Monday, April 30, 2007

Sustainabilityrx: Remote sensing innovations, business market potential, and policy implications of bioenergy from small diameter timber

Gordon Bradley, Renata Bura, L. Monika Moskal, Dorothy Paun, and Clare Ryan. College of Forest Resources, University of Washington, Winkenwerder 104, Seattle, WA 98195-2100

Sufficient supply of biomass is believed to be one of the most important factors that will impact the successful commercialization of lignocellulosics to ethanol. Creating a forest biomass energy industry will not only reduce biomass availability concerns, but also help to restore forest health, reduce forest fires, enhance wildlife habitat, produce renewable energy, and revitalize timber-dependent rural communities. The conversion of woody biomass, from small diameter timber, to bioenergy holds great promise. This study investigates the potential of small diameter timber (less than 5”-7” diameter) as a feedstock for producing bioethanol. Using a sustainability framework, we plan to explore woody biomass to bioenergy potential using a triple bottom line approach that integrates financial, social, and environmental elements in order to evaluate possible strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and opportunities. These might include the sufficiency of biomass supply, harvesting, transportation, and processing costs, public endorsement and policy incentives, and market potential among household and industrial consumers. Tools that will be employed include remotely sensed data and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for assessing biomass supply. For example, using a pilot study for a remote sensing analysis of LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) data of the small diameter timber inventory at University of Washington’s Pack Demonstration Forest. For financial considerations, sustainability performance assessment tools could be used to monetize both potential costs and profits from a total footprint perspective. Selected policy tools will be evaluated to assess biomass program implementation at the state level.