California biomass gasification project awarded CEC grant

By Phoenix Energy | April 09, 2015

Phoenix Energy’s joint venture, North Fork Community Power’s project was recently awarded a $4.9 million grant announced at California Energy Commission’s business meeting. The award will be used to construct one of the first forest-sourced biomass gasification plants, as well as research into the emerging field of forest biomass utilization. The plant will utilize local forest biomass sustainably sourced from restoration and fuel reduction activities on local forest lands, including the Sierra National Forest.  The biomass will be used to make electricity, heat and biochar—a solid carbon byproduct that is used as a soil conditioner and filter media. The project will also be one of the first projects to use forest-based fuel under California’s new SB 1122 bioenergy law. 

“This project is a fantastic community story and an example of what can be accomplished with a robust a public/private partnership,” said Phoenix Energy CEO Gregory Stangl. “In the North Fork community, a sawmill was the main employer for years, and local jobs evaporated when it closed down in the 1990’s. This facility will not only make an impact on reducing fire danger and stopping wasteful ‘pile and burn’ disposal of excess forest material, but will bring back permanent jobs to a town where the forest economy used to provide them. California is littered with communities up and down the Sierra foothills with a similar story,” continued Stangl.

Representing the North Fork community in the joint venture is the North Fork Community Development Council, a non-profit established to encourage economic development after the closure of the mill. “We are delighted to be able to combine environmental stewardship together with job creation and sustainable energy production for our community,” said Dan Rosenberg, president of North Fork CDC. “We are hoping that our plant will serve as a model for other forested communities while having a positive environmental impact and improving the fire safety of our community.”

The plant will be built in phases with an initial 1 MW financed mainly by the California Energy Commission grant and private and community investors.

Phoenix Energy is an independent power producer that operates a network of small, distributed generation biomass gasification plants in partnership with businesses and communities. By focusing on small plants in the 1-3 MW range, the company strives to keep electricity, heat and fuel local to the plant, where the value of energy is highest and transportation costs are lower. The gasification technology utilized also produces biochar, which serves to permanently sequester carbon in solid form and is valued as a soil conditioner and filter media.

North Fork Community Power LLC is a joint venture between Phoenix Energy and the North Fork CDC that will own and operate a biomass gasification facility in North Fork, California. The facility will primarily use sustainably harvested forest biomass that is frequently piled and burned for disposal. Additional fuel will come from local fire safe councils and the community.  The facility will sell power to PG&E under California’s landmark SB1122 bioenergy law.