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Woody biomass research grant to launch biofuel industry in the Pacific Northwest

A recently awarded U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant will help launch a viable, sustainable biofuels industry in the Pacific Northwest. The $40 million grant, announced by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, directs Washington State University and the University of Washington to create the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA). The substantial grant will help the Nation develop renewable energy resources from forest byproducts such as wood chips and sawdust.

The NARA members include scientists from the Forest Service and other government laboratories, public universities, and private industry throughout the Northwest. Four teams will conduct research on feedstocks, conversion, systems metrics, and education and outreach.

Eini Lowell, a research forest products technologist at the Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Station, is a member of the outreach and extension team. The team plans to identify communities in each of the four states that comprise the NARA project (Idaho, Oregon, Montana, and Washington) for possible development of biorefineries. The team will serve as a conduit between researchers and community stakeholders, helping to transfer the science and technology of biofuels and important co-products to economic development in Northwest communities.

"Our team believes in participatory planning and technology development to help build the biofuel industry in the Northwest," said Lowell. "I'll be working on increasing public awareness and engagement activities to work for consensus among local communities whose livelihood is dependent on woody biomass."

Lowell and the team will also, among other tasks, survey community stakeholders to strategically select three to four test-bed sites for studying the viability of a biofuel-based infrastructure.

"This project is important because it provides a perfect opportunity to address several critical issues, from decreasing the Nation's dependency on petroleum products to promoting resiliency and economic stability in forest-based communities," said Lowell.

The group will be conducting traditional extension activities, including providing workshops, Webinars, and newsletters, with the aim of helping communities and companies throughout the Pacific Northwest determine their role in building sustainable biofuels infrastructure and to move toward the establishment of a biofuels-based economy.

At the same time, NARA researchers will be forming regional alliances, identifying communities that might fit into the supply chain for a sustainable biofuels economy.

The outreach and extension team will:

  • Provide information and exchange with key governmental and industry leaders and the public
  • Establish a communications pipeline to inform policymakers who will be developing future policies on bioenergy.
  • Communicate and exchange information with groups such as Sustainable Aviation Fuel Northwest.
  • Communicate with economic development groups in rural communities, tribal groups, and the general public.
  • Help to transfer science and technology of biofuels and co-products
  • Professional conferences and workshops.
  • Field trips and facility demonstrations.
  • Web-based newsletter, an e-commerce site, and Webinars, in addition to the NARA Web site.


Contact: Yasmeen Sands
USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Research Station

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