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Virginia Biomass Solutions

Enhancing Rural Economies, Restoring Ecosystems

Mission Statement:

Virginia Biomass Solutions (VBS) is the Center’s core energy program. VBS fosters the economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable production and utilization of biomass in Virginia for food, fiber, energy, and environmental services. VBS’s projects for 2013 include:

  • Virginia Bioenergy Network (VBN)- a social platform providing conferences and communications about bioenergy in the Commonwealth.
  • Community Wood Energy Project (CWEP) – a two year Virginia Department of Forestry Project to promote the use of wood energy for institutional scale combined heat and power.

Who We Are:

Virginia Biomass Solutions (VBS) continues the activities of Public Policy Virginia (PPV), a 501c-3 that promoted perennial biomass energy as a driver for rural revitalization in ways that addressed the needs of society while providing for the health of our environment. Biomass is organic material of biological origin, i.e. herbaceous or woody plants, algae, animal manures, municipal solid wastes, etc.  Perennial biomass systems (forests, grasslands, and agroforestry) once established provide fewer opportunities for weeds to get started, reducing the need for herbicide applications or tilling, reducing soil erosion.   Additionally, perennial biomass may be highly efficient at nutrient uptake, reducing requirements for synthetic fertilizers and associated pollution of local water bodies, as compared to annual biomass.

Blending PPV’s energy focus with Conserv’s ecosystem services focus provides expanded opportunities to leverage these complementary programs in order to (1) create a stronger coalition-building strategy, (2) improve analysis, research and outreach capacity, and (3) develop more comprehensive programming for both entities.

Philosophy

Human socio-economic systems exist within dynamic ecosystems that provide the environmental capital and services upon which they are based.   Much of our wealth and industry has been generated with an extractive form of commerce that depletes the quality of those environmental assets.  In contrast, restorative commerce enhances environmental quality. Facilitating a shift from extractive to restorative commerce is the core mission of Conserv and by extension, VBS. We believe that creation of a restorative economy, one that values the regeneration of environmental capital and services on par with the goods and services derived from them, is the only strategy that can work at scale.

Approach

VBS embraces entrepreneurial approaches to provide innovative solutions to fund the restoration of Mid-Atlantic ecosystem services-based socio-economic systems.  Environmental services can be enhanced by creation and development of markets for the environmental assets that generate them.  The focus of VBS therefore is on markets (demand) to pay for ecosystem services (supply) provided by nature (Figure 1).

Biomass, produced in perennial systems, yields multiple benefits in addition to the products and services markets currently value.  These benefits (ecosystem services, such as air and water quality, biodiversity, soil tilth, retention and remediation of contaminated soil) are often unaccounted for within local, state, and national commerce.  The fastest-growing market for Virginia’s biomass is bioenergy. Note: Bioenergy is a generic term for energy generation that uses some form of biomass as a feedstock.Bioenergy is typically divided according to generation technology: combustion or gasification of solid fuels for thermal energy and power generation, liquid fuel production primarily for the transportation sector, and biogas produced via anaerobic gasification or collected from landfills for thermal energy and power generation.

Figure 1. Regulatory/voluntary markets and ecosystem services associated with production of perennial biomass.

Encouraging markets to respond to the production of biomass through systems that enhance environmental services requires consumer education. Information generation and materials development for education and outreach requires research that responds to these needs.  Support from policy makers is also essential for the development of legislation and regulation that will facilitate optimum government and private sector roles to enhance the health of ecosystem services and level the playing field for renewable energy.  These new policies and regulations will be needed as the effects of austerity likely decrease or hold steady regulatory demand just as the need for restoration becomes increasing apparent. To achieve these policies and regulatory changes, a new kind of grassroots advocacy proposed by VBS is needed.  VBS’s program is one of collaborative research, demonstration and outreach with partner organizations, academic institutions, government agencies and the private sector dedicated to the core mission of building a restorative commerce through market mechanisms.

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