Logging Business Practices and Perspectives on Harvesting Forest Residues for Energy: A Minnesota Case Study
Timber harvesting residues, specifically the nonmerchantable tree tops and limbs associated with a commercial roundwood harvest, have the capacity to supply substantial feedstock for energy production. Phone interviews of Minnesota's logging business owners who process residual woody biomass for energy using chippers and grinders were conducted in summer 2008 to characterize their practices on harvesting and processing these residues and to collect qualitative data describing biomass harvesting opportunities and constraints. Minnesota's logging businesses are highly variable with respect to many aspects of woody biomass harvesting, such as preferred tree species, equipment configurations, strategies for collecting and processing residual biomass, and utilization efficiency. Factors cited as having a substantial influence on future biomass harvesting opportunities included the environmental benefits of burning woody biomass over traditional nonrenewable fuels and the potential for biomass harvesting to positively affect wildlife habitat and forest health. Low prices received for delivered wood chips and grindings, high fixed and variable operating costs, and resource uncertainty about future harvesting restrictions due to environmental concerns were cited as important issues that could limit growth in the state's woody biomass harvesting sector.