The California Energy Commission today approved research grants for a wide range of projects, including nearly $3 million for efforts to produce renewable energy and reduce fire risk by using forest waste left by the state’s unprecedented tree die-off for electrical generation. A record drought and bark beetle infestation have led to more than 102 million trees dying in California. Fires fueled by dead and dying trees can destroy forests, putting communities and critical infrastructure at risk in many areas of the state. These fires also emit black carbon—a hazardous air pollutant that contributes to climate change.
In response to Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s call to reduce this fire risk, the Energy Commission is supporting efforts to use forest waste left by the tree die-off. This waste can provide an important source of renewable energy that can respond to changes in energy demand. Taylor Energy received nearly $1.5 million to test and evaluate methods for converting forest waste into electricity, and prepare the top-performing technology for commercial-scale demonstration. Another $1.5 million was awarded to Altex Technologies Corporation to develop a system to convert forest waste into electricity based on indirect-fired gas turbine technology. The projects were funded through the Energy Commission’s Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) Program, which supports innovations and strategies to advance clean energy technologies that help California meet its energy and climate goals.
The Energy Commission also approved six EPIC grants totaling nearly $7.5 million to develop and demonstrate advancements in the deployment and grid integration of solar energy, including energy storage and advanced forecasting and modeling techniques. Recipients include the Center for Sustainable Energy, which received more than $2 million to test a community solar and energy storage system at a low-income mobile home park in Bakersfield. The system is expected to reduce residents’ energy bills and provide energy to the electrical grid. The Energy Commission also voted to allow the Northern California cities of Brisbane, Fremont, Healdsburg, and Portola Valley to set local energy efficiency standards for new construction that exceed state requirements. The Energy Commission approves building energy efficiency standards for new construction and major renovations to residential and nonresidential buildings every three years, with the last update in 2016.