Arizona Coal Burning Plant Experiments With Woody Biomass

A group of hardhat-clad utility officials and journalists braced themselves against a bitter December breeze on Friday as they watched a metal chute spill a stream of wood chips onto a conveyor of jet black coal. Churning along at a rate of 1,000 tons per hour, the coal was headed up to the giant silos […]

A group of hardhat-clad utility officials and journalists braced themselves against a bitter December breeze on Friday as they watched a metal chute spill a stream of wood chips onto a conveyor of jet black coal.

Churning along at a rate of 1,000 tons per hour, the coal was headed up to the giant silos of Salt River Project’s Coronado Generating Station. The power plant sits among rolling hills of pinyon- juniper and shrubby grasses just north of St. Johns in eastern Arizona. Its two generating units produce up to 773 megawatts of power that help feed the electricity demand of SRP’s more than 1 million customers in the Valley.

The wood chips are part of a giant experiment for the utility to see if it would be economically and technologically feasible to burn a small percentage of biomass along with the coal.

The reason goes back to the source of the wood, in the forests around Flagstaff. The chips are finely ground ponderosa pine needles, bark, branches and trunks — collectively called biomass — that were the byproduct of forest thinning operations in the fall.

Removing a certain proportion of the trees benefits the ponderosa pine ecosystem, helps more moisture soak into soils and, most importantly for SRP, reduces the risk of severe wildfires that could torch the forest and trigger large amounts of sediment to flow into nearby water sources. The same water sources that SRP taps to deliver 800,000 acre feet, or 260 trillion gallons of water annually to municipal, urban and agricultural water users.

From the Arizona Daily Sun: http://azdailysun.com/news/local/coal-burning-plant-experiments-with-burning-woody-biomass/article_903aab0d-3c85-591d-86ea-ce3813f602f5.html

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