NREL launches interactive bioenergy map

By Kris Bevill | September 23, 2010
Posted Oct. 5, 2010

The U.S. DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory has unveiled two new bioenergy and mapping tools that could aid biofuels project developers in targeting desirable locations. The BioEnergy Atlas combines data gathered from NREL's BioPower and BioFuels Atlas and allows users to layer related data onto a single map. The result is a comprehensive overview of available feedstocks, existing biofuels plants, power plants, fueling stations and energy use statistics.

NREL said it expects government and state agencies, researchers, petroleum industry officials, investment firms, technology providers and project developers to utilize the atlas. In addition to available resources, the atlas also pinpoints areas that are lacking infrastructure, which it said should aid policymakers in identifying areas in need of expansion.

Feedstocks tracked on the Biofuels Atlas include sugar beets, sugarcane, bagasse, barley straw, corn cobs, corn stover, rice straw, wheat straw, forest residues, primary mill residues, and urban wood and secondary mill residues. Other layers include methane sites, U.S. EPA bioenergy and brownfield sites, biopower and biofuels plant locations, power plant locations and alternative fuel stations. A project developer could, for example, select a desired feedstock(s) and compare the availability of that feedstock with the number of biofuels plants in a specific area. The atlas provides an overview of the entire U.S., but users can also select any state to view more specific information. For example, according to the BioEnergy Atlas Iowa has 16.1 million metric tons of corn stover available per year, enough to produce 1.4 billion gallons of ethanol. Using information provided by the Renewable Fuels Association, NREL determined that there are currently 41 ethanol plants in Iowa, with a combined capacity of 2.9 billion gallons annually. Delaware, which currently has no ethanol plants, is shown to have the potential to produce more than 29 million gallons per year of ethanol from feedstocks including wood residues, corn stover, barley straw and wheat straw.

The USDA, DOE and EPA provided data for the atlas, which will be updated as those agencies acquire new information. Funding for the atlas was provided by the U.S. EPA's Skyways Collaborative and DOE's Biomass Program. The atlas can be accessed at maps.nrel.gov/bioenergyatlas.