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Wood Energy

Pennsylvania has a considerable renewable energy resource in our forests. To develop these energy resources, it is essential to understand the how these trees can be harvested in a sustainable way with minimal impact on forest ecosystems.

Penn State's Wood Energy Extension specialists and educators are actively developing programs to help develop sustainable solutions for the utilization of the woody biomass resources in our state. Partnerships have been developed with:

  • The Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry
  • USDA Forest Service
  • Researchers, foresters, the wood products industry, and Pennsylvania citizens

Woody Biomass Utilization Systems

Woody biomass resources can be utilized in a number of ways; pelletizing, combined heat and power or wood based ethanol are some of the current alternatives.

Understanding the potential of each of these strategies on the economic returns, the logistics, the feedstock requirements and the potential sustainability of these potential systems are the objectives of the Woody Biomass Utilization Education Program.

Sustainable Woody Biomass Production and Harvesting

Pennsylvania’s forests and land resource base has considerable potential for the production of woody biomass for energy.

  • Economic production of the "low use" wood may increase land values and enhance forest landowner's revenues.
  • Given long timber growing periods, making money from Penn's Woods is difficult. Harvesting smaller diameter and faster growing species could provide continuous revenue streams for landowners.
  • Moreover, the ability for landowners to gain more income from their land reduces the likelihood for land conversion to development uses.
  • Using biomass harvesting as a method for timber stand improvement is a key opportunity associated with woody biomass utilization for energy.

But many factors will affect how much and how effectively this resource can be utilized. Things to consider include:

  • Understanding the different ways wood resources can be utilized, for example in pellets, in district heat and power projects, or as wood ethanol.
  • Development of potential resources with minimal impacts on other wood product industries
  • Understanding the sustainable forestry practices associated with harvesting trees for woody biomass.
  • Land tenure issues and the economic returns to harvesting are critical consideration.

Contact Information

Daniel Ciolkosz, P.E.
  • Assistant Professor and Research Associate
Phone: 814-863-3484