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Energy Commission Grant Helping to Turn Forest Waste into Bioenergy



After years of unprecedented drought and a bark beetle infestation, the U.S. Forest Service estimated that there were more than 102 million dead trees in California’s forests in 2016, with many more expected to die in the coming months and years.

To help reduce the risk to critical infrastructure, roadways, and homes and businesses, as well as the threat of catastrophic wildfires, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. declared a state of emergency and directed a number of strategies to reduce the threat including converting forest waste from high fire hazard areas to energy.

In response, the California Energy Commission has funded several bioenergy projects through its Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program, which supports innovations and strategies to advance clean energy technologies that help the state meet its energy and climate goals.

One project is in the Burney-Hat Creek area in Shasta County, a region that experienced a major wildfire in 2014 that burned more than 32,000 acres and destroyed 21 buildings. The Fall River Resource Conservation District was awarded a $5 million grant in September for the project.

The district will use the money to develop and operate a 2.8 megawatt biomass-to-electricity facility. The project will be one of the state’s first community-scale renewable biomass installations to promote sustainable forest management practices.

The project will use a technology created by West Biofuels called CircleDraft gasification. CircleDraft technology produces electricity, heat, and biochar, a form of charcoal that aids in plant growth by improving the condition of soil. The system is modular and can be sized to meet various energy needs.

The Burney-Hat Creek project will use about 22,000 metric tons of forest residue per year, reducing the amount of pollutants that might otherwise occur in a wildfire.

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California Energy Commission

The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency created by the Legislature in 1974.
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