The Watershed Center has been a long-time champion of the development of biomass energy conversion. Biomass energy conversion entails converting publicly owned facilities from heating with fossil fuels (e.g. propane, kerosene and heating oil), to heating with renewable woody biomass derived from sustainable forest stewardship. By replacing fossil fuel use with locally-sourced renewable fuel, biomass heat facilities create sustainable energy alternatives while contributing to forest health by utilizing the by-products of forest thinning. Biomass energy creates a controlled-combustion option for these woody material by-products otherwise disposed of in open-pile burns. Converting existing facilities to produce biomass heating can save money, offset fossil fuels, reduce air emissions, and support forest restoration.

We are currently working to establish biomass conversion projects in the Dry Forest Investment Zone across Oregon and CA. In 2008, we analyzed potential biomass thermal retrofit opportunities in Trinity, Siskiyou and Modoc Countie to identify the two most cost effective biomass thermal retrofit opportunities in our region:  the Devil’s Garden Conservation Camp in Modoc County and the Trinity River Conservation Camp in Trinity County.

Since then, we have worked with CAL FIRE to secure federal grant funding and complete a full engineering and cost study, and we’re currently working with the agency and their partners at the CA Department of Correction’s and Rehabilitation to secure internal support and financing to complete the retrofits. Our analyses found that biomass conversion in these two camps would could save nearly 150,000 gallons of fossil fuels!

This project will serve as a demonstration of the benefits and efficiency of utilizing biomass energy. With 42 additional Conservation Camps around the state, we hope to move forward to assess the remaining camps for feasibility and expand this renewable energy  model throughout the state system, and beyond, to other suitable public facilities that could benefit from renewable thermal energy that supports sound forest stewardship. By pursuing biomass energy conversion, we are investing in renewable energy and support for economic development through the fostering of biomass industry.

To learn more about this project, contact Nick Goulette, Executive Director at the Watershed Center, by calling 530-628-4206 or emailing nickg@hayfork.net