A new biomass gasification plant is being erected near Lake Tahoe, California, that will utilize forest biomass from Placer County’s fire threat reduction activities to make electricity, heat and biochar. The 2 MW Phoenix Energy plant will be the first to use forest-based fuel in California. The Lake Tahoe project is Phoenix Energy’s third biomass gasification plant in state and, when fully operational, it will be the company’s largest plant.
Phoenix Energy has developed two commercial biomass gasification facilities in California’s Centra Valley: a 0.5 MW facility in Merced County and a 1 MW plant in Stainslaus County.
Distributed bioenergy generation will produce more than just baseload power, including thermal energy, eliminated line losses, and co-products like biochar that sequester carbon and provide soil amendment and filtration, according to Phoenix Energy.
In an effort to reduce forest fire risk and improve air quality, Placer County has been seeking to develop an alternative to open burning of large biomass piles. The recent massive Rim Fire in California’s high sierras gave renewed emphasis to finding a better solution to managing that risk.
“Piling and burning forest biomass in the open is a complete waste of a resource and bad for air quality — but it is often the only economic option for local communities,” said Phoenix Energy CEO Gregory Stangl. “This plant will serve as a path towards a more sustainable outcome while providing local jobs and local energy.”