Placer County Supervisors agreed on Tuesday to formally consider developing a biomass power generation facility near the Eastern Regional Material Recovery Facility at Cabin Creek.
Approval will allow Placer County to continue to work with federal, state and local forestry and fire agencies to take action which could help protect the forest, the residents and businesses from the potential for a catastrophic fire and harmful pollution to the Lake Tahoe Basin.
Supervisors authorized staff to begin preparing an environmental document and an application for a conditional use permit, work that will be funded by a Department of Energy (DOE) federal grant received by the county in 2008. A contract with Ascent Environmental to prepare the documents, with a contract not to exceed $198,935, was also approved by the board. The total site proposal could be brought back for a permitting decision by Placer County as early as summer of 2012. At that point the public/private partnership would need to make a decision based upon the project’s technical, environmental and economic attributes whether to build and operate the facility.
“Cabin Creek is a logical spot for a biomass facility with the added advantage of demonstrated community support for the site,” said Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery who represents District 5 including North Lake Tahoe. “I’m pleased to finally be able to move ahead with our private partner in this process.
“Clean, green, renewable energy is the future and anything that helps us to become less reliant on petroleum and coal based energy production is a benefit to our area.”
The term “biomass” refers to the unnatural accumulation of thick undergrowth and dense stands of trees in the forest, which contribute to poor forest health and greatly increase the risk of catastrophic wildfires.
Currently, excess biomass fuels that are removed from the forest are burned in open piles, resulting in air and water pollution, and eliminating any potential to capture the energy stored in the materials. A biomass energy facility would instead convert the energy contained in the materials into electricity, filter the smoke and ash, and create a clean, renewable source of energy.
Initial environmental impact work allowed Placer County supervisors to assess both a site in Kings Beach and one at Cabin Creek. The initial work has been a joint effort with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA.) However after TRPA determined that the noise impacts of a biomass facility could not be mitigated at Kings Beach, the board formally changed its focus to the Cabin Creek site. Because Cabin Creek is outside TRPA’s jurisdiction, Placer County, working with the federal government will draft its own environmental document. The DOE will provide its own equivalent analyses, a task expected to take six to eight months.
Cabin Creek is located in Placer County off Highway 89 between Interstate 80 and Squaw Valley. It includes the Eastern Regional Material Recovery and Landfill site, two office buildings, vehicle storage and road maintenance facilities for the Tahoe Area Rapid Transit (TART) and Placer County road maintenance and fleet maintenance operations.