Today, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that Western Excelsior Corporation in Mancos and Renewable Forest Energy in Pagosa Springs have each won $250,000 Wood Innovation Grants to expand and accelerate wood energy and produce wood products.
The Western Excelsior Corporation will use the funding to help create a process to make Biochar, a charcoal-like product formed from heating wood in the absence of oxygen which can then be used as a soil amendment. Its use will enable the company to utilize all of the Aspen trees their mill processes and helps to sequester carbon, fortify local agriculture, reduce soil and water pollution, and improve land management. Renewable Forest Energy will use the grant to help further the final design of a 5 MWe biomass power plant, a project that will create 14 local jobs and provide one-third of Archuleta County’s energy supply. Senator Bennet wrote a letter of support on behalf of Renewable Forest Energy in January.
“Biomass is an innovative way to generate clean energy while reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires,” Bennet said. “These types of grants support our local businesses and communities and create new jobs. By continuing to support biomass and expand the market for wood products we can reduce fuel for wildfires, diversify our energy portfolio, and boost our economy.”
The USDA received more than 100 proposals for the Wood Innovation grant program. The announcement today was part of $9 million dollars nationwide that will leverage $22 million in investments from partners, resulting a total investment of $31 million in 23 states. Wood innovation grants focus on proposals that substantially expand or accelerate wood energy and wood products market throughout the U.S. with the goal of reducing hazardous fuels, improving forest health, and promoting the economic and environmental health of communities.