Overcoming barriers to biomass cogeneration in US wood products industry

Omar A Espinoza, Maria Fernanda Laguarda Mallo, Mariah Weitzenkamp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Cogeneration, also known as combined heat and power, is the simultaneous generation of electric and thermal energy from the same fuel source. Some proven benefits of cogeneration are much higher efficiencies than conventional power generation and its ability to facilitate distributed energy and lower energy costs. Also, when cogeneration is fueled with wood biomass, there are additional environmental benefits such as using a renewable energy source and lower greenhouse gas emissions. However, only a small number of wood product manufacturers (North American Industry Classification System codes 321 and 337) have adopted this technology. In this study, drivers, perceptions, and barriers for cogeneration were investigated to gain understanding of the reasons for the low adoption of this technology among wood product manufacturers. Interviews of experts and companies were conducted to identify and understand major topics of cogeneration adoption within the industry. Subsequently, a nonprobability, target survey of nonadopters was carried out to identify operational characteristics, perceptions about benefits of cogeneration, and barriers to its implementation. Findings show that economies of scale and coincidence between thermal and electric loads are some of the major factors for cogeneration feasibility. Main barriers identified were the initial investment and complexity, companies' return-on-investment requirements, utility tariff policies, and inadequate policies and incentives. Another major finding was a lack of awareness and knowledge about cogeneration, which presents organizations that support the forest products industry with an opportunity to provide education and outreach. However, because of the small sample size (52 responses), generalization of these results to the population of interest is not feasible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-312
Number of pages18
JournalWood and Fiber Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 by the Society of Wood Science and Technology.


  • Cogeneration
  • Combined heat and power
  • Forest products industry


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