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Rendering of proposed 2.4-MW biomass plant to be built in Mariposa by Sweden's Cortus-Energy. Photo courtesy Mariposa Biomass Project.

Biomass Plant To Be Built In Mariposa County

MARIPOSA COUNTY – The Mariposa Biomass Project (MBP), a 501(c)3 corporation, has been awarded a USDA U.S. Forest Service 2016 Wood Innovations grant in the amount of $244,080 to use wood residues primarily from forests for electricity production. This will be accomplished by constructing a biomass power plant in Mariposa.

The grant funds will be used to finalize site selection, secure an option to lease or purchase the property from the County of Mariposa, negotiate an agreement with a developer, complete permitting and studies necessary for the financing and construction of the facility, and complete the PG&E System Impact Study.

The biomass power plant will have a capacity of ~2 MW to take advantage of California legislation (SB 1122) now titled BioMAT (Biomass Market Adjusting Tariff) that supports renewal biomass energy. At anticipated rates, this will provide the project with approximately $2 million to $2.5 million dollars of annual revenue, thus supporting not only local high paying jobs, but improving public safety and health, says MBP.

The small community-based facility is anticipated to utilize approximately 16,000 BDT (bone dry tons) of biomass per year from a 50-mile radius feedstock sourcing area, with 80 percent from eligible parts of the Stanislaus National Forest, Sierra National Forest, the Bureau of Land Management and other public and private forest lands according to a fuel availability study completed in August 2015 by TSS Consultants.

Forest-sourced biomass will come primarily from areas designated as high fire hazard. As a result of the current tree mortality disaster, where Mariposa County is ground zero, the feedstock — for the foreseeable future — will consist primarily of dead trees removed from around public infrastructure and homes. Long term, MBP expects that the project will generate at least 10-20 jobs, some of which would be for facility operation and the rest from jobs required to process and transport biomass to the facility.

The project aims to reduce wildfire risk, increase public safety, improve forest health and reduce the cost of forest management, while increasing the health and economic diversity of the surrounding community

The MBP says their goals are in line with those of the Wood Innovations Program:

  • Reduce the excess forest and vegetation to reduce the danger of wildfire, improve forest health and water quality, and contribute to the economic and environmental health of Mariposa County.
  • Reduce the cost of forest management by constructing a facility that can pay for the cost to remove waste material from the forests through the sale of electricity and biochar.
  • Promote economic and environmental health within the community by providing jobs and disposing of the forest waste material in an environmentally acceptable manner.

MBP says the project will be managed and directed by a team of experienced professionals from the Mariposa Biomass Project. The Mariposa County Resource Conservation District will act as fiscal agent and grant administrator.

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