SERC & U.S.F.S. Team Up On Biomass Energy

Richard Engel at Orleans

SERC Engineer Richard Engel (foreground) collects propane usage data for the Orleans Ranger Station. (Photo by Ranjit Deshmukh)

The U.S. Forest Service recently asked SERC to look into the feasibility of using woody biomass as a fuel to replace propane and electricity for space and water heating at the Orleans Ranger District Office in Six Rivers National Forest. Large amounts of woody debris are generated by Six Rivers’ forest thinning operations aimed at reducing wildfire risk. The Forest Service is interested in ways of disposing of this debris other than open pile burning, which is wasteful and can create air quality problems. SERC conducted an energy use audit at the facility and is now investigating commercially available equipment that could be used to heat the building with wood. We have interviewed several nationally recognized experts on commercial-scale biomass heating equipment. We also created a computer model of the building to estimate energy use and energy costs under different heating scenarios. In addition, the model will help us to recommend an appropriately sized replacement heating system for the building.

SERC will report its findings to the Forest Service by October. We are excited about this partnership, as we have long been interested in biomass energy – a natural option for making clean power here in Humboldt County, California’s leading timber producing county.