Construction begins on California’s newest bioenergy plant

CREDIT: Taras Garcia
CREDIT: Taras Garcia
Last week, West Biofuels, broke ground on a critically needed three-megawatt (MW) bioenergy plant in Burney, California that will convert forest waste and sustainably sourced wood to renewable electricity, heat and biochar. The new source of clean, renewable energy will help reduce wildfire risk, lower California's carbon footprint, and strengthen the region's economy.
The bioenergy facility is owned by Hat Creek Bioenergy (Burney), and developed in collaboration with West Biofuels' (Woodland) engineering, procurement and construction management team and local partners, including Fall River Resource Conservation District (McArthur).
Peter T. Paul, majority owner of Hat Creek Bioenergy and CEO of West Biofuels, said the project began 18 years ago, when he and a neighbour "discussed a very simple question. How can we reinvent energy production to increase our independence and lower our carbon footprint while creating economic growth?
"Nearly 15 years of science, research, and development later, we're now one of the state's foremost experts in converting organic byproducts into forms of renewable energy. It's been an interesting journey, and we're thrilled to break ground on a bioenergy facility that will create new local jobs and clean power for thousands of homes and businesses."
Local employment opportunities include 60 part-time construction jobs and over 22 full-time jobs in operations, management, maintenance, and technical and administrative support. With logging and lumber mill jobs on the decline, this new bioenergy facility will provide quality jobs and careers with family-sustaining pay and benefits, according to the firm.
"I always tell people that I'm so blessed to live here because it's the most beautiful place on Earth," said Perry Thompson, president of Hat Creek Construction & Materials. (Burney). "And it can also be a hard place to earn a living. To house a project of this scale and scope is a game changer for the community and will benefit the region for decades to come."
The biomass feedstock will be procured from local forest restoration projects resulting from five years of drought and the related resurgence of bark beetle infestation in fir and pine trees. The raw forest biomass will be converted into syngas - a gaseous alternative fuel that can ultimately be used for renewable heat and electricity.
"Our 3MW bioenergy facility will provide enough clean energy to power about 3,000 homes each year, which is roughly the number of residents living here in Burney," said Matthew Summers, Chief Operations Officer of West Biofuels, LLC. "This project represents years of advanced research and science, supported by our team of passionate experts and partners that stretch across the globe. We're excited to show the world how biomass can transform the way we produce energy."
In 2017, the state of California recognised the bioenergy facility with a $5 million (€4.5m) grant through the California Energy Commission (CEC) in partnership with the Fall River Resource Conservation District in McArthur, Calif.
The bioenergy facility's capital budget is estimated at $25.7 million (€23.3m), and it is expected to be operational in the first quarter of 2024.
The clean, renewable energy generated will be sold to California's largest investor-owned utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, beginning in the second quarter of 2024.
The contract is through the BioMAT program created by the California Public Utilities Commission to stimulate renewable electricity production to help meet the state's ambitious energy and climate action goals.
The California Climate Investments Program is a statewide program that puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment - particularly in disadvantaged communities. The cap-and-trade program also creates a financial incentive for industries to invest in clean technologies and develop innovative ways to reduce pollution.

CREDIT: Taras Garcia

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