Advocates say biomass could fuel California's economic revival

The Sacramento BeeJanuary 13, 2010 

California could tap the energy stored in wood, garbage, plants and animal waste to fuel a job creation engine that could pull the state out of its economic doldrums, biomass energy advocates said Tuesday.

So far, though, the engine has barely crept out of the station, said James D. Boyd, vice chairman of the California Energy Commission.

"(Biomass) is a treasure sort of waiting to be discovered," he said.

Boyd on Tuesday addressed attendees of the Pacific West Biomass Conference & Expo, which wraps up its three-day run today at the Hyatt Regency Sacramento.

Conference organizers – including Grand Forks, N.D.-based Biomass Magazine and Lakewood, Colo.-based BBI International – said the general goal of the gathering is to connect current and future producers of biomass-derived energy with various industries in a five-state Western region consisting of California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

California, Boyd said, is fertile ground for biomass industry growth, including ventures that produce electric power, biofuels and industrial heat and power. The state's forests, its 2 million cows and its farm crops are just some potential sources.

"Frankly, in this state, we have biomass galore," Boyd noted.

However, Boyd said relatively little has been done to tap the potential of biomass statewide.

Among his examples, Boyd pointed to the lack of municipal solid waste power plant construction in the state since 1990. He said air-quality concerns helped stall that movement, but air-quality control technology has advanced rapidly since 1990.

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