Plumas County Celebrates Installation of New Biomass Heating System

Wood chips are normally associated with barbeques, but in the mountainous areas of the High Sierra, this abundant renewable resource is being used to heat more than just grills.

Plumas County officials recently celebrated the installation of a new biomass heating system that uses wood chips from forest thinning and fire-reduction activities for its 53,000-square foot Health and Human Services Center in Quincy. Funding for the project came from the California Energy Commission.

The center was built in 2006, but its geothermal-based heating system proved to be too small. The new combined heat and power system produces heat, but generates enough energy to offset what is required to run the boiler. The system is expected to save the county about $30,000 annually.

The Sierra Institute for Community and Environment, a nonprofit organization that works with rural communities to increase stewardship of forest lands, managed the project, which received a $2.6 million Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) grant. The EPIC program invests about $160 million annually for clean energy innovations, strategies, and applications that help the state meet its energy and greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.

Plumas County, which includes the Plumas National Forest, has a land base of more than 2,600 square miles, but only about 20,000 residents.

Because of its remote location and small population, the area lacks access to natural gas supplies. The Health and Human Services Center project is part of a larger state plan to maximize locally available renewable energy resources to meet the needs of rural communities.

Photo courtesy of Sierra Institute for Community and Environment.

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