Author Archive

raymondbiochar

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

55 Uses for Biochar

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

Here is another fantastic article from Hans-Peter Schmidt’s Ithaka Journal:

55 Uses for Biochar

Hans-Peter makes a great case for first using biochar in at least one other way before putting it in the ground for agricultural use:

“Biochar is much too valuable for it to be just worked into the soil without having it used at least once for more beneficial purposes – whether as storage for volatile nutrients, as an adsorber in functional clothing, as insulation in the building industry, as energy storage in batteries, as a filter in a sewage plant, as a silage agent or as a feed supplement. Such uses can be followed by use in a farmer’s slurry pit or in a sewage plant, before being composted. It should only be worked into the soil at the end of this “cascade”, helping to create Terra Preta.”

This piece is filled with ideas for entrepreneurs! Since we believe biochar is most valuable and beneficial when used in an agricultural setting, keeping biochar in a closed loop cycle on the farm (or a number of nearby farms) may be the highest and best approach. If first used as a feed or bedding supplement for chickens or cows, or in a farmer’s slurry pit, then composting the resultant material and manure, biochar becomes inoculated with nutrients as part of an integrated system—reducing these costs.

Community Meeting on March 13th

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Initiative News

Announcing our first-ever COMMUNITY MEETING on Wednesday evening, March 13th, 2013 at the Sonoma Valley Grange Hall, from 6:30 P.M. to 8:30 P.M. The event is FREE but we will be seeking donations to help cover event costs.

To register, please go here.

This will be the kickoff event for our 2013 educational outreach and membership campaign and we hope you will join us for an informative evening featuring biochar author and expert Peter Hirst of New England Biochar (see below). There will be ample time for questions and we will be encouraging audience participation and networking both before and after Peter’s presentation.

Peter Hirst / New England Biochar

This presentation will combine the basics of biochar (including how it is made and used), the attraction of building locally beneficial biochar enterprises, and how the Sonoma Biochar Initiative is fostering community participation.

Peter is a Principal at New England Biochar, a company that manufactures and licenses the Adam-Retort in the U.S.-a batch biochar production system. He is a respected authority on the manufacture and use of biochar as well as the development of community-based biochar ecosystems.

The Secret of El Dorado—Terra Preta

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Biochar General, Biochar Technology

If you have time over the holidays check out this video:

Produced by the BBC, this program gives an excellent historical overview of the terra preta (dark earth) soils in the Amazon and lays out an impressive case for using charcoal (we call it biochar) as a soil amendment to help build and maintain soil health worldwide.

I had only seen a few clips from this film before and it was very informative and inspiring to watch the whole thing. There is another short video at the end discussing biochar’s potential for sequestering carbon safely in soil.

Raymond Baltar

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.
_______________________________________________________________________
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.