NAU is looking into different on-campus renewable energy options to offset our carbon footprint. Because of NAU's position in the largest Ponderosa Pine forest in North American, biomass is one option we are investigating. The Forest Service is working to restore 2.4 million acres of Northern Arizona forests that have been overgrown due to years of fire suppression. Learn more about the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI). Because 4FRI includes our local Coconino Forest as one that is in need of tree removal for forest health and community safety needs, NAU is in a perfect spot for using the removed biomass as fuel for a biomass plant on campus.  

What is Biomass?

Biomass technology is the oldest renewable, heating option the world has known. Biomass is anything that has developed from organic materials. It is a renewable and sustainable source of energy that can be burned to create heat and steam to heat our buildings or create electricity.

Types of material:

  • energy crops
  • crop residues 
  • sustainably-harvested wood and forest residues
  • clean municipal and industrial wastes

Learn more about biomass from the Union of Concerned Scientists. 

Biomass Feasibility Study

In 2014, NAU finished a biomass feasibility study. The study found three different scenarios the campus could implement to utilize biomass for heating and/or electricity:

• Project Scenario 1: Biomass to Heat – 20 MMBtu per hour
• Project Scenario 2: Biomass to Electricity – 2.5 MW behind the meter installation
• Project Scenario 3: Biomass to Electricity – 10 MW

Funding for the study came from six different departments. The Office of Research, Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, the Green Fund, Office of the Provost, and Finance and Administration contributed $10,000 and the Ecological Restoration Institute contributed $18,835.

Full Report

Interested in learning more about on campus biomass applications

University of Minnesota
This campus has an excellent website showcasing the journey to implementing a biomass plant. The USDA helped with the installation of this plant which does research on the operations of running a biomass plant. 

UM biomass website
Eastern Illinois University
Eastern Illinois University has a great research lab where students can study different sustainable energy options including biomass.
University of Iowa
The University of Iowa has done research on different types of fuels that can be used for biomass. Their plant supplements wood chips with oat hulls from Quaker Oats. 

UI biomass website
Oregon State University
Oregon State University has maximised the funding available from the state by researching aviation fuels that can come from biomass.

OSU Aviation Fuel Research

An Overview of Biomass Energy Technologies for Campuses

National Renewable Energy Laboratory's (NREL) Biomass Page has additional campus case studies.