New Visitors' Gallery Tells Story of Biomass Energy

Nebraska City, Neb. – Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns and two top U.S. Department of Energy officials will help The National Arbor Day Foundation dedicate a unique renewable energy exhibit on April 28 at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City, Neb. Joining Governor Johanns for the 2:00 dedication of the Fuelwood Energy Plant Visitors Gallery will be Donald Richardson, Director of the Office of Biopower and Hydropower Technologies, and John Ferrell, Director of the Office of Fuels Development.

The exhibit is located in a gallery overlooking the energy plant that provides heating and cooling for Arbor Day Farm’s Lied Conference Center. The new Fuelwood Energy Plant Visitors Gallery was made possible by a grant from the Western Regional Biomass Energy Program.

Lied Conference Center is the only facility in the nation that is heated and air conditioned by burning wood where part of that wood is grown in renewable fuelwood plantations on site. Waste wood and other biomass resources, such as switch grass, can also be used in the plant’s energy operation.

The Visitors Gallery is open free to the public from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. It is designed to explain why biomass products, including wood and agricultural wastes, are potentially important renewable energy sources. The gallery features a 9 by 30-foot painted mural depicting a variety of biomass and other renewable energy sources, as symbolized by a sleeping dragon that is blended into the landscape.

“Throughout history the dragon has represented fire and power,” said National Arbor Day Foundation Education Coordinator Susan Wirth. “The dragon is a fun way of portraying to both children and adults the potential of biomass energy. Biomass is a powerful source of energy that can be found almost everywhere, but which will require action to be harnessed and renewed. Growing biomass resources is good for the environment and technology has developed so biomass can be burned cleanly and efficiently.

“That’s why,” Wirth continued, “the introduction to the gallery proclaims, ‘There sleeps, on the land, a mighty Dragon, with power greater than all the energy contained in all of the oil and all of the coal and gas that we have used, and will yet use, for warmth and comfort and work.’”

The 122,000 square-foot Lied Conference Center is heated and cooled by burning wood and wood waste in the Fuelwood Energy Plant. Visitors can watch the operation of the energy-producing wood chip hopper, burners, and boilers, from the temperature-controlled comfort of the gallery.

“We encourage all guests to Arbor Day Farm to visit the new Fuelwood Energy Plant Visitors Gallery and learn more about biomass and other non-polluting, renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal power, and liquid biofuels like ethanol and soy diesel,” Wirth said.

Additional support for the gallery was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and AmFac Parks and Resorts. The Durham Western Heritage Museum in Omaha helped develop and fabricate the exhibits.