Renewable energy comes to Garberville Rotary Club

Renewable energy was the subject at last week’s Garberville Rotary Club meeting at the Healy Senior Center in Redway. The guest speaker was the executive director of the Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA).

RCEA is a Joint Powers Authority whose members include the County of Humboldt; the Cities of Arcata, Blue Lake, Eureka, Ferndale, Fortuna, Rio Dell, and Trinidad; and the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District.

RCEA’s purpose is to develop and implement sustainable energy initiatives that reduce energy demand, increase energy efficiency, and advance the use of clean, efficient and renewable resources available in the region.

Marshall explained that RCEA along with Schatz Energy Research and PG&E are working together to find out if it is possible to meet electricity needs with local sources. One such program is RePower Humboldt, which is an effort to build a Renewable Energy Secure Community, or a RESCO.

He said, "We cannot import enough electricity to meet our energy needs, so we have to produce our own in some way."

Currently Humboldt County receives 51% of its electricity from the Humboldt Bay Power Plant, 9.8% from the Fairhaven Biomass Plant, 2.8% from the Blue Lake Biomass Power Plant, 19% from imports, 5.4% from hydropower, 0.1% photovoltaic, and 12% from the Scotia Biomass Power Plant, which has been closed. This is a loss of 30-40 jobs.

The problem with biomass plants has been the problem of getting the forest waste to the plants. If trucks have to be brought in to haul the debris to the plants, then it will defeat the purpose of producing more energy while also conserving energy.

The RCEA website describes developing local renewable energy resources as the primary means of meeting local energy needs that will provide energy, environmental and economic security to our community including:

o Greater availability of local energy sources.

o Less reliance on energy sources from outside the area.

o More predictable, less volatile energy prices.

o Less reliance on fossil fuels and thus less susceptibility to the impacts of "peak oil."

o Reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

o Reduced air and water pollution.

o Creation of local jobs and local economic stimulus.

o More money circulating in the local community.

Because of these benefits, communities throughout the country are looking for ways to develop local energy resources and achieve a clean energy future.

One method demonstrated by Marshall is food waste and dairy waste digester programs. Rather than going to a landfill or being distributed in other ways, these wastes could possibly be converted into energy.

Solar and wind are other possible sources of renewable energy. In recent years, Humboldt County residents have installed solar electric systems at two times the per capita rate than the state of California as a whole. And, a recent project for a wind farm near Ferndale was proposed but cancelled.

This is an exciting time for renewable energy and RCEA is always looking ahead to successfully help make Humboldt County an energy pioneer and less dependent on outside energy sources.

For more information about RCEA go to their website at

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Matthew Marshall, executive director of the Redwood Coast Energy Authority, was the guest speaker at the Garberville Rotary Club last week.