LCCMR: Supporting Community-Driven Sustainable Bioenergy Projects



This project is needed to guide development of sustainable community-scale forest bioenergy programs in NE Minnesota and to provide examples from the region to assist communities statewide considering similar projects. Locally produced, community-based renewable energy systems hold significant promise for increasing energy security, reducing carbon emissions, and contributing to local economies. Over the past decade much has been learned about the physical availability of forest-derived biomass for large, regional (~25 MW) bioenergy facilities. Very little attention has been devoted, however, to small systems (~1 MW). Improving our ability to assess trends and opportunities at this scale will allow for long-term, sustainable forest management planning and project investment; thereby replacing energy production boom and bust cycles with efforts that are environmentally sensitive, economically-beneficial, and community-supported.


As part of “Supporting Community-Driven Sustainable Bioenergy Projects”, this effort will continue and expand on the first phase of the biomass energy study. The project is being undertaken by Dovetail Partners, Inc. with funding provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR). The Trust Fund is a permanent fund constitutionally established by the citizens of Minnesota to assist in the protection, conservation, preservation, and enhancement of the state’s air, water, land, fish, wildlife, and other natural resources.



Project Links


Grand Marais/Cook County Community Biomass Energy Feasibility Study


Ely Community Biomass Energy Feasibility Study



Project Goals


The goals of this project are to develop and share information and tools that address key questions about the viability of community bioenergy systems. During the first phase, existing models and planning tools will be adapted to evaluate feasibility, impacts, and management needs for community-scale and other small bioenergy applications being proposed in Ely and Cook County. During the second phase of the project, the information and tools developed in Ely and Cook County will be shared with communities, land managers, policymakers, investors, and others interested in the long-term prospects and viability of locally produced bioenergy. The outcomes of the project will be identification and use of strategies to:


  • Estimate and sustainably manage fuel supplies within context of changing forest conditions and market demands during a projected 30-year bioenergy facility life span;
  • Estimate and manage a range of potential environmental, social and economic impacts of a community bioenergy system, including forest harvest, use, disposal, and transportation;
  • Apply biomass production standards and harvesting guidelines for protecting air and water quality, habitat and biodiversity, and minimized wildfire risk;
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Win broad support by communities, forest industry, public lands managers, and others.



Project Resources




Project Activities & Outcomes


Activity 1: Assess feasibility and impacts of forest biomass energy in Ely and Cook County


Timeframe Action  

September 2012

Informed input gathered from community leadership and stakeholders on community bioenergy issues through meetings, surveys, and newsletters.

December 2012

Physical supply and financial models for assessing locally sourced biomass.

Report on results of model in Ely and Cook County, with identification of financial arrangements of alternative energy technologies in these communities.

January 2013

Review of life cycle and environmental impacts of locally-sourced biomass energy systems.



Activity 2: Broadly disseminate case studies and decision tools


Timeframe Action  

June 2013

User-friendly decision tools and fact sheets on community bioenergy systems and impacts.

June 2013

Dissemination online and presentations.