- Author: Gareth J Mayhead
On Monday, this week, Governor Schwarzenegger signed Executive Order # S-14-08 that raises California's renewable energy goals to 33% by 2020. The order expands the state's current Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Originally the RPS (SB 1078) required sellers to serve 20% of their load with electricity from renewable sources by 2017. This was modified by SB 107 in 2006 to 20% by 2010. The law covers retail sellers of electricity including the state's Investor Owned Utilities (IOUs), Energy Service Providers (ESPs) and Community Choice Aggregation (CCAs) providers, but does not include local publicly owned electric utilities.
The Executive Order also signals that the California Energy Commission (CEC) and California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) will sign a pair of memorandum of understandings, one between themselves and another with federal agencies to streamline the renewable review process (including a one-stop permitting shop). This is focussed on faciliting development of solar facilities and power line infrastructure in the desert regions. The Governor made his announcment at a photovoltaic solar panel manufacturing facility in Sacramento.
The announcment is potentially good new for biomass energy generation. It already forms a significant part of the state's renewable energy as the chart, from the CEC, shows below.
Currently the state appears to favor solar and wind, possibly because they have a cleaner, more modern image than biomass power plants. The fact is that electricity from biomass is a proven, reliable base load provider - it runs when the wind does not blow and when the sun does not shine so is a critical part of the renewable energy mix.
If we also take into account the fact that fuel for biomass powerplants can come from forest fuels reduction projects which reduces the risk of catastrophic wildfire then biomass energy generation really makes sense. Its a renewable energy source that can provide a market for forest arisings, benefitting communities, reducing fire suppression costs and improving air quality for everyone.
- Author: Gareth J Mayhead
Recently, as I have prepared for various talks at conferences and other gatherings, I have made an effort to compile information on new woody biomass utilization projects in California. It is an interesting exercise to undertake as you might think that due to the financial crisis and unreliable flow of material from public lands that there would be very little activity. However, it appears that we have a number of exciting projects underway in the state. They can be put into three broad categories:
1 – Power plants (electricity generation and in some cases cogeneration)
Investment in power plants is taking place as utilities try to meet California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Additionally energy investors are diversifying their portfolios in order to manage the risk associated with volatile fossil fuel prices and maturing carbon markets.
2 – Densified wood fuel (wood pellets and fire logs)
Densified wood fuels represent a growing market sector throughout the US. Demand for pellets stoves is increasing. There also opportunities in institutional heat systems and in supplying pellets to co-fire in coal power plants (especially in Europe and Asia).
3 – Primary processing (sawmills and other processing)
The main California opportunities for primary processing are in niche chip or shavings markets and in manufacturing post and pole from small diameter logs.
The new projects are summarized in the table, below.
All of these projects are either currently being implemented or will be by 2011. This is not a definitive list but it represents some of the most significant and exciting projects out there. I have more information on most of these projects and I plan to provide more detailed project profiles here in the future – subject of course to the project developers permission.
All of the larger projects are using a variety of feedstock sources (agricultural residues, urban waste, private forest and public forest sources) in order to manage risk. A significant component will come from public lands and of course that component could grow in time.
It is exciting to see projects that could utilize over 1m BDT of woody biomass being implemented throughout California. Watch this space for more information!
Power plant restarts like Blue Lake Power are becoming more common