** This is the second in a three part blog series on regional biomass based on our Forest Futures Salon in September 2023. See recording here.
The need for biomass facilities in our region is undeniable. Historically, numerous sawmills dotted the Sierra and other forested communities, processing biomass into valuable products. However, many of these sawmills closed down decades ago for various reasons. Consequently, we now face a shortage of facilities capable of processing the wood extracted from our forests as part of our wildfire resilience efforts.
The cost of forest management projects has been on the rise due to limited biomass utilization options and the high costs associated with removing and transporting woody materials from our forests. The closest existing facilities for processing material into marketable products are located in Honey Lake to the north, and Rocklin to the west. Unfortunately, these facilities are not always accepting biomass due to the overabundance of supply from wildfire resilience projects and post-wildfire salvage timber.
Biomass Facilities and Sustainability
Biomass facilities offer more than just economic advantages. They present an opportunity to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and improve air quality when compared to the emissions produced by catastrophic wildfires.
It’s worth noting that today’s biomass facilities are a far cry from the historical sawmills. These modern facilities have witnessed significant technological advancements, including increased efficiency, air quality controls with advanced air scrubbers, noise mitigation technologies, and dust control measures. Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation (TTCF) is staying connected to various types of biomass facilities that are being proposed in our region.
To get a sense of the biomass facilities in our vicinity, we can refer to the Wood Facility Database from the University of California Cooperative Extension. They maintain a map with existing facilities and those in development. While there are some facilities to the north and west, there’s a noticeable gap around Lake Tahoe itself. Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that a new sawmill will be opening in Carson City, although it has not yet been added to this database.