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From:Thursday, July 24, 2014 2:52 PM -0600
Subject:Montana awarded $250,000 grant for development of wood energy projects 

July 24, 2014

For more information, contact:
John Grassy, Public Information Officer
Phone: (406) 444-0465

Montana awarded $250,000 grant for development of wood energy projects

MISSOULA, Mont. - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded $250,000 to the Montana Wood Energy Team to stimulate development of wood energy projects in the state, according to the Montana DNRC.

The Wood Energy Team is led by the DNRC and includes members from state and federal agencies, the Montana University System and renewable energy specialists.

Over the next three years, team members will be putting these funds on the ground to educate communities and facility managers across Montana about the prospects of wood energy, identify strong candidates and provide financial assistance to develop projects from initial feasibility scoping to engineering and construction.

"This award from USDA will be invested in projects that result in cost savings for facilities, reduced carbon impacts, retention of fuel dollars in our local economy, and a more diversified market for Montana wood products," said Julie Kies, Forest Products and Biomass Program manager with DNRC.

DNRC anticipates soliciting proposals for wood energy projects through a competitive process in 2015, Kies said.

DNRC has managed a wood energy program in partnership with the USDA Forest Service since 2003 and the first pilot installation of a wood chip boiler at Darby School in Ravalli County.

"With the proven success of Darby's installation and 13 other projects in schools, hospitals, state buildings and a university campus, and countless other projects across the country and the world, it's easy to make a case for wood energy," Kies said. "These projects have a proven return on investment."

Since 2003, DNRC has invested a total of $2.8 million USDA funds in developing wood energy projects. Kies said conservative estimates show the 14 small-scale projects currently operating in Montana have saved a cumulative total of $3.6 million in heating costs since 2004 by replacing fossil fuels with wood biomass; a total of $1.5 million in biomass fuel purchases have also been retained in local economies.

"For a public school like Eureka Middle School, which saved $213,000 in 2013 alone by displacing their fuel oil and propane, that cost savings translates to the retention of two teachers and academic programs in a time of declining student enrollment," Kies said

John Tubbs, DNRC Director, said, "This award from USDA and the wood energy projects it will support is a great complement to current work the state is doing with Governor Bullock's Forests in Focus initiative, which promotes sustainable forest management in concert with strong and diversified market and manufacturing infrastructure for Montana's forest products. Wood energy is one of the many valued products we can sustainably harvest from our forests - providing a local, renewable, low-carbon product, the sales revenue of which supports continued management of forests for all land ownerships, educational institutions in the state, and a robust forest product manufacturing industry. It's a win for everyone."

Kies said there are great opportunities for wood energy in Montana, especially for generation of space heat and hot water.

"Strong prospects include those who have high heat demand, high heating costs, and in near proximity to forests. In addition to the schools, government and community facilities and hospitals we've worked with, we see a lot of potential in wood energy for hotels and lodging, ski resorts, manufacturers, agricultural producers and processors, aquatic centers - there are lots of possibilities."

Interested parties are encouraged to contact DNRC to explore the potential for wood energy their communities.

The goal of the Montana Forest Products and Biomass Program is to promote and support diverse and robust forest markets and industry infrastructure in Montana as vital components in managing and retaining the state's forest land base for multiple products and benefits.

To learn more, contact Julie Kies at (406) 542-4280, or visit the DNRC web site at

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