Citizen input sought on wood as an alternative energy source

BLACKSBURG, Va., Aug. 11, 2008 – Wood could help solve the nation's energy woes. To look at some of the possibilities, the Virginia Tech College of Natural Resources Virginia Cooperative Extension, and other key partners are holding two public meetings across the state to gain input from community leaders, planners, and economic development officers; forestry industry professionals and consultants; logging and vegetation management contractors; developers and builders; forest landowners; and interested citizens.

Both meetings will cover similar topics, although each will have a different focus. The first meeting, on Sept. 4 at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon, Va., will focus on rural issues. The second, on Sept. 29 at Virginia State University in Petersburg, Va., has an urban/suburban emphasis. Those interested in attending may register online. The $25 registration fee for each meeting includes lunch and refreshments.

Woody biomass, or the accumulation of woody material above and below ground, is the most important renewable energy source in the world. "Improving the utilization of woody biomass from both rural forests and urban landscapes is a promising arena in the pursuit of a viable alternative to fossil fuels," said John Munsell, assistant professor and forest management Extension specialist in Virginia Tech's forestry department. "By tapping into currently unused sources, such wood waste typically left after harvesting operations, trees and branches removed in urban areas, and demolition debris from construction sites, we can expand renewable energy sources in Virginia."

The "Woody Bioenergy in Virginia" public meetings will cover the operational and economic challenges and opportunities related to large-scale woody bioenergy in Virginia. The goal is to gain an understanding of how woody bioenergy markets improve sustainable economic opportunities. Speakers include Congressman Rick Boucher, Congressman J. Randy Forbes, State Forester Carl Garrison, and Stephen A. Walz, senior energy policy advisor to Gov. Tim Kaine.

Meeting planning partners include Virginia Tech's Department of Forestry and Conservation Management Institute; Virginia Cooperative Extension; Virginia Department of Forestry; Virginia Forestry Association; Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy; Smurfit-Stone Container Corporation; U.S. Forest Service; and Southern Forest Research Partnership.