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Is California's Dying Biomass Energy Business an Undervalued Green Option? A Tonic for Wildfires?

Posted by Green Builder Staff

Sep 10, 2016 12:02:36 AM

biomass-trees.jpgAs reported by Christine Souza, AgAlert.com:

Across California, tens of millions of trees are dead, intense wildfires burn, and orchard and forest waste piles up, as more plants that convert wood waste into electricity close due to expiring contracts with utility companies.

"Nothing has been done to adjust the utility rates at the California Public Utilities Commission to account for the value that biomass has; they are not keeping track of all of the avoided pollution that it affords," said Allan Krauter, senior administrative analyst for Kern County. "Unless and until the state is willing to make up the difference between the market price and the break-even price, they are going to continue to have a big biomass problem."

The problem centers on 25- and 30-year contracts between biomass plants and utility companies, established in the 1980s, resulting in the construction of 66 power plants with an operating capacity of almost 1,000 megawatts. Now, only 22 biomass plants remain operating, with a total capacity of 532 MW—still enough to convert 7.3 million tons of wood waste into electricity.

The plants' power-purchase contracts with utility companies that expired in recent years were not renewed, because the utilities had cheaper renewable-energy alternatives—forcing plants to close. Natural gas costs 2.9 cents per kilowatt-hour; wind and solar cost 8 cents per kWh. By contrast, a price floor of 12 cents per kWh was established for biomass when the program began.

Read the article at AgAlert.com

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