Wood is a type of biomass fuel that can be used to produce energy. Woody biomass has many advantages as a thermal heating energy source in Southeast Alaska, including:
- It is renewable.
- It has a smaller “carbon” footprint than fossil fuels.
- It is available locally.
- It is less expensive than fossil fuels.
- It is less expensive to develop than hydroelectric or intertie projects.
- It can help conserve hydro-generated electricity for more valuable uses such as lighting and refrigeration.
- It can potentially add value to by-products from forest management and restoration treatments.
When wood for energy is responsibly and sustainably sourced, the benefits and applications of biomass projects can have minimal conflicts with other forest resources, services, and values. Woody biomass is not the only alternative fuel that should be considered for Southeast Alaska, but in certain situations and applications it can be the best option.
There are operating biomass facilities in the region, including the City of Craig, the Tongass National Forest, Sealaska, and the U.S. Coast Guard. Several other communities and companies are planning to convert some of their facilities to wood energy heat. Pellet processing has begun in Ketchikan, and preliminary work is underway to plan for a pellet processing plant on Prince of Wales Island.