Development of a Bioenergy Sustainability Tradeoffs Assessment Resource (BioSTAR)
Bioenergy Sustainability Conference
Oak Ridge National Laboratory is developing a web-based visualization platform to inform decision-making for sustainable US cellulosic biomass production. The Bioenergy Sustainability Tradeoffs Assessment Resource (BioSTAR) will help the US Department of Energy's BioEnergy Technologies Office, industry and academic researchers to quantify environmental and socioeconomic costs and benefits and analyze potential tradeoffs associated with cellulosic feedstock choices in different regions of the country. By helping users to tailor their sustainability assessments to local stakeholder priorities, BioSTAR aims to identify bioenergy feedstocks and management practices that will maximize environmental and socioeconomic benefits to society (e.g., improvement of water and soil quality, a net increase in rural jobs) while minimizing negative impacts. The BioSTAR prototype has been designed with datasets and stakeholder feedback gathered during three case studies: (1) East Tennessee switchgrass-for-ethanol production, (2) Southeastern US bioenergy wood pellet production, and (3) Iowa corn stover and perennial grass production for ethanol using landscape design principles. These case studies have been used to develop documented procedures and tools to help users quantify and visualize effects of bioenergy options in a manner that provides a more complete picture of tradeoffs involved in complex human-biological systems. Over the next two years, BioSTAR's capabilities will be expanded to allow users to evaluate the sustainability of their own bioenergy projects using either default national-scale datasets provided within the tool or their own datasets. Gathering feedback on BioSTAR's utility and ease of use will help ORNL to refine and improve this adaptive management tool for future decision makers.