Help RCEA plan Humboldt County’s energy future
RCEA’s guiding strategic document is RePower Humboldt (recently referred to as the Comprehensive Action Plan for Energy, the CAPE). This plan was adopted in 2012 and is now undergoing its first update. In June 2019 staff presented our Board with a preliminary draft update. We are accepting comments from the public on the Preliminary Draft through November 10 2019. There will be an opportunity to provide comments on a Complete Draft in October 2019.
Please email your comments to: EnergyPlan2019@RedwoodEnergy.org.
Consider commenting on these key components of the plan:
- RCEA’s mission, purpose, and vision – where should we be headed, and how do we get there?
- Regional energy planning and coordination – how can RCEA coordinate with other local stakeholders on energy planning, education, economic development, and funding to support our energy goals?
- Integrated demand side management – how can we ensure energy efficiency and match our energy loads with clean and renewable energy resources?
- Low-carbon transportation – how can we achieve a transition to clean transportation technologies and policies?
- Energy generation and utility services – what local energy resources should be developed? How should we balance energy cost with environmental quality?
RCEA in response to RePower Humboldt (CAPE) public comments
(Click on the blue comments)
Response: The plants utilize waste from local lumber mills, not whole trees, as their primary fuel source (according to local forest products industry sources, some whole trees from operations such as roadside vegetation management may be sent directly to the biomass plants). In the absence of the plants, the material would otherwise need to be disposed of by an alternative means, most likely trucking it to more distant power plants, thus increasing total emissions. The local mill waste stream is more than sufficient to allow the plants to fulfill their RCEA power contracts without harvesting trees specifically for feedstock.
Response: Potential alternatives for local use of the mill waste include composting or production of durable goods. However, to our knowledge no one is currently positioned to implement these solutions locally at the needed scale. There are significant permitting and social acceptance hurdles for a startup commercial composting facility to overcome. From a greenhouse gas perspective, rigorous analysis is needed to determine the emissions implications of composting the biomass instead of using it for electricity generation. RCEA recognizes the value of such analysis, but it is outside our organization’s mission and technical expertise to perform.
Response: Biomass power is typically more costly than other forms of renewable energy, mainly because it is more labor-intensive to produce. For Humboldt County, this can mean higher power costs, but also means skilled local jobs that help strengthen our economy. RCEA originally contracted its biomass procurement at the lowest price offered to us under a competitive solicitation for biomass power. This was substantially higher than what we were paying for renewable power from other, non-local sources. However, we have since renegotiated this contract to a lower price, and entered a second biomass contract at a comparable price that, inclusive of all power products in the contracts, is approximately at parity with our other renewable resources. RCEA’s current effort to contract for long-term renewables is expected to bring us contracts at prices below what we currently pay for biomass power, as we strive to maintain an affordable power mix.
Response: RCEA includes substantial amounts of solar and wind power in our portfolio and is striving to develop these resources locally. Biomass is a “baseload” resource, meaning it can be used to serve electricity demand at any time of day or night to balance out the production from intermittent renewables. Wind and solar are not baseload resources, and thus are not available on-demand. Battery storage can alleviate this issue but is not yet cost-effective to deploy at the scale that would be needed to replace biomass’s baseload function in the local power mix.
Response: RCEA’s current contracts call for power producers to comply with all laws and regulations, including emissions limits. Beyond this, we do not dictate what equipment is to be used to control emissions. Some plant improvements have been made since RCEA began contracting for biomass power, and data to become available to the public in the future through the California Air Resources Board and the California Energy Commission, will show whether this is resulting in lower emissions per unit of energy produced. Further improvements in the plants are possible, but the operators are unlikely to make these investments unless they are ordered to by regulators or offered a higher price for power with plant improvements as a contractual condition.
Biomass vs. vehicle emissions: The local biomass power plants together emit less greenhouse gasses than from on-road vehicles in Humboldt County. The comparison referenced in some of the submitted comments only accounted for emissions from vehicles in the unincorporated county and excluded emissions from vehicles in the seven incorporated cities.
Biomass contract length: RCEA is not in a long-term contract with either of the biomass plants. We are in a five-year contract with Humboldt Redwood Company and a one-year contract (with option to renew each year) with DG Fairhaven. Long-term contracts are ten-year and above, as defined by the state for compliance with SB 350 (the law requiring us and load-serving entities to procure at least 65% of our state-mandated renewable energy under long-term contracts starting in 2021).
More information about local biomass can be found on our biomass page
Response: No, the electricity from Terra-Gen’s wind farm would serve our local demand, both in a contractual and physical sense. Contractually, RCEA is currently negotiating with Terra-Gen to purchase the majority of the project’s output under a long-term power purchase agreement. Physically, the electrons generated by the wind facility would flow toward the nearest connected loads.
Response: The onshore wind project will not preclude development of the offshore wind project, and realistically, both resources are needed for the state to meet its renewable energy targets. RCEA is currently engaging the CAISO on the feasibility of interconnecting the Redwood Coast Offshore Wind project. That state interconnection study process assumes that all other projects in development get built, including the Humboldt Wind project. The offshore wind project may require transmission upgrades with or without the presence of an existing onshore wind facility, which the results of the study will determine.
Response: The project’s environmental impact statement details carbon emissions associated with the project. As with construction of any project, including other renewable energy projects, there are lifecycle GHG emissions associated with the production and transportation of materials, installation, and maintenance and decommissioning of the system. However, because the wind electricity would displace that which we would normally get from a largely fossil fueled grid, the project’s “carbon debt” would be paid back within the first few years of being brought online, depending on the carbon intensity of the grid at the time. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has published data on the life cycle carbon intensity of wind projects nationally, which they report is lower than the carbon intensity from solar, natural gas, and coal electricity.
Response: According to a recent study, wind project lifetimes have been increasing since the early 2000s and currently average around 30 years. The cost of decommissioning the wind farm is the responsibility of the project owner, not of the power purchaser or the community where the project is hosted. After the project’s lifetime is over, there is also the possibility that the plant could be repowered, as is already being done with wind projects elsewhere in California.
Response: With the last nuclear power plant in California scheduled to shut down in five years and the state’s aggressive renewable energy targets under SB 100, we need a swath of new large-scale resources to be built very soon. Our contacts in the wind industry tell us that Humboldt is one of the last economically feasible sites in California to build a new wind facility. Also, RCEA’s Board of Directors has set a goal of procuring 100% local renewable electricity by 2030, which we cannot meet with imported wind energy.
Response: RCEA has only recently begun hearing of this concern from community members and will look into the issue as it makes decisions related to wind energy procurement.
More information about local onshore wind can be found on our webpage
Response: RCEA supports development of distributed and utility scale solar in the county with our long-term power procurement, Net Energy Metering, Public Agency Solar, and Feed-in Tariff programs, and through development of the Redwood Coast Airport Microgrid, which once built will be the largest solar array on the North Coast. While solar energy will continue to be an important part of our power mix, several factors make it unrealistic to source all of our power from solar:
1) solar generates in the middle of the day, while our electricity demand picks up in the evening, which currently causes major issues for the state’s grid operators;
2) time-of-generation issues aside, thousands of acres of solar panels would be needed to generate enough electricity to meet our full demand (while many rooftops and parking lots are suitable for solar siting, the cost of rooftop solar is much higher than contiguous arrays);
3) batteries and other storage mechanisms are currently cost prohibitive to provide our entire nighttime/winter electricity supply. We are also mindful of the potential environmental impacts associated with large-scale materials sourcing, manufacturing, deployment, and end-of-life reprocessing of batteries. According to one source, only 3% of lithium-ion batteries are currently being recycled globally.
Response: The RePower Humboldt strategic plan published in 2013 showed that Humboldt County has hundreds of megawatts of untapped renewable energy potential from a variety of sources, including solar, wind, wave, and biomass. With a population of less than 140,000 and a limited industrial base, electric loads in Humboldt are small. In contrast, California’s urban counties have much larger loads and little potential for renewable energy generation other than rooftop solar. For example, in 2018 San Francisco consumed seven times as much electricity as Humboldt County, and Los Angeles County used 85 times what we did. If California as a whole is to meet its renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction goals, resource-rich counties like Humboldt will need to export a portion of their energy wealth to these urban load centers.
Participate in These Events to Learn More
Click on blue sections for details:
Comprehensive Action Plan for Energy Activity
Redwood Coast Energy Authority Board of Directors meeting:
- June 27 – First draft of CAPE update presented to Board
- Located at the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District Office, 828 7thSt., Eureka. Board agenda can be found here.
Climate Action Plan Activity
- June 4 – Southern Humboldt Community Workshop
- Tuesday, 6/4 from 6:00-7:30 at Redway Elementary School, 344 Humboldt Ave., Redway.
- June 12 – McKinleyville Community Workshop
- Wednesday 6/12 from 6:00-7:30 at Azalea Hall, 1620 Pickett Rd
- June 18 – Willow Creek Community Services Workshop
- Tuesday 6/18 from 6:00-7:30 at the Willow Creek CSD Office, 135 Willow Rd.
- July 9 – Present community engagement plan to Community Advisory Committee. RCEA office, 6-7:30 pm.
- July 25 – Present community engagement plan to RCEA Board of Directors at 3:30 pm, Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District Office, 828 7th St., Eureka.
Comprehensive Action Plan for Energy Activity
- Tuesday, September 3 – Draft 1 CAPE Workshop, Orleans. 5:30-7:30 p.m. Panamnik Building, 38150 Highway 96
- Thursday, September 5 – Draft 1 CAPE Workshop, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Redway Elementary School, 344 Humboldt Ave.
- Wednesday, September 25 – Offshore Wind Project Workshop, 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Wharfinger Building, 1 Marina Way, Eureka
- Thursday, September 26 – RCEA Board of Directors meeting. 3:30 p.m. at the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District Office, 828 7th St., Eureka
- Thursday, October 17 – Draft 2 CAPE Workshop. 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Aquatic Center in Eureka. 921 Waterfront Drive (agenda)
- Friday, October 18 – Forests, Energy and the Environment (biomass power focus) 1:00-4:00 p.m. at the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center. 921 Waterfront Drive, Eureka. (agenda) (slides)
- Thursday, October 24 – RCEA Board of Directors meeting. 3:30 p.m. at the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District Office, 828 7th St., Eureka (board packet)
- Tuesday, October 29 – CANCELLED– Community Advisory Committee reviews the CAPE, 6:00 p.m. (agenda)
- Tuesday, November 12 – RESCHEDULED- Community Advisory Committee reviews the CAPE, 6:00 p.m. at the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center, 921 Waterfront Drive
- Thursday, November 21 – RCEA Board reviews the CAPE at 3:30 p.m. at the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District Office, 828 7th St., Eureka
- Thursday, December 19 – RCEA Board reviews final draft of the CAPE and votes on approval at 3:30 p.m. at the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District Office, 828 7th St., Eureka
Forestry, Energy and the Environment Panel participants:
- Michael Furniss – Moderator, Consultant to RCEA
- Yana Valachovic – County Director and Forest Advisor, UC Extension
- Kevin Fingerman – Assistant Professor, Energy & the Environment, Humboldt State University
- Jason Davis – Deputy Air Pollution Control Officer, North Coast Unified Air Quality Management District
- Richard Engel – Director Power Resources, Redwood Coast Energy Authority
- Angie Lottes – Assistant Deputy Director for Climate & Energy, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
- Dan Chandler – Member 350.org
- Adam Steinbuck – Director, Fiber and Freight, Humboldt Redwoods Company, LLC
Facilitation by Ali Lee
Additional sources via Michael Furniss:
Forest Management and Climate Change – Michael J Furniss, HSU class
Climate Change and Land Use – Michael J Furniss, HSU class
Let’s Fill Our Cities With Taller, Wooden Buildings – New York Times
Climate Action Plan
In parallel with RCEAs’s CAPE planning, the County of Humboldt and the seven cities within its boundaries are developing a 2040 Climate Action Plan (CAP) to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions throughout the region. This multi-jurisdictional plan will explore ways to reduce emissions while empowering local businesses and improving the health of our communities. Baseline emissions levels were informed by 2015 greenhouse gas emissions inventories RCEA is completing for each jurisdiction (see below, in progress).
Together the CAP and CAPE will determine the steps necessary to achieve a resilient and decarbonized future for Humboldt County.
Visit the County’s Climate Action Plan website
Climate Action Plan Survey – Complete the survey and see the latest workshop presentations, fact sheets, and public comments as they become available.
Climate Action Plan Materials
Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventories
- 2015 Arcata GHG Inventory
- 2015 Blue Lake GHG Inventory
- 2015 Eureka GHG Inventory
- 2015 Ferndale GHG Inventory
- 2015 Fortuna GHG Inventory
- 2015 Trinidad GHG Inventory
- 2015 Unincorporated County Inventory
- Arcata Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan (2006)
- City of Blue Lake Climate Action Plan (2014)
- Draft Trinidad Climate Action Plan (2010)
- Hoopa Valley Housing Authority Climate Action Plan (2015)