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What is Biomass?

Biomass is organic residue waste that is burned to produce electricity, traditionally through the direct combustion of organic residue to create heat. This action creates high-pressure steam that turns a turbine to drive a generator that produces electricity.

Biomass Fuel Sources

Agricultural – includes pruning scraps, fruit pits, nut shells, and rice hulls.

Urban – includes wood from construction and demolition, yard trimmings and nonrecyclable organics.

Forest – includes sawmill residues, commercial harvesting operations, and small trees and undergrowth cleared from forests for fire suppression, watershed cleanup, and growth enhancement.


Using biomass to create energy reduces greenhouse-gas emissions as compared to traditional alternatives such as open pile burning, disposing in landfills or simply being left in the field.

Biomass produces baseload electricity. It is not reliant on the sun, wind or water movement.

Biomass is a renewable, carbon-neutral resource.

Biomass can help the state meet its renewable energy (required by SB 100 legislation) and greenhouse-gas emissions reduction (set by SB 32 legislation) goals.

Biomass can be a part of compliance with landfill-disposal reduction goals (required by SB 1383 legislation) for cities and counties.

Biomass energy can provide grid resiliency due to its reliable, baseload nature.

Biomass fulfills the California Public Utilities Commission’s specific clean Firm Resource Requirements for Mid-Term Reliability.

Myths vs. Facts

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Myth Fact
Biomass is “dirty energy.”
Biomass reduces pollutant emissions by up to 98% when compared with open burning.
Biomass is old and outdated technology.
New biomass facilities must meet Best Available Control Technology (BACT).

Local air pollution control districts or the US EPA oversee plant emissions.
Biomass leads to clearcutting and deforestation.
The economics of biomass dictate that trees are never harvested solely for fuel.

Biomass assists with the removal of overstocked, drought-impacted trees fighting for limited water.
Biomass is harmful to the environment.
Tree removal requires a plan approved by various agencies – including CAL FIRE.

The Forest Practice Act ensures that timber harvesting is done in a sustainable manner.
Biomass is less reliable, worse for the environment and more expensive than other renewables.
It is not about which renewable is best. All options have to be on the table with a balanced portfolio and multiple strengths to overcome any single challenge.
Biomass will not reduce our carbon footprint.