Blogging Logging 13 – Interest in biomass harvesting

In the 2010 survey, we were particularly interested in loggers’ views of the potential of woody biomass and bioenergy to reshape the logging sector.  Our data show that woody biomass for pellets or bioenergy constituted about 2% of overall 2010 volume harvested using mechanized harvest systems that use feller-bunchers and/or harvesters, while less than 0.5% of the volume harvested by those using chainsaws.

Wisconsin loggers thought that their regions would continue a minimal reliance on woody biomass for energy supplies in the future.  Only 10% of those reporting for both hand fellers and mechanized logging businesses thought that about half or more of their area’s future energy supply would come from woody biomass, with slightly more mechanized loggers (32%) than non-mechanized perceiving that almost none of the area’s future energy needs would come from woody biomass.


However, despite the perception that woody biomass would comprise less than half of their area’s future energy supply, over half of those responding perceived that the emergence of woody biomass would have a positive (either somewhat or very) effect on their area. Less than 17% perceived any negative effect.  Those loggers utilizing mechanized systems were more likely to select a very positive impact than those relying solely on hand felling.


Wisconsin loggers also have a favorable impression of potential supplies of available woody biomass.  Over 50% believe that their area’s potential supply will be either somewhat or very plentiful.  While about 29% believe that the potential supply of available biomass is neither scarce nor plentiful, with a slightly higher frequency of selection of this category among hand fellers (~33%).  23% of mechanized fellers and 13% of hand fellers believed that supplies would be very or somewhat scarce.


Only 9% of loggers responded that chances were somewhat high or very high that they would supply woody biomass in the next 3 years.  A majority, 71%, responded that chances of supplying woody biomass in the next 3 years were somewhat low or very low.  Loggers using mechanized systems were more likely to be on the fence (responding “50-50”) than their hand-felling counterparts (22% vs. 15% of their respective system counts).


Similarly, two-thirds of loggers expect to see no change in the level of woody biomass harvesting for bioenergy over the next 3 years, while just under 30% expect either a small or large increase.


Wisconsin loggers may be reluctant to supply woody biomass to pellet or bioenergy markets in that they perceive moderate to low financial payoff for doing so. Nearly 90% of respondents believed the payoff to be very low to moderate. The percent responding that expected payoffs would be somewhat high or very high was higher amongst mechanized harvesters (11%) than amongst hand fellers (8%).

Complete index for this series:


  1. Introduction
  2. Harvest systems & production volumes
  3. Profitability & production capacity
  4. Factors affecting profitability
  5. Business demographics
  6. Employees and contractors
  7. Capital investment
  8. Distance and hauling
  9. Certification
  10. Timber sales
  11. Source of timber supply
  12. Timber products and buyers
  13. Interest in biomass harvesting
  14. Survey methods and response
  15. Summary

Authors: Mark Rickenbach (UW-Madison/Extension) and Melinda Vokoun (UW-Stevens Point) [contact info at links]

The Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative, which is now part of the Wisconsin Energy Institute, provided initial funding for 2011 logging sector survey. Additional support was provided through the Renewable Resources Extension Act and the McIntire-Stennis Cooperative Forestry Research Program, both of the USDA National Institute of Food & Agriculture. We appreciate the assistance of Tom Steele, Grace Maples, and Sarah Traver in helping bring this project to completion.

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