Truckee’s biomass project will be decommissioned |

Truckee’s biomass project will be decommissioned

Ryan Salm/Sierra SunThe small-scale experimental facility in Truckee River Regional Park burned wood chips from tree trimmings and yard waste to create energy.

After providing information and a little energy since being built in 2005, Truckee’s biomass project will be decommisioned on March 1.

The small-scale experimental facility in Truckee River Regional Park burned wood chips from tree trimmings and yard waste to create energy, and was installed as part of a cooperative effort to study biomass technology between the California Energy Commission, Truckee Donner Public Utility District, and the Truckee Donner Recreation and Park District.

“There were two goals for this project,” said Scott Terrell, planning director for the public utility district. “To run the Biomax 15 unit to see how well it operated, and to learn from the problems we encountered.”

Terrell said the problems experienced were part of running a pilot project, and were as important overall as the information gained from when the biomass project was running smoothly.

Shawn Mitchell, network administrator for the recreation and park district, said the problems were part of the learning experience.

“It was quite labor intensive ” we had to clean it continuously,” Mitchell said. “We also learned the types of chips it would accept were very specific.”

Terrell said the information learned at Truckee’s biomass plant will help the technology advance, which he believes may be a potential source of power for Truckee in the next 10 to 15 years.

Both small-scale biomass-burning equipment that could be purchased by individuals, and large-scale plants that could power a town may result from the advances in technology, Terrell said.

Mitchell agreed that if the biomass technology advanced, he would like for it to be used in Truckee.

“I would like to see more of that type of process going on, but the exact unit we have now isn’t ready for prime-time,” Mitchell said. “I got involved with the project because I thought it was cool ” it was a positive experience, and the technology does work.”

The biomass plant may be sold to an energy research program such as a university for around $25,000, Terrell said, which would be significantly lower than its original $150,000 value.

Meanwhile, the building that housed the project will be used by the recreation and park district, Terrell said.

“I’m glad we built the building for the [park and recreation district], it’s a decent consolation for all the effort they put in,” Terrell said.

Public utility district General Manager Peter Holzmeister said $130,000 worth of funding was raised for the building from the California Energy Commission, the recreation and park district, and the U.S. Forest Service, who planned to use biomass to dispose of dead wood.

The building ended up costing more ” the contractor is requesting about $28,000 in addition ” but the public utility district and recreation and park district don’t agree on who should pay for it, Holzmeister said.

“We are now discussing who would pay. What makes it difficult is [the biomass] didn’t really produce,” Holzmeister said. “But they got a new building out of it too.”

The building will be converted into a maintenance facility for the recreation and park district, supplementing a small one-bay mechanic’s shop that already exists, said Park Superintendent John Shaffer.

“Our current shop is ridiculously small for the equipment they have to service,” Shaffer said.

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