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IntroductionBiomass & Statewide Wood Energy TeamBiogas
People have used biomass energy, or “bioenergy,” the energy from plants and plant-derived materials, since they began burning wood to cook food and keep warm. Wood is still the largest biomass energy resource used today, but other sources of biomass can also be used. These include food crops, grassy and woody plants, residues from agriculture or forestry, oil-rich algae, and the organic component of municipal and industrial waste. Even the fumes from landfills, which contain methane or natural gas, can be used as a biomass energy source.

Biomass has historically supplied approximately less than ten percent of the total energy used in Idaho. However, there is sufficient biomass waste available (from forest and logging residue, municipal solid waste, agricultural residues, animal waste, and agricultural processing residue) to meet a larger share of Idaho’s energy needs.

Biomass can be used for fuels, power production, and products that would otherwise be made from fossil fuels. In such scenarios, biomass can provide an array of benefits. Around the state, there is ongoing research to develop and advance technologies for the following biomass energy applications:

  • Biofuels – Converting biomass into liquid fuels for transportation.
  • Biopower – Burning biomass directly or converting it into gaseous or liquid fuels that burn more efficiently, to generate electricity.
  • Bioproducts – Converting biomass into chemicals for making plastics and other products that typically are made from petroleum.

In 2014, there was 87 MW of installed capacity for biomass electricity that produced 650,000 MWh or 4.3 percent of Idaho’s electricity production for that year. In 2014 Idaho has one operating ethanol plant capable of producing 63 million gallons per year.

Idaho Statewide Wood Energy Team

Idaho was selected as one of six states nationally to implement a statewide wood to energy team, with funding provided by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). The Idaho Statewide Wood Energy Team (SWET) was a cooperative effort between the USFS, the State of Idaho, Sustainable Northwest, Salmon Valley Stewardship, and the Woody Biomass Utilization Partnership.


The Idaho Office of Energy and Mineral Resources

The Idaho Governor’s Office of Energy and Mineral Resources (OEMR) has the responsibility for energy and mineral planning, policy, and coordination in the State of Idaho. Their goal is to communicate Idaho’s energy policies to our stakeholders and provide the public with the information they need to help us meet our state’s future energy and mineral needs.

The Idaho Strategic Energy Alliance Wood Bioenergy Task Force

Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter established the Idaho Strategic Energy Alliance (ISEA) to help develop effective and long-lasting responses to these challenges. The ISEA is Idaho’s primary mechanism to engage in seeking options for and enabling advanced energy production, energy efficiency, and energy business in the State of Idaho. The ISEA is governed by a Board of Directors comprised of representatives from Idaho stakeholders and industry experts, and consists of about a dozen volunteer task forces, one of which includes a Forestry Task Force.

This Task Force has been instrumental in identification of barriers and challenges to, and the development of options for, expanding development of wood bioenergy in Idaho, and will continue to serve this role as part of the Idaho SWET. The Task Force is comprised of select technical experts who are asked to volunteer for this effort. Task Force participants represent utilities, industrial firms, law and science, environmental interests, economic development and finance, industry and private enterprises, higher education/research, and state and federal government agencies.

Idaho Woody Biomass Utilization Partnership

The Idaho Woody Biomass Utilization Partnership (WBUP) is a public and private partnership which was initially formed in 2007. Sponsored by the Idaho Department of Commerce, the USDA Rural Development Center, USDA Forest Service, and the Adams, Boise, Gem and Valley counties of Idaho, the WBUP is comprised of state and private experts and focuses on effectively utilizing the southwest Idaho forest resources for creation of jobs and entrepreneurial projects for their rural communities.

Sustainable Northwest and Salmon Valley Stewardship

Sustainable Northwest (SNW) serves as the lead entity for the Eastern Idaho cluster. Additionally, the SNW team will serve as the Idaho SWET team’s finance leaders, where they will work to develop models that identify tax credits, grants and low interest loan financing for boiler conversions. SNW will also assist the team in providing technical assistance, providing best practice support from surrounding states, and assisting the OER with additional administrative support. SNW has a long and active partnership with Lemhi County of Eastern Idaho and with Salmon Valley Stewardship (SVS). SVS serves as the coordinating group for the Lemhi County Forest Restoration Group, who has an active Memorandum of Understanding with the USFS within the Salmon-Challis National Forest. SNW has an active Memorandum of Understanding with the USFS Washington Office to support community-oriented, conservation efforts across the US.

USDA Forest Service

The Forest Service, an agency of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), is dedicated to the principle of multiple use management of the Nation’s forest resources for sustained yield of wood, water, forage, wildlife, and recreation. One of the greatest challenges facing forest managers in the United States on both public and private lands is restoring and maintaining the health and resilience of forest ecosystems. Sustainable woody biomass utilization allows use of resources without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. It is a tool that helps care for the land and passes it on to future generations in better condition. Using woody biomass for renewable energy and biobased products also contributes to the Nation’s energy independence and greenhouse gas reduction goals and provides opportunities for managing carbon.

Public Outreach

The Idaho Statewide Wood-to-Energy Team (ID-SWET) program was a collaborative agency, business, and non-profit effort to develop biomass systems that compliment forest restoration activities in Idaho, provided several public workshops throughout the state. These workshops explored how successful biomass energy systems are designed and managed, and discuss opportunities for new projects in Idaho. Community members, developers, and experts from across the region came together to promote biomass utilization as a way to lower heating costs, enhance forest health, and improve rural economies.

Upcoming Workshops

No upcoming workshops are scheduled. Please contact Brandon Capps at (208) 332-1677 or to inquire about hosting a workshop in your region.

Previous Workshops

2014 Eastern Idaho Biomass Energy Workshop

Date/Time: Tuesday, June 17th, 2014 – Wednesday, June 18th, 2014.

Location: Lost Trail Ski Resort/Darby, MT School District (Facility Tour)

Agenda: Eastern Idaho Biomass Agenda (PDF)


2014 Western Idaho Biomass Energy Workshop

Date/Time: Tuesday, July 29th, 2014 – Wednesday, June 30th, 2014.

Location:Council High School, Council, Idaho

Agenda:Western Idaho Biomass Agenda (PDF)


  • Fuel Supply (PDF)
  • Julie Kies – Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation

2014 Northern Idaho Biomass Energy Workshop

Date/Time: Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014.

Location: University of Idaho

  • The Whitewater Room – The Idaho Commons Building 875 Line Street, Moscow, Idaho 83844

Agenda: Northern Idaho Biomass Agenda (PDF)

Idaho Woody Biomass GIS Mapping

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Idaho Woody Biomass Utilization Partnership

The Idaho Woody Biomass Utilization Partnership (WBUP) is a public and private partnership which was initially formed in 2007. Sponsored by the Idaho Department of Commerce, the USDA Rural Development Center, USDA Forest Service S&PF Region 4, and the Adams, Gem and Valley counties of Idaho, the WBUP is comprised of state and private experts and focuses on effectively utilizing the southwest Idaho forest resources for creation of jobs and entrepreneurial projects for their rural communities.

Since 2007, the WBUP has successfully initiated and been involved in projects utilizing woody biomass in enterprise and job creation. Using federal grants and private funding to support endeavors involving biomass heat and cooling for rural schools, sawmill expansions, wood pellets, Bio Char, pallet fabrication, and others.

The Idaho WBUP serves as the lead entity for the Western Idaho cluster, with active participation from Adams, Valley and Gem County commissioners and private-sector partners. These counties are primarily comprised of small rural communities with a long history of forest and wood byproducts industries as their major sources of economic development. Several wood energy projects have recently been completed and/or identified as potential projects in this region, and the Idaho WBUP will bring extensive experience, expertise and leadership to the remaining Idaho SWET members.

For information about the group, contact:

Biogas (a mixture of methane and other trace constituents) is produced microbially from organic material. This may occur naturally, in which case technology is required to capture and utilize the biogas, or the process can be accomplished with an engineered anaerobic digester. Three sources of biogas production were identified as viable resources in Idaho:
    • biogas generation from landfills;
    • biogas generation via anaerobic digestion of dairy waste;
  • and biogas generation by anaerobic digestion of wastewater streams for industrial sources, primarily food processing plants.

The process of anaerobic digestion benefits agricultural and dairy operations by providing a method for them to recycle animal waste and waste water into energy producing gases and quality fertilizer. In addition to serving as a waste management tool, it can be a profitable alternative for using an unending resource.

The best-known method of anaerobic digestion is the lagoon — a lined earthen pit where waste and used water from the operation are collected and digested. Bacteria digest the waste and produce gases, but may generate unpleasant odors that can permeate the air nearby.

Another type of facility is the enclosed waste management system or mechanical digester. These digesters manage organic waste by recycling nutrients, treating waste and providing odor control. They require less space than traditional lagoons and use the organic resources more efficiently. Enclosed anaerobic digesters include heated tanks or enclosed lagoons that exclude oxygen from the process, which enables bacteria to break down waste at an accelerated rate. The digester traps gases, which can later be burned to produce heat and electricity use or sale.

Anaerobic digestion affords many benefits:

  • Generation of electricity
  • Excess heat for dairy use
  • Odor control
  • Proven technology
  • Weed seed destruction
  • Low operation cost