Marin Biomass Project

Overview

The Marin Biomass Project was developed to explore sustainable uses of biomass feedstocks being generated in Marin County, an urbanized coastal region in California comprised of towns and cities, mixed woodland, agricultural lands, and preserved open space. The Project was developed in response to increasing flows of biomass materials generated by wildfire prevention activities and by landfill diversion efforts in the County overseen, respectively, by the Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority (MWPA) and by Zero Waste Marin (ZWM). Materials in the flows of interest range from woody biomass generated by woodland thinning and landscape trimmings to source-separated and mixed organic streams generated by the collection of metropolitan wood debris, food scraps, yard materials, and agricultural biomass.

The concern is that these biomass flows are greater than the handling capacity of available infrastructure and that strategic coordination and capital investment is needed to build an economy that turns them into ecologically sound, value-added products. The purpose of this Project is to support nimble and sustainable development of new biomass utilization infrastructure and economic opportunities in Marin County. The goal of the Project is to ensure that biomass utilization pathways support wildfire prevention and landfill diversion, while also reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The Project has been developed to be collaborative and to foster cooperation among stakeholders in biomass utilization, particularly the public authorities who oversee and the private organizations that manage biomass management infrastructure and processes. Development of a forum, called the “Marin Biomass Collaborative,” is already underway and is intended to support rapid implementation of recommendations developed during the Study.

The Marin Biomass Project is one of five pilot projects selected in 2021 by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) and awarded a $500,000 grant to identify solutions that overcome barriers to biomass feedstock utilization.

 

For more information about the Marin Biomass Project, contact Project Manager Chad White.

Marin Biomass Project

Biomass pathways can produce different energy and material products

Biomass Utilization Study

The Marin Biomass Project has laid the groundwork for a strategic assessment of biomass flows and utilization opportunities in Marin County. This Biomass Utilization Study (Study) is intended to produce information that will support strategic conversations and capital investment among public and private stakeholders in the County, as well as to produce insights and lessons relevant for other urban-rural coastal regions in California.

This Study involves a detailed evaluation of the potentially recoverable biomass feedstocks in Marin County. It also involves the assessment of infrastructure and products that can utilize these feedstocks in the most economically and environmentally responsible manner possible. Specific Study deliverables include:

  • Confirmation of biomass feedstock amounts, types, and characterization in Marin, both current and projected.
  • Identification of the most promising biomass utilization pathways in Marin.
  • Economic analysis of the feasibility and economic development potential of each biomass pathway most suitable for Marin, and how they might be improved.
  • Carbon analysis of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and carbon sequestration potential of each pathway most suitable for Marin, and how they might be improved.
  • Recommended pathways, practices, and infrastructure for improving biomass conversion in Marin, and their potential applicability elsewhere in the urbanized coastal region of California.

Marketable uses of biomass to be explored include compost, mulches, and biochar for use on local gardens and agricultural landscapes; pyrolysis/gasification for electricity, biochar, and/or hydrogen; increased anaerobic digestion of organics for electricity and co-composting of anaerobic digestate for soil amendments; and diversified wood products, among others.