Can urban tree waste be used as a renewable energy source?

With concerns about scarcity and environmental impacts of fossil fuels, markets and technologies are emerging to use tree waste as an energy source. Although timber harvesting residues currently account for the majority of energy production from tree waste, efforts are underway to also utilize urban tree waste. Energy production typically entails combustion of wood waste in a steam boiler that generates electricity. These power plants are often co-fired with coal, but plants dedicated solely to wood combustion are currently coming on line. Research is also underway to develop technologies for extracting ethanol from wood for use as biofuel.

Contributed by P. Eric Wiseman, Associate Professor of Urban Forestry, Virginia Tech

Also see information from these projects are funded by the USDA AFRI Bioenergy Program:

  • AHB – Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest
  • CenUSA – Sustainable Production and Distribution of Bioenergy for the Central USA
  • IBSS – Integrated Biomass Supply Systems
  • NARA – Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance
  • NEWBio – Northeast Woody/Warm-season Biomass Consortium
  • SUBI – Sustainable Bioproducts Initiative