Georgia has seven active plants turning wood byproducts into alternative fuels, according to Nathan McClure, the chief forester of the Forest Utilization and Marketing office of the Georgia Forestry Commission.
"We still have the technology to use wood to develop fuels," he told the Thomson Kiwanis Club on Monday. "It's just not as easy as we thought it might be a few years ago."
He presented slides showing two more plants under construction, and six others have been announced.
McClure was the guest of Kiwanian Garrett Edmunds, a forester with the Eubank Co. in Dearing.
McClure said Georgia has 24.4 million acres of timber, about 57 percent of which is in individual or private ownership.
He urged anyone looking for a biomass industry to access the department's Web site, www.gatrees.org.
McClure said the state is replanting about 38 percent more timber than it harvests each year, "So even if we exceed our growth by a year or two, we're no way into our total inventory for the state," he said.
He said the timber industry in Georgia created 20 billion in real dollars in 2009, second only to food production. The industry supported 118,423 jobs.
The forester said the improved market for wood pellets, sawdust, wood shavings and wood chips might encourage more timber owners to cull their trees earlier and thus reduce fire risk.
He said biochemical and thermochemical processes can convert wood into ethanol, gases and electricity. He said today's challenge is to determine which process is better.
McClure maintains a field office in Dahlonega, in Lumpkin County.