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Local Biomass Pellets Provide Heat And Jobs

USDA Forest Service - Alaska

A Tongass National Forest priority in promoting economic development and addressing climate change is to shift the energy economies of Southeast communities from heating with fossil fuels to heating with regionally sourced renewable energy, specifically biomass energy in the form of wood pellets.

Biomass is biologically derived renewable material. The woody biomass found in abundance in Southeast Alaska represents a significant energy resource for local communities.

The future of timber management on theTongass is in young growth forestry. Wood byproducts from restoration and young growth management could be utilized as an energy resource, displacing fossil fuel and reducing energy costs.

One of the projects now using wood byproducts is the U.S. General Services Administration’s Ketchikan Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse. As part of the agency’s Green Proving Ground program, GSA replaced the building’s outdated, inefficient 1964 steam heating system with an energy efficienthydronic heating system that includes one biomass boiler and one high-efficiency oil-fired boiler that will serve as a back-up.

GSA has been running both the high-efficiency oil and biomass boiler to test the efficiency and effectiveness of biomass to heat the federal office building, and use that information to improve the efficiency of all GSA-managed facilities. GSA expects to reduce fuel oil consumption at the building by approximately 50 percent annually.

The Ketchikan Federal Building, the first United States federal building to have a biomass boiler installed, historically burned up to 9,000 gallons of fuel oil each year.

Jim Langlois, GSA property manager, estimates the federal cost of pellets currently equates to oil cost at $2.15 per gallon. A report on the efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and operational functionality of the Ketchikan biomass boiler will be finalized this year.

The pellets GSA began using last fall are produced locally in Ketchikan by Tongass Forest Enterprises from sawmill residues that used to be disposed of as a waste product.

“Utilizing wood pellets increases manufacturing efficiency by utilizing wood milling residues," said Larry Jackson, plant manager for Tongass Forest Enterprises. “It reduces importing of heating fuel, saves the tax payer money on heating public buildings, adds jobs to the local economy, and diversifies the energy supply of the region.”

In 2013, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough received Forest Service grants of $143,363 for both theKetchikan high school and the airport terminal to fund the design for conversion of the heating systems from heating oil to biomass fuel. Additionally, an Alaska Renewable Energy Fund grant for $620,000 was recommended for approval by the Legislature to help pay for the construction of theKetchikan Airport Terminal conversion. The new Ketchikan Library was constructed using an advanced pellet boiler for heating.

The money saved by the facilities converting from oil to pellets also remains in the Ketchikaneconomy. The Forest Service goal over the next decade is to support a transition of 30 percent of the regional heating oil usage to biomass energy. Currently, Southeast Alaska consumes an estimated 22 million gallons of heating fuel annually, all of which is produced outside the region.Ketchikan is leading the state in the adoption of this cost-effective renewable energy resource.

For more information, contact Bob Deering, the Tongass National Forest Biomass Roadmap Co-ordinator. Bob may be reached by phone at 907-957-1077 or by email.

Photo courtesy of Larry Jackson, Tongass Forest Enterprises. Caption: The Ketchikan federal building receives bulk pellet delivery from Tongass Forest Enterprise

Pellet mill to open

A Ketchikan mill is slated to begin producing wood pellets this winter. As Deanna Garrison reports, Tongass Forest Enterprises is hoping to capitalize on a recent surge in interest in processed wood heating products in Southeast Alaska.

Dan Moller cabin remodel to be complete in November

Posted: Friday, October 29, 2010

By Abby Lowell
Instead of muskeg, I smell cedar. Light filters where only shadows crept before and the crackle from a neat wood stove offers a warm welcome to an otherwise chilly fall day.

Kids Build Tugs and Barges
March 02, 2009

Ketchikan, Alaska - Point Higgins' kindergarten students from Mrs. Miller and Mrs. Thomas' classes toured Tongass Forest Enterprises at Ward Cove recently.

During the tour of the facility, the students had a hands-on opportunity building wooden models of tugs and barges. In preparation for the tour, Ketchikan High School woodshop students had fabricated tugboat and barge kits and then assisted the younger students in building the models.

Annual Expo Event Offered Something For Everyone
By Marie L. Monyak
April 04, 2006

Ketchikan, Alaska - At a time of year when most local residents were about to go stark raving mad from months of dark, dreary, rain soaked days it finally arrived - at long last the light at the end of the tunnel - the First City Expo! Hosted by The Local Paper and KFMJ Radio, the Expo was held this past weekend at Ketchikan High School to the delight of many.

The Expo is the first sign of spring, right up there with skunk cabbage and daffodils. It's the first big, city-wide event that allows residents to get out of their homes, get re-acquainted with neighbors, renew friendships with those they haven't seen for months and schmooze with fellow Ketchikanites.

More importantly, the Expo is an opportunity for our local businesses and organizations to come together under one roof and display their merchandise or services. Some businesses were competing with one another. Service organizations were enticing new members. Newer businesses were getting the word out about who they are and what they offer. In the midst of all this the food vendors were keeping everyone fed and quenched...