State of the Sierra Nevada’s Forests

The Sierra Nevada Conservancy, a California state agency, issued this important report on the State of the Sierra Nevada’s Forests, finding that “urgent action is needed in the Sierra Nevada to avoid devastating impacts on California’s environment and economy.”  The report recommends increased forest biomass to energy generation to reduce catastrophic wildfires and air pollution.

To learn more, download StateOfSierraForestsRptWeb

Forest Bioenergy Reduces Air Pollution Emissions

Click to view the complete Forest Biomass Emissions Benefits – PCAPCD article pdf

Emission Reductions from Woody Biomass Waste for Energy as an Alternative to Open Burning

Woody biomass waste is generated throughout California from forest management, hazardous fuel reduction, and agricultural operations. Open pile burning in the vicinity of generation is frequently the only economic disposal option. A framework is developed to quantify air emissions reductions for projects that alternatively utilize biomass waste as fuel for energy production.

Carbon Offsets from Soil Sequestration of Biochar

Click to view the complete Soil Sequestration Biochar Issue Paper 1-2 pdf

Evaluation of the Opportunities for Generating Carbon Offsets from Soil Sequestration of Biochar

This Climate Reserve issue paper looks at important issues related to the production and application of biochar and how a protocol can be developed that can account for carbon sequestration from its production and use for the purpose of offsetting GHG emissions,

The production and application of biochar into the soil offers solutions to a number of important problems.

  • Mitigation of climate change by reducing GHG emissions and sequestering carbon from biomass
  • Production of energy from the pyrolysis process in which biomass is transformed into biochar
  • Soil improvement through the application of biochar as a soil amendment
  • Management of waste streams from agriculture, forestry, and municipal sources

CEC Biomass to Energy Study

Click to view the complete CEC Biomass to Energy Study pdf

FOREST MANAGEMENT FOR WILDFIRE REDUCTION, ENERGY PRODUCTION, AND OTHER BENEFITS

The Biomass to Energy project models the costs and benefits of generating electricity from forest thinnings over a 40‐year period beginning in 2006. The study demonstrates that economic valuation is possible for many, but not all, valued assets on the landscape, and that the impacts and costs of forest disturbance (including thinning operations) can be accurately modeled. The study includes a life cycle assessment of forest operations and energy conversion, measuring three biomass conversion technologies. A test of the model structure was developed on a Northern California forest landscape comprising approximately 2.7 million acres spanning the crest of the Sierra Nevada range and encompassing the Feather River basin. A Reference Case and Test Scenario were developed to test the structure and accuracy of the model using real‐life data from Mt. Lassen Power (an existing biomass conversion plant), public and private forestry operations, and historic wildfire ignition patterns. Wildlife habitat impacts and cumulative watershed effects were also modeled. Results of the Test Scenario show that thinning reduces wildfire size and severity — therefore reducing fire‐generated greenhouse gas emissions — while producing renewable energy. With appropriate caveats about data resolution and model sensitivity, impacts to wildlife habitat and watershed appeared minimal. The Biomass to Energy project benefits California by contributing to the state’s capacity to analyze forest biomass utilization opportunities at the landscape scale.

The Biomass to Energy (B2E) project breaks new ground by offering a framework for deciding whether biomass energy generation is a suitable investment for a given forest. This study offers a credible way to establish the relative values of converting forest thinnings into energy, as well as the costs (especially wildfires and air pollution) of not doing so. Such a framework updates the debate about structuring financial incentives that correspond to avoided costs.