Placer taking another look at feasibility of biomass facility in North Lake Tahoe

Published March 8, 2022

The Placer County Board of Supervisors today authorized staff to restart the feasibility evaluation for a biomass to energy facility in North Lake Tahoe. A plan for the project was initially approved in 2013, however Placer paused moving forward due to uncertainty surrounding the long-term economic feasibility. 

Biomass facilities create renewable energy by burning wood scraps left over from forest clearing and defensible space efforts, which then helps remove hazardous sources of fuel for wildfires. Certain biomass facilities can also create a byproduct called biochar used as fertilizer and in water filtration processes.

With the rise in defensible space and fuel reduction efforts seen in Placer since 2018, the county has been inundated with green waste materials at the Placer Eastern Regional Landfill materials recovery facility near Truckee. Currently, green waste is trucked long distances to biomass processing facilities in California and composting facilities in Nevada, adding to cost and environmental impacts.

“Our number one goal is to find a cost-effective solution for regional green waste and the positive side is that it can be used for clean renewable energy production,” said Placer Environmental Engineering Program Manager Jared Deck. “With a biomass facility at Eastern Regional Landfill, we hope to take local control of the volatile green waste market by adding additional regional outlet capacity. This project will assist the county in potentially offsetting future increases to tipping fees and reduce the cost incurred from trucking out our green waste.”

In addition to potentially reducing future waste cost increases for residents and businesses, a local biomass facility could provide renewable energy to local county facilities. Potential benefits span from offsetting rising electricity costs with green energy and powering the county’s public transportation vehicles as they transition to zero-emission electric buses as required by the state. A facility would also increase overall green waste diversion and reduce procurement requirements set by Senate Bill 1383 and could provide 24/7 energy input into the local power grid allowing for adaptability during power outages.

 Waste at the Placer Eastern Regional Landfill materials recovery facility is collected from not only Placer but also Nevada County, El Dorado County, and Town of Truckee. Placer, regional agencies and community partners established the Tahoe Green Waste Task Force to assist with solutions regarding regional green waste.

The next steps for Placer staff will be to determine if the biomass facility is economically feasible. The county plans to apply for grants to cover capital costs of establishing the facility, including $2 million in funding from CAL FIRE.

Placer also plans to explore additional funding and operational options including vendors and partner agencies to present to the board and public at a later date.