Bioenergy and Biofuel Resources

Increasing the use of biomass energy in Virginia has the potential to provide multiple economic, environmental and rural development benefits. Biomass energy is not new to Virginia, but it has been mostly confined to forest product industries. New technologies, environmental and energy concerns, and needs for new markets all provide opportunities to expand the use of biomass energy.

Individuals and businesses in Virginia can benefit from expanded utilization of biomass:

  • Provides new markets for waste wood, manufacturing residues, and materials from forest management activities.
  • Provides new markets for agricultural wastes and potential for developing energy crops for farmers.
  • Reduces material going to landfills, being dumped or open burned, such as woody debris and other wood waste .
  • Reduces site preparation costs for artificial regeneration.
  • Reduces pollution compared to using fossil fuels.
  • Provides additional jobs and revenues to local economies, especially in rural areas.
  • Reduces dependency on foreign fuel sources.
  • Energy deregulation can provide opportunities for “green energy providers.”
  • Increased demand for “green energy.”
  • Federal programs provide technical and financial support to expand renewable energy capacity.
  • New technologies provide biomass power plants available for individual operations to supply the energy needs of entire cities.
  • Increased interest in better utilization of natural resources.

Bioenergy production in Virginia

As fuel prices rise, we are seeing increasing use of wood-fired boilers by forest industry and inquiries by other companies on renewable fuels availability. New wood pellet manufacturing plants are under construction in southwest and southeast Virginia. Dominion Virginia now owns the largest wood-fired generation plant in the U.S., a 80 megawatt facility near Hurt, Virginia.

Virginia BioEnergy Fact Sheet (PDF format)

Warm Season Grasses

Making Warm Season Grasses a Cash Crop for Farmers

Virginia Tech’s Conservation Management Institute actively works with agencies, landowners, and other stakeholders to promote the use of warm season grasses as an effective land management strategy.

Warm season grasses provide water quality protection, soil stabilization and enhancement, improved wildlife habitat, and carbon sequestration. There are also current and emerging income generating opportunities using these native, perennial crops for forage and bioenergy.

Take me to the Conservation Management Institute.

Roles and Responsibilites of Agencies and Organizations

Advancing the use of bioenergy in Virginia requires a sophisticated approach that includes an inventory of the biomass material resources, education and demonstration of new bioenergy technologies, development of efficient movement of materials to point of use, and cooperation and leadership from various groups and agencies in Virginia to identify and act on barriers and opportunities.

Currently, a cooperative research effort is identifying the types, quantity and location of woody materials available in Virginia. Individual groups, including Longwood University and Virginia Tech., have met with an interest in expanding bioenergy use but there has not been any statewide coordination of all the interested parties.

Federal programs are available to help promote the expanded use of renewable energy, including grant programs to help farmers, tree farmers and other small businesses convert to renewable energy use.

Getting started

Funding sources

  • Value-Added Producer Grants
    The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Business-Cooperative Services announces the availability of approximately $19.5 million in competitive grant funds each year to help independent agricultural producers enter into value-added activities. Of this amount, $1.5 million is set aside for applicants requesting $25,000 or less. Awards may be made for planning activities or for working capital expenses, but not for both. The maximum grant amount for a planning grant is $100,000 and the maximum grant amount for a working capital grant is $300,000.
  • Woody Biomass Grants - Hazardous Fuel Reduction on National Forest Lands.

Additional information

  • Biomass Energy Resource Center (BERC) - BERC is a national nonprofit organization that assists communities, colleges, state and local governments, businesses, schools, utilities, and others in making the most of their local energy resources through the development of sustainable biomass energy systems at the community level.
  • The Southern Bioenergy Roadmap established that the South is in a unique position to create thousands of jobs through applying abundant natural resources and intellectual capital to the production of electricity and automotive fuel from plants, trees and waste, also known as biomass. Download the report.
  • The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Biomass Program develops technology for conversion of biomass (plant-derived material) to valuable fuels, chemicals, materials and power, so as to reduce dependence on foreign oil and foster growth of biorefineries.
  • The Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE) is a comprehensive source of information on state, local, utility, and selected federal incentives that promote renewable energy.

Last modified: Thursday, 11-Aug-2016 09:19:11 EDT