Demonstration of Advanced Biomass Combined Heat and Power Systems in the Agricultural Processing Sector

Demonstration of agricultural biomass feedstock quality and environmental compliance for power and waste heat recovery.

West Biofuels, LLC


Petaluma, CA

Recipient Location


Senate District


Assembly District



Amount Spent



Project Status

Project Result

The project successfully met the objectives and has demonstrated a cost-effective biomass to renewable energy solution for agricultural wood waste: sustainable resource of agricultural biomass from almond production of 1,000,000+ tons per year; 74-92% NOx emissions reductions and single digit ppm levels to meet CARB and RAD Standards; 70% lower life-cycle global warming potential than current California-grid mix; Ash byproduct for recycling as fertilizer back to agriculture; overall efficiency of 88% when including product gas and recovered heat; BCHP electrical efficiency and heat recovery guidelines for California utilities; and techno/econ

The Issue

The State of California has adopted a Renewable Portfolio Standard of 33% of the State's electricity from renewable energy sources by the year 2020. This goal requires development and deployment of renewable energy power systems, including from biomass resources. Development of biomass resources has been constrained by economic and technological barriers related to costs and environmental compliance issues which this project sought to overcome.

Project Innovation

The project designed, constructed, and operated a commercial pilot of a biomass-fired, combined heat and power system (BCHP) and tested its performance with agricultural biomass. This pilot testing, and a host of supporting laboratory and modeling activities, verified the technical, environmental, and economic feasibility of the BCHP system to be a commercially viable technology for use with biomass feedstocks. The project demonstrated that under-utilized almond shells, and prunings, is a practical agricultural biomass feedstock for the BCHP system. It also demonstrated emission control systems that comply with California Air Resources Board and Regional Air District standards and the potential for recycling the ash by-product as a suitable fertilizer.

Project Benefits

This project demonstrated commercialization of BCHP facilities for a cost of less than $4000 per kWe is feasible and production ready. Commercial BCHP technology with a power contract of $124 per MWh was shown to be economically feasible assuming 20% return on equity utilizing grant funding and available tax credits. Carbon emissions of a BCHP facility were demonstrated to be 65% lower than conventional power production on the California-grid.

Environmental & Public Health

Environmental Sustainability

On-site renewable energy use will result in reduced greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation and disposal of agricultural biomass waste products.



UCSD Center for Energy Research


CHA Corporation




Match Partners


The Regents of the University of California, on behalf of the San Diego campus


Gussing Renewable Energy America


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