Wood Biomass CHP Project Wins $100K in National Forest Foundation Contest

A proposal for a wood biomass combined heat and power (CHP) facility in California received recognition last week from the National Forest Foundation (NFF).

The Sierra Institute for Community and Environment was named the winner of NFF’s Barrett Foundation Business Concept Challenge, and received $100,000 for its proposal.

The Sierra Institute’s proposal calls for a 3-MW CHP facility powered by local, sustainably harvested wood, co-located with other wood-products businesses. The plant would be located in Plumas County, California, an area that NFF says has been hit especially hard by downturns in the timber industry, and with National Forests making up two-thirds of the county, much of them fire-prone.  

NFF said that the Sierra Institute’s proposal overcomes the challenges of building such a large facility in a rural area through a coalition of project sponsors and the co-location of a small-scale biomass plant with other wood-products industries, such as the first cross-laminated-timber mill in California. Other co-located companies include a firewood production facility, a wood chip processing facility for use by local biomass boilers in the county, and a greenhouse heated by the biomass energy plant.

The CHP plant would sell renewable energy to California’s regulated energy market, while heat created by the biomass facility would be purchased by the other business co-located on the campus. All the businesses would source locally and sustainably harvested wood from nearby National Forests, which NFF said would add further value by reducing the forests’ risk of uncharacteristic wildfire and improving forest health.

“This year’s prize winner promises to deliver the results we developed the Barrett Challenge to stimulate,” Bill Possiel, president of NFF, said in an April 11 statement. “By beginning from the ground up and envisioning an enterprise that combines multiple wood-products and utilizes heat and energy as additional value-added products, the Sierra Institute has developed an idea that can benefit both the local community and the National Forests that surround it.” 

Lead image credit: Pacheco | Flickr

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