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Climate & Energy
Contact Information:
Leigh Lindstrom, Communications Coordinator, Pinchot Institute for Conservation:
202.797.6582; LLindstrom@pinchot.org
Brian Kittler,Project Director, Pinchot Institute for Conservation:



Maryland Biomass Report Evaluates the Potential Future of Biomass in the State

Pinchot Institute releases report and harvesting guidelines, in association with Maryland Department of Natural Resources, to evaluate and provide guidance for biomass options in Maryland.

December 06, WASHINGTON D.C. — While markets for woody biomass have existed for more than twenty years, this experience has mostly been limited to one small facility with modest feedstock requirements. In recent years, renewable energy policy has stimulated increased investment to expand bioenergy markets across the country. This expansion could provide forest owners with more varied opportunities for sustainable management of their forestland. However, this same market growth has raised concerns about the potential for negative impacts to natural resources and existing industry. The Pinchot Institute for Conservation, aided by a number of agencies, experts, and stakeholders, evaluated several social, economic, and environmental sustainability concerns regarding potential expansion of wood-based bioenergy markets in Maryland. The report explores biomass supply, utilization technologies, energy and natural resource policies, and the science behind biomass harvesting.

The study’s purpose is to evaluate the potential for bioenergy markets to expand in Maryland, and determine measures needed to help ensure sustainability in the event of such an expansion. This report served as the foundation for A Guide to Forest Biomass Harvesting and Retention in Maryland; a set of voluntary guidelines developed to build upon the state’s existing natural resource management policies and promote sustainable forest management should demand for biomass increase. The guidelines were developed through a yearlong process, and involved the input of a number of agencies and stakeholders. Many groups contributed to the study and the development of guidelines, including the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-ecology, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Maryland Department of the Environment, Maryland Energy Administration, Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection & Resource Management, the Nature Conservancy, University of Maryland Extension, University of Maryland College of Agriculture & Natural Resources Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, forestry consultants, and private forest landowners.

“We’re very grateful to all those who collaborated in developing these guidelines. We’re confident that these guidelines address the issues at hand and are forward looking to safeguard the water, wildlife, and woods throughout Maryland,” said Steve Koehn, Maryland’s State Forester.

The comprehensive analysis in the report came to some interesting conclusions. Included in the findings:

  • Maryland’s forests are extensive and their ability to support bioenergy development is substantial yet not unlimited. A number of social and economic constraints were identified and examined.

  • Of all the sources of biomass, urban wood waste comprises Maryland’s most readily attainable source, but the amount of truly recoverable bioenergy feedstock from this source remains largely unknown.

  • There is great potential to produce energy crops in Maryland in a manner that provides ecological services, like clean water, in addition to a sustainable biomass supply, but this supply will not be realized without policy changes.

  • If used for electricity production or cellulosic ethanol, Maryland’s woody biomass supply could only power 4% of Maryland’s detached single-family homes, or offset 2% of Maryland’s annual gasoline consumption.

  • An estimated 40% of Maryland’s energy consumption is in the form of thermal energy. Using biomass for heating and cooling and CHP are the most efficient uses of Maryland’s available biomass supply, and these options are more than three times as efficient as using biomass to produce electricity.

  • Small to moderate-scale biomass-fired installations supplying thermal energy (i.e., heating and cooling) or combined heat and power (CHP) are more likely to be sustainable in Maryland’s landscape than larger-scale facilities.

  • Converting home heating systems to wood pellets offers fuel cost savings, by as much as 20 - 70% over fossil fuels.

Such a strategy also reduces the state’s consumption of fossil fuels, as 33% and 16% of Maryland homes are heated by electricity and home heating oil respectively. “With careful foresight, planning, and the adoption of biomass harvesting safeguards, markets for forest biomass can further the sustainable management and conservation of private forests, and when bioenergy is done at an appropriate scale and with a mind toward efficiency, it can be renewable and sustainable,” said Al Sample, President of the Pinchot Institute. “Biomass is a clean, renewable source of ‘green’ energy that is widely abundant throughout Maryland. As foresters, we’re looking forward to many benefits this emerging green industry will bring to Maryland. This report will prove to be a valuable reference as we develop the policy framework that both protects our forests and enhances the benefits our forests provide Maryland,” said Steve Koehn, Maryland’s State Forester.

For more information on this project click here.


[ Download the summary ]   [ Download the report ]


About the Pinchot Institute for Conservation

The Pinchot Institute for Conservation (http://www.pinchot.org) is to advance conservation and sustainable natural resource management by developing innovative, practical, and broadly-supported solutions to conservation challenges and opportunities. The Pinchot Institute accomplishes this through nonpartisan research, education and technical assistance on key issues influencing the future of conservation and sustainable natural resource development.
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