Biomass on the verge


The Pacific West Biomass Conference & Expo? is meeting this week in Sacramento, and the driving topic is the emerging potential of biomass as a major source of renewable energy.

As James Boyd, the head of the California Energy Commission said Tuesday: “(Biomass) is a treasure sort of waiting to be discovered.”

David Bischel, the head of the California Forestry Association, revealed some statistics that should be noted by anyone concerned about the shortage of fossil fuels and the importance of alternative sources of energy.

As quoted in Biomass Magazine:

One-third of California’s 100 million acres is forestland. The state has more than twice as much wood standing dead in forests as there is wood being harvested, Bischel said. More than 10 million acres stand at high or very high risk of catastrophic fire, driven by accumulated fuel loads, and climate change could make that fire threat worse, he said. “The opportunities with sustainable biomass utilization is immense in dealing with this issue,” he said…

…There are 14 million bone dry tons of potential woody biomass that needs to be removed from forests, Bischel said, with the potential of 1,750 megawatts and 17,000 new jobs. Challenges, though, include the cost, definitions of biomass and regulations. “I couldn’t agree more that California is really in a state of regulatory gridlock,” he said. But will, motivation and resources on the part of landowners is what will determine how far woody biomass can go, he added.

The science and technology behind biomass energy appears to be ready. Now we must clear the other hurdles. How can our country afford to not take advantage of such a plentiful resource?