HARRISBURG – A multi-year report says Pennsylvania’s forests are home to a plentiful resource that could be used to fuel small-scale projects, bringing promising new alternative energy options to the commonwealth, said Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff.
Nearly 500 million tons of low-use wood, poor quality or damaged wood are estimated to exist in Pennsylvania’s forests. The portion of this resource that is available economically could be used more extensively in an environmentally friendly way as an alternative energy resource.
“Pennsylvania has an exceptional opportunity to look at homegrown alternatives to meet our energy needs,” said Wolff. “Using renewable materials like low-use wood as fuel sources will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, keeping more of our hard-earned money at home benefiting our local communities rather than sending those dollars abroad.”
Harvesting at a sustainable rate—or as much as six million dry tons of low-use wood, which is approximately one percent of the total available—could be used annually to fuel hundreds of school or public building heat projects; generate six million megawatt hours of electricity, or the amount of 45 electricity plants; or produce 300 million 40-pound bags of wood heating pellets.
“Converting low-use wood to energy is a socially and ecologically sensible strategy for turning this underutilized, renewable resource into a benefit for consumers,” said Wolff. “To be successful, we must continue managing our forests in a sustainable manner and work harmoniously with existing wood products and paper industries in the state.”
The Blue Ribbon Hardwood Task Force was formed in 2004 by Gov. Edward G. Rendell to better define industry issues and research and evaluate the market and new technologies.
“Taking advantage of a home-grown resource for expanded alternative energy use makes great sense, and can promote forest health if done correctly,” said Wolff.
Overseen by the Pennsylvania Hardwoods Development Council and the Department of Agriculture, members of the task force include wood products and paper processors, manufacturers, academic and forestry organizations, state and federal government officials, and other forestry industry representatives.
With 17 million acres, Pennsylvania is home to the largest hardwood forest in the United States, providing 10 percent of the nation’s hardwood lumber supply. The state’s forest land supports a $17 billion timber industry that produces nearly 1 billion board feet and provides thousands of jobs.
For more information about Pennsylvania’s hardwood industry, visit here and click on “Business & Industry.”