Energy in Oregon

Bioenergy or biomass energy—the energy from plants and plant-derived materials—has been us​ed since humans began burning wood to cook food and keep warm. 
Truck Dumping Woody Biomass
Wood is still the largest biomass energy resource today, but other sources of biomass can also be used. These include food crops, grassy and woody plants, residues from agriculture or forestry, oil-rich algae, and organic municipal and industrial wastes (that’s right: poop). Even the fumes from landfills – methane, the main component in natural gas – can be used as a biomass energy source.

Biomass in Oregon

While Oregon has some dedicated biomass energy crops, most biomass resources are secondary products, such as lumber mill residue, logging slash, and animal manure. Examples of biomass resources available in the Northwest include woody biomass, spent pulping liquor (byproduct of pulp and paper making process), agricultural field residue, animal manure, food processing residue, landfill gas, municipal solid waste, and wastewater treatment plant digester gas.

Oregon has 17 woody biomass power facilities, primarily in the wood-products industry. An additional 21 facilities in Oregon use woody biomass to provide space heat; these include schools and hospitals​


Biomass for Electricity Generation

The most common source of biomass-based electricity is wood. The most common method of converting biomass to electricity is through direct-fired combustion – a similar process to that is used for coal or natural gas. After the biomass has been pre-processed to remove impurities, it is burned in a boiler to generate steam, which turns a turbine and generates electricity.  

Biomass power plants are typically less than 50 megawatts in size, compared to coal plants, which are typically 200 to 1,500 megawatts..


 Renewable Energy Development Grants​

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