The Sierra Institute for Community and Environment won a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service to develop a wood-to-energy project to help reduce the risk of wildfire and provide economic opportunities in rural Plumas County.
The funds will be used to engineer and design a centralized small-scale facility to process woody biomass removed from local forests, said Jonathan Kusel, executive director of the institute based in Taylorsville.
It will also fund engineering for a wood-fired system to generate heat and electricity, he said.
The Forest Service grant dovetails with a separate $300,000 grant from the California Energy Commission, awarded in February, to develop a cluster of wood-fired boilers to provide heat at local community institutions, which could include a school, hospital or Forest Service facility.
Among the goals is studying the feasibility of replacing existing fuel oil and propane heat systems with woody biomass, Kusel said.
In addition to reducing dependence on expensive fossil fuels in Plumas County, the projects could create 20 or more full-time jobs and reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire, he said.
The Forest Service award to Sierra Institute is one of 10 to small businesses and community groups, said Tom Tidwell, U.S. Forest Service chief.
Others recipients include Calaveras Healthy Impact Products Solution in Wilseyville; American Indian groups in Wisconsin and Alaska; a Massachusetts school district; and the Oregon Military Department.