Bioenergy is the conversion of biological materials, also known as biomass, into energy. In its simplest form, a campfire is a biomass conversion process in which wood is burned to yield heat and light.
Bioenergy research at the Schatz Center includes analyzing the carbon footprint of biomass conversion systems, improving biomass conversion technologies (BCTs) used in forest restoration, and studying the impacts and feasibility of rural bioenergy systems.
“Forest residue” refers to the woody biomass that remains after tree harvest or forest management, including materials from stands that have been killed by drought or pest infestation. These residues can pose ecosystem and wildfire risks and are often burned in open piles for disposal — leading to both greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and air pollution.
We are currently developing a Life Cycle Assessment GHG emissions accounting tool to evaluate the impacts of biomass residue energy pathways used across California. We also recently participated in the Waste to Wisdom project, in which we evaluated BCTs that produce biochar, torrefied biomass, electricity, or densified wood briquettes using forest residues. Data collected were used to measure emission rates, identify optimal process conditions, specify feedstock limitations, evaluate product quality, and recommend design improvements to equipment manufacturers.