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Virginia Community Wood Energy Program Sows the Seeds for Appalachian Wood Energy Hub

Biomass CycleCenter for Natural Capital activities in Southwest Virginia continue to focus on the development of the Appalachian Wood Energy Hub.  The Appalachian Wood Energy Hub will be at the center of an effort to support forest, river, and community health, improve biodiversity and reduce the chance of catastrophic wildfires by taking the otherwise no/low value material left on the forest floor after harvests, wildfire fuel loads and invasive species to create a variety of energy products for local markets.  Potential products of the Hub include wood fuels and co-products (biochar, hardwood charcoal, mulch, compost and potentially aviation biofuels).  The Community Energy Program, in collaboration with the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI,, University of Virginia Department of Systems Engineering and the University of Tennessee Knoxville are partnering to seek funding for identifying optimal locations and logistics for successfully establishing the Appalachian Wood Energy Hub.  Two pre-proposals for the Biomass Research and Development Initiative were submitted and one proposal, to examine feedstock supply, production on mine lands and delivery logistics in SWVA was accepted and a full proposal will be prepared for an end-of September submission.  Additionally, the Appalachian Regional Commission has expressed interest in investing in the wood products sector in SWVA and the Cumberland Plateau Planning District Commission, who have wood fuel development as one of their strategic goals, has offered to assist with the submission of a Power pre-proposal for a planning grant to identify the optimal locations for establishing the Wood Energy Hub.  Finally, the general response to the idea of establishing a Cooperative Weed Management Area has been very positive. An initial meeting will be held on September 11th, in Lebanon, VA. The founder of the Blue Ridge PRISM will share his experience in establishing a CWMA. Management of invasive species will generate low/no value woody biomass that could potentially be used for wood fuels.

Beyond Southwest Virginia, the Supervisor of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest has asked for a second meeting to explore how Stewardship Contracting might be utilized as a vehicle to engage with and promote economic development in communities adjacent to the National Forest.  In the Eastern Piedmont, the Community Energy Program is arranging for CAAFI and partners to tour the recently closed Bear Island Pulp and Paper mill, to see if it might be repurposed for aviation biofuel production.  Finally, in mid-September, senior staff will attending the Mid Atlantic Biomass Energy Conference and Expo in State College, Pennsylvania to participate in a session exploring the establishment of a Mid-Atlantic Biomass Energy Association.  More to come, stay tuned!


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