Written by The Business Journal Staff
The U.S. Forest Service says the drought and a bark beetle infestation have devastated forest watersheds, killing more than 29 million trees in the foothills and Sierra Nevada but a boon for the biomass plant.
That’s up from 3.3 million trees in 2014.
The dead trees can be seen in southern Sierra watersheds like Sequoia National Forest. Now at least one Fresno County biomass plant that would have been shut down next month will stay open until October to process trees that will be cut down this summer.
Rio Bravo Fresno’s 25-megawatt biomass plant burns woody waste to generate power for Pacific Gas & Electric Co. But like most of the biomass facilities in the state, Rio Bravo planned to close after the expiration of the PG&E contract because the new rate would be “uneconomical.”
However, Gov. Jerry Brown’s emergency proclamation a few months ago has pressed this plant into service extending the current contract until October. Rio Bravo is processing 4,000 tons of wood waste a month as of April.
A second Northern California biomass plant is getting the same deal. Tulare County plans to cut some 36,000 trees this summer using a state grant to help pay the cost. Without removal, fire officials fear wildfires.