The solution, in terms of carbon footprint, is actually carbon-negative*, which is to say that it actually reduces the mass of carbon on the planet.
Beyond green-friendliness, the system enables the deployment of decentralized power utility services, whereby the adjacent or on-site business can purchase electricity below the rates charged by the local utility provider (PG&E in Northern California), and excess electricity can be sold back to the utility on a guaranteed, long-term contract, making it an exceptional, annuity-producing investment.
After a long period of trials, followed by exhaustive permitting and entitlement processes across local, state and federal government bodies, our first site in California (the first of any such site in California) has broken ground, with an expectation of coming online in Q2 of this year.
(disclosure: I am a board member and advisor to Phoenix Energy).
* The reason biomass gasification gets counted as carbon negative from a lifecycle perspective is because it utilizes waste wood (orchard prunings and other ag residues) that is currently being landfilled.
For instance, in the county where Phoenix is currently constructing its plant, over 14,000 tons per year of wood chips are buried in a landfill, where they decompose, releasing equal parts of carbon dioxide and methane (about 25x more potent than CO2). Even with a modern methane capture system, the release of greenhouse gases from landfilling is around 4x CO2 equivalent. So rather than release its CO2 anyhow without making energy, the company gets to make energy out of it.
Secondly, gasification is not combustion; it is a thermo chemical conversion process which leaves a bulk of potential CO2 in solid form as “biochar,” i.e. instead of sending 100% of the CO2 up the stack as in a combustion process. As such, a significant amount of the carbon is left in solid form, which when soil applied has a half life of around 1,000 years.
Finally, the Phoenix approach adds two things to the equation that enhance its green-friendly proposition. One, for every KW produced with this waste product, we don’t need to produce it from anthropogenic sources (i.e. fossil fuels).
Two, because the Phoenix system is distributed, there is no loss of electricity in transmission to the consumer. By contrast, a centralized utility, like California's PG&E loses between 7% during off peak hours and 10% during peak hours (according to Cal ISO). An interesting corollary here is that that means every pollution stat you read about power plants is underestimated by up to 10% since not all of the power is productively used.
Sidebar: What is not even added to this calculation is the savings of CO2 from the transportation process, i.e. how much energy/emissions is spent hauling wood chips from their source to the landfill or how much energy is spent shipping coal from its source to the power plant. By keeping the fuel local and the use of the power local, the Phoenix approach avoids additional trucking emissions and the loss of power due to our inefficient transmission grid.