Maryland Advances Biomass Wood Energy Solutions

$25,000 awarded from the Maryland Agricultural Education & Rural Development
Assistance Fund grant to conduct in-person, on-site education efforts

Maryland continues to search for ways to develop and expand its existing renewable energy portfolio. Thermal wood energy is beginning to gain traction and attention across the state as a sustainable alternative to traditional heat sources such as propane and other fossil fuels. Despite the idea of thermal wood energy being widely known, the newer and advanced large-scale systems installed with efficient cleaning controls are not typically considered when wood energy is mentioned.

To help demonstrate the features of these systems and how they operate, the Alliance for Green Heat and the Maryland Clean Energy Center have partnered together to organize and host educational tours to learn from other states with facilities already using wood energy systems.

The two tours funded through the Rural Maryland Council grant will take attendees to Vermont and New Hampshire to see existing systems in action. Attendees will include those who are interested in renewable energy and can make decisions on the future of wood energy in Maryland. Policymakers, environmental group representatives, and facility managers will also gain a better understanding of where the state’s current wood energy sector stands, and how it can play a role in the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

Vermont and New Hampshire are seen as the country’s leaders regarding wood energy – heating not only homes, but schools, commercial facilities, an entire town’s public buildings, and even downtown sidewalks. These states began the development of their wood energy sector almost twenty years ago and have continually seen the benefits of reducing their energy dependence on fossil fuels and the increasing health of their forests through sustainable management practices resulting from a strong logging sector.

“Tours to New Hampshire and Vermont will enable Maryland stakeholders to meet experts who run the systems and the building owners who pay for far cheaper heat,” said John Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat.

This education-focused grant will also fund a case study, providing a detailed overview of one of the two tours. It will include information on the locations visited, the systems in place, the benefits of wood energy experienced, and the lessons learned from each facility. The information in the case study will help those who were unable to attend the tours in-person and serve as a vital resource for decision makers and facility owners to reference when considering thermal wood energy.

“There are numerous misconceptions regarding wood energy since it not a common energy source anymore and confusion about the difference between sustainable forest management and overharvesting,” states Maura Ross, the wood energy coordinator at the Maryland Clean Energy Center, “but seeing is believing. If we can get those who are passionate about switching over to renewable energy on these tours where they see the environmental benefits themselves and speak with those who work with energy every day, I believe that the opinion of wood energy in the state will change.”

The tours will be hosted between early December and early April, with the case study released before June 2023.

The Educational Tour project is supported, in partnership, by the Alliance for Green Heat and the Maryland Clean Energy Center and funded by the Rural Maryland Council through the Maryland Agricultural Education and Rural Development Assistance Fund. This effort is also supported by the U.S. Forest Service, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and the Maryland State Wood Energy Team.