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USDA Forest Service Awards Nearly $3 Million for Renewable Energy Projects

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Federal grants support the development of clean renewable energy, help reduce the risk of wildfire and provide economic opportunities to rural communities

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the award of nearly $3 million in grants to 17 small businesses and community groups to develop wood-to-energy projects that require engineering services and will help expand regional economies and create new jobs.

"Biomass is a vital part of America's clean energy future as we work to decrease our dependence on foreign oil," said Vilsack. "Projects like these will help grow regional economies, create new jobs, and improve and protect our environment. We will need architects and engineers to design these plants, skilled laborers to build them and well-trained technicians to operate them."

These projects will use woody material removed from forests during projects such as wildfire prevention, and that woody biomass will be processed in bioenergy facilities to produce green energy for heating and electricity. The awardees will use funds from the Woody Biomass Utilization Grant program to further the planning of such facilities by funding the engineering services necessary for final design, permitting and cost analysis.

Examples of possible projects include the engineering design of a woody biomass boiler for steam at a sawmill, a non-pressurized hot water system for a hospital or school, and a biomass-power generation facility. The grant program helps applicants complete the necessary design work needed to secure public or private investment for construction.

The Forest Service Woody Biomass Utilization grant program has been in effect since 2005 and has provided more than $33 million toward various projects, ranging from biomass boilers for schools and prisons, to helping businesses acquire equipment that improves processing efficiencies. During this time period, 140 grants have been awarded to small businesses, non-profits, tribes and local state agencies to improve forest health, while creating jobs, green energy and healthy communities.

The Forest Service selected 17 small businesses and community groups as grant recipients for these awards. According to the requirements, all 17 recipients provided at least 20 percent of the total project cost. Non-federal matching funds total nearly $8 million.

The Forest Service's State and Private Forestry, Technology Marketing Unit, at the agency's Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wis. administers the grant program. The recipients were chosen from 34 applications.


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