Helena — The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is marking the second annual National Bioenergy Day on October 22 by highlighting successful projects accomplished in the state over recent years.
Bioenergy is a form of renewable energy derived from organic plant materials that have stored sunlight. Bioenergy in western Montana largely entails use of forestry byproducts to generate heat and energy. For example, a growing number of schools, even hospitals and office buildings use wood byproducts for space and water heating, including at the University of Montana-Western in Dillon and the Clark Fork Valley Hospital in Plains.
DEQ offers the Montana Bioenergy Guidebook to help project planners negotiate the state’s permitting and regulatory processes. DEQ recently assisted the F.H. Stoltze Lumber Company of Columbia Falls as it built and installed a 2.5-megawatt biomass steam boiler. That system provides process heat to the mill while also generating electricity for on-site and off-site use. The boiler uses waste wood and forest slash that might otherwise be stacked and burned less efficiently in the field. The company has a contract with Flathead Electric Cooperative and the facility can power 2,500 homes annually.
DEQ channeled a $500,000 competitive grant to a Flathead Valley company that uses waste woody biomass to make a variety of products, including electricity and liquid fuels. Algae Aqua-Culture Technology built a pilot-scale biorefinery on the Stoltze Lumber Company grounds and is currently looking for opportunities to build a larger facility.
“We’re always on the lookout for commercial and industrial scale applications for bioenergy,” noted Brian Spangler from DEQ’s Energy Planning and Renewables program. “Sawmills naturally collect a lot of this forestry waste, but it can be further processed to make energy.”
Of course a large number of Montanans use solid wood or pellets to provide for home and small business heating as well. The DEQ administers the Alternative Energy Loan Program, which has a long record of financing biomass systems for small businesses and homeowners in Montana. In 2013, one loan was made for an outdoor biomass boiler in a commercial setting and three were made to homeowners.
For more information about DEQ’s bioenergy projects, and to access an online version of the Montana Bioenergy Guidebook, visit: http://deq.mt.gov/Energy/bioenergy/default.mcpx Further information on the Alternative Energy Loan Program is available at: http://deq.mt.gov/Energy/Renewable/altenergyloan.mcpx
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