Green consortium will study biomass potential in Roaring Fork Valley |

Green consortium will study biomass potential in Roaring Fork Valley

Five conservation groups formed a coalition to study if it is feasible in Pitkin County to pursue alternative energy production from woody biomass – everything from construction waste to yard clippings, they announced Monday.

The Roaring Fork Biomass Consortium scored a grant for $19,320 from the Governor’s Energy Office to help launch the study. The grant will provide leverage in raising roughly $90,000 total for the feasibility study, said John Bennett, executive director of For the Forest, the lead partner in the application for the grant.

The other members of the consortium are Aspen Global Change Institute, the Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE), the Flux Farm Foundation and The Sopris Foundation.

The study will assess if there is enough biomass available in Pitkin County to create one or more renewable energy projects that rely on it. The scope will also include an assessment of the technologies available and those appropriate for use in Pitkin County.

In other areas of the western U.S., biomass is used as a heating source, typically in large buildings, said Nathan Ratledge, director of CORE. It’s sometimes used for generation of electricity, usually getting used on-site where produced. In Germany, biomass has generated 110,000 permanent green jobs, said Piper Foster, executive director of The Sopris Foundation. High energy boilers there use woody biomass.

The local consortium also will assess if the carbon emissions required to move biomass would offset or exceed the benefits of using it as an alternative energy source.

Once the information is compiled, the consortium will undertake a major education effort to share the findings.

Bennett stressed in a press release that the study won’t assume major new timber cutting projects will be undertaken on the national forests surrounding Aspen. The study will focus on existing sources of biomass materials.

“If a potential biomass facility is to be pursued in our valley, it must be appropriately scaled and sustainable,” Bennett said. “We’re not interested in a green energy source that would denude the green trees of our valley.”

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