“Sonoma Biomass Business Competition” gift to loggers….Sierra Club responds with facts and science…..“The problem with these policies is that they encourage the use of a dirty energy source to solve a problem that is over-played. The vast majority of dead trees in California forests pose no threat to people or infrastructure and, according to recent science, are no more flammable than living trees.”
Sierra Club: Conventional Biomass Incineration: A Dirty Response to an Overstated Problem
Conventional Biomass Incineration: A Dirty Energy Source
Biomass incineration generates electricity using the same process as coal combustion, but instead of coal, biomass incineration facilities burn wood. And like coal combustion, conventional biomass incineration is highly polluting.
Biomass incineration releases criteria pollutants and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in high quantities that exceed natural gas power plants.
In California today there are 34 biomass incineration facilities in operation. That’s down from the 1980s number of 63 facilities.
The significant drop in number of biomass facilities is a result of its high-priced electricity which has allowed solar and wind to out-compete it.
Even more of these dirty facilities were recently ready to close their doors when 129 million trees in California’s forests died between 2012 and 2017 from drought and bark beetle infestation.
During what has been dubbed “The Tree Mortality Crisis,” Governor Brown released an emergency proclamation requiring utilities to purchase 50 MW of electricity from biomass facilities that used trees from “high-hazard zones.” Later, the legislature passed Senate Bill 859 requiring utilities to procure an additional 125 MW from the high polluting, noneconomic biomass plants.
These two policies have prevented the closure of five biomass facilities and will likely save more in the near future. The problem with these policies is that they encourage the use of a dirty energy source to solve a problem that is over-played. The vast majority of dead trees in California forests pose no threat to people or infrastructure and, according to recent science, are no more flammable than living trees.
Worse, dead trees play an important part in the forest ecosystem, providing habitat for rare species like the Black-backed Woodpecker and hunting grounds for the Northern Spotted Owl.
Conventional biomass incineration is a dirty industry. It’s being paid for by California rate-payers to harm ecosystems, pollute the air, and manage a problem that can be sustainably addressed without incineration.
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