Graduation Date

Fall 2020

Document Type



Master of Arts degree with a major in Social Science, Environment and Community

Committee Chair Name

Yvonne Everett

Committee Chair Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Second Committee Member Name

Erin Kelly

Second Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Third Committee Member Name

Joice Chang

Third Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Subject Categories

Environment and Community


The buildup of fuels resulting from decades of fire suppression in California's Sierra Nevada mountains has made its dense forests vulnerable to high severity stand replacing wildfires. Local governments in many rural forest-dependent communities view biomass energy production as a method to restore forest health via fuel removal and waste disposal. Forest-based biomass energy facilities have the potential to be compatible with protecting water resources, habitat restoration, forest resilience, and achieving climate standards, while also enhancing regional economic stability. However, while an increasing number of communities and organizations throughout California are advocating for local small-scale renewable energy from forest-based woody biomass, less than 3% of California's energy comes from wood. In this thesis I explored the question: “Why are there so few forest-based small-scale woody biomass energy generation facilities in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range when there is an abundance of biomass?”

Through reviews of the literature and semi-structured interviews with local representatives of government, non-governmental organizations, and businesses, I utilized an approach grounded in political ecology to explore how stakeholders, place, collaborative organization, and regulatory frameworks influence small-scale (<3MW) community-based biomass energy facility development projects for the case of two communities in California’s Sierra Nevada. I applied a community capitals-based analysis to compare the North Fork and Cabin Creek biomass projects and to identify the major challenges the projects faced. This analysis demonstrated that carrying out small-scale energy project planning, feasibility analysis, fundraising, feedstock procurement, site development, and implementation require substantial community capacity that had not previously been acknowledged. Rural communities hoping to develop small-scale energy projects will need significant long-term support from state energy programs and federal land managers to be successful.

Citation Style


2020 01-15 ltr_renewal_exempt.pdf (222 kB)
IRB Approval Memo