California aggregate company contemplates biopower

By Lisa Gibson | March 17, 2011

California-based Teichert Aggregates is eyeing its existing Marysville, Calif., site for a new biomass power plant that could consume forest, agricultural and urban wood wastes to produce up to 20 megawatts (MW) of electricity.

The company applied for a $250,000 grant through the USDA to assist in additional feasibility research for the Yuba County plant, according to Teichert project manager Mike Ray. The company is currently doing an advanced engineering feasibility study, he added.

Teichert is a heavy construction aggregate material supply company centered around Sacramento and has been in operation for more than 100 years. “We use a significant amount of electricity,” Ray said, citing about 5 MW. “Over the past several years, we’ve been looking at ways to lower our costs and have greener operations.” Teichert has installed wind and solar energy systems at other locations.

Marysville, however, is the perfect candidate for a biomass power plant because it is surrounded by significant forest and agricultural biomass resources, Ray said. The Yuba Foothills Biomass Feasibility Study, released in December 2010, incorporates Teichert’s potential biomass power plant as it looks into ways to reduce wildfire fuel in forests. The study found the area can sustainably supply almost 1 million bone dry tons of biomass per year, three times more than Teichert’s plant would need, Ray said. That estimate includes forest trimmings, orchard prunings, rice straw and urban wood waste.

The plant could cost about $80 million to build, but Ray said that is a preliminary estimate. The plant might also supply heat for the asphalt heating processes. “We believe it’s going to have to be some type of CHP (combined-heat-and-power) facility to make it economical,” he said.

No timeline is in place for construction and operation of the plant, as feasibility studies will take a couple years, Ray said, but the company is excited about the prospect. “We see biomass as something that is symbiotic to what our operations are.”