Marin Biomass Project
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 addresses 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). These materials include 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 increasing biomass flows may soon exceed the handling capacity of available infrastructure in Marin County. Strategic coordination and capital investment are needed to turn these materials into ecologically sound, value-added products leading to economic opportunities in the County. The Project will 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.
Biomass Utilization Study
The Marin Biomass Project includes 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.
The Study will explore the following marketable uses of biomass: 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.