Mt. Bachelor to Reduce Carbon Emissions by 18% Through Proposed Biomass Facility

Joseph Puetz | | BrainsBrains
Mt Bachelor
The interior design of the proposed biomass facility at Mt. Bachelor. PC:

In an effort to reduce carbon emissions as Deschutes County, Oregon continues to grow, Mt. Bachelor aims to build a biomass facility that will burn woody materials to heat the West Village buildings at the ski area. The facility would cost $5.5 million and would replace the use of propane that is currently used to heat Mt. Bachelor.

One of the county commissioners, Phil Chang, who will be present when the idea is pitched to the county board, states that the county will help fund the project with grant or loan money. Chang is especially excited about the new facility because he was previously a county resource manager. Currently, woody materials that are removed to reduce available fuel for forest fires are placed into piles and then are eliminated by means of a controlled burn. This facility can instead take the material and use it to heat buildings.

Mt. Bachelor
West Village base area at Mt. Bachelor. PC:

Chang does admit that biomass facilities are under scrutiny for producing carbon dioxide when the materials are burned for energy. But the facility would produce less carbon dioxide than the current practice because fossil fuels would not have to be mined and the slash piles that are burned anyways can now be converted to usable energy. Laura Gleim, a spokesperson for the Department of Environmental Quality says the project would have minimal impact on air quality.

Using the slash piles from fuel reduction projects in the biomass facility also lessens the chances of forest fires, according to a spokesperson for Mt. Bachelor Leigh Capozzi. Pollution from burning the slash piles and less consumption of propane will also lead to less air pollution, Capozzi believes. Jean Nelson-Dean, a spokesperson for Deschutes National Forest, states that a study is being conducted between the National Environmental Policy Act and the U.S. Forest Service to determine its environmental impacts.

This new facility would burn 1,000 tons of biomass per year and would eliminate the need for 150,000 gallons of propane per year. The resort currently spends $270,000 per year on propane and once completed the facility will produce the same amount of heat for about $90,000. Many ski areas in Europe have already invested in this technology. 

Considering this season of unprecedented drought, ski areas around the country should consider ways to reduce their carbon footprint to slow climate change as well as implement practices to limit forest fires. 

Mt. Bachelor
Rendering of the proposed biomass facility at Mt. Bachelor. PC:

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