Numerous existing County projects are designed to remove biomass fuels from private land for the express purpose of protecting homes, businesses, and the community in general. The County also intends to build on the USFS’ directive to promote healthy forests even beyond WUI areas and into accessible forested regions. The County has worked with organizations to develop and maintain fuel breaks and conduct defensible space inspections. In addition, the County is poised to begin managing open space and parks with a more aggressive hazardous fuels reduction program.
The County will continue to review and implement projects that promote fire prevention, and it will look to more directly encourage up-front activities, such as the mandatory installation of fuel breaks whenever new homes and businesses are developed in the WUI.
Biomass Box Program
County staff has already developed and implemented the operating methods and budget to place biomass boxes into our communities that require defensible space treatments. The idea is to promote defensible space by all businesses and homeowners during the Spring, and then to provide these “boxes” to allow the public to have the material removed easily and at little or no cost. This program has already become a mainstay for the County, and it helps the County in its mission to protect its citizens and visitors from the consequences of catastrophic wildfires. It also provides an alternative to “open burning”, thereby reducing the amount of air pollution.
Regional Biomass Removal Program
Placer County has begun a program to provide regional woody biomass drop off locations to allow for larger projects to dispose of their materials efficiently. In addition, this will reduce the cost of collection, processing and hauling the material to be used for renewable energy. Starting with the eastern Placer County region, several locations have been secured to allow major producers of biomass material to drop it off rather than haul it to a landfill, throw it back on the ground, or burn it in the open. We are working with our many Fire Safe Councils, Fire Districts, USFS, CALFIRE, State Parks, and commercial contractors to allow for trash free disposal of their materials. To that end, we will use our funding to work with a regional contractor that takes material and grinds it into chips then transports that material to the nearest energy facility. Eventually we will have several landings throughout Placer County to have woody biomass stored until a portable tub grinder can come to chip the material and haul it to the biomass plants.
Distributed Biomass Facility Development Program
Placer County is looking to develop multiple distributed bio-energy facilities throughout the region. These facilities should be based upon the economic working circles of the available forest (and urban) woody biomass waste. Currently, plans are in place to develop a woody biomass cogeneration system producing electricity and heat for collocated use in eastern Placer County. Future facilities may likely include woody biomass to transport fuels as well.
Placer County Biomass to Electricity Project
Placer County is developing an approach to develop, finance and install a new small scale (2 megawatts) combined heat and power facility in eastern Placer County. This facility will utilize technology that is powered entirely by woody biomass - a green renewable fuel generated as a byproduct of hazardous forest fuels reduction activities. Scheduled to be in operation in 2014/15, the facility will provide heat and renewable power 24/7 to Placer County. The Biomass to Energy Facility would be composed of essentially a power plant building (roughly 90' by 120', two-story) and a fuel handling/delivery system, along with emissions controls.
Forest Fuel Treatment - Economic and Emission Analysis Project
Placer County is actively working with public and private forest management organizations, including the U.S. Forest Service, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and local Fire Safe Councils, on a number of forest fuels reduction projects to reduce the potential for catastrophic wildfire events. These projects include selective thinning and removal of tress and brush to return forest ecosystems to more natural stocking levels, resulting in a more fire-resilient forest. Forest fuel treatment projects will be conducted to reduce existing forest fuel loads and mitigate the associated negative impacts of wildfires (including air quality, public health, water quality, recreation, fire fighting costs and resource loss). Biomass waste material from these projects will be used as fuel in biomass-to-energy plants. Costs for the forest management and biomass-to-energy activities (such as thinning and slash processing and transport) will be evaluated and optimized. Green House Gas (GHG) and criteria pollutant emissions reductions from the fuel treatment and biomass to energy will also be evaluated and valued which in turn could be used to credit offsets for fossil-fuel GHG emissions. The potential for this funding to be used to allow many more healthy forest projects is unlimited.
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