Since the discovery of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) in Michigan on 2002 tens of millions of ash trees have died or been removed as a precautionary measure to prevent further spread of these tree pests and create quarantined zones. The result is a large supply of wood which in and of itself has needs; emerging wood product ventures require support and local communities in need of relief from the burden of disposal of affected wood.
Several solutions are being researched and experimented with to address the problem of all this excess wood. Potential solutions include possible clean energy resources, improving the efficiency and quality of lumber and resultant products and working with small wood products businesses to increase their profitability, among others:
The Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry Wood Education and Resource Center provided funding to the Southeast Michigan Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Council to promote the use of EAB afflicted wood for value-added projects or as fuel. Two significant challenges to this possible solution have been identified by the council and its collaborating partners; there is a severe lack of skilled workers in the area as well as minimal interest in wood energy and therefore very few opportunities exist. The RC&D council seeks to address these issues by providing training programs on improved uses for urban wood resources. These high quality and affordable programs have actually been ongoing for several years and continue to help local workers receive much-needed skills and qualifications which are useful in this sector of the industry.
The RC&D council is also attempting to emphasize and promote increased urban use of wood products. The council has provided a grant to Oakland University, located in southeast in Michigan, to aid in demonstrating the benefits of using wood residues for its energy needs. The University’s wood chip-fired boiler facility will be an integral component of the new Clean Energy Research Center on campus. This biomass fueled boiler system paired with their plan for a solar water heating infrastructure is forecasted to save the University upwards of $50,000 per year in natural gas costs. Additionally the boiler addresses the University’s own wood disposal needs at no cost. The Clean Energy Research Center plans to further research other applications for ash wood pellets.
Biomass boilers are already proven technology, however, continuing to demonstrate the benefits of their use will help to continue spreading the word that purchasing, handling, and storing biomass fuel is not only manageable but also helps provide a financial incentive for others to switch to renewable energy.
For more information about EAB contact your arborist and visit: http://www.savatree.com/insect-management.html.