SERC Co-Hosts Woody Biomass Workshop

Biomass energy is an important resource in Humboldt County and other heavily forested regions. Woody biomass residues include waste materials generated during timber harvest operations. Often referred to as slash piles, these materials are typically piled and burned in the forest. Small trees, limbs and brush cleared in fire hazard reduction efforts are another source of biomass that are often piled and burned. Under the right set of circumstances, these materials can be processed, transported and used as a renewable fuel source, providing environmental and economic benefits.

The Woody Biomass Utilization Group at the University of California, Berkeley has been working for many years to further the use of biomass energy. To accomplish this, they have hosted regional workshops throughout the state since 2006. This past fall they held a series of regional workshops with a focus on “community scale wood bioenergy.” SERC co-hosted one of these workshops at the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center in Eureka.

The biomass workshop featured presentations and site tours, including the Community Scale Biomass Power System at Blue Lake Rancheria.

The biomass workshop featured presentations and site tours, including the Community Scale Biomass Power System at Blue Lake Rancheria.

November 7th was a beautiful day on the Eureka waterfront, and we had an enthusiastic turnout of more than 60 attendees, as well as a full slate of dynamic speakers. One key topic at the workshop was an update on California Senate Bill 1122. This bill, enacted in September of 2012, directs investor-owned utilities in California to purchase 50 MW of biomass power from community-scale, distributed energy systems of less than or equal to 3 MW. The woody biomass fuel must be sourced from by-products of sustainable forest management, such as materials generated during fire threat reduction activities. This bill will create new opportunities for the development of distributed biomass energy systems.

Other topics covered during the workshop included siting and permitting, project financing, feedstock and technology, and regionally specific topics such as local case studies and projects.  Presentations on local projects in which SERC is significantly involved included the RePower Humboldt planning project, which identified biomass energy as an important local renewable energy resource; the Blue Lake Rancheria biomass gasification project, where SERC is leading the design and installation of a local distributed biomass energy system; and the HSU Biomass Research and Development Initiative project, which is soon to get underway.

About Jim Zoellick

James is a Senior Research Engineer at SERC. He has a B.S. Degree in Environmental Resources Engineering from Humboldt State University, and has worked professionally in the energy field since 1990. Since 1995 he has been a project manager at SERC and has been involved in the design, development, installation, and start-up of electrolytic hydrogen generation systems, hydrogen vehicle fueling stations, hydrogen fuel cell power systems, and solar electric power systems. Mr. Zoellick was the project manager and lead designer for both the Schatz Hydrogen Generation Center and the Zweig Education Building Fuel Cell System at SunLine Transit . Mr. Zoellick's additional work at SERC has included the development and demonstration of hydrogen fuel cell systems for real world applications, including vehicles and stationary, portable and remote power systems. Mr. Zoellick has also been involved in the design, installation, testing and modeling of photovoltaic energy systems, including the design and installation of a 2 kW AC grid-intertied system at the Campus Center for Appropriate Technology. Mr. Zoellick has taught several college level energy courses. He is the current chairman for the City of Arcata Energy Committee.