The Thirty-mile room at the Mclellan Wildfire Training Center in Sacramento filled to capacity on December 14th, 2012 for the Community-scale Bioenergy Conference presented by the Woody Biomass Utilization group of UCANR and the UC Berkeley Center for Forestry (jump to conference page). Attendees represented a broad range of stakeholders including community organizations, bioenergy startups, consultants, utility companies, and agency representatives. The conference focused on providing information about small scale production of electricity from woody biomass in the context of recent legislation. Senate Bill 1122, signed by Governor Brown in September 2012, was intended to increase the production of bio-electricity in the State from small scale producers (3MW or less) as a component of the States Renewables Portfolio Standard. Presentations can be viewed at http://ucanr.edu/community bioenergy
The day-long conference was kicked off by organizer and UC Berkeley biomass and forest products extension advisor John Shelly. California Energy Commission commissioner Carla Peterman gave a thoughtful keynote covering aspects of the States recently updated Bioenergy Action Plan related to small scale biomass-to-energy conversion.
The conference presentations covered the following topics:
- Impacts biomass utilization on forest health and fire risk.
- Public and private landowner perspectives on biomass utilization.
- The role of community organizations in developing small scale biomass-to-energy projects.
- Policy nexus for wood biomass project development (air quality, environmental review)
- Conversion technologies review
- Project development case studies
Several issues were identified as important in considering small scale bioenergy projects.
Wildfire risk reduction.
All speakers commented on the importance of finding uses for the woody biomass that is responsible for high wildfire hazards.
Conversion technology cost.
Technology to convert biomass to electricity exists but the economic viability remains a challenge.
Capturing the full value of the feedstock (heat, char, solid wood products) can make make an energy project much more attractive to investment.
While solar and other renewables have benefitted from streamlined permitting and reduced interconnection costs, interconnection costs for biomass is a major barrier to expansion.
Outreach and education early and often reduces social resistance, builds community, and can result in important strategic partnerships.
Ray Lucas at UCANR Communications Services did an excellent job creating webcasts of all presentations and speakers. Videos and presentation slides can be accessed via the UCANR Woody Biomass Utilization conference page.