NREL Unveils Online Biomass Mapping Tool

Say you’re an entrepreneur looking to start a biofuels production company. Where’s your feedstock going to come from? How many biodiesel fueling stations are within easy delivery range? These are just the kind of bioenergy-data questions the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is trying to answer with the just-unveiled BioEnergy Atlas.

The atlas comes with two online visualization screening tools — BioPower and Biofuels Atlas — that “allow users to layer related bioenergy data onto a single map to gather information on biomass feedstocks, biopower and biofuels potential, production and distribution,” according a lab press release.

image via NREL

Funding for the BioEnergy Atlas came from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Blue Skyways Collaborative and the Energy Department’s Biomass Program. Those agencies, along with the Department of Agriculture, provide the data, which the NREL says allows for “timely and accurate analysis analysis of the potential of given sites to be successful biomass producers.”

The NREL imagines a wide range of users for the atlas, including “government and state agencies, universities, the petroleum and pipeline industries, research institutions, vehicle manufacturers, investment firms, GIS companies, private citizens and media.”

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.