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Tribal Energy and Environmental Information Clearinghouse: Environmental resources for tribal energy development
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Biomass Energy Feedstock Production: Resource Requirements and Impact Sources

Biomass energy feedstock production activities can potentially affect farmlands and forests.

The production of biomass feedstock for combustion in biomass power plants or for biofuel production facilities would result in impacts that are essentially the same as those of farming and forestry. Feedstock production includes the cultivation of crops, the harvesting of crops, collecting crop residue, collecting woody residue from forests, the collection of animal manure, and the collection of municipal solid waste. The production process also includes temporary storage of the biomass and delivery to the biomass facility.

The following factors could affect whether an environmental impact could occur at a biomass energy facility and whether it would be considered an adverse effect:

  • Acreage — Most farms in the United States are small; the majority of biomass production, however, occurs on large farms. Large farms (greater than 1,000 acres) compose about 70% of all farmland. There are about 670 million acres of forest in the United States, but much of it is inaccessible to harvesting or thinning.
  • Emissions — Fossil-fueled equipment, used in association with activities of biomass production and collection, would generate exhaust emissions that would be temporary and intermittent. Fugitive dust would result from the equipment working in and driving through the soil. Incrementally more exhaust emissions would result if land not presently used for agriculture was converted to production of feedstock for biomass facilities.
  • Waste GenerationPesticides (insecticides and herbicides) and chemical fertilizers are often used in agriculture. Small quantities of hazardous materials are used for cleaning and maintenance of agricultural and logging equipment.
  • Water Needs — Water is required for irrigation in many areas of the country. Water also would be required for fugitive dust control (depending on local conditions) and for the workforce.
  • Workforce — The size varies, but the workforce on an individual farm or logging site is generally small.