Our project is currently without a Secretary so meeting minutes from recent meetings are not available. Any pertinent news or developments will be announced on the home page.

Anyone interested in helping our project as a our secretary should contact Jay Johnson at JayJohnson@mariposabiomassproject.org

Mariposa Biomass Project Meeting September 2, 2020

Present (ZOOM Call):  Christina Oborn, Jay Johnson, Steve Smallcombe

The primary purpose of this meeting was to elect Melissa Barret as a director. The motion was made by Jay Johnson and seconded by Christina Oborne. The motion was passed 3-0.

Subsequent to the meeting, Jay Johnson contacted Barry Broulette to discuss the addition of Melissa Barret to the board. Barry indicated his approval. Barry also agreed to continue his support of the project and his desire to participate in the weekly discussions with Cortus.

Mariposa Biomass Group Meeting Minutes 9/26/2017

Offline Solar 12-1pm Members Present: Steve Smallcombe, Jay Johnson, Rosemarie Smallcombe, Len McKenzie

Update on the Use Permit and CEQA

Contracted with Christiana Darlington to expedite the CEQA process

Met with the county: Steve Engfer, Dave Conway and Todd Storti re CEQA, key issues requiring further comment: water, ash, air pollution

Preparing to perform a well capacity test. Consultant to write letter confirming 1.5 gpm will have no impact on neighboring wells.

Preparing write up of ash and ash sludge composition. Steve is working on this.

Contracted with TSS to prepare air emission analysis in support of CEQA and Air Permit.

Tracking spreadsheet was presented by Jay.

Contracted with Snyder to flag the site as required by the county •

Investigated stack height limitation as it pertains to the airport. Steve confirmed his analysis indicated a maximum height of 70 ft.

Proposed to relocate the septic system planned for parcel 3 to parcel 4. Dave Conway responded positively.We will need to dig profile holes (policy 21-10).

Sent woodchip samples to Sweden for TGA (thermogravimetric analysis)

IRS Update on Taxes

We have completed our filing for 2016. $50,000 income trigger was an average of three years. Detailed filing is not required.

PG&E System Impact Study update

Nothing new from PG&E. Expect study to be completed 10-11-2017

Action Items:

Steve to complete ash white paper

Jay to ask Cortus to provide ash analysis on samples sent to Sweden

Jay to verify woodchip samples have been mailed

Jay to contact septic system providers for profile holes

Jay to follow up with Christiana re stack height

Steve to report on well test results

Set up meeting with Neil Bolton of Blue Ridge Services to discuss fuel contracts and partnerships.



Mariposa Biomass Group Meeting Minutes 8/22/2017

Offline Solar 12-1pm, Members Present: Steve Smallcombe, Jay Johnson, Melinda Barrett, Michael Pickard

 Review Tax Forms

Nothing to report, will be discussed on 8/23/2017 with Christina Osborne.

Meeting with Steve Engfer, Mariposa County Planning Department

1. Will have to file for a conditional use permit because a biomass plant is not explicitly stated as one of the primary uses in the zoning permit.

1.a) This brings up new issues in getting CEQA passed.

1b) May need a hydrology report to indicate what effects biomass plant may have on local groundwater table.

2.  Waiting for the county to provide a formal written response to the application submitted on June 22. The county has 30 days to respond under the CEQA guidelines. It was decided to get help from Clere (Christiana Darlington) an environmental law attorney to assist us in this process.

3. Comments from CalTrans indicate that an encroachment permit will be needed to facilitate large trucks entering and exiting the site from the highway.

4. Discussed Airport Land Use Plan: So long as nothing on the site reaches or exceeds 70 feet, the project is in compliance with the plan. The biomass plant’s stack will not reach 70 feet.

5. Notes from Russ Marks from Public works indicate that there are a few minor things that need to be addressed in the final grading plan, but no significant changes needed.

PGE Interconnect Update

No word from PGE in over a month. (Most likely due to the Detwiler Fire) •

Jay will contact PGE again to move things along.

TSS Consultants (Tad Mason) Update

Learned that Cortus Energy sent out RFP to TSS Consultants for fuel contracts.


Mariposa Biomass Project Meeting Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Attending: Christina Oborn (O), Steve Smallcombe (O), Jay Johnson (O), George Catlin (O), Marty Acree, Barry Broulette (D), Gary Francisco

1. Wood Innovations Grant Extension - We need to submit a form 424 specifying how much money we need to extend forward. Christina will follow up. 

2. CUP Application - Application is all filled out and ready to go.  We are hoping for a meeting with the planning director before submitting.  We are aiming to submit it this week unless it is recommended that we complete the noise and traffic study first. 

3. PG&E Interconnect, Power Engineers Contract is awaiting the RCD signature.

4.Wood Innovations Grant Budget - We have $20,000 in this budget to pay an engineer to argue our case with PG&E for their possible charge to connect to the grid. 

5.Schedule Update - Impact study should be completed by July which will allow Cortus to participate in the bidding process for selling electricity. PG&E has 20 business days after receiving the completed application to reply with the estimated cost to connect.   

6. Site Plan - This has been updated for compliance with the CUP application.  The flare is no longer over the septic system and the tank is set back appropriately from the property line.  At present the lower parcel only has space for 25 - 30 days of chip storage.  

7. Grading Plan - updated.

8. Insurance - Securing directors and officers insurance is proving a complicated process because our situation is so unusual.  Jay has one application in process and is waiting to hear.  There are other avenues to explore.   

9. Action Item List - Some loan documents still need signatures.  We have enough working capital. Address change in process.  Waiting to send out RFPs for noise and traffic studies.   

10. Treasurer's Report- Payments to HIltons are set up. Filed report to California Attorney General. Christina will work with Melinda on the extension for the Wood Innovations Grant.  

11.  EPIC Grant:  We evidently got 88 points out of a possible 100 and will request a copy of our grading.  All five finalists had scores over 80 indicating how important every aspect of the application was.

12. Bioenergy Association of California:  Steve and Jay went to the reception in Sacramento, heard three short presentations and were also able to talk with numerous people who we work with.  

Mariposa Biomass Project Meeting Tuesday 3/14/2017

Attending:  Christina Oborn, Steve Smallcombe, Jay Johnson, George Catlin, Melinda Barrett

Progress Report for February - copies sent to everyone and no need for review

Review Grading Plan - The current plan necessitated concrete retaining walls on both sides of the lower parcel.  The plan now includes all the necessary features including the turn-around for the fire trucks. There is now room for storing 21-24 days of chips, but we will need additional room somewhere for chip storage. Jay will get numbers on the cost of grading and the retaining wall.  One remaining issue is to relocate the flare for burn-off outside of the septic system area.

Steve spoke with the fire marshal and learned about appropriate location for a hydrants.  The fire marshal appears happy with all the other factors: water storage and road design.       

Environmental Consultant - We hired Natural Investigations who will do the botanical, biological and cultural resources surveys.  If a phase 2 environmental survey is required, they can also do those investigations.  Their work is not yet scheduled but it will only take a week or so. 

Noise Consultant - Steve has exchanged emails and received a proposed scope of work from one contact.  He will refine the scope of work and send it out to a couple of others for bids. 

Traffic Consultant - There appears to be a flat charge of $4,000 per intersection from one firm for this study and the question is which intersections need to be assessed.  Steve will look for more bids and establish clarity on how many intersections must be assessed. 

System Impact Study Consultant - Power Engineers out of Idaho submitted the low bid and will be the group we work with.  We are waiting for a contract from them or the RCD will create a simple contract and send it to them.

Meeting with Dave Conway, MCHD. Our intention is to use the septic system on the upper parcel and tie the other lots into that one.  

Insurance - Jay and Christina have both contacted one source who have both requested further information.  Melinda is looking into the possibility of adding us to the RCD policy, Christina will contact other biomass projects to see what they did.     

Funding - The Wood Innovations Grant appears to expire at the end of June but can be extended.  Melinda will follow-up and file for an extension as necessary. 

Melinda described two additional grant opportunities one of which would involve coordinating lots of parties for a major award. 

Action item list - All loan documents are signed other than Brooke, Barry and Christina.  Christina will set up auto pay to Mr. Hilton. We do appear to have enough money to go ahead with submitting our application to the county.   Need to set a date to apply for the use permit with Sarah at planning.  Jay will send a list of all the contracts and estimated costs to Christina.   Steve is in process of arranging a way to meet with our future neighbors across Hwy. 49.  Other community outreach opportunities were discussed.   

A draft of the Conditional Use Permit application has been completed and will be issued for final review prior to filing. Once we receive the updated Site Plan and updated Preliminary Grading Plan, the document should be ready to file.   

Mariposa Biomass Project Meeting Tuesday, Feb 28, 2017

Attending: Sy Upton, Jay Johnson (O), Barry Broulette (D), Christina Oborn (O), Steve Smallcombe (O), Gary Colliver, George Catlin (O)

Site Plan Reviewed site plan pointing out  major features including road, a liquid nitrogen tank, a large propane tank, plant itself and septic system for the bathroom.  There is an existing septic system that is designed to serve all four properties and it will be necessary to arrange for our neighbors, the Community Foundation property, to be able to get any sewage they may have in the future up to our system.  

There appear to be no immediate problems from the public health perspective with air quality or chemical storage.  

Grading Plan   Gateway Engineers are doing this and need to complete it. 

System Impact Study Sent out for bid to three companies and got one good bid and one that may come in with coaxing.  We still need some information from Cortus for this.  

Biological, Botanical, Cultural Resource Studies Out to three bidders and got three proposals.  We are ready to commit to one. 

Noise Study Steve will be looking into this. 

Traffic Study  Caltrans will require a traffic study and Steve will pursue it. 

Phase I Environmental Assessment   No clear evidence that this is needed as there is no history of industrial waste on the property.

CUP (Use permit) Question of when we want to go in with our application.  We want to go in as complete as possible - having contacted as many of the relevant agencies as possible. 

There appear to be opportunities for synergy with the landfill going forward.   

Directors' Insurance Christina has looked into this and has been referred to a broker.  It is necessary to have overall insurance for the operation first ($800/year) and then you can add directors’ insurance ($650/year).  They also recommend auto insurance for $250/year to cover directors using their own cars to get to meetings.  Jay will look into what other non-profits do and what money we might use to pay for it.    

By Law Changes  Based upon the advice of Jim Evans, Christina recommended the following changes to the by-laws:

These were moved Steve and seconded Barry and passed unanimously by the board.    

Payment to Bill Hilton  Christina will make sure to do this by the end of the month. 

Community Support We need to approach the development across the highway regarding what we are doing.  Steve will try to set up a community meeting.  

Additional Funding  Another local resident has agreed to put $2,000 into our effort on the same terms as the previous investors.  That will bring us to about $5,000 in the bank, and there will be about $3,000 due with the application for the CUP.   

Action Item List  Still need some who made loans to fill out and sign the document and send it back in for Steve’s signature.  All other items are proceeding. 


Mariposa Biomass Meeting, Jan 31, 2017

Attending: Charlie Tomacci, Melinda Barret, Christina Oborn, Rosemarie Smallcombe,
Steve Smallcombe, Barry Broulette, Gary Coliver, Jay Johnson, George Catlin, Elisa
1. Site survey results. The survey is complete and the drawing was shown at meeting.
Our next step is to hire a civil engineer to do a preliminary grading plan as required for
the Administrative Use Permit. We went out for bid and we received one response.
MBP and the RCD expect to award the contract next week. We expect to cut and fill the
lower property to maximize a flat area for chip storage. We’re also looking at the
possibility of a loop road to connect both properties. Location of the weigh scale also
needs to be chosen. There is a large septic system on the property. There is a well on
an adjacent property that serves our lots. It originally produced 20 gal./minute. We will
need a 100,000 gallon tank for fire prevention. There are grants available for
infrastructure improvements through the federal EDA that could be used to improve the
roads to the sites.

2. Status of RFP for preliminary grading plan - We expect to issue a contract for this to
the one firm that has shown interest.

3. Status of RFP for electrical engineering firm for electrical interconnect support. There
is an extensive application to PG&E that Jay has started to complete. We are a “fast
track” project which simplify and speed the process. We need to clarify who - Cortus or
MBP - will be filing the application. We also need to determine the number of
generators we’ll have and the total power output.
We will solicit bids from some of the larger electrical engineering firms to provide
assistance in the application process. The fee is $2,500 for PG&E to analyze our
connection process. Then PG&E will tell us what it will cost to connect.

4. Ash and condensate disposal. The plant will produce water (condensate) with
minerals in it. Cortus has now indicated that they can reuse that condensate, so we will
have very little water consumption depending on the water content of the fuel. The
minerals will probably be mixed with the ash to create a ph neutral sludge.

The ash will most likely go to the landfill. It remains to be worked out what the financial
costs or benefits of that might be. Depending upon the ash content of the wood, the
facility should generate less than1 ton of ash per day.

5. Fire protection and water supply. We will put a 100,000 gal tank on the upper
property with pipes going to the lower property/cul du sac.

6. Water district requirements. If there are five or more connections (or if you serve 25
or more people) we have to be a water district, but since we are only four, we don’t have
to become a registered water system.

7. Press release. Christina passed out the release highlighting all the recent progress
that went out this morning from the RCD.

8. Trailer. It was our realtor’s intent was to donate his sales commission to the MBP.
Unfortunately, there was some miscommunication between the seller, our agent and the
title company. As a result, our realtor now owns the forty foot trailer on the property and
the sales commission was transferred to the seller. It was agreed that the trailer can
remain on the property as potential temporary office space but he can take it anytime.

9. Lease payments - Moved Barry, seconded by Jay and passed unanimously that MBP
make lease payments for the lower parcel.

10. Conversion of savings account to checking. Moved by Barry and seconded by Jay
and passed unanimously.
It appears that our current treasurer wants to phase out. Jim Evans has offered to
provide assistance to Christina who has offered to be our treasurer. Steve will speak
with Suzette.
Moved and passed unanimously that Jay Johnson, Christina Oborne and Steve
Smallcombe be authorized to sign checks and only one signature be needed for checks.

11. Loan agreements - Steve will take care of getting loan agreements signed and back
those who made loans.

12. Chief Technical Officer position – Moved Jay and seconded by Christina and
passed unanimously that Steve be appointed our Chief Technical Officer.

13. We will transfer our files and contact address to the RCD with Melinda as contact
Rosemarie agreed to take the lead on this including any filing required by the IRS.

Submitted by,
George Catlin
Secretary, Mariposa Biomass Project

Biomass Meeting Meeting, January 17, 2017

Michael Pickard, Melinda Barret, Gary Coliver, George Catlin, Jay Johnson, Steve Smallcombe, Christina Oborn

Summary of Updates:

  1. Bought one parcel of land and have a lease option to buy a second one in the Mariposa industrial park. 
  2. Signed a development agreement with Cortus Energy.  Our responsibility is the permits and theirs is getting the funding, securing the feedstock, negotiating the power purchase agreement, .  
  3. Cortus, MBP, MCRCD and Gladstein, Neandross and Associates put together the second phase of the EPIC grant application through a major push.

Looking ahead

  1. Need to meet with the new landfill manager to see about all the waste disposal issues.
  2. Expect to meet every other Tuesday.
  3. Pre-application meeting with Sarah Williams.
  4. Advise district supervisor about intent to permit that site.  
  5. Site survey happening right now.
  6. Out for bid for grading plan. 
  7. Plan meeting with neighbors across Hwy 49.
  8. Have to hire specialized electrical engineer to analyze electrical system pre-application for tie-in to PG&E.  Jay will contact firms he knows of from past work once he clarifies what Cortus is doing and what we need to do. 
  9. EPIC grant decision in March. Funds released in October.
  10. Contact Suzette regarding IRS nonprofit filing status
  11. Issue press release
  12. Change bank savings account to a checking account
  13. Consider moving our mailing address to the RCD
  14. Investigate the requirements of forming a water district to serve the industrial park and the biomass plant.
  15. In order to facilitate getting signatures on legal documents it was proposed to make Steve Smallcombe an officer of the non-profit. 


Biomass Meeting December 7, 2016

Present:  Barry Brouilette, Christina Oborn, Jay Johnson, Steve Smallcombe, Gary Colliver, Si Upton

The primary purpose of this meeting was to amend the by-laws “to allow the Mariposa Biomass Project, non-profit to secure loans for the purchase of land on which to construct the biomass facility”. This amendment requires a unanimous vote of all directors.

The directors present, Jay Johnson, Steve Smallcombe, Barry Broulette and Christina Oborn, all voted in favor of the amendment. Subsequent to the meeting, Jay Johnson contacted George Catlin and Suzette Prue, who also voted in favor of the amendment.

With the board’s unanimous approval, MBP proceeded to secure funding to purchase two parcels in the Mariposa Industrial Park. On December 14, 2016, MBP and the sellers reached agreement on the purchase of the property and the sale is currently in escrow.

MBP also moved forward with the application for the EPIC Grant. This turned out to be a tremendous effort put forth by MBP, MCRCD, Cortus Energy and Gladstein, Neandros and Associates. The application was successfully submitted on December 21, 2016.

With site control in hand, MBP will now proceed with permitting including: CEQA, Authority to Construct (Air Permit) and the System Impact Study (Electrical Interconnect).

Looks like 2017 is going to be a year of substantial progress for the bioenergy project.


Mariposa Biomass Meeting July 27, 2016

Present:  Michael Pickard, George Catlin, Barry Broulette, Jon Wenzel, Christina Oborn, Jay Johnson, Steve Smallcombe


Mariposa Biomass Project June 22, 2016

Present:  Jay Johnson, Rosemarie Smallcombe, George Catlin, Steve Smallcombe, Russ Backoff, Barry Brouilette, Gary Coliver, Melinda Barrett, Christina Oborne,

Fuel Availability
The initial discussion concerned the long term availability of biomass given the tree mortality issue. The fuel availability study did not address the tree mortality issue and the long and short term effect on the fuel supply. It was noted, however, that the primary source of fuel would likely be the biomass obtained from forest thinning operations along either side of public and private roads and that the material would grow back in five to seven years.

We do need to verify fuel availability going forward and one way to do that is to have IHI, a company that operates several biomass plants in California including Chinese Station, join our team and participate in securing fuel contracts. Steve and Jay are attempting to set up a meeting with IHI.

Highbury Energy
The group participated in a phone conversation with Tom Hobby of Highberry Energy. Highbury has a gasification technology he would like us to consider for the plant.  Mr. Hobby has an extensive background in forest management and commercial applications. The Highbury process can work with a variety of feedstocks.  He estimates that the facility would cost $15.5 to $17.5 million and would have about a seven year payback plus some possible California tax advantages.  Their technology does not produce bio-char.  They would build, own and operate - taking full responsibility for the plant. 

MBP clarified that we have a wood innovation grant to permit the project and that the grant also includes a strong component of working with a U.C. Merced professor to explore the activation of bio-char, so that aspect can’t be ignored.

Mr Hobby indicated that they could provide a proposal, but they need to know more about fuel availability going forward in light of what’s going on with the die-off.  They apparently would want to do that study themselves and it would take a few months.  They aren’t ready to produce or address bio-char now. 

It was agreed we would talk among ourselves and get back to them within a week regarding a possible proposal.

Site Control
The group reviewed the latest proposed path forward to secure the 7 acre site adjacent to the landfill and the need to sub divide this property. 

The issue right now has to do with going through the time consuming subdivision map act process prior to securing an agreement with the county to purchase the property.  It was agreed that Rosemarie will meet with Steve Dahlem to see if there is a way for MBP to obtain an option to purchase the property prior to completing the subdivision process. Barry will get the form for an Option to Purchase to Rosemarie.  We are aiming for the July 19 board meeting.    

Fuel Availability

Wood Innovations Grant
Now that we received the Wood Innovations Grant we need to discuss the next steps with regard to permitting this facility. Until the site control issue is resolved this activity is on hold.

EPIC Grant
A workshop is scheduled in July at UC Merced that many of us will attend.  Soon they will release the date for the Epic grant applications.    

PG&E Interconnect Cost
Changes are being proposed by the state legislature. SB840 would put in place incentives for independently owned energy producers to minimize the cost of connecting to the grid.  It is a complicated bill addressing other issues. 

Mariposa Biomass Project Meeting 3-2-16

Attending: Jay Johnson, Steve Smallcombe, Max Lee, Barry Broulette, George Catlin

1. Wood Energy Grant (funding for permitting) - no update as yet other than a notification from Dunn and Bradstreet that someone is looking at our account information. Jay will find out when we should hear about it.

2. CEC Epic Grant (funding to offset the capital cost) The criteria have been circulated.  The first phase is a five page initial application.  If that is accepted, then a full application (required to meet a high standard) is necessary. There are ongoing discussions as to whether or not projects in more than the six listed counties can apply.

3. Site Selection (path forward).  Greg Olivier has made a presentation to the solid waste advisory committee that suggested that one of the solutions to current issues involved shipping Mariposa’s waste to Merced for burial.  The advantage of the project leasing the land from the county is that some of the revenue generated by the project would go to the county in the form of lease payments. Given we hope to receive funding from the state/citizens, it only makes sense that some of the income from the project go back to the county/citizens.  This would pose little risk to the county. if the project fails, the county would have no liability. 

Following up on the group’s decision last month that the landfill site in town is preferred over the Beat Valley Site, the group decided that Jay and Steve should meet with the relevant supervisors to give them background and then invite them to the meeting with Cortus. Jay will set up that meeting.         

4. Cortus Energy (agenda items for meeting with Cortus Monday April 4).  Need to work out the details of the potential lease with the county.  We’d also need to know about the potential property tax.  Will also need a commitment from Cortus to provide technical support during the permitting process. A picture or drawing of the proposed facility would also be beneficial. We also need to know more about the water requirements and waste water quantities and quality.    

It was the general consensus of those present at the meeting that Cortus Energy is the best choice as our co-developer for this project. A meeting with Cortus Energy is scheduled for April 4, place and time to be determined.

5. UC Merced Collaboration.  University collaboration would be positive factor in obtaining an Epic Grant. Gerrardo Diaz (at UC Merced) wants to collaborate with us and has been in touch with Steve about his work with North Fork.  Our focus will be on activating the carbon in the bio-char. 

6. Sierra Foothill Conservancy is requesting funding to do some thinning and asked for a support letter which Jay has written.  Another request has come from Welseyville. which Jay will write. 

7. PG&E Queue Payments.  PG&E is requiring projects such as North Fork and Welseyville to deposit 30% of the cost to connection to the PG&E grid in order to participate in the BioMat program and retain their position in the interconnect queue. Even though this deposit is fully refundable, if the project does not go forward, small developers such as Phoenix Energy is having difficulty coming up with these funds.


Mariposa Biomass Project Meeting 1-27-16

Attending:  Jon Wenzel, Russ Bockhop, Chrisitna Osborn, Jay Johnson, Maggie Williams, Steve Smallcombe, Barry Brouilette, Rosemarie Smallcombe, Len Mckenzie, Don Florence, Robyn Smith, George Catlin, Gary Coliver

Rosemarie advised the group that the original copies of the IRS documents including the EIN number and letter noting we’re exempt from federal income tax requirement are on file at Offline Solar.

1. Review highlights of the Wood Innovations Grant application. Much thanks to Christina, Steve and Rosemary for getting this done.
This grant is primarily for funding to be used to permit the facility and includes the PG&E interconnect study, site selection, negotiating a lease with the county and selection of a developer.

Copies circulated of abstract of grant application. (attached)  $244,000 grant: $154,580 from Forest Service funding and we would provide $90,500 in matching through our efforts/labor.  We had lots of constructive feedback prior to making the application as well as good supporting letters.  We should hear by March 1.

2. Review the pros and cons associated with the proposed sites: County Landfill and Bear Valley

Jay circulated a comparison of the two county owned sites that are currently under consideration.  (attached)  Long term the Landfill seems preferable whereas in the short term location for a log deck is a problem.  The timeline on the landfill’s eventual closure is unknown.

The leaning of the meeting was toward the landfill site with the understanding that the permitting there is a complex issue.  We/Rosemary will focus on that. 

Treetaskforce.org is the state website focused on the tree mortality issue. 

3. Prepare a list of items to be addressed in a lease agreement with the county.
Issues include liability and what happens when the facility closes down. 

4. New Director positions.  Unanimous agreement to add Christina to the board.

5. Community outreach to the residents of Bear Valley.  Needs to be done even while we are focusing on the landfill.   


Mariposa Biomass Project Meeting, October 28, 2015

Attending: Jay Johnson, Steve Samllcombe, Robyn Smith, Barry Broulette, Gary Coliver, George Catlin, Christina Osborn, Len McKenzie, Suzette Prue

1. Review of the proposal from Cortus Energy. This is a Swedish company with a gasifier and slightly different design that can produce whatever balance of char and electricity you want. Highlights include:

2. Discussion of pelletizing.  Obvious excess fuel and a pelletizer needs heat which we’d produce. Russ is researching this.      

3. Review of the Pre-application Report from PG&E on the Bear Valley Site. All good news.  Engineer’s report very positive.  Substation and line running through the property both have lots of capacity above what they are currently using. 

Compared to the landfill site Bear value has slightly more hook-up costs than the landfill site but lots more room. It is also farther from town (six miles) and no turn-off yet from the highway.  General agreement that the Bear Valley site is preferable. 

4. Review of the Mariposa County Development Group meeting and permitting requirements for the log deck. Long, good meeting with no suggestions of any special help for this project.  One huge problem: fire department possibly requiring 100,000 gallons of water to be stored on site.  This would kill the project.  Need site control and with that could get grant money.

5. New grant to study activated biochar at UC Merced.  Gerrado Diaz just got a grant that would fund a student for three years to resume his research on biochar. 

6. Latest from Sacramento.  The County has declared an emergency regarding the fire potential with all the tree mortality.  Rosemarie is working with other counties. A request has put into the state for disaster declaration.  We can expect executive action from the governor within days. Eventually there could be money from the state for all sorts of projects related to fire reduction.  Possibly there will be money for log decks much sooner.         

7. Which grant opportunities to pursue. 

8. Agreed to welcome a presentation from the Florida company that is doing the firebox combustion possibly for a Wednesday morning. 


Biomass Meeting September 30, 2015

Attending: Jay Johnson, Rosemarie Smallcombe, Len McKenzie, Christina Oborn, Steve Smallcombe, Don Florence, Gary Francisco Russ Bockhop, Barry Brouilette

1. Log Deck
Because of the difficulty in gaining access to the seven acres adjacent to the Mariposa County landfill, focus has shifted to the Bear Valley site for a possible log deck. Progress on the Bear Valley Log Deck is being held up due to lack of grant funding. We decided that it was not feasible to meet the deadline for the Sierra Nevada Conservancy grant, which required a complete application to be submitted September 1. In support of the grant application, we need some idea as to the cost and the permitting requirements. In order to get a cost estimate and get the required permits we will need to hire an engineer to prepare a set of drawings. Typically, a topo is prepared of the existing site from which a grading and drainage plan is prepared. It was suggested that we possibly could get a rough estimate from a local contractor or the county may able to provide such an estimate. The application would have also required a CEQA review, again making meeting the Sept 1 deadline not possible.
A meeting was scheduled to review the proposed log deck with the Mariposa County Development Review meeting. The purpose of the meeting would be to determine what permits will be required for the log deck.
Log Deck Issues:
• Will the county provide or lease the land for the log deck?
• Who will own the logs?
• What will happen to the logs if the biomass plant is not built?
Jay and Steve will attend the Development Review meeting and report back to the group.

2. Phoenix Energy
Steve and Jay discussed with Greg Stengl the possibility of Phoenix Energy becoming a developer for our project. Greg indicated that he was currently quite busy with his current projects and would be hard pressed to take on another development role at this time.

3. Cortus Energy
Steve and Jay discussed the possibility of teaming up with Cortus Energy utilizing the Woodroll Process to develop our project. They expressed a strong willingness to work with us and indicated they might be willing to take up to a 50% equity position in the project.
The Woodroll Process offers some unique advantages over the typical pyrolysis process including the ability to use a wide range of fuel moisture content and fuel particle size, modular design and single source responsibility for performance. There is also the claim that the process can be adjusted to produce all electricity and no biochar or electricity and biochar. This may be an advantage since the market for biochar is still in an early stage of development.
There are several concerns, however, regarding the process including:
• The quality of the biochar
• Operating experience

The follow up is to prepare a list of questions for Cortus to answer and present the responses to the group.

4. Pelletizer
Russ brought up the possibility of pelletizing plant as a means to turn the bug kill trees into an asset. If kept dry, pelletized wood can be stored for several years. Currently, there are no pelletizing facilities in California. A local facility would save the transportation costs from out of state. Pellet stoves use 2 to 3 tons of pellets per year at a cost of approximately $300 per ton. Pelletizing plants need both electricity and heat to produce the pellets, both of which are available from the biomass plant.
Russ will follow up with a pellet supplier based in Oregon to see if there is any interest in locating a facility in Mariposa.

5. Activated Carbon
UC Merced has received a grant to study the application of activated biochar as a substitute for activated carbon derived from coconut shells or coal used for water filtration. The grant covers a researcher’s time and equipment over a three year period.

6. Grants
Christina is looking into two possible grants offered by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy. One grant is for $75,000, which can be used for permitting and possibly the PG&E interconnect study. The other is for $500,000, but requires the applicant to have their permits in place. Applications are due March 1, 2016.

Biomass Meeting August 6, 2015

Attending: Jay Johnson, Rosemarie Smallcombe, Dave Conway, Sarah Williams, Len McKenzie, Steve Smallcombe, George Catlin

1. Log Deck. (Since the last meeting the Sierra Conservancy has invited us to apply for a grant of up to $500k which could be used to construct a log deck to store dead wood. The deadline for the initial application is September 1, so there is a clear need to accelerate our process of thinking about possible sites and beginning discussion with the County about possible collaboration. Our application for this grant would need to identify a site and the degree of cooperation with the County.)
The initial question was: Do we need to apply for a permit for the log with the biomass project or can it be done independently? Sarah Williams (Planning Dept.) indicated that if the log deck is consistent with the land use permit of the land fill then it can be done independently. However if we are starting a whole new project and that is the sole reason for the storage of the wood, then the deck permit should come with/after the bio-mass facility. The fact of the moment, aside from the biomass project, is that there is no place to put all the dead trees that are being cut.

Possible strategy going forward: Ask BoS for authorization to place log deck at the landfill and then, if we get the funding, put the biomass project there. In addition to the landfill site, including the newly purchased adjacent seven acre site, there is county-owned land in Bear Valley that may be close to a PG&E substation.

For going to the Board we would need well defined request of what we want to do. Sara Williams had a list of requirements for projects like this: detailed site plan, but not full construction plans. The amount of total space required is a crucial element: Space for storage of mass, traffic flow, bio-char storage, the plant itself, etc.

It is important to try to present as complete a vision as possible to County agencies from the start. We’ll need Public Works staff support first because the BoS will look for that. Then Health Department will need to determine if it fits with the landfill operation. Air permits will eventually be required. All the emissions would have to be evaluated.

Rosemarie will set up a meeting with Tony at Public Works and Brian Hodges at Environmental Health and Dave Conway a.s.a.p. in order to facilitate our getting on the BoS agenda before the end of the month. Jay and Steve will work on the site plan.

2. Fuel Availability Study. The initial report is that we have enough fuel to support a two megawatt plant. (More than twice what we need for a two megawatt plant appears to be available, and that is the standard they use.) The study looks at material at various prices and then gets an average price: $50/ton which is a lot better that the $80-90 we were looking at previously. This does not take into account the bug-killed trees which are seen as “episodic” but incredibly abundant and inexpensive right now. We’ll get the full presentation on Monday, August 24 and a rough draft prior to that. A large percentage of the bio-mass will be coming off of private property.

3. Market for bio-char. Previously we’ve talked about using bio-char as an agricultural supplement and possibly for water filtration. Steve has since read many scientific papers stating that bio-char can be turned into activated carbon good for water filtration and numerous other uses. He has found and written to a company, Biogenic Reagents, that is focused on turning bio-char into saleable products. Current estimates for price of bio-char are very favorable: close to 70 cents per pound, and we’ll be generating 800 pounds per hour.

Mariposa Biomass Meeting July 22, 2015

Attending: Elisa Brown, Gary Francisco, Jay Johnson, Steve Smallcombe, Rosemarie Smallcombe, Max Lee, Christina Oborn, Russ Bockhop, Len McKenzie, Barry Brouilette

Steve and Jay gave an update on the Fuel Availability Study being prepared by TSS. Key points were:

Elisa Brown provided a handout listing the many grants which might be available to us. The listing included funding amounts, funding focus, estimated deadlines and eligible costs. Elisa provided the latest information on the North Fork Facility. Key points included:

Rather than proceed with a full economic feasibility study, Elisa recommended that we enter into an agreement with a developer and then proceed with permitting and the interconnect study. She recommended four developers: Phoenix Energy, West Biofuels, Cortus and a fourth developer located on the east coast. Elisa will provide contact information for the fourth developer.

Due to schedule conflicts it was recommended that we move our Wednesday meetings to Thursday, same time and place. We have tentatively set up our next meeting on Thursday August 6 at which time we should have a further update on the fuel study and another meeting for August 20, which should coincide with the issuing of the draft Fuel Availability Study Report for our review.

Mariposa Biomass Meeting May 27, 2015

Attending: Gary Francisco, Jay Johnson, Steve Smallcombe, George Catlin, Rosemarie Smallcombe, Max Lee, John Schroder, Christina Oborn, Russ Backoff, Paul Brickett

1 Fuel availability update.  Proposal came in from three bidders: TSS gave us their standard response. Megan contacted TSS to see if their proposal really corresponded with the scope of work.   Jay has really done the comparison and found that what they omitted was a quantity cost curve, dead and down trees identification, sustainability, and who they would contact to identify sources of fuel.

Steve has had two contacts with Megan since her conversation with TSS.  Our scope of work was built off of their (TSS) reports with additions.  TSS did not address any of the additions and dismissed what we requested saying what they gave us was all that we needed.   Beck Group and TC did address our list.

Steve next spoke with Angie Lottes.  She said our group is more sophisticated than most groups and TSS/Tad is use to lesser requirements.  She supports us in getting the more data we want as no group is currently actually doing this profitably yet, so the more information, the better.  She believes the Beck group is the best respected in the financial community.  They also have asked good questions.

It does appear we could raise the money to meet the higher bids.  TSS will get back to Megan in a couple of days re either accepting our scope of work or walking away.  It’s not clear if re-bidding is an option.

It would be natural/ideal for whoever does the fuel availability study to also do the full feasibility study.

At this point we went to Russ Backoff’s property to look at and hear about the thinning he is having done there.  The difference between the land that had been thinned and the land that was yet to be done was remarkable.  The latter was dense-packed, almost impenetrable, and the thinned section was wonderfully open.  The reduced fire hazard was immediately apparent though the likelihood of the underbrush going back pretty quickly was also obvious.  

The man in charge of the thinning was very knowledgeable about the whole process from thinning through landfills. Some of his main points to us were as follows:  1) Bio-mass can be costly, especially if it is picked up and put down numerous times on its way to wherever it will be used.  2) In this country recycling is all about what is financially viable/least expensive.  3) Only a certain percentage of the fuel can be used and the rest, the fines, has to be composted and there is a growing glut of composted material looking for a market.  Overall, he thought we would need to find just the right niche market for whatever we produced to make it work financially.  Most of us left with the impression that a major grant to (help) finance the project looked necessary.) 

2. Webinar on SB 1122.  80 people on the call and lots of specific questions.  Jay’s main take-away was that PG&E refused to put any kind of escalation clause in the contracts for energy.  Whoever bids will have to go for very high prices to cover themselves for a long time.

“Sustainable harvesting” may not include dead and dying trees. But perhaps that can be included as a part of sustainable reforesting. This may be addressed in the regulations which Rosemarie will check on.

3.  Bio-char activated carbon.  Steve found a couple of articles indicating forest bio-char can be used as activated carbon in water treatment.  It is currently not clear of Gerrado can or will do the research. If enough research has already been done on the process, our efforts can move on to the economic questions; i.e. figuring out how to get filtration plants to start buying bio-char. 

4.  Another site visit to Phoenix Energy.  This looks more and more necessary.  Steve will set it up.

5. No contact with Humbolt State.

6. Grants.  Christina reported that Terra Schiff of the County has identified a rural development grant that we might fit.  Angie Lottes seemed supportive.  Possibly The Watershed should apply for the grant for our full economic feasibility study.    

Mariposa Biomass Meeting, May 6, 2015

Attending: Jay Johnson, Steve Smallcombe, Russ Bacoff, George Catlin, Barry Brouilette

  1. Fuel Study Update: Everything has been sent to the Fire Safe Council and they have sent the bid solicitations out to five contractors.  Anticipate award date of May 27 and start on June 1. Jay will get a copy of the final solicitation.  We will been tasked with administering the grant.
  2. UC Merced Biochar/Activated Carbon Update – We need to make our own char from the chips Jay and Steve created.  Gerrado has a unit for small scale gasification unit purchased from All Power Labs, but it completely burn the wood, producing no char. His device needs repair and he’d like to hire a student to do the work.  Steve has offered some financial support and is waiting for a figure from Gerrado.     
  3. Site visit to “the field” to get our own idea of what will be involved in harvesting fuel:  Russ is in the process of hiring a person to thin and chip six acres.  The cost is under $1000/acre and visiting that would give us a good look at what we’re talking about.  It would be helpful to know how much tonnage of fuel that produced.
  4. Update on a second site visit to a Phoenix Energy facility. Steve has written Greg and not heard back.
  5. Update on discussions with Humboldt State (BRDI Waste to Wisdom project.  No news
  6. Grant for full feasibility study. An EPIC grant from the California Energy Commission is what North Fork received to study various methods to remove the tar from the biogas before it enters the engine generator.  We could perhaps apply along the lines of exploring uses/markets for char/carbon. 

AB590 is a new bill to help subsidize fuel costs for biomass plants to make them more completive with wind and solar and to continue to provide a place for ag waste and forest products to be used productively.

A grant has been written for a laundry being linked to a biomass plant.  Jay is getting the info from Angie.   

Other.  A couple of webinars coming up that Jay and Steve will attend.

Next meeting May 27 at 9:30.  Hopefully the bids for the fuel availability study will be in by then and possibly officers and regular attendees will have had a chance to review them prior to the meeting.

Mariposa Biomass Meeting, March 4, 2015 April 15, 2015

 Attending: Jay Johnson, Steve Smallcomb, George Catlin, Gary Francisco,  Rosemarie Smallcomb, Max Lee, Al Anderson, Barry Brouilette, April Griffin, Iggy Ketvirtis, Ruth Ketvirtis, Christina Oborn

1.     Update on the presentations at the RCDI Workshop (Rural Community Development Initiative)
a.     Welseyville – Project funding is stalled pending receipt of a power sales contract with PG&E. Due to the bidding rules, there must be at least three bidders to set the PG&E’s purchase price for electricity. North Fork is the only other bidder. Welseyville’s plan for biochar is to market it as a soil amendment. Meanwhile, they continue to thin the forests and stock pile wood chips under grants at a cost of $200-$1200 per acre.
b.    North Fork- $4.9 million grant from California Energy Commission. The basis of the grant is to study gas clean up technologies. Phoenix Energy indicated that they will need an additional one to two million dollars to complete construction of the facility. The grant is not enough. Unfortunately, they too are impacted by a lack of a third bidder and therefore they have no power sales contract with PG&E. They are hoping to proceed with construction anyway and secure additional funding based upon the assumption that there will eventually be a third bidder.    
c.     Camptonville – Feasibility study in progress ($80,000)
d.    Forest Hill – Feasibility study in progress, hoping to revitalize town with a biomass plant. No technology selected as yet.
e.     Indian Valley/Greenville Portola Valley – Their plan is to supply district heating to various facilities in town including a school and hospital. Unfortunately, waste heat from the biomass plant does not meet the reliability standards for a hospital and the hospital had to drop out as a thermal host.
f.     Two Indian Reservation Projects – not moving forward
g.    Lake Tahoe – this project has been side tracked as a result of the local utility’s desire for a more heavily discounted purchase price for electricity produced by the biomass plant. Proponents of the biomass plant are now looking for some other entity to sell the power to. 
h.     Green House Gas Reduction Fund ($2-3B over two years)- the state is amassing a large sum of money to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state.
              Elissa Brown pursuing grant to study biochar to field
i.      Community Capacity- ability of a community to develop a project like this.  An assessment was made of each community’s ability to develop a biomass plant. We’re in pretty good shape on this largely due to human resources.
j.      California losing biomass plants – lots of contracts from plants built 30 years ago are expiring. As a result the price paid for orchard prunings has dropped and there now is more open field burning of orchard waste.  

2.     Update on Ever Better Community – attracted large group and added visibility to the community

3.     Update on meeting with Dave Martin – Rosemarie will pursue

4.     Site visit to “the field” to get our own idea of what will be involved in harvesting fuel – no news

5.     Update on fuel collection samples to be provided by Greg Stengl, Phoenix Energy – question of how to get bio-char activated and tested in water filtration. Gerado at UC Merced is doing the testing as we speak.   A grant for this research would be a good thing.

6.     Update on a second site visit to a Phoenix Energy facility. – no news

7.     Update on biochar testing to be done at UC Merced- the university now has funding to repair the carbon activation unit and will begin activation of the char provided by Phoenix Energy. Still needs funds to build/purchase a bench scale gasifier. Jay will provide information to Steve and Garardo Diaz on the All Power Labs gasifer.

8.     Update on discussions with Humboldt State (BRDI Waste to Wisdom project – no news

9.     Community Outreach- no new news

10.  Fuel Availability Study- Still on track to issue the RFP on May 1, 2015

11.  Laundry as a thermal host – water and what to do with the waste water remain the main issues but still a possibility.   

12.  Other?  Grants clearly needed and Christina will start looking into possibilities. 
Steve provided information on a different technology from a Swedish company called Cortus. Slightly different approach with electricity and heat as the main outputs and not bio-char. This is due to the lack of a market for biochar. Per megawatt it’s about the same price as Phoenix Energy, but they don’t make 1 megawatt plants, only 2.5. The Cortus facility could be converted to bio-char production if and when a market develops for it.  So the trade-off is more power and less bio-char/carbon sequestration.     

Mariposa Biomass Meeting, March 4, 2015

Jay Johnson, Steve Smallcomb, Suzette Prue, George Catlin, Gary Francisco, Len McKenzie, Russ Bacoff, Rosemarie Smallcomb, Max Lee, Al Anderson, Carliene Anderson

1. Update on sample fuel collection for biochar testing. Jay and Steve chipped some oak and ponderosa pine which they are ready to send to U C Merced.

2. Update on discussions with Garardo Diaz, UC Merced – Test equipment needs repair costing around $1,000. Steve has agreed to fund those repairs and is looking into the best way to make that happen. Evidently they already have $5,000 from the SWET for research for Greg Stengle and it's not clear how that relates to this need. The goal is to make biochar that is equivalent to what is being used at MPUD.

3. Update on presentation to EDC. Jay and Steve presented, and they heard about a need for a laundry which could use our excess heat. Yosemite and all the inns in town send all their laundry to Fresno so there is a large, local need. Enough water might be an issue. Jay will look into how much energy a laundry really needs.

4. Update on discussions with Humboldt State (BRDI Waste to Wisdom project) No news.

5. Community Outreach. We've been invited to present to the Chamber of Commerce and possibly the hospital board though locating next to the current or future hospital is probably not optimal.

6. Upcoming meeting with State Senator Berryhill. Scheduled for next Friday. Set up by Greg Stengle. Steve will go with Garado Diaz. There are evidently five different biomass projects in Senator Berryhill's district, and the goal is to inform the senator and get his support especially regarding PG&E issues. Also current laws require that carbon coming out of the forest has to be sequestered in the forest, so long term there will be a need get laws adjusted.

7. Other? Lodi put out a bid for activated carbon to purify water from two of their wells. They only got one bid, and this only happens every five years or so, but they did specify American produced.

Elisa Brown suggested we see if the county could apply for a community block grant for our final feasibility study. There is a timing issue (county has to use 50% of existing grant before applying for another) but it could work out.
Discussed need for a visit to "the field" to get our own idea of what will be involved in harvesting fuel. Would need a forester involved in fuel reduction to lead us. Rosemarie will contact Dave Martin, former Bass Lake District Ranger, about presenting to us.
Steve will talk to Greg Stengle about another visit to one of his facilities when it is running.

Next meeting : March 18 at 9:30 at Offline Solar.

Mariposa Biomass Meeting, February 4, 2015

Jay Johnson,  Max Lee, Robyn Smith (NRCS), Gary Francisco, John Schroeder, Barry Brouilette, Len McKenzie, Steve Smallcombe, Suzette Prue, George Catlin, Russ Bockhop

1.     Update on IRS filing for 501(c) (3) status
a.    Incorporation complete
b.    Bank account is open
c.    IRS approval pending for tax exempt status – up to 90 days. A couple of state filings are also necessary and one requires bylaws.
d.    By-laws: Suzette has adopted a set off the web that is very simple.  Most important point is that if we dissolve, any money left over goes to other 501c3s.  We would most likely have to re-incorporate when we to get to construction phase.
Moved to accept the bylaws by Barry, Jay seconded, passed unanimously.
2.     North Fork Biomass Plant funding
a. $5M grant for construction of the facility: achieved this by turning it into a research project to assess gasses produced in the process. It was noted that since they can build the plant for free, they can pay more for the fuel and still be profitable.  We need to aim for the same kind of funding. 
b.    Study to include cleanup of biogas to remove tars
3.     Update on the Fuel Study RFP, scope of work and Fire Safe Council grant
a.     New Bid Dates:
Opening Date: April 01, 2015
Closing Date: April 15, 2015
Award Date: April 20, 2015
Project Start Date: May 01, 2015
Project End Date: August 01, 2015
4.     Latest discussion with Greg Stengl, Phoenix Energy
a.     Activated Carbon – Greg is pursuing cleaning up foul gas in waste water treatment plants. He has been attempting to work with Fresno PUD but with little success to date. He is also working with UC Merced.
b.    Mariposa Water Treatment Plant – He was pleased to hear that Mariposa is interested in testing biochar but the biochar Greg produces comes from pallets and peach pits so it’s not relevant to us. 
c.     New PG&E power purchase contract.  PG&E is now writing contracts that require minimum levels of power production each year. 
d.    System Impact Study – PG&E requires another larger study to see what it would cost to connect to their grid, and this study can cost up to $50,000.
e.     Camptonville – New plant being developed at an old mill site with a grant from the .Sierra Nevada Conservancy
f.   Power Plant Size.  Greg is now sizing plants in multiples of .8 MW, consistent with the engine generator sizes readily available.
5.     Update with our meeting with SNC – Jay and Steve heard about two possible grant sources:
a.     CBDG (County Block Development Grant) – Primarily used for research studies that would broadly benefit the community.  Two public meetings required.   
                                          i.    4-1deadline
                                         ii.    Could possibly use for Feasibility Study ($100K) only 5K match required from county.
b .    Wood Innovation Grant
                                          i.    Could possibly be used to fund SIS (System Impact Study)
                                         ii.    Available January 2016
6.     Update on meeting with Mark Rowney MPUD and Geraldo Diaz, UC Merced: very promising meeting
a.    MPUD monitors TOC (total organic carbon) for activated carbon performance
b.    MPUD has a test column we could use to test biochar performance
c.    UCM has lab equipment to produce biochar and activated biochar. We will supply different fuels to produce biochar to test at MPUD.  Ultimately, a blend of fuels is what we would be using. The plan is to test each fuel separately as well as test a representative blend. Steve will produce the chips and Jay will bring them to UC Merced.  See 7 below. 
7.     Test Program for Mariposa Biomass Fuels
                        a.   Prepare a test protocol
b.    Characterize the forest waste products (Douglas Fir, Manzanita, Chemise etc.)
c.    Collect samples
d.     Chip
e.    Deliver to UCM for gasification and biochar/activated biochar test samples
f.     Collect and deliver samples to MPUD for testing (TOC breakthrough)
g.     Publish a report
8.     Update on discussions with Humboldt State (BRDI Waste to Wisdom project) – no news, Jay and Steve will pursue
9.     Community Outreach
a.    Midpines Planning Advisory Committee
b.    Meeting with Economic Development Council scheduled for 2-26
c.  Audubon maybe in April, BoS, Rotary someday
10.  Other – Russ recommends the article Rosemarie set out on the watershed.  There is an immediate need to get working on all the dead and dying trees. 
11.  Next meeting: March 4th at 9:30 or sooner, if needed.

Mariposa Biomass Meeting, Jan. 7, 2015
Barry Brouilette, Rosemarie Smallcombe, Steve Samllcombe, Suzette Prue, Jay Johnson, Russ Bacoff, George Catlin, Gary Francisco, Gary Coliver, Steve Shackelton, Bob Evans


Current board members are Jay, president, Suzette, treasurer, and George, secretary.  Barry and Steve Smallcombe will be additional directors.  Others are welcome.  Rosemarie is working on a draft of bylaws.    



Mariposa Biomass Meeting, Dec 17, 2014
Attending:  Barry Brouilette, Rosemarie Smallcombe, Steve Samllcombe, Suzette Prue, John Schroeder, Jay Johnson, Russ Bockhop, George Catlin

Mariposa Biomass Project Incorporation -- next steps
MBP has been approved by the California Secretary of State as a corporation and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has provided an Employer Identification Number.  The EIN is required to complete the application for tax exempt (501(c)(3) status).  Originals of official documents are in the Offline Solar office.   The next major step is to prepare and submit the application for tax-exempt status.  That requires that we satisfy ourselves that we meet the conditions identified in the IRS’ Form 1023-EZ Eligibility Worksheet and then complete the Form itself.  1023 EZ is a streamlined version of the application that we appear to be eligible to use.  It asks about annual gross income limits ($50,000) and other variables we may exceed eventually.  Our current belief is that if/when we exceed the EZ limits we, or whoever is running MBP at that point, can upgrade.  Suzette, Rosemarie and Al Anderson will review the Worksheet and discuss responses to question on the Form.     
We also need to file statement of information with the Secretary of State.  It requires three directors/officers.  Barry volunteered to join Jay, Suzette and George on the list for purposes of preparing the Form 1023-EZ.
Rosemarie will craft a first set of by-laws based on templates from the internet and other local groups. They have to specify that assets and income will not flow to MBP officers or directors. Reimbursement for major expenses will be addressed.      

Transfer of responsibilities
As of January 1st Rosemarie wants to reduce her role in MBP as she takes on the responsibilities of County Supervisor.  She will still participate but needs to remain far enough away to be able to vote on MBP matters presented to the County Board of Supervisors.  That means she’d have to leave the room for any discussion we have about issues potentially involving the county. 
Next meeting will be called and run by Jay.    
Statement of Work for Fuel Availability Study
We received documents with 1) a general outline of what fuel availability studies usually include, 2) a draft Scope of Work (SoW) from TSS Consultants and 2) a list from Beck of what they could do.  Need to close circle with Megan Atkins and Bob Bartholomew re statement of work for the fuel availability study.  Rosemarie will make a list for the SoW and circulate it.  We should all send comments to Jay.    
Economic viability 
Our project would be enhanced if we had a use for the heat.  A lumber mill integrated into our plan would be a good addition as it would use logs, provide more fuel (off-cuts) and could use heat.   Bob Evans would be a good person to include in the conversation. Barry will invite Bob to the next meeting.  Also unclear if there is any market for bio-char.  The third component of viability (in addition to electricity) is having someone else pay for harvesting fuel.  One of those three would have to come through to make this work. 
If there is a market for biochar then sequestration is by far the best ecologically, but you get less energy (maybe 30% less) out of the wood.  Some manufacturers are now making portable units that get transported into the forest and make biochar and bio-fuel right there in the forest, but no electricity. Multiple other technologies for converting heat to electricity were mentioned that we might do well to get educated on. The forest service would also be a good group to talk with to see what they are planning and doing on fuel reduction.     

Outreach to Other Groups
Several members suggested that we may want to reach out to other organizations such as –
UC Merced -- invite Leroy Westerling and/or Steve Shackelton who have expressed some interest in our project and might have some ideas about how UCM could support our effort or a person at UC Merced who specializes in solar thermal technologies
US Forest Service -- Dave Martin might be willing to talk with us even though he’s retired from USFS or find someone else who could provide an overview of their plans
Humboldt State -- regarding the research they’re conducting pursuant to the $5.8 Million grant
Washington Department of Natural Resources – Chuck Hersey regarding mobile pyrolysis technologies
CalFire – ask where they’re spending their money and what their priorities are
Discuss with CalFire and NRCS (Robyn Smith) whether it’s possible at some time to include provisions in their agreements with landowners that would encourage them to make their biomass available to the MBP facility.
It would also be good to invite someone from SNC to come to a future meeting. 

Reminder that Rosemarie was told by a PG&E person that they really don’t want bio-mass projects.  She was subsequently told by the same person that the 50 megawatts of energy carved out for biomass under the recent law are already gone/spoken for.  In a phone conversation Angie says that can’t be true because the auction likely won’t take place for another two years.    

Next meeting will be Jan 7 or 14 depending on who is available to come from other agencies. 

Mariposa Biomass Meeting Oct 29, 2014
Attending: Jay Johnson, Barry Broulette, Rosemarie Smallcombe, Steve Smallcombe, George Catlin, Gary Francisco, Len McKenzie.

  1. Discussion of results of PG&E’s Rule 21 Analysis.  Angie Lottis (SWET) forwarded PG&E’s response which indicates we will need a supplemental review later in the process.  Our goal is to figure out what PG&E will require to connect to their grid.  The results of their review indicate that we won’t need to purchase significant interconnect hardware; a few thousand dollars rather than several hundred thousand.  Connecting to PG&E is reportedly (from Greg Stengel) the hardest part of the process, only because they really don’t want to work with small independent electricity suppliers.  Under SB1122, they have to buy up to 50 megawatts from biomass sources at a price that may fluctuate somewhat via an auction process.  We agreed that our best approach is to simply go step by step recognizing that they may/will resist and not pressuring them until necessary. 

The real issue before us not is not PG&E, but the financial viability of the project.  For the project to be viable we need one of three things to happen.  Either need to sell the heat, have a strong biochar market or have a third party fund the forest thinning activity.  To sell the heat we would need to locate the plant next to a large heat user like the hospital, but ideally that facility would need to be located near a PG&E substation so that we can also sell the electricity.  Alternatively we would need to locate a heat using industry near the plant. A lumber mill would be good as the heat could be used to produce kiln dried lumber.   Funding for forest thinning activities could be associated with government grants and/or Forest service and NPS efforts to thin the forest for fire safety and forest health.  There are a number of such grants available, at least this year (although we as an organization are not yet ready to apply), but we should be when we are ready to utilize the biomass. 
We decided to postpone this discussion until after the fuel availability study.  And there the question is, should that study include a cost element (harvesting and delivery).  From Angie the answer is “yes.”  It would give us more credibility and would be useful for our Economic Viability study.  Cost is the issue, as we know the biomass is there.  We need to know what those costs are and then see if others will bear some or all of that cost.  Because it is a public safety issue, government should invest in addressing it and currently is doing so, e.g., allocation of SRA fees and Cap and Trade funds.

2. Developing a statement of work for the fuel availability study.  Jay spoke with a couple of companies.  Road density, slope and vegetation all go into calculating supply and costs.  One company is too busy for the next six months to even look at this.  TSS, who did study for North Fork, is very interested.  They recommended looking at a 30 mile radius, questioned plant size, and indicated real knowledge of how to estimate how much material is there. He sent a sample scope of work statement.  We would want to make sure our study included whatever sources and factors are unique to us, including the Park Service.

Our next step would be to put together a scope of work statement and send it to TSS and any others.  We can start evaluating proposals before the money to pay for it is actually available.  Jay will contact RW Beck for their input.        

3. Discussion of incorporation (and subsequent 501(c)(3) status).  Suzette Prue is willing to be our CFO.  There are multiple forms and applications Rosemarie is working through.  We would be a “C35” – organizations that conserve energy and protect the environment.  Rosemarie will pay filing fees ($50) out of her campaign dollars

4. Report on RCD Collaboration.  RCD board did hear our presentation and got all their questions answered but took no actions because no actions were being requested.  They are receptive to serving as a fiscal agent in the future.  This spurred discussion of the need to continue approaching multiple groups to educate them on what we’re doing and why. 

5. Other business / announcements.  Rosemarie will be withdrawing from a lead role in this effort as she assumes office.  Once we incorporate, Jay will be our CEO.  George has agreed to serve as Secretary and Suzette Prue as Treasurer.  Those three names are key to filing for incorporation.  Name: Mariposa Biomass Project.

Mariposa Biomass Meeting Oct 1, 2014
Attendees: Megan Atkinson (Fire-Safe Council), Doug Balmain, Jay Johnson, Steve Smallcombe, Gary Francisco, John Schroeder, Rosemarie Smallcombe, George Catlin, Len McKenzie
1. Fuel Availability Study.  This is crucial – especially to the SWET and prospective investors – because Mariposa is unusual in that we don’t have a history of commercial harvesting to demonstrate fuel availability, so supply needs to be fully documented.

  • Rosemarie sent out an initial draft that Megan forwarded to the Fire-Safe Council grantor (Stanislaus Forest Service) for the study.  She has not heard back yet.   The document can and will be adjusted in response to feedback.
  • Email response from Angie Lottes (SWET):  Could add scope of the analysis – sources at a distance and cost to gather; we should work to develop an investment grade document for later use. 
  • Discussed the question of how far into cost analysis this study should go as opposed to the full feasibility study. TSS, the group that has done previous studies, evidently has a model they use to develop cost estimates.  We want to have conversations with at least three consultants who perform such studies so that our Statement of Work clearly identified all the information we need to see in this report. 
  • From Megan:  This is new territory for the Fire Safe Council so administrative processes are not clear to them.  Interested in breakdown of costs for study and how involved they would need to be administratively.  Our current understanding is that whomever we hire will handle everything; Megan indicated the grantor has flexibility.   If we find the scope of this study, including cost to deliver the material to the facility, is above the $10,000 figure, we should get back to her. 
  • Reached Angie Lottes by phone.  She said that cost of extraction is definitely a significant part of what they would expect would be included in this study.  She is looking for consultant firms in addition to TSS we could talk with and will get that to us asap.  She forwarded spreadsheet to Peter Tittmann at UC Berkley and has not heard back.  She provided his email address: PWT@Bekeley.edu so we can communicate with him directly.  SWET is unsure about researching biochar markets, but a third party is interested in it – particularly for water filtration - and she will hear about that by the end of the week.  Also the big $5 million grant to Humbolt State includes money for looking into markets for bio-char.  No news on whether PG&E has gotten the check from them for the interconnect study. 
  • Jay will talk to whatever firms Angie names to generate ideas for the RFQ.

2. 501c3 status.
-  Brooke agreed we can use Off-line Solar as the address for Service of Process.
- Rosemarie reported hearing from several people that official 501(c)(3) status would help us in our pursuit of further grant funding.
- General agreement that it would be good. 
- Funding:  $400 cost could be covered by remaining funds in SWET or possibly by funds Rosemarie has left over from campaign funds if that is actually okay legally and ethically.  Also we could all make individual contributions or solicit donations. 
- incorporate first and then file for tax exempt over next 26 months.  In terms of possible roles within the legal structure Jay is obvious CEO, George as Secretary, and CFO might be Suzette.  Rosemarie will talk to Suzette about this. 
4.  Nothing new on the spreadsheet.  Jay will send spreadsheet out to the group.  Send any questions back to him.
5.  Preparation for RCD board presentation.  Meeting tonight at 5:00 at Ag building.  We’re exploring whether they would be fiscal agent for any future grants.  Rosemarie will present who we are – using mission statement – where we are, and open it up for their questions.     
6.  Next meeting Oct. 29 at 9:30 at Off-line Solar.

Mariposa Biomass Meeting - Sept 17, 2014
Attendees:  Steve Smallcombe, Jay Johnson, Gary Francisco, John Schroeder, Rosemarie Smallcombe, George Catlin, Barry Brouilette, Gary Colliver, Bob Bartholomew, Russ Bockhop

  1.  Bob Bartholomew reported that money exists for the fuel availability study.  Money is there, the Fire Safe Council applied for a grant which has been pre-awarded.  The grant administrator confirmed that some money from that grant may be used for the fuel availability study.  They put in for $10,000, but there may be some flexibility on that number.  Money is coming from the Forest Service thanks to the Fire-Safe Council.    Can’t be spent until early 2015.

Question of who might do the study, but TSS Consultants seem to be a leading candidate.  Because it is federal money it must go out to bid, but we are not required to go with the lowest bid.  Mariposa Fire-Safe Council will be the grant administer.

2. Report from Jay Johnson on his conversation with Greg Stangl, CEO of Phoenix Energy.  Jay wanted to find out more about bio-char production and sales.  Merced is a half megawatt facility only producing about 100 pounds/day.  Modesto is producing more biochar.  Greg can’t sell more biochar as the market doesn’t exist.  35 cents per pound is his wholesale price; 69 cents retail.  The filtration market appears to be more promising long term than agriculture (which provides no long term contracts).     Tahoe used low bone dry ton figure and got a long term contract from Placer County for biochar to make their numbers work.  Greg recommended we process materials on site to separate fines (sawdust) from the chips.

Activated carbon (cleaned) is what’s needed for filtration.  Big buyers know how long the carbon they’re buying will last and are therefore reluctant to introduce different carbon into their process.  There is a broker in Sacramento who is getting his organic biochar from Colorado and quoted a very low price @ 5 cents/pound.

3. Review Jay's spreadsheet (with new numbers).  Numbers look very good with biochar and thermal energy sales.  Numbers currently include us paying for fuel removal but there is some reason to believe The Forest Service, Park Service, and/or BLM may pay for some of that, either directly or through grants.  Jay will contact Peter Tittmann to review the spreadsheet.

4. Review Angie Lottes' responses to questions that arose during our last meeting.  PG&E interconnect response delayed.  Coming around the 24th.

5. Report on meeting with Cal Fire.  They are already on our side and very supportive of our efforts.  They’re interested in helping us find funding for studies.   

6. Report on Carbon Sink Act meeting in Sacramento.  Steve and Rosemarie went to a meeting on carbon sequestration and forest health.  A law was passed a couple of years ago that mandates carbon sequestration in the forests themselves.  They made good contacts. 

7. Discussion of 501(c)(3) status.  Rosemarie talked with John Brady who said it is a process but not too hard.  Would need to incorporate.  Megan Atkinson of the Fire Safe Council said we definitely need to do it.  Opens doors to lots of grant money. 

8. Update on RCD fiscal agent status.  Decision postponed.  Since the Fire Safe Council has come forward this is less important right now.

9. Other business / announcements; sawmill potential??  Area sawmills are booked (backed up a good four years) and do we want to consider adding a sawmill to this project? Could use the heat for drying.


Mariposa Biomass Meeting  Sept 3, 2014
Attendees:  Steve Smallcombe, Jay Johnson, Suzette Prue, Gary Francisco, John Schroeder, Rosemarie Smallcombe, George Caitlan

  1.  The main topic was an initial look at the impressive spread sheet Jay has prepared that incorporates all the variables we have thought of that should go into a financial analysis of the Project.  He will be sending that out to all of us for further investigation into what the right/best numbers are to plug into it.  There are as many as 30 variables on the expense side (plant cost, cost per bone dry ton of biomass, employees, etc.) and two big ones on the income side (sales of electricity and bio-char).  Jay will also be sending out a word document explaining the spread sheet.  Remember, for now this is a work in progress that we would not want to go public until we have more confidence in our numbers.
  2. We agreed on the following wording for our mission statement:  The Mariposa Biomass Project will establish an economically viable facility to reduce the impact of wild fires on public and private lands, enhance public safety and encourage healthy forests by converting locally harvested wood waste to marketable electricity and bio-char. 

3. We approved John’s FAQ’s with thanks. They will go on the website. 

4. Some big, unanswered questions for us include the long term demand and price for biochar and the relative advantages and disadvantages of being a 501c3 (non-profit) vs an LLC.  Angie/SWET may be looking into both of these. 

5. At the RCD meeting Wednesday night they will decide about being our agent for an initial grant application.

6. Rosemarie and Steve and anyone else who wants to will meet with Rich Drozen, CalFire Battalion Commander, at 2:00 on Thursday.  He sounded initially positive about our effort. 

7. We should receive the report on our Rule 21 application to PG&E within ten business days.   

8. SWET will be meeting next Monday (conference call).  Get any questions for them to Rosemarie.  She will (has already) circulated their questions to us re biomass supply, and we should be adding whatever further questions appear to be relevant.  Rosemarie has sent those questions to various officials who may have answers, but they have been busy with fires.  She will follow up. 

9. Next meeting: Sept. 17, 9:30 at Off-line Solar.   

Mariposa Biomass Meeting Aug 13, 2014

Attendees – Marshall Long, John Schroeder, Gary Colliver, Suzette Prue, Doug Balmain, Len McKenzie, Jay Johnson, Steve Smallcombe, Rosemarie Smallcombe

Discussion of presentation to Mariposa RCD Board and results – Len, who is a Director on the RCD Board, and John, who is an Associate Director, both said that our presentation and the subsequent discussion were well received by the RCD Board and that the Board is likely to approve our request that the RCD act as our fiscal agent.  Len noted that the RCD charges an 8% fee to administer any grant and that fee should therefore be factored into the grant application. He also said, in response to a question, that the RCD is a special district.  It therefore has specified responsibilities and it is governed by rules that are contained in the Public Code.   So, having the RCD as our agent would add credibility to our application.  John noted that organizing as a 501((c)(3) would necessitate that we establish good recordkeeping procedures and file regularly with the IRS.

-- Review of meeting with Megan Atkinson and Bob Bartholomew at Mariposa Fire Safe Council – Both Megan and Bob said the Mariposa FSC support the concept of biomass in our county.  They would certainly allow us (or an independent agent) to take their chipped material to the biomass facility.  Megan also said she had contacted the grant administrator of a USDA grant that might help fund our Fuel Availability study.  The administrator has promised to investigate and provide an answer.

-- Review of presentation to and discussion with American Indian Council of Mariposa County – The Southern Miwuk Tribe is also interested in biomass in Mariposa County.  Bill Tucker said they would be quite interested in setting up a team that could identify, restore and protect sacred sites and burial grounds in areas in Mariposa that would be cleared to provide feedstock.

-- Other meetings and phone conversations – Suzette and Steve reported on our meeting with Tom Bohegian, California Director for Barbara Boxer, and Ameen Khan, Director of her Central Valley office.  They offered to be available to contact federal government agencies, e.g., USDA, to support any grant applications we might submit.

-- Is anyone in the group familiar with an energy related project in Humboldt County?  This question arose during our meeting at Barbara Boxer’s office based on a comment by Ameen.  Gary Colliver noted that he had provided some information earlier.  The Humboldt County project with which he’s familiar was an assessment of how the County might reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions.  There is a notebook in the Offline Solar office with information on this project.

-- Contact Matrix – Please help fill in the blanks.  Rosemarie to send out again.

-- Draft Mission Statement – The group discussed George’s draft.  Rosemarie to incorporate recommended changes and circulate to the group.

-- Follow up on FAQs for our website  -- Gary Colliver and John to work on their FAQs

-- Next steps –

The group agreed that we should have a presentation that group members can use to present information about Mariposa Biomass Project to other groups and individuals in Mariposa.  Steve is to load the presentation we made to the Mariposa RCD on the website.  Everyone should take a look and make suggestions for changes.  John agreed to provide educational information for incorporation into the presentation.

Gary Colliver also suggested that we modify the handout we created for the Mariposa RCD to include statement to the effect that all are welcome to attend our meetings – dates and times are posted on our website – and members of our group would be happy to present to any interested groups.

-- Next meeting date – September 3, 2014.
NOTE:  After the meeting, some members suggested that we should organize ourselves as a 501(c)(3).   That would give us more credibility when we apply for grants.