• Evelyn Walter

VGRID Proposes Turning California’s Dead Flammable Trees into Biochar

As the toll from California's fast-expanding wildfires rises year after year, the state's future appears hazy. Yet, the science is clear: human-caused climate change is fueling uncommonly fierce and extended wildfire seasons in the western U.S. The quantity of dry, warm and windy days in California has dramatically increased since the 1980s, creating ripe conditions for infernos that have razed communities. While there’s no quick and easy solution to the issue, VGRID Energy Systems, Inc. has launched its M100 Bioservers to help address the state’s challenges through biochar production. The bioservers are mobile gasifiers that convert waste biomass into biochar and electricity.



"Last year, California wildfires emitted 112 million metric tons of CO2. That is equivalent to 25 million vehicles," said Greg Campbell, CEO of VGRID. "To put that in perspective, there were only 1.7 million electric vehicles sold worldwide last year."

To address the fire conditions, California Governor Gavin Newsom called for $2 billion to remove dead and dying trees that serve as tinder in the state’s dense forests. VGRID proposes to put all that dead vegetation to good use. The company’s M100 Bioservers take biomass from vegetation such as dead trees and turn it into renewable electricity and biochar.

Biochar is a form of black carbon that’s a byproduct of burning biomass such as wood, sawdust or bark, yielding a more stable form of carbon. Its power lies in its ability to sequester carbon and improve soil health. VGRID's Bioservers change over biomass, like dead trees, into clean energy and biochar. The servers run on biomass and agriculture waste to generate electricity and co-produce agricultural-grade biochar that farmers can then use as a soil amendment.


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Adding biochar to soil helps improve soil quality and its ability to retain water and nutrients. This means less irrigation will be needed for crops, and higher nutrient levels to bolster plant growth. Such improvements are vital in the drought-stricken state that the U.S. relies on for much of its produce. VGRID intends its system to help farmers decrease their water bills and reinvigorate farmland.

VGRID’s technology is addressing climate change through both avoiding emissions and carbon sequestration. Its processes yield renewable heat energy that can be used for district heating, water heaters and industrial processes. Its approach means that dead trees won’t release CO2 back into the atmosphere but instead sequester the greenhouse gas in usable, soil-enriching, drought-fighting biochar.

Another company helping to mitigate climate change using biochar is NovoCarbo. NovoCarbo produces biochar from plant residues such as wood chips, nutshells and compost. The biochar is then used as a soil conditioner, in biogas plants or as bedding for corrals and cowsheds.


 

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