Frequent Flier Biomass Miles

By Joseph Seymour | March 04, 2013

This spring, the business of biomass is spelled A-P-R-I-L.  From April 3 through April 26, no fewer than three biomass thermal conferences and expositions will engage new buyers, educate policy makers, and connect the biomass supply chain. Hopefully, you’ve heard their names by now: Northeast Biomass Heating Expo, International Biomass Conference & Expo, and Heating the Midwest with Renewable Biomass. These conferences’ missions are to unite 2,300-plus domestic and international attendees, display hundreds of exhibitors, hold more than 30 panels, and guide a half-dozen tours. But with limited marketing resources, why attend one, let alone all three?  Allow me to help answer that question. 
The Northeast Biomass Heating Expo begins the spring sprint April 3 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.  Since this event was founded in 2009, it has connected more than 1,450 attendees and 300 different businesses, agencies and organizations on how biomass works in the New England region. This year’s conference has made a conscious effort to move away from policy and toward practical learning for developers, installers and vendors of biomass heating equipment. On the first day of the conference, two sessions will describe advanced hydronic heating systems, thermal controls, and how to maximize energy savings. Other sessions will address how industry players are improving bulk pellet fuel storage safety and reducing combustions emissions. Getting to Saratoga Springs early? Attend the preconference activities like the Agricultural Biomass Seminar, industry tour, and ASTM Heat Metering stakeholder session.  Finally, workshops comparing the feasibility of chip and pellet systems and a “lightening round” of regional case studies will provide attendees both a practical and hopeful outlook for expanding their business in the Northeast. 

Thankfully, only one time zone separates the Northeast Biomass Heating Expo from the next stop on the biomass circuit, the International Biomass Expo in Minneapolis. Beginning April 8 with industry tours and concluding April 10, this 5th annual conference boasts the largest attendance of the three and serves as the nexus of biomass fuels, technologies and applications. I can imagine few venues where I can discuss thermal renewable portfolio standard developments with biomass heat, dairy digester, landfill gas, and biofuels project developers and operators en masse. Each successive conference has refined its activities to suit the year’s biomass zeitgeist; 2012’s keynote speaker addressed the U.S. Department of Defense’s energy demands with a biomass slant, and this year’s features experts who will describe our industry’s strategies to build and finance enough biopower to meet the nation’s ambitious energy goals.      

Finally, the Heating the Midwest with Renewable Biomass Conference brings the month’s energy dialogue full circle. Carlton, Minn., hosts the event’s second occurrence, April 24-26. Organizers have described it as the official rollout of the region’s energy vision, and it’s designed like the Bold Vision for 2025, which debuted at the Northeast Biomass Heating Expo in 2010. An author of both the Northeast and the new Midwest vision, William Strauss, biomass economist and president of FutureMetrics, will deliver the opening keynote and set the tone for the ensuing two days. Each major work session will incorporate the Midwest vision’s findings and recommendations on feedstocks, demographics and demand, and thermal technologies.  If your company is considering selling or installing biomass fuels and equipment in the Midwestern market, attending this conference is a wise investment.

I’m often asked for recommendations of associations to support and events to attend, to which I always respond, “Support them all, if you have the resources.”  I’m often reminded that biomass is a business first. So, how will you decide which conference to attend? Will it be based on the quality of exhibitors, networking environment, or educational resources and professional development? In full disclosure, I’m participating in all three events, and that’s by design; BTEC’s mission supports increasing recognition of thermal regionally and nationally.  If you would like to sit down and talk biomass in Saratoga Springs, Minneapolis, or Carlton, send me an email beforehand.  I hope to see you at least once this next month.

Author: Joseph Seymour
Executive Director, Biomass Thermal Energy Council
202-596-3974 ext. 302