Monday, April 28, 2014

Fueling Schools with Woody Biomass

With Arbor Day in Pennsylvania just passing I thought it would be fitting to share with my readers a couple related stories concerning how trees, woody biomass, can be used for  Woody biomass can come from a variety of sources including forest biomass, harvesting and manufacturing residues, and short rotation woody crops.  These sources can be harvested at different times of the year and mixed to provide a consistent year round wood supply.

Wood is the second largest source of renewable energy in the U.S. next to hydro, yet only provides 2% of the U.S. energy needs. The U.S. has over 514 million acres of timberland and is estimated to have over 25 billion tons of standing biomass.  However, wide variations in ownership patterns, policies, and attitudes determine access to forest resources.  The growth to removal ratio also varies by forest type and species.  When we take into consideration various technical, regulatory, and social constraints an estimated 369 million oven dry tons of woody biomass is estimated to be available each year.  It is important to note that annual forest growth currently exceeds removals by 1.7 times on average.  This varies by region with the south central being at 1.2 and the pacific northwest at 3.3 times. 

A number of schools and other small businesses in Pennsylvania, and many other states, are currently using wood as a source of energy to provide heat.  The Hughesville School District is on one such school.  Approximately 5 years ago the school installed a wood fired boiler.  For the past three years the school has been burning approximately 650 green tons of wood chips annually.  The chips, provided by Lewis Lumber, were essentially mill waste, chipped slabs of wood cut when squaring logs.  Burning the wood chips provides heat for the 170,000 square foot high school building from mid-October through mid April.  Before the conversion to wood, the school relied on heating oil.  Heating with wood has saved the school thousands of dollars annually.

In addition to bringing in chips from mill waste, the school was proactive and planted an additional 40 acres of school property with hybrid shrub willow, a short rotation woody crop that can be harvested and re-grown on a three year cycle.  The school just completed its first cutting in the willow this past winter. A biomass harvester, on lease from the Penn State New Bio-Consortium, was used to harvest and chip the willow.  You can read the full story below.

It is important to mention the USDA Forest Service is currently (announced April 22, 2014) seeking applications for wood to energy projects.  They are seeking proposals that expand wood energy use and support responsible forest management.  These efforts are part of the Obama Administration's "all of the above" energy strategy and helps create opportunities for wood energy products to enter the marketplace.  For more on this click here.

For additional information see: Penn State Extension Renewable and Alternative Energy Fact Sheet: An Introduction to Biomass Heating 

Hybrid Willows Harvested to Fuel School (The Luminary Feb 7, 2014)
HUGHESVILLE, PA - They came from all across the Mid-Atlantic on a very chilly arctic day to see East Lycoming School District. Some were from Delaware, Maryland, Syracuse, NY, and others in Pennsylvania from Hershey, Harrisburg, State College, Bloomsburg, Lebanon Valley, and Port Allegheny. These visitors representing various organizations from conservancies, schools, prisons, universities and hospitals wanted to know more about the Willow Crop Green Energy power producing program that was developed at the district in Hughesville 5 years ago.  To read more click here

Monday, April 21, 2014

Foresters Guide the Conservation of Private Forests

Announcing the Expand Your Base Forester Workshop:
Guiding the Conservation of Private Forests

Penn State Extension-Centre County and the Penn State School of Forest Resources are pleased to be offering the 2nd annual Expand Your Base Forester Workshop: Guiding the Conservation of Private Forests. The workshop specifically targets foresters and other natural resource management professionals who work with landowners. It will be held on Wednesday, May 7, 2014 from 8:45 AM - 3:30 PM at Celebration Hall, State College, Pennsylvania.

This workshop will provide an overview of the issues surrounding forestland conservation and describe some innovative land protection tools, options, and approaches that will assist foresters and other natural resource management professionals in beginning the discussion with landowners on how to keep their forests working. Additional topics to be covered include: legal strategies, conservation easements, and taxation of land transfers.

Many resources are available that foresters can share with landowners, clients, and woodland owner groups. Many of these resources and tools will be shared during the workshop to assist foresters in beginning the conversation. Learn how to work with landowners to prevent the loss of forestland to development, subdivision, and conversion to other uses. The fate of Pennsylvania’s forestland is in your hands and the hands of your woodland owner clients.

To register go to: or call Penn State Extension-Centre County at 814-355-4897. Participants must be pre-registered by Wednesday, April 30, 2014. A $45.00 fee is being charged per person to cover program costs, including lunch. For questions please contact Dave Jackson in the Centre County Extension office at 814-355-4897 or e-mail

Penn State encourages persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities.  If you anticipate needing any type of special accommodations or have questions about the physical access provided, contact Dave Jackson, Penn State Cooperative Extension-Centre County at 814-355-4897 in advance of your participation or visit.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Do Cold Winters Impact Hemlock Wooly Adelgid Populations?

Sarah Johnson from The Nature Conservancy's High Allegheny Hemlock Project shared some encouraging news about overwinter mortality of hemlock wooly adelgid (HWA).  This information was initially provided by Rick Turcotte, Entomologist, US Forest Service, and Tim Frontz, DCNR Forest Pest Management.

Rick shared his analysis of 2 samples of HWA:
~93% mortality of HWA in Clarion River sample
~95% mortality of HWA in Allegheny river sample

Tim Frontz shared the below data about samples from Cook Forest State Park and one Elk County infestation from DCNR lands.  HWA mortality assessments were made on foliage collected on Jan. 15 and Feb. 9, 2014 at Cook Forest State Park, PA.  You can see, the mortality rates were 97% or higher with most at 100%.  That is good news for the hemlocks of the high Allegheny Plateau.

HWA density County Live HWA Dead HWA % Mortality
HIGH Elk/ Cameron 9 306 97
LOW Forest (CF State Park) 0 47 100
LOW Forest (CF State Park) 0 94 100
LOW Forest (CF State Park) 0 60 100
LOW Forest (CF State Park) 1 106 >99

Because of the high fecundity of HWA, an overwinter mortality rate of 91% is necessary to keep the population from increasing.  So mortality rates at 91% mean the infestation will not get any larger, above 91% means a temporary decrease in the infestation size.  The entomologists have also shared a caveat – with such high reproductive rates of HWA, this winter kill would need to be repeated maybe several years in a row, or happen more often (rather than just once every 10 years) to have significant overall impact in the grand scheme of things.

PA DCNR also provided an overview in a recent news release shared below.

DCNR gauging past frigid winter’s effect on forest insect pests
The past winter of seemingly unending snowstorms and frigid temperatures has proved to be a strong ally for state woodland managers battling the No. 1 enemy of Pennsylvania hemlocks, but the reprieve could be short-lived, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources officials said recently.  To read the full story click here.