Consortium for Advanced Wood-to-Energy Solutions (CAWES)
The Consortium for Advanced Wood-to-Energy Solutions (CAWES) is an open-platform collaborative of institutions in the public and private sectors representing green energy, forest management, research, philanthropy and private industry committed to advancing economically-viable, scalable, distributed wood-to-energy solutions that stimulate forest restoration and rural economic development through research and application of advanced wood-to-energy solutions.
CORE INSTITUTIONS | CAWES’ founding partners are:
Georgia Southern University, Herty Advanced Materials Development Center, Savannah, GA
USDA Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory (FPL), Madison, WI
U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (Endowment), Greenville, SC
NEED FOR THE CONSORTIUM | America’s forests are a vital natural resource. They cover one-third of the nation’s lands and yet more than one-half of our forests – both public and private – are in decline and in need of treatment to restore forest health and address stocking issues. These forest conditions are being driven by declining demand for traditional wood-based products, changing climactic conditions, endemic and exotic pests and diseases, and the need for policies that support both cost-effective and environmentally-desirable market-based solutions. The loss of one-third of the nation’s solid wood products manufacturing facilities (sawmills) and more than forty percent of pulp and paper mills (since 1990) have greatly diminished market outlets and options to utilize forest biomass from forest restoration operations. Further, this loss has in turn led to the loss of more than 500,000 family-wage jobs in rural communities.
Deteriorating forest conditions and limited market options have led to increasing size, intensity, and acreage of wildland fires that are collectively consuming more than $3 billion in federal tax dollars annually in suppression costs and billions more in economic and environmental loss as well as loss of human life. Large volumes of the forest biomass (e.g. small diameter, disease and insect killed, slash, and non-commercial species) that need to be removed are of no- or extremely low commercial value for the production of traditional wood-based products. Currently this byproduct material from forest restoration operations is stacked, dried and eventually burned in place. Lack of commercially-viable outlets for these no/low value materials severely restricts the acres of forest that can be restored due to the high forest management costs incurred. Distributed wood-to-energy markets that can provide an economic outlet for these no/low value materials are viewed among the best options to turn the curve against growing fire-related losses while opening up new markets that can help mitigate at least some of the forest products job and value-creation losses.
ABOUT TORREFACTION | Torrefaction is a mild form of pyrolysis using heat in an oxygen deprived environment to drive off water and volatile compounds from biomass. The major challenge has been in developing a method of densification to improve the energy value and reduce safety hazards associated with shipping and storage of torrefied wood. Densified torrefied wood is superior to other forms of biomass as it can be handled in the same manner as coal using existing infrastructure and in many cases can be directly substituted as a drop-in boiler fuel without system modifications.
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
Read an overview of the Consortium for Advanced Wood-to-Energy Solutions (CAWES) here.