Regeneration, biomass and wildfire reduction models

Regeneration through biomass and wildfire reduction models

Regeneration is a word people use when moving from just “sustained models” to a positive impact on our environment. This post shows how active free management tools used by an enhanced bioeconomy and new advanced technologies in bioenergy can pay the bill we need to preserve and increase our forest masses. We see wildfires in Australia, California, Mediterranean European countries, Africa, and the Amazon. Massive amounts of CO2 are going into the air, flowing together with ashes, greenhouse gases, and pollutants harming our communities. Can we use those materials burning wildly, while replacing coal, gas, fertilizers, and non-renewable fossil-based sources of other energy and inputs at the time we regenerate the land and biodiversity in bush and degraded forests? Regeneration through biomass and wildfire reduction models may be the next standard of management we should weigh. What are threats and opportunities?

Climate change threat

There are multiple reasons why wildfires are getting more severe and destructive, but climate change tops the list, notwithstanding claims to the contrary. According to the latest U.S. National Climate Assessment, released on Nov. 23, higher temperatures and earlier snowmelt are extending the fire season in western states. By 2050, according to the report, the area that burns yearly in the West could be two to six times larger than today.

Prevention model? Thinning, pruning, and waste collection to boost our bioeconomy

In areas with an over-accumulation of fuels, a combination of thinning small trees and clearing brush followed by controlled burning can be the most effective method to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires. Reducing the intensity and extent of forest fires by improving forest health will also lower costs for containment and keep firefighters and communities out of harm’s way.

Control and prevention measures on forests and residues.

The opportunity

Timber and boards used to be the only business models. But what timber company would examine and rake fuel sources in a large territory just to prevent wildfires? Well, now renewable energy companies can do that.

Sourcing biomass to bio-based industries with a relatively low cost for feedstock procurement can be linked to a forest regeneration strategy in the long term. A wildfire prevention model that will provide rural jobs and a source of income for a biobased industry. With the goals of reducing forest fires, creating jobs, and improving the environment, biomass power stands to lead the way in the renewable energy sector.

When bushes and wood fuel and debris become wildfires so frequently as in 2019, you understand they could have been converted and treated as renewable energy sources replacing coal or gas, reasonably collected branches and other debris can become into power, pellets, heating homes, or storing carbon below ground.

Many options could have been taken like converting into biomaterials, providing rural jobs, landscape management models with new nurseries and plantations, and soil regeneration with biodiversity. Furthermore, they may obtain profits for local communities in charge of the management of natural resources, and in the end, models are making more money, regenerating our landscape and degraded forests and bushes which we see burning every year instead.

A wrong prejudice

Forest fires are often fueled by excess small trees and brush that choke forests and create fire ladders that direct fires into the crowns of the largest trees. These varying tree densities and the dead, dry brush left behind act as kindling to allow crown fires to move across the landscape in a highly destructive manner.

The biomass power industry is uniquely positioned to improve forest health and reduce the threat of forest fire, while at the same time providing clean, renewable electricity to Americans in every region of the country. Without the proper forest, maintenance-including managed thinning, and prescribed burns-forest waste is left to build up over time and stoke the flames of future fires. The biomass power industry is prepared to work directly with most forest services and other industry partners, as well as environmental groups, to ensure that forest material is carefully removed and converted to produce green electrical power.

Structural fire management cycle.

Some environmental groups fear that the biomass industry will clear-cut forests for fuel. This fear can be put to rest. It is not the practice of the biomass power industry to clear-cut forests and it is simply not economically viable to chop down whole trees to generate electricity. Biomass power uses only waste material such as scrap lumber, forest debris, or agricultural harvest waste to generate clean electricity, material that would otherwise be dumped in landfills, openly burned, or left as fodder for forest fires.

The biomass power industry removes more than 68.8 million tons of forest waste annually.

The biomass power industry effectively encourages regular forest management by creating a market for the excess small trees, slash, and brush that are choking many of our forests. Removing this incentive to clear brush by discouraging biomass power would result in overgrown, unmanaged forests that pose an increased risk for forest fires.

Furthermore, generating electricity from biomass reduces greenhouse gases. As dead brush decomposes it releases harmful methane gas and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. During the electricity-generating process, biomass power eliminates methane gas and reduces the carbon dioxide that would have been emitted otherwise. Accounting for displaced fossil fuels, the biomass power industry removes more than 30 million tons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere annually.

Regeneration through biomass models

old contaminant fossil fuel model, renewable and regenerative model, forest management
  • Land regeneration through biomass management and re-vegetation / reforestation.
  • Fuel collection / fallen branches/debris
  • Continued supervision with rural teams
  • Income sources: pellets, woody chips, biochar, biomaterials
  • Lower CO2 emitted as wildfires and fossil sources of energy and inputs (replaced by biomass) have a much lower footprint
  • Use of pyrolisis to produce biochar (active carbon sequestration or “carbon negative” solution).

What model do we prefer?

Don’t let your forest revenues burn wild

This model is not based on deforestation. No. It is not a use of the forest products to make money. Instead, it is a regenerative biomass collection model making revenues to pay the bill for wildfire prevention. It is based on rural squads being implicated in forestry monitoring, wildfire prevention systems, and biomass sourcing strategies. We suggest a sustainable collection of waste materials and small amounts of debris and branches. This model is supported by FAO and several forestry associations worldwide. What to do with the fuel? we empower local agri-industries and replace coal, replace gas and fertilizers, plastics, and many other materials. You may produce charcoal powder and blend it with cement to reduce construction footprint and sequester CO2.

There are several options and many need low-tech and low capital expenses. A new high-value-added product is being coupled to a regenerative model with our landscape, and local raw materials providing our inputs and energy. Enhanced microbiology, animal feed, biochar, organic food, pulp & paper, fiber, composites, and bioplastics. Several options are viable. Our solutions are focused on, awareness, structural operation, and agroforestry systems.

Biochar to boost horticulture and organic food?

Biochar is a type of charcoal that’s made from plant matter and stored in soil to help reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. To produce biochar, biomass is heated to temperatures between 400 and 800°C in the absence of oxygen, a process known as pyrolysis. The resulting material has a high surface area of over 300 square meters per gram, made up of countless nano-, micro-, and mesopores. These pores enable biochar to efficiently store water, making it an effective moisture retention medium. Additionally, the pores trap large amounts of air that is practically immobile, making biochar an excellent insulation material.

Biochar is a great manner to valorize waste materials and produce several products including bio-fertilizers, bio-filters, stormwater control products, bio-asphalt, bio-coal (for energy applications), biomaterials including plasters, green cement, construction materials, and it is an outstanding way for carbon sequestration.

Supporting literature

Harvesting forest biomass reduces wildfire fuel

Retro-innovation working for wildfire prevention: Shepherds’ contracts to reduce biomass and maintain fuel breaks

Accounting for Biomass Carbon Stock Change Due to Wildfre in Temperate Forest Landscapes in Australia

The use of woody biomass for energy production in the EU

Climate change is increasing the risk of wildfires

USDA: A strategic assessment of forest biomass and fuel reduction treatments in Western states

EU Commission: Sustainable and optimal use of biomass for energy in the EU beyond 2020 – Annexes of the Final Report

Matias Garrido


Matías es sociólogo y doctor en Ciencias Políticas por la Universidad de Buenos Aires y la Universidad Complutense de Madrid, respectivamente. Tiene una amplia experiencia en investigación social y de mercado, relaciones públicas y capacitación en varios países de América Latina, trabajando con Amnistía Internacional y otras organizaciones. Matías fue Director Nacional de Políticas contra la Violencia Institucional en la Secretaría de Derechos Humanos y Pluralismo Cultural de la Argentina de 2016 a 2019. Actualmente, contribuye al desarrollo de cultivos de bioenergía y bioeconomía en países en desarrollo, en línea con los 17 Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible.