As Maryland explores opportunities to increase the usage of renewable wood energy throughout the state, the Western Maryland Resource Conservation and Development Council (WM RC&D) and the Maryland Clean Energy Center have partnered to produce a wood energy fuel supply chain analysis to evaluate thermal wood energy deployment.
This comprehensive analysis has been funded by the Rural Maryland Council and will provide a long-term overview to assess the sustainability of wood energy in Maryland. The study will examine the total annual availability and species of fuel-grade wood across the state and in surrounding counties, and identify which forests are in the most need of sustainable management. Additionally, the research will provide five-, ten-, and fifteen-year predictions for forest growth based on low, medium, and high investments into wood energy.
“We are excited to partner with MCEC to support a project which will serve as an important resource for understanding the opportunities for increased sustainable forest management practices and economic growth presented by the development of thermal wood energy in Maryland,” said Josh Smith, executive director of the Western Maryland Resource Conservation and Development Council.
The Maryland Wood Energy Fuel Supply Chain Analysis will help more than just those in the energy field to understand Maryland’s potential. The analysis will act as a verified, third-party resource for policymakers and environmental groups to reference when evaluating concerns on how to make the needed switch from fossil fuels as quickly as possible, while preserving Maryland’s natural beauty. Foresters and loggers will be able to use this report as a guide to identify which areas of the state have the greatest need for their services. This will not only help maintain healthy forests but will rejuvenate an economic sector that was devastated following the closure of the Luke Mill Paper Plant in Allegany County in 2018.
The analysis will also help facility managers determine if a wood energy system would be the best, sustainable choice for their operations. The first question facility managers ask when considering a wood energy system is “Where will the wood come from, and how much is available?” This report will identify where the wood can be sourced from, even in an emergency, and how much wood is needed to meet facility requirements.
“The Maryland Wood Fuel Supply Chain Analysis will be a vital resource for wood energy adoption in the state that we are currently missing,” said Maura Ross, the state wood energy team chair and wood energy coordinator at the Maryland Clean Energy Center. “There is some confusion about what exactly wood energy is and how it can help sustain forests. Other states such as New Hampshire and Vermont have already deployed wood energy systems and seen an increase in forest health since their forests are now being actively managed and conserved. We hope that this analysis can give us guidance on how to achieve those successes here in Maryland.”
The analysis will be done by a contracted, qualified firm to ensure confidence and non-bias in the final product. MCEC expects to release the project RFP this fall, and the analysis report will be published in June of 2023.
The Maryland Wood Fuel Supply Analysis is administered, in partnership, by the Western Maryland Resource Conservation and Development Council and the Maryland Energy Clean Energy Center and funded by the Rural Maryland Council through the Maryland Agricultural Education and Rural Development Assistance Fund. This effort is also supported by the U.S. Forest Service, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and the Maryland State Wood Energy Team. For more information visit www.mdcleanenergy.org/biomass-maryland.
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