Funding and time sought in order to move forward
Riddle: What does Mammoth Lakes get when it puts a group of professionals with full-time public and private sector jobs in a room together to determine an alternative energy plan for the town, but with no funding to be found? Answer: A biomass project moving slowly and cautiously forward.
The Eastside Biomass Group, comprised of individuals representing both the public and private sectors, met in Mammoth Lakes last Thursday, March 4, and agreed that money and time are currently the biggest hurdles for the town’s potential biomass project. Brett Storey, Placer County’s biomass program manager, presented a slideshow to help Mammoth Lakes begin assessing the feasibility of a biomass program.
In November 2009, Fire Chief Brent Harper spearheaded the proposal to bring biomass to Mammoth Lakes by pooling the intellectual resources of representatives from the public and private sectors. At a November meeting, the group was in the grant application stage to find money to fund a feasibility study for the project. The proposed grant plan fell through, and now the project is back to square one.
Members of Thursday’s meeting looked to Storey for advice on how to get the biomass ball rolling in Mammoth. Although Storey described Placer County’s success story, he said biomass projects must be tailored specifically to each proposed location. Since Mammoth Lakes is surrounded by a wealth of forest thinnings and wood waste, Storey said the town has a lot of potential for securing a sound biomass operation.
Once funding is found to conduct a feasibility study, the town can assess how much it would gain in the long-run from such a project. Potential benefits might include Mammoth Lakes becoming more energy self-sustaining in future years. In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, biomass energy could help heat government buildings, water, and sidewalks. By removing forest waste from surrounding public lands, the biomass project would help reduce fire danger and improve the health of national forests.
In order to maintain a well-orchestrated operation and reap all the potential benefits of the project, several more entities need to get on board. To ascertain the interest of the private sector in potential biomass products and a co-generation heating and energy facility, Mono County staff will soon meet with the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, Southern California Edison, and Mammoth Pacific. Mono County staff will also meet with the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District and the U.S. Forest Service to discuss the scope of the project. After defining the limits with the above entities, the Eastside Biomass Group will meet again to determine the reasonable next steps to keep the project moving forward.