with the Blandin Foundation and numerous stakeholders to further address availability and feasibility of harvesting woody biomass. We continue to closely track developments regarding the use of woody biomass.