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Wood is an excellent source of energy. It can be used to create biofuels, burned directly, turned into a synthetic gas or pyrolyzed (turned into a liquid) to create electricity. Wood biomass is used to produce electricity for the grid in various places throughout the U.S. At present, Texas has no operating wood-to-electricity facilities, but two are being developed. Some Texas mills and pulp and paper plants burn their wood waste to generate heat and electricity for their own use.

Potential fuel sources for wood-fired power plants include mill residues, sawdust, wood trimmings and construction debris. East Texas, home to much of the state’s lumber industry, has a particularly large resource base. In 2005, East Texas wood products companies produced 9.5 million tons of logging and mill residues.178


Per Million Btu (2005) $0.82 for electricity (wood and waste biomass);179 $3.30 for direct use (wood and waste)180
Direct Subsidy Share of Total Consumer Spending Federal: 0.4 percent (wood and waste biomass); State and Local: none.181
Notes The use of wood waste entails costs for transportation by truck, rail or water. Using wood for electricity generation entails transmission costs. Electricity generation facilities using wood waste must be within about 50 miles of the fuel source to be economically feasible.182

Economic Impact and Viability

Wages and Jobs There are no wood-fired power plants in Texas, although some projects are being developed.
Regulatory Climate Wood-fired power plants must obtain air and wastewater permits from TCEQ, a process that requires an average of about two years to complete.183
Texas Competitive Advantage East Texas would have a competitive advantage in this area due to its large potential fuel supply.
Notes One NREL study found that 4.9 jobs are created for every additional MW of renewable energy capacity; Texas has an estimated potential wood biomass capacity of 4,600 MW, potentially equating to more than 22,000 Texas jobs.184

Availability and Current Infrastructure

Estimated Resources in Texas East Texas has an estimated 3.1 million “green tons” (tons before drying) of logging residue that could be used to produce electricity, enough to power about 300,000 homes.185
Current Fuel Production In 2005, East Texas produced 9.5 million tons of logging and mill residue that contained 106 trillion Btu of potential energy.186
Consumption in Texas No electricity is being put on the grid in Texas from this source, although some is produced and consumed on site at mills and pulp and paper facilities. The U.S. consumed about 2,114 trillion Btu from wood in 2006.187
Notes Wood waste is used to heat and provide electricity to some industrial facilities, but no data on total capacity are available.

Environment, Health and Safety

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Although wood releases carbon dioxide when burned, these emissions are considered part of the earth’s natural carbon cycle and represent no net increase in CO2.
Air Pollution (Non-Greenhouse Gas) Wood biomass combustion also releases nitrogen oxides and some SO2, but these emissions are significantly lower than those from fossil fuels.
Solid Waste The use of wood biomass can reduce the absolute volume of waste generated by the forest products industry. Combustion produces ash that typically includes only very low levels of hazardous elements.
Land Use Biomass grown for fuel purposes can require large land areas and can contribute to soil erosion and soil nutrient depletion. Land is also required for plant sites.188
Water Withdrawal Depending upon the plant type, electricity generation from wood biomass requires withdrawals of between nine and 14,658 gallons per million Btu of heat produced.189
Water Consumption Electricity generation from wood biomass requires between zero and 150 gallons per million Btu produced.190
Water Quality Plant discharge is heated and contains pollutants, potentially harming aquatic life and reducing water quality. TCEQ regulates and permits these discharges. Biomass crop runoff can contain pollution from pesticides and fertilizers. Appropriate conservation practices can significantly reduce these effects.
Notes Increased truck traffic due to the delivery of wood waste to power plants could cause wear to local roads and increase pollution. Although impractical, harvesting all available logging residues to produce electricity could require foresters to fertilize land for new plantings.191

Fuel Characteristics

Energy Content The energy content of wood depends upon its moisture content. Fresh-cut wood typically has a moisture content of about 30 percent and an energy yield of about 5,950 Btu per pound.192
Renewability Wood biomass is a renewable resource.

Other Issues

Dependence on Foreign Suppliers No significant issues.
Price and Supply Risks Wood waste could not replace fossil fuels, but is a good source of energy in localized markets.
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