Biomass—Wood and wood waste

Wood has been used as a fuel for thousands of years. Wood was the main source of energy for the world until the mid-1800s. Wood continues to be an important fuel in many countries, especially for cooking and heating in developing countries.

Hybrid poplar wood chips being unloaded in Crookston, Minnesota
Hybrid poplar wood chips being unloaded in Crookston, Minnesota

Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy (public domain)

In the United States, wood and wood waste (bark, sawdust, wood chips, wood scrap, and paper mill residues) provide about 2% of total annual energy use.

Using wood and wood waste

Industry, electric power producers, and commercial businesses used about 75% of the wood and wood waste fuel consumed in the United States in 2014. The wood and paper products industry uses wood waste to produce steam and electricity. This saves money because it reduces the amount of other fuels and electricity that must be purchased. Some coal-burning power plants burn wood chips to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions.

The residential sector used about 25% of total wood and wood waste fuel consumed in the United States in 2014, and wood accounted for about 3% of total residential energy consumption.

Wood is used in homes throughout the United States, mainly for heating. Wood is used as cord wood, in fireplaces and wood-burning appliances, and as pellets in pellet stoves. In 2012, about 2.5 million U.S. households used wood as the main heating fuel. An additional 9 million households used wood as a secondary heating fuel.