Keith Logan and Woody Biomass Will Save Sierra County
Keith Logan, representing the North Sierra Biomass Collaborative has been long working for biomass utilization on the ground, and he visited the Board of Supervisors and delivered a quiet bomb: Sierra County might survive.
The purpose of the North Sierra Biomass Collaborative (NSBC) is to attain within five
years fifty additional megawatts of biomass based electrical generation from existing
infrastructure located in the scoping area of Lassen, Plumas, Sierra and Nevada
counties. This will result in the creation three hundred and fifty1 new jobs and $36
million of added economic value per year2. 50 MW- 350 jobs- 5 years.
There are a surprising number of people involved in Sierra County’s biomass industry. Some of them, like Sierra Pacific Industry’s Jim Turner are well known, but there are many more partners below the radar, like the Sierra County Fire Safe and Watershed Council.
The Council views energy from biomass to be half the equation to reducing the danger of wildfire. The excess undergrowth and extreme tree densities represent a ticking time bomb for the little communities of the county, particularly those on the West Side.
But there is no technology for “beaming” the biomass out of existence, it has to be burned, or removed. Removing the material burns diesel and burning it pollutes the air. Further, at a time when energy is becoming more expensive, and there is talk of a time in the next few years when new oil discoveries will fall far behind new demand, the carbon fuel of the Sierra should have a value.
Keith Logan brought the promise of that to the Board, and he brought a kind of enthusiasm and hope, too.
Mr. Logan can deliver his information rapid fire, and it actually took a little while for the full importance of what he was saying to sink in, but there is the possibility that local biomass could be converted to liquid motor fuel in Loyalton.
A wood to energy plant in Loyalton, one that would not close down for a third of the year, and would not be subject to the whim of large corporations from out of the area. It would be a plant dedicated to using woody biomass from the surrounding area. Jobs, real jobs that don’t go away. Families. Children in the school. The Loyalton City Pool.
There is simply no way to over estimate the financial benefits to the county, and in particular to Loyalton, our only city, of having a blooming biomass industry.
The real key is that the biofuel could be used to bring more biofuel. Local biomass supporters have known right along that the price of diesel is what takes the profit out of biomass. With a renewable motor fuel we could look forward to a day when the cost of moving biomass would be less than half of what it is today, increasing the profitability of the fuel source. More cogen plants, modern, efficient, modular plants, would be possible.
Imagine that some day, down the road, Loyalton is so big it has expansion problems, and the biofuels industry so profitable that scientists warn of a nutrient deficiency in the hills, cautioning that if we don’t reduce the rate we take fuel from the woods we risk loosing forest productivity. It’s hard to imagine those problems, but wonderful to imagine the process of getting there. Plenty, for a change, an oil bonanza, right here where we need it most. Kids finding jobs here and raising their kids here. We’d be like a real county again.
Currently, Keith Logan is producing more energy than biomass in the county. That could change, though. It would take a coalition of partners, but that coalition already exists, and it includes not only the SCFSWC, but the Forest Service, Sierra Pacific Industries, the Air Quality Management District, private landowners and waiting families. It’s just a matter of assembling the money and technology.
We look forward to hearing more on this. In the meantime, follow these links:
From The Union
Northern Sierra Biomass Task Force.