The Black Hills has long been plagued with a large volume of underutilized woody biomass. Small diameter trees from non-commercial thinning projects, top wood and limb wood from sawlogs and a weak market for medium size trees used for posts and poles has traditionally resulted in thousands of tons of slash left on the ground to rot, become fuel for the next wildfire or piled for disposal by burning after a snowfall. Click for information about underutilized woody biomass.
In 2005, the Division obtained a grant from the Western Governor’s Association (WGA) to conduct studies to determine the feasibility of using woody biomass as a feedstock for heating schools and other public facilities in the Black Hills area. The grant, originally from the Department of Energy and administered by WGA, was designed to pay up to 90% of the cost of feasibility studies. Additional funds from a USDA Forest Service Economic Action Program grant were later dedicated to completing additional studies. Biomass Energy Resource Center (BERC) of Montpelier, Vermont was hired to complete the feasibility studies.
Information about the feasibility study opportunity was disseminated during a public meeting held in Rapid City in November 2005. The eleven facilities that were chosen for studies are located in Belle Fourche, Spearfish, Lead, Rapid City and Hot Springs.