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Eye On Boise

Tue., Oct. 20, 2009, 9:58 a.m.

Wood as an Idaho energy source…

University of Idaho Professor Jay O'Laughlin briefs an Idaho legislative interim committee about the potential for energy production from woody biomass in Idaho. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)
University of Idaho Professor Jay O'Laughlin briefs an Idaho legislative interim committee about the potential for energy production from woody biomass in Idaho. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

University of Idaho Professor Jay O'Laughlin just told the Legislature's energy, environment and technology interim committee that woody biomass  - converting mill or forest residues into thermal and electrical energy - provided 4.7 percent of the energy consumed in Idaho in 2007, and 1.8 percent of the energy consumed in the U.S. At the U of I, he said, "We've been heating the campus with wood for 20 years." The UI's wood-fired steam plant uses 22,000 dry tons of woody biomass material a year; the result is big savings on utilities for taxpayers, O'Laughlin said: The UI is saving $1.5 million a year compared to natural gas costs. Currently, he said, Idaho's mill residues are being fully utilized; expanding use of woody biomass for energy in Idaho would require new supplies of logging slash and leftovers from additional forest thinnings. "I view wood bio-energy as a bridge to the next energy technology," he said. "Wood has always been an important part of our energy picture."




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Eye On Boise

Short takes and breaking news from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.