The Potential of Biomass to Diversify Local Economies

At the most recent Forest Futures Salon, attendees heard from Steve Mueller, President of American Renewable Power, on the Loyalton Biomass Facility. The facility opened in December 2017 and began delivering power in April 2018. Bringing the facility back online  has been instrumental in the efforts to rebuild the economy in Loyalton and the Sierra Valley. The facility currently provides full-time employment to 22 people and part-time to 50.

Steve and his team are working hard to transform the facility in to a 212-acre campus that provides infrastructure and materials to a broad range of advanced wood product development and manufacturing business. The site features a 20MW renewable energy power plant which cogenerates both renewable electricity and thermal energy in the form of process steam or hot water. This renewable power produced in Loyalton is referred to as a Combined Heat & Power (CHP) facility which is carbon-neutral and is a highly efficient means by which to extract energy from forest based residuals.

This model speaks to a lot of the concerns that are at the forefront of  local, state-wide, and national conversations right now, specifically: eliminating dependency on fossil fuels by optimizing a sustainable source of green energy, reducing greenhouse emissions (by up to 80%!), responsibly thinning and managing our forests (which are in a current state of emergency), and diversifying rural economies so that more residents are gainfully employed.

Steven’s team envisions developing their work into a business model that can be replicated in other communities. They believe blending economic, social, and environmental opportunities will lead to community success. Perfect, because so does TTCF!