Fostering Forest Stewardship's Triple Bottom Line
Restoring Local Communities, Healthy Forest and Forest Stewardship Economy
What is a Cogen Plant?
Our region is subject to an increasing threat of large-scale wildfires. A community scale cogeneration plant, or a facility that simultaneously produces both power and heat, will help to reduce this risk. A cogen plant will safely and cleanly convert forest slash, brush and overgrowth into renewable energy that is exported to the grid while also generating valuable byproducts including biochar. Photo below is of a biomass power plant under construction in North Fork, CA.
Blue Mountain Electric Company
CHIPS’ wood products campus is planned to include a 3MWnet export biomass to energy plant, the Blue Mountain Electric Company (BMEC), in conformance with the State’s BioMAT (SB 1122) program. BMEC will produce renewable energy enough to power 1,500 homes, while helping to achieve environmental, economic and social benefits and offset long-term restoration and management costs, making possible an increase in pace and scale of forest restoration.
How Does It Work?
The BMEC plant will convert wood into a synthetic natural gas (“syngas”) through the process of gasification. The syngas is then used to fuel a natural gas genset to produce electricity and heat.
In a process very similar to manufacturing charcoal, the gasification process partially combusts wood in an oxygen-starved environment. By depriving the fire of sufficient oxygen, the wood does not burn, but rather gives off a flammable gas. As the wood gives off the syngas, it is transformed into biochar. The syngas is then captured, cleaned and cooled before being sent as fuel to the genset, which converts the syngas into electricity. This electricity is then exported to the power grid.
BMEC has developed to become one of the leading forest bioenergy projects in the State. CHIPS has achieved the plant’s feasibility studies, site environmental analyses, feedstock procurement analyses, grid interconnection study, and administrative use permit, as well as secured a 20-year bioenergy power offtake agreement with Pacific Gas & Electric. Click the links to view project-related documents.
The plant’s grid interconnection payments were due to the utility in 2020, which put CHIPS at potential financial risk. In an effort to limit liability and support the project’s continued development, CHIPS sold BMEC to Phoenix Energy who is now completing late stage development and working toward commercial operations. Plant construction is expected to begin as soon as 2022.
Biomass power plant under construction in North Fork, CA. Photo courtesy of Regine Miller.