By James Margaritis, Plant Manager, Mt. Poso Cogeneration Company
The First Law of Thermo-dynamics states, “energy cannot be created or destroyed, energy can only be changed from one form to another,” and bioenergy does just that. The energy obtained from the sun is stored within plants. Plants like trees and woody biomass are used as renewable energy sources that are converted into electricity and carbon neutral gas.
Around the second to last week in October, National Bioenergy Day takes place. This year it’s the 8th Annual Bioenergy Day on October 21st, and on this day, the innumerable benefits bioenergy produces are recognized. At various locations across the country, groups get together to learn more about bioenergy and how their community can be less reliant on fossil fuels while using resources grown locally that have already served their first purpose.
Unlike solar and wind energy, bioenergy can be produced day or night and in any weather. The electricity and heat generated from wood and organic materials is a sustainable solution for the residue and waste produced by agricultural and forest-based industries. Naturally, bioenergy is a domestic energy source that works to keep American forests healthy, provides a place for biomass to be reused, and prevents the open burning of agriculture residuals.
Bioenergy plants, like Mt. Poso Cogeneration Plant, provide a vital energy solution for communities by reducing carbon emissions. Mt. Poso prevents the open burning of agriculture residuals that produce harmful emissions into the air. By using wood, the consumption of non-renewable materials can be reduced and/or completely avoided. By reducing emissions, Mt. Poso contributes to the communities’ overall health.
Mt. Poso Cogeneration Plant uses 100% woody biomass from nearby agriculture and urban sources to produce 44 megawatts of clean, renewable energy – enough to power 30,000 homes. The Mt Poso plant also provides steam when needed to the nearby oil extraction operations that aids in additional oil production in Kern County.
The Mt. Poso Cogeneration Plant exclusively uses reclaimed water from oil field extraction in its daily operations. This includes water usage for cooling towers, boilers, and on-site dust suppression. Over the course of the operating year, millions of gallons of oil field water, unsuitable for other use, is provided to the plant. By using this oil field water, Mt. Poso avoids relying on other groundwater sources to operate its plant. As such, this results in saving groundwater for irrigating crops or domestic potable uses.
This bioenergy industry helps the local economy through providing employment opportunities. All 40 employees at Mt. Poso Cogeneration Plant reside in Kern County. In addition, numerous contractors and suppliers contribute to the local work force by employing hundreds of residents.
Mt. Poso Cogeneration Plant and its partners, Macpherson Energy Corporation and DTE Energy Services, provide a clean renewable source of energy to California and through bioenergy production provide high paying, skilled jobs in our community while benefiting the environment. Not only is this industry economically beneficial but also Mt Poso is already contributing to California’s ambitious goal of 100% clean energy by 2045.
Bioenergy is a growing field where new discoveries in science are being made to help increase the use of biomass. Scientists at the Energy Department are researching how best to convert biomass to take the place of gasoline and diesel fuels. This endeavor will help Americans be more economically self-reliant. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “if the United States were to triple its biomass production, we could potentially generate 1.1 million direct jobs and $260 billion in direct revenue.”
It’s encouraging to note the efforts and work that Kern County’s own Mt. Poso Cogeneration Plant and its partners Macpherson Energy Corporation and DTE Energy Services provide to the community through the production of bioenergy.