California awards $5m grant for forest biogas plant

The North Fork biogas plant uses forest biomass sourced from restoration and fuel-reduction activities on local lands.

The California Energy Commission has awarded a $4.9 million grant to a forest biomass gasification plant.

The award will help construct one of the first forest-sourced biomass gasification plants, with an initial 1MW capacity, and help fund research into the emerging field of forest biomass. The project is being developed by North Fork Community Power, a joint venture between independent power producer Phoenix Energy and North Fork Community Development Council.

The plant will be financed mainly by the grant, and private and community investors. It will use local forest biomass sustainably sourced from restoration and fuel-reduction activities on local forest lands, including the Sierra National Forest. The biomass will produce electricity, heat and biochar – a solid carbon byproduct that is used as a soil conditioner.

Phoenix Energy operates a network of small, distributed generation biomas gasification plants in partnership with businesses and communities. By focusing on small plants in the 1MW to 3MW range, the company seeks to keep electricity, heat and fuel local to the plant where the company says “the value of energy is highest and transportation costs are lower”.

“This project is a fantastic community story and an example of what can be accomplished with a robust public private partnership,” said Phoenix Energy chief executive officer Gregory Stangl.

North Form Community Power plant will sell power to PG&E under California’s landmark SB1122 bioenergy law that requires that the state’s three largest utilities to procure a combined 250MW of bioenergy.