The Mt. Adams Community Forest has been abuzz with activity of late. Some of it has been expected. And some activity, like that initiated by a call that came into the Mt. Adams Resource Stewards’ office in March, took us by surprise. A major biomass research initiative led by Humboldt State University in northern California and fifteen regional partners recently came calling in search of different feedstocks to support trials they were conducting at Bear Mountain Forest Products in Cascade Locks. In particular, they were looking for wood chips sourced from tree tops and limbs left over from forest management activities – an abundant source of potential energy that has been a challenge to many biomass project developers.
The word went out through our networks. And when no one could come through with the necessary material, we lined up a couple of local contractors to help convert slash and small pine trees from the Mt. Adams Community Forest’s Pine Flats Tract. The effort that ensued would never be deemed financially viable for supplying an existing biomass operation. But it provided the study with the requested source of wood chips that enabled them to analyze energy inputs and outputs associated with creating biomass briquettes from different types of woody biomass.
Later this summer, the study will continue at an old mill site in northern California where researchers will also look at gasification to create biochar and pyrolysis to produce torrefied pellets, in addition to the briquette research. And who knows…Maybe someday someone will crack this nut, and rural, forest rich communities like those of the Mt. Adams region will play a role in an economy where low value and waste wood is converted to green energy.