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Heating the Midwest

AURI is joining forces with a six-state consortium that wants biomass to heat up the nation’s heartland.

Heating the Midwest is a newly-formed biomass group with industry, government, nonprofit, university and tribal representatives from North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan. All have an interest in promoting the use of agricultural or woody biomass for heating.

The biomass group has five action teams. AURI’s Becky Phillip, project director, and Al Doering, coproducts scientist, are leading the biomass resources team. Other action teams will focus on demographics, benefits and consequences, biomass combustion technology and policy.

As a result of their team involvement, Doering and Philipp developed an AURI initiative called Midwest Biomass Resource Inventory Assessment. “The goal is to provide a real snapshot of what is currently available for heating,” Doering says.

The study is intended for businesses interested in using biomass energy and Heating the Midwest participants. “This report should support many biomass projects in the state,” Doering says.

AURI is collaborating with David Ripplinger from North Dakota State University’s department of agribusiness and applied economics. Organizations from the six states involved with Heating the Midwest will submit biomass inventories that are already compiled. For example, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources provided wood data.

Ripplinger will compare the submitted numbers with the U.S. Department of Energy’s “Billion Ton Study,” which estimates biomass availability.

The Midwest Biomass Resource Inventory Assessment will detail woody and agricultural biomass available in each state, along with biomass that could be considered, such as CRP land, Doering says. The report will be released at the April 2012 Heating the Midwest conference in Eau Claire, Wis., and online

The biomass assessment is funded by AURI, Bemidji Joint Economic Development Commission and Minnesota Power.