Alaska’s primary biomass fuels are wood, sawmill wastes, fish byproducts and municipal waste.
Wood remains an important renewable energy source for Alaska. 100,000 cords of wood are burned annually, in the form of cordwood, chips, and pellets for space heating.
With 11.9 million acres of productive forestland (forest not in Park or Wilderness areas) and the ability to grow up to 3.5 million cords of wood a year, Alaska has the potential to develop a biomass industry that could supply abundant, cheap power to many towns. Alaska’s waste wood and wood products could provide an excellent source of fuel to help lower heating costs in many Alaskan communities. An estimated 2.3 million acres of forests in Alaska have been impacted by bark beetle infestations, and thinning of these forests is necessary for overall forest health.
Every year groundfish processors across Alaska produce approximately 8 million gallons of Pollack oil as a byproduct of fishmeal plants. The oil is used as boiler fuel for drying the fishmeal or exported to Pacific Rim markets for livestock and aquaculture feed supplements. In 2001, with assistance from the State of Alaska, processor UniSea Inc. conducted successful tests of raw fish oil/diesel blends in a 2.2 MW engine generator. Today UniSea uses about 1.5 million gallons of fish oil a year to operate their generators, boilers and fishmeal dryers.
Alaskans produce about 650,000 tons of garbage annually and have seven class I landfills (landfills that accept 20 tons or more solid waste daily) throughout the state. From 1997-2007, Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks used 600-3000 tons of densified paper from the Fairbanks landfill annually to co-burn with coal, producing up to 1.5% of the base’s heat and power. Chena Power is developing a 400 kW biomass powerplant at the Fairbanks North Star Borough landfill that would run off of 4,300 tons of waste paper, cardboard, and land waste annually.