The project obtained financing which includes Green Bond financing for a total of $10.4M in tax-exempt bonds and
$4.7M in taxable bonds, a CalFIRE loan of $1.2M and equity investment of $2.2M from the gasifier company EQTEC. The project has also obtained a PPA with
PG&E. Equipment from GE was delivered to the site but was
never installed because GE withdrew from its gasifier business and decided not to move forward. Phoenix Energy has since been working with EQTEC; the replacement equipment are being
prepared at an EQTEC site and in process for delivery. While site preparations in
North Fork have resumed, the project activities were also slowed down by the effects of the covid-19 pandemic.
The goal of the North Fork Forest Bioenergy project is to demonstrate a 1-megawatt (MW) forest waste bioenergy gasification-to-electricity facility. The biomass gasification facility is targeted to be a commercial-scale, community-based facility capable of accepting and processing wood waste from forest management that would otherwise create wildfire and air quality challenges, and generating renewable grid-connected electricity. Once the gasification is fully installed and operational, the project team will investigate critical performance parameters and evaluate individual components and protocols to improve performance and reduce operating costs.
Providing jobs, protecting homes, and enhancing the functioning forest ecosystems, increased biodiversity, and decreased wildfire threat are all benefits that this power plant will be able to promote to increase consumer appeal.
Siting these plants near the forest reduces the cost of hauling biomass from the forest and reduces biomass electricity costs below those of larger, traditional biomass power plants.
This plant will be built and operated by local contractors. In some cases, workers may even be trained to work on site. The plant is owned in part by a local Community Development Council, which will receive profits from the PPA and reinvest them in the community. Additionally, the power plant will anchor a biomass utilization campus, which will expand to include other forest products.
Use of forest restoration by-product will improve air quality over open burning and reduce wildfire risk. Additionally, the gasification system will reduce air pollutant emissions. Placer County Air Pollution Control District (PCAPCD) estimated emissions reductions of 60% CO2 and 3% CH4 in direct combustion systems with emission control over pile and burn system. Gasification could further reduce the emissions, e.g. from 85% to 99% reductions in NOx, 76% to 98% reduction in CO, and 88% to 92% reduction in VOC compared to typical direct combustion based on some current gasification projects.
This project will rely on California-grown fuel and operates as a baseload plant. Development will also require PG&E and plant owners to invest in the local substation. The availability of local bioenergy power plant that is connected to and supplying power to the grid will increase energy security for the rural community.