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raymondbiochar

Director of the Sonoma Biochar Initiaitve MBA in Sustainable Enterprise, Dominican University Green MBA Program

California Bill SB-1122: renewable bioenergy procurement

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Biochar General

http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml;jsessionid=cd36e5138d18004eeb1fc4f367a0?bill_id=201120120SB1122

This bill, signed into law by Gov. Brown on Sept. 27th, requires energy corporations to procure electricity from producers of bioenergy.  Here are a few key paragraphs:

SECTION 1.

 Section 399.20 of the Public Utilities Code is amended to read:  399.20.
 (a) It is the policy of this state and the intent of the Legislature to encourage electrical generation from eligible renewable energy resources.
(b) As used in this section, “electric generation facility” means an electric generation facility located within the service territory of, and developed to sell electricity to, an electrical corporation that meets all of the following criteria:
(1) Has an effective capacity of not more than three megawatts.
(2) Is interconnected and operates in parallel with the electrical transmission and distribution grid.
(3) Is strategically located and interconnected to the electrical transmission and distribution grid in a manner that optimizes the deliverability of electricity generated at the facility to load centers.
(4) Is an eligible renewable energy resource.
(c) Every electrical corporation shall file with the commission a standard tariff for electricity purchased from an electric generation facility. The commission may modify or adjust the requirements of this section for any electrical corporation with less than 100,000 service connections, as individual circumstances merit.
(d) (1) The tariff shall provide for payment for every kilowatthour of electricity purchased from an electric generation facility for a period of 10, 15, or 20 years, as authorized by the commission. The payment shall be the market price determined by the commission pursuant to paragraph (2) and shall include all current and anticipated environmental compliance costs, including, but not limited to, mitigation of emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollution offsets associated with the operation of new generating facilities in the local air pollution control or air quality management district where the electric generation facility is located.
(d)(2) By June 1, 2013, the commission shall, in addition to the 750 megawatts identified in paragraph (1), direct the electrical corporations to collectively procure at least 250 megawatts of cumulative rated generating capacity from developers of bioenergy projects that commence operation on or after June 1, 2013. The commission shall, for each electrical corporation, allocate shares of the additional 250 megawatts based on the ratio of each electrical corporation’s peak demand compared to the total statewide peak demand. In implementing this paragraph, the commission shall do all of the following:(A) Allocate the 250 megawatts identified in this paragraph among the electrical corporations based on the following categories:
(i) For biogas from wastewater treatment, municipal organic waste diversion, food processing, and codigestion, 110 megawatts.
(ii) For dairy and other agricultural bioenergy, 90 megawatts.
(iii) For bioenergy using byproducts of sustainable forest management, 50 megawatts. Allocations under this category shall be determined based on the proportion of bioenergy that sustainable forest management providers derive from sustainable forest management in fire threat treatment areas, as designated by the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
(iV) For the purposes of this subdivision, “bioenergy” means biogas and biomass.
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Of course the devil will be in the details, (and there are a LOT of additional requirements and details), but this action is certainly a big step in the right direction.  Phoenix Energy is right in the ballpark with their unit, as is the BiG Biochar unit and of course, the Adam Retort. There may be a sweet spot in size (say, projects 1 Mw to 3 Mw) that the utilities will prefer to work with, and that makes sense as far as interconnect costs go.  We still have to develop the biochar market before some of these ventures will pencil out, and that’s why getting an Adam Retort up and running in Sonoma County ASAP, and continuing to work on the profitability mechanics of these businesses, is critical.Raymond Baltar

SBI in 2013

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Biochar General, Initiative News

With our successful national conference now behind us, SBI’s Advisory Board has been hard at work developing strategies to build on the local excitement and knowledge gained at the event, and getting as much biochar into the ground as possible. We are poised to have a major growth spurt in our outreach and education activities in 2013. We also have plans to expand our field testing activities and to acquire and build  the first biochar production facility in the North Bay.

Here are a few of the exciting projects we are working on:

Four grant applications have been written in 2012 and will have been submitted by Dec. 17th. We should know by early 2013 if any have been funded.

We supplied biochar to a UC Davis monitored vineyard field trial in Oakville, California, and are working with David Cook of Cook Vineyard Management on a field trial to start soon in the Sonoma Valley.

We supplied biochar to 30 individuals or organizations (including all of the elementary school garden programs) in the Sonoma Valley as part of a hands-on educational outreach effort called the Citizen Science Project. We are hoping to receive a grant to expand the program to 200 in 2013.

We supplied biochar to Tara Firma Farm and Greenstring Farm in Petaluma, where they are using it in their chicken operations. We are looking forward to building ongoing strong relationships with these and other food providers practicing sustainable agriculture techniques.

We supplied biochar to the Pollinator Pal Program in Sonoma Valley.

We are planning a number of hands-on events in 2013 where the public can come to learn about making biochar and why it is an important soil amendment.

We are expanding the capacity and communication outreach of our organization and just published our first Newsletter.

There are other efforts  as well that I will expand on in upcoming posts, so stay tuned.

Raymond

The Science of Biochar

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Biochar General

More than a decade ago now, renowned soil scientist Wim Sombroek (1934-2003) brought to light the impressive performance of dark soils in the Amazon Basin. He along with fellow early scientists Johannes Lehmann, Dirse C. Kern, Bruno Glaser, William I. Woods among others help to establish the potential of what we now know as biochar.

Since those early days, scientific studies have continually been conducted to better understand the mechanisms that create the various observed qualities of biochar and carbon rich soils as well as production methodologies, climate effects, nutrient cycles and many other aspects of biochar.

The 2012 US Biochar Conference is pleased to present some of the newest findings conducted by research institutions from around the world. Some of the presenters and topics covered include:

·       Daniela Busch will summarize four test procedures, which allow the short quality assessment for different biochars.

·       Kirk J. Czymmek evaluates the effect of biochar on plant growth as well as root and biochar associated microbial communities.

·       Rivka Fidel will explore the acid-base properties of three different biochars made using various techniques.

·       Dr. Ines Vogel examines system solutions applying regional produced biochar substrates to enhance soil biological activity in order to accelerate pollutants degradation.

·       Caroline A. Masiello demonstrates a potential unintended consequence of biochar soil amendment is a reduction in the ability of microbes to communicate with each other.

·       Daoyuan Wang researched the effectiveness of biochar as an amendment in various soil types and production parameters.

·       Daniela Busch looks at the risk evaluation with bioindicators is a cost efficient and short way for detecting toxic compounds in biochars.

·       Sunny Castillo describes the results of the different phases effect of Biochar on microbial activity subject to freeze-thaw cycles, and measure plant response on soils amended with different biochar rates.

·       Zuolin Liu measures hydraulic conductivity and soil water potential of biochar-sand mixture to better constrain infiltration of water into soil and plant–available water.

·       Engil Isadora Pujol Pereira evaluates a variety of biochar feedstock on N cycling and nitrous oxide emissions.

·       Kurt Spokas presents data on sorbed polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) observed on various biochars.

Be sure to check back at the US Biochar Conference website (http://www.2012.biochar.us.com) to see updates on the papers and findings that will be presented at the conference this year.

Charles Berstresser

SBI Applies for Conservation Innovation Grant

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Biochar General, Initiative News

 

The Sonoma Biochar Initiative (SBI), in partnership with Southern Sonoma County Resource Conservation District as lead applicant, recently submitted an application for federal funding under USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Conservation Innovation Grant program.  The proposed project features a launch of biochar production from local biomass, field trials with local farmers, and education and outreach on the multiple benefits of biochar including improving soil tilth, agricultural yields, and renewable energy. The technology used to produce biochar would be the award-winning Adam Retort, licensed and manufactured in North America by New England Biochar.

If funded, the grant would allow development of best practices in the production and application of biochar, and would facilitate federal program delivery under the Farm Bill’s Environmental Quality Insurance Program serving farmers, ranchers and the community-at-large. This project showcases another excellent, local example of public/private partnership to leverage private, local and public funding in a demonstration project.

The grant features strong partnerships focusing on sustainable ag practices, ag economy, jobs, carbon sequestration, and renewable energy.  Partners include: Sonoma Ecology Center, Sonoma County Water Agency, Regional Climate Protection Authority, Sotoyome Resource Conservation District and the North Coast Resource Conservation & Development Council and participating farmers/ranchers. If awarded, project would commence fall 2012.

SBI has garnered local and statewide recognition and support in it’s efforts to introduce biochar at a practical, community scale from Senator Noreen Evans, Assemblymember Jared Huffman, Sonoma County’s 1st District Supervisor, Valerie Brown, Sonoma councilmember Laurie Gallian and Rohnert Park councilmember Jake Mackenzie.  SBI is also receiving national recognition as the organizer and host of the 2012 USBI National Biochar Conference to be held July 29th through August 1st at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park.

SBI Advocates Cap and Trade Investments in Biochar for Agriculture

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Biochar General, Initiative News

In a recent letter to Assemblymembers Perez, Blumenfield, Gordon and Feuntes and Senators Steinberg, Leno, Simitian and Kehoe, initiated by CalCAN, the California Climate and Agriculture Network, the Sonoma Biochar Initiative (SBI) urged that biochar, a climate response tool and a material to benefit agriculture, be considered for investment under the cap-and-trade fee revenue that help meet the objectives of AB 32 climate response law.  SBI strongly supports investing a portion of the fee revenues in agricultural activities that reduce GHG emissions and actively sequester carbon.  Such investments in our communities can create jobs and spur innovation.

With the Air Resources Board moving forward with the first auctions of allowances in the summer and fall of 2012, the Legislature must appropriate auction revenues.  It is crucial that discussions continue to determine how best to invest these funds to meet the goals of AB 32 and to provide the greatest economic benefits. There must be urgent considerations about how best to allocate these resources.

The Governor’s budget and the Assembly Speaker’s bill, AB 1532, outline cap-and-trade fee funding areas, including funding to “reduce (GHG) emissions associated with water use and supply, land and natural resource conservation and management, and sustainable agriculture.”  Though not specified, we would add the imperative of capturing existing atmospheric carbon through biomass, processing it into biochar and sequestering it productively in agriculture.

Any legislative appropriation for a portion of the funds should go to agriculture in the first years of the program. A delay will mean lost opportunities to achieve GHG emission reductions in the food and farm sector and to sequester carbon beneficially within agriculture.

Potential GHG emission reductions in agriculture are substantial, and sequestering biochar carbon can help.  Biochar production is an innovative renewable biomass energy source, aids on-farm conservation measures, offsets some fossil fuel inputs, reduces biomass handling transportation emissions and sequesters carbon that helps build soil. Funding carbon sequestration efforts will aid in the preservation of farmland and the institution of the family farmer. With the right policies including support for biochar, agriculture can meaningfully reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, sequester significant volumes of carbon, and be a net positive contributor to the goals of AB 32.

The climate solutions that California agriculture has to offer can be realized with investments that overcome barriers for innovative producers who achieve real GHG emission reductions and sequester significant volumes of carbon. The sooner this potential is recognized and unleashed, the greater the ability of the state’s agricultural sector to provide needed climate solutions.

Raymund Gallian

Chairman

Sonoma Biochar Initiative

 

 

SBI Biochar Citizen Science Project

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Biochar General, Citizen Science Project, Initiative News

The Sonoma Biochar Initiative (SBI), in collaboration with Dr. Cecile Girardin of the UK Big Biochar Experiment, the Sonoma Valley High School Earth Club, The Sonoma Ecology Center, and Sonoma Compost Company, is spearheading a Biochar Citizen Science Project to gather data on the use of biochar in local gardens. You can check out out our web page here: http://www.sonomabiocharinitiative.org/citizenscience.

Biochar is a solid, charcoal-like material obtained from the carbonization of biomass using a process called pyrolysis. Biochar has been shown to increase soil fertility, improve water retention, reduce soil emissions of greenhouse gases, reduce leaching of nutrients in the soil, and reduce soil acidity. Biochar also has appreciable carbon sequestration value and may one day be considered as a major mitigation strategy for climate change.

Conceived in England by Dr. Girardin as a way to generate data on how biochar affects plant growth in different soil types around the UK, The Big Biochar Experiment currently has over 300 participants. Comprised of regular citizens from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the study was started in the Fall of 2011 and is only now starting to gather results. SBI heard of the effort, contacted Dr. Girardin, and asked if we could collaborate with her, promising to add our results to her study. She is also working with groups in Asia and Australia, making this the largest international study of biochar yet undertaken, and the only study using a large number of “citizen scientists” to gather the data.

SBI and the Sonoma Valley High School Earth Club are looking for 50 gardeners in the Sonoma Valley willing to take part in the project. This could include individuals, school gardens, community gardens, or even nurseries. Participants will be supplied with free biochar and compost and given instructions on preparing 2 – 1 meter square plots, planting, and harvesting according to a set of guidelines. Participants must be willing to photograph the plots and record leaf, stem and root weights at harvest. All of the data will be gathered by SBI and sent to Dr. Giardin at the end of November.

Please contact Raymond Baltar at raymond@sonomabiocharinitiative.org by April 19th if you are interested in taking part in this pilot study. Distribution of the biochar/compost will be done on April 21st. We are hoping to secure a grant to ramp up the number of gardens to 300+ next year.

Three more members

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Initiative News, Member News

We just added three more members to our group: Matt Banchero, a local arborist and biochar enthusiast; Laurie Gallian, Sonoma City Councilwoman and former mayor; and Oren Wool, organizer of the Sustainable Enterprise Conference and the Conference Director for the USBI Biochar Conference at Sonoma State University from July 29 to Aug. 1.

Thank you all for supporting SBI!

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