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Bioenergy Cluster Project

What is the Bioenergy Cluster Project?

The Bioenergy Cluster Project is the proposed plan to create 3 small scale community based bioenergy facilities. The facilities would be less than 5MW in size and able to participate in renewable energy incentive programs. 

The project would sustainably harvest 90,000 bone dry tons of biomass per year from both public and private land. Over a twenty year period the project would restore over 14,000 acres.

 

Locations for the cluster are :

  • Burney-Hat Creek Bioenergy

  • Tubit Enterprise

  • McArthur Bioenergy

Current Status of Project Sites

Hat Creek BioEnergy

Critical development at Hat Creek Bioenergy has already been completed:

  • Partnered with West Biofuels, a gasification developer

  • Completed CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act)

  • Completed site and grading plan

  • Completed a System Impact Study to PG&E

  • Signed a 20 year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Pacific Gas and Electric Company

  • Guaranteed to be a BioMAT participant

  • Anticipated to be one of the first community scale biomass facility in California.

Tubit Enterprise 

  • The Tubit Enterprise facility is narrowing down on a preferred technology and will submit information to PG&E  for a System Impact Study (SIS). Once the SIS is completed by PG&E, Tubit can enter the BioMAT program and have the ability to secure a PPA with PG&E.

McArthur Bioenergy

  • Has completed pre-application and has completed and submitted a System Impact Study (SIS) to PG&E.

Recent Publications

How is this project being funded?

SB1122 Establishes a feed-in tariff contract (BioMAT) for small renewable electricity producers  to sell power to Investor Owned Utilities (PG&E)  at higher rates than are offered to larger utility scale power producers, and encourages the procurement of small-scale community biomass facilities. 

Bioenergy is considered carbon neutral, and has been recognized by the State of California in the California Forest Carbon Plan as having a vital role in combating the effects of climate change.

Cal Fire, public and private land owners, and the U.S. Forest Service  are committed to harvesting downed and diseased material to prevent catastrophic wildfire, and preserve forest health. The U.S. Forest Service Wood Innovation Grant is providing funding for the Bioenergy Cluster Project.

 

The Fall River Resource Conservation District was recently awarded a $5 million research grant award through the California Energy Commission's (CEC)  Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program. The CEC program supports innovations and strategies to promote clean energy technologies. The grant will be used to purchase new equipment and construct the facility. California Energy Commission, Electric Program Charge Electric (EPIC) is providing funding for the Hat-Creek Bioenergy facility.

Bioenergy facilities will spur economic development, create jobs, strengthen our forest, and bring energy independence to rural mountain communities.

What is biochar? How is it produced? What are its uses?

Biochar is a fine-grained charcoal like substance, with a very high carbon content, pure carbon. Biochar is the name given to charcoal when it is used for a particular purpose, e.g. a soil amendment rather than when it is to be burned as fuel. Like all charcoal, biochar is created by pyrolysis of biomass. Biochar is a stable solid full of pores that can be used to soak up water, nutrients and metals and thus is useful in a wide variety of applications.

When used as an agricultural soil amendment, it improves soil fertility, the soil's ability to hold water and nutrients, and increase agricultural productivity.

Our facility will produce biochar as a bi-product to energy production which will be able to be sold and utilized as a long-term form of carbon storage and soil/agriculture enhancer.

Is Bioenergy green?

Biomass facilities produce more CO2 per kilowatt hour of electricity than power plants with other fuel sources. However, if the fuel involved was dead and downed woody debris that need to be removed for reasons of public safety, the carbon in that wood would be released within a matter of a few years if left to rot in the forest or burned in a burn pile. We feel that deriving electricity from dead and down wood, given tree mortality, can be considered carbon neutral as it is not releasing carbon that would not be otherwise be released in the near future. Furthermore we will generate electricity that is considered by the State of California to be renewable baseload energy, displacing the need to use fossil fuels for that same energy. 

When biomass is used in conjunction with effective gasification systems, emissions can be captured, offsetting concerns about air quality and greenhouse gases. 

Furthermore, additionally using best practices in forest management will result in an improvement in forest and watershed health. 

The CircleDraft gasification combines components of traditional downdraft and updraft technologies to produce a raw producer gas with low contaminant loading, extending the life and reducing the cost of gas conditioning systems. This gravity-fed system contains four temperature sections including the drying zone, the pyrolysis & gas cleaning zone, char stabilizing zone, and char gasification zone. Like an updraft gasifier, air and steam are injected in the bottom of the gasifier in the gasification zone which generates the majority of the producer gas. Unlike a traditional updraft gasifier and more similar to traditional downdraft technology, the producer gas is directed into the pyrolysis zone where the gas is filtered through the pyrolysis char for initial cleaning before reaching the gas outlets and heat exchangers. In the pyrolysis zone, the char provides a course filter to capture the higher-chain contaminants. The char, along with any contaminant loading, continues through the char stabilization zone and to the gasification zone where the heavy contaminants are reintroduced to the high temperature zone to be further broken down. Biochar produced through this process is derived directly from the gasification zone without the introduction of contaminants via producer gas filtration.

How does the gasification system work?

The need to reduce carbon emissions and increase carbon sequestration is the law in California and more recently the nation. 

We recognize the need to manage our forests 

for the sake of fire safety, water production and improved recreation. Sequestering carbon will increase forest resilience and help mitigate the effects of drought in a changing climate.

 

It is far better for all sides to get behind a project that is not only consistent with the law, but will also benefit economically from the various incentives available, or becoming available, for renewable energy and carbon sequestration. By capturing a majority of carbon emissions through bioenergy production we prevent mass amounts from entering the atmosphere in a wildfire.

Why is sequestering carbon important?

In addition to increasing our energy independence, the Bioenergy cluster project will also bring employment opportunities to our community. We expect full-time positions at each plant, in addition to ancillary positions collecting and transporting biomass. The specific numbers of employment opportunities have yet to be determined.

Biomass will be harvested from public and private land which means that our surrounding forests will become more resilient to fire due to increased fuel reductions and improved forest management. This improvement will also extend to merchantable timber stands, which are currently at risk of wildfire and the influx of bark beetle. 

 

Though the specific logistics of a community green waste disposal have yet to be determined, it is entirely possible that the public will be able to contribute green-waste from their personal property to the project. The public will still be able to have burn piles, conditions permitting.

 

Though this is a small-scale project, it has the potential to create a profound positive impact on our community, watershed, forests and wildlife.

How will this project affect our community?

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