Forest and farm byproducts can become biomass to generate energy.
High oil prices and national security are driving the market for alternative energy. Much progress has been made in deriving fuels from crops, particularly corn, but new technology is improving the efficiency in fermenting any form of biomass to produce biofuels.
UC Davis is one of the lead institutions developing biomass fuel and energy technology. Biomass can also be used in cogeneration facilities as has been implemented by Placer County. A partner in the program, Sierra Pacific Industries, produces seven megawatts of power for use at their Lincoln plant and also sells up to 13 megawatts to PG&E. Not only does this effort produce energy and revenue, it cleans up the forest to help prevent wildfires.
The development of an alternative energy industry will help create economic opportunity not only for farmers disposing farm byproducts (e.g., rice straw), but for alternative energy companies that may find the region attractive due to the research at UC Davis and the availability of abundant agriculture biomass. Add to this the growing practice of capturing methane at dairies and feedlots and the region hosts a range of alternative energy opportunities.