Alaska's most important biomass fuels are wood, sawmill wastes, fish byproducts, and municipal waste. AEA's biomass energy program focuses on developing wood-fired systems using local fuels that provide heat for public facilities.
More than 100,000 cords per year are used for residential space heating statewide. Closure of the major pulp mills in Sitka and Ketchikan in the 1990s brought an end to large-scale wood-fired power generation in Alaska; however, the volatility of fossil-fuel pricing has renewed interest in using sawdust and wood wastes as fuel for lumber drying, space heating, and small-scale power production.
Demonstration projects like the Sealaska Corporation’s large-scale pellet boiler in Juneau and Tok School’s chip-fired boiler have proven that biomass can significantly reduce the cost of energy and has led to the development of other wood-fired boilers in Coffman Cove, Craig, Gulkana, Elim, Thorne Bay, Haines, and Tanana. There are now more than 50 biomass systems operating in Alaska.
Interest in manufacturing wood pellets also continues to rise. Currently, there are both small and large-scaled plants operating in Alaska. The largest facility, Superior Pellets, is located in North Pole and is capable of producing an estimated 30,000 tons of pellets per year.
For an up-to-date snapshot of AEA’s Biomass Program activities, please see our downloadable factsheet.