Biomass energy for high school on hold |

Biomass energy for high school on hold

William Ferchland, Tahoe Daily Tribune

The process to turn forest waste into electricity that could be used to heat and power South Tahoe High School has been stalled for a month as officials grapple with air quality issues.

Many members of an advisory commission for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency say a biomass facility — which would turn wood chips into heat, warm water and electricity — is a good way to clean the basin’s forests and reduce fire danger.

But the wording in changing an air quality code did not satisfy members, who voted to send the matter back to TRPA’s staff for clarification and more specification.

A code for TRPA “does not allow for consideration of diversion of highly polluting sources to cleaner, stationary sources,” according to a presentation by TRPA planner Jerry Dion.

South Tahoe High School has showed interest in using a biomass facility, a relatively new technology also being used by a Darby, Mont., school district. TRPA stated STHS would be an ideal opportunity for a pilot program.

According to a report that took two years and $130,000 to finish, there is 25,000 tons of biofuel in the basin per year; 22,000 tons is on U.S. Forest Service land.

STHS would need 2,000 tons a year or 8 percent of the available supply.

The machine would replace the old boiler and cut oil costs dramatically over time.

The effort would reduce prescribed burning in the basin. Piles of forest waste have carpeted forest floors for years, providing fuel to forest fires, such as the Gondola fire in 2002.

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