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USDA initiative to grow US wood energy development

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has formed a new partnership to increase the use of wood for energy purposes while helping to improve the health and safety of the nation's forests.

Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack said the new partnership includes the USDA, the Alliance for Green Heat, the Biomass Power Association, the Biomass Thermal Energy Council and the Pellet Fuels Institute.

The partnership agreement focuses on promoting wood energy nationwide as a means to address fire risk, bolster rural economic development and improve air quality.

Vilsack also announced that grants exceeding $1.1 million (€800,000 million) will be awarded to five organisations to stimulate development of wood energy projects.

He said these announcements 'will help us find innovative ways to use leftover wood to create renewable energy. Appropriately scaled wood energy facilities also support our efforts to remove hazardous fuels and reduce the risks of catastrophic wildfires'.

Under the terms of the five grants, private, state and federal organisations will work to stimulate the development of additional wood energy projects in their states. A total $2.9 million will be spent on this effort - $1.1 million in federal funds and $1.8 million in non-federal funds.

The grant recipients are:
• Idaho Governor's Office of Energy Resources, Boise
• The Watershed Research and Training Center in California
• Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Saint Paul
• North Country Resource Conservation and Development Council in New Hampshire
• The Alaska Energy Authority, Anchorage.