Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sustainable Forestry

Heating Rural Schools and Facilities with Woody Biomass
By Susi Rankis, AmeriCorps VISTA

On January 16, Logan Ohio reached a high of only 5 degrees – 30 degrees below the historical average high. Despite frigid temperatures, Rural Action staff and volunteers loaded up their cars early in the morning and set out to produce their first workshop of the year. Appropriately enough, the topic of the day was how schools and facilities in Southeastern Ohio could produce sustainable and affordable heat.

As previously reported, the workshop was titled Community Energy Solutions and drew 38 attendees from across the state. Representatives from the offices of Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Zack Space were in attendance, as well as state representatives Debbie Phillips (92nd) and Ray Pryor (85th). Other attendees included school representatives, members of the Ross County Biomass Task Force, representatives from the Department of Natural Resources and Soil and Water Conservation Districts, business owners, and sustainable design consultants.

Eight speakers were featured throughout the day-long workshop. They spoke to a range of subjects including the availability of woody biomass in Ohio, the uses of biomass as a resource around the country, successful biomass case studies, cost analysis in the implementation of biomass systems and, importantly, cautionary advice on how much material such systems could potentially remove from wooded areas.

Attendees were also given a tour of the Hocking College Energy Institute in Logan. The tour was led by director Jerry Hutton and project coordinator Jestinah McDonald, and showcased projects at the facility. They also discussed a new building at the Institute which scheduled for completion in 2010 and is being built to platinum LEED standards from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Rural Action has received very positive feedback about the event, and the workshop presentations should be posted to Rural Action’s website by next week. Currently, our Forestry Team is working on a set of “Next Steps” as a follow-up to the workshop. We are also considering hosting another workshop along the same lines, but targeted towards homeowners who are interested in wood boilers.

If you have questions or comments about the workshop, contact Susi Rankis (740.767.4938) or email her (