Fact 1: Glut of Biomass
The San Joaquin Valley grows most of the world crop of almonds and pistachios. These crops are in high demand and are very valuable. But, these crops, and others like them, produce an excess of woody biomass. Wood waste, almond shells, and pistachio shells produce millions of tons of biomass every harvest season.
In the past, the San Joaquin Valley had a place for the waste to go. Biomass power plants purchased orchard waste to produce electric power, but many of them are no longer working. The plants closing down has increased the price of orchard removals and caused the biomass to lose its value.
Farmers have limited options for disposing of their orchard waste:
- Some bury their waste. But this option is expensive and leads to slower decomposition. The fungal growth and nematodes also caused by this option can hurt the live trees.
- Some ship it overseas, which is expensive.
- Some burn it in piles, which causes air quality issues and requires an expensive permit.
With any of these options, farmers gain no benefit other than getting rid of their biomass. The San Joaquin Renewables plant raises the value of biomass, finally providing a much-needed and less expensive outlet for agricultural waste in the San Joaquin Valley.