September 25, 2015
Since the last update we have made presentations to the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District (GBAPCD), the Carson Water Subconservancy District (CWSD) and the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce (ACCC). The presentation to the GPAPCD was for information only and we did not request anything from them. The CWSD and the ACCC are supportive and will be sending letters to the Board of Supervisors urging them to seek funding for a preliminary feasibility study of a biomass-to-bioenergy facility in Alpine County.
Mary Rawson and I went over to Sonora and participated in the Tuolumne County Alliance for Resources and Environment’s (TuCARE) Annual Natural Resource Tour. Terry Woodrow (District 4 Supervisor) was also on the tour, as were several supervisors from other counties, staff members for several congressmen and legislators, state and federal agency staff, and Congressman McClintock. The tour took us through a forest thinning operation, a US Forest Service Research Forest, a sawmill, and finally the Chinese Station biomass-to-bioenergy facility.
The forest thinning operation was impressive in how they were able to selectively remove trees with minimal disruption to the environment and at a surprisingly low cost. The research forest was experimenting with different forest densities to investigate the effects on fire resistance, forest health, availability of water, and wildlife. The sawmill was not relevant to what we hope to do here. The biomass-to-bioenergy facility was a 20 MW facility which is much larger than the one to three MW facility we envision here. It was constructed in 1986 and only a small portion of the biomass feedstock actually came from the forest — most came from wood waste and agricultural waste. It used the biomass to generate steam which drove a turbine which in turn drove the generator.
The one disappointment on the tour was that almost all of the attendees were already sold on the need to restore forest health through fuels reduction and forest thinning. It would have been better if the organizers had been able to attract skeptics to the tour to show them how fuels reduction and forest thinning can improve forest health.
Due to the Butte Fire the planned meeting with the Amador-Calaveras Consensus Group was postponed until October. Annie Dean is taking the Sierra Nevada Conservancy’s Grant Writer Course and is working to find funding to help us get better organized (i.e. capacity building). We are still looking for additional potential sources of biomass feedstock and at the same time building contacts throughout the biomass-to-bioenergy community. Nothing will happen quickly, but if we don’t push nothing will happen.
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Promoting fire safe communities, healthy forests and watersheds, and a strong sustainable local economy.