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Center for Natural Capital + Partners Completes Local Wood Energy Market Analysis for Rappahannock, Culpeper, and Fauquier Counties, VA

cover pageToday the Center completed a groundbreaking market analysis of local wood energy for the Northern Piedmont of Virginia. The analysis. This preliminary market analysis had three objectives: 1) evaluate the feasibility of converting regional public buildings currently using fuel oil, propane or electricity for heating space and hot water over to using wood fuels, 2) estimate the quantify of wood material that could be aggregated at the Rappahannock County Landfill and 3) evaluate the financial feasibility by developing several business scenarios for processing wood and yard waste received at the Culpeper, Fauquier, and Rappahannock county landfills into marketable products. In particular, two primary products were evaluated: wood pellets and low-grade compost & mulch.
Candidate wood energy users were identified in Culpeper, Fauquier, Rappahannock, and Warren counties that would potentially benefit from converting to wood fuels when HVAC capital improvements become necessary. The study concluded that while the volumes of available wood currently received at the Rappahannock County landfill are sufficient to meet demand, they are not sufficient to support building and operating a small-scale pellet mill (about 1,400 tons pellets per year) as a financially viable private enterprise. Locations interested in wood energy could still purchase wood pellets directly from regional wood pellet producers and vendors.
Estimated annual fuel savingsThe study also concluded that producing low-grade compost and mulch at either Fauquier or both Fauquier and Rappahannock could be viable businesses that warrant further investigation. Due to the low volumes estimated to be available at the Culpeper landfill and the high costs of transferring those volumes to either of the other two sites, the volumes available at Culpeper were disregarded. An estimated $305,000 total investment for site improvements at Rappahannock and working capital would be required to operate a low-grade compost and mulch business at one or both sites while continuing to receive historical volumes and tip fees. This assumes third-party contractors continue providing onsite grinding services several times per year rather than direct investment in such equipment that would otherwise remain idle most of the year.
The project team recommends further investigation of identified candidate wood energy locations for meeting county energy savings and renewable energy use goals and verification of the assumptions used in modeling the compost and mulch scenarios. Additional investigation into the potential for high value organic products such as biochar and food scrap recycling is recommended.
Next steps include seeking additional funding to provide preliminary engineering support to interested candidate wood energy locations and further market analysis of high value organic products.

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