Senator Mark Udall is among those applauding Xcel Energy’s move to spur development of a power plant run on forest biomass. The project, if approved by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, would turn excess biomass and beetle-killed timber into electricity.
Colorado’s largest utility is proposing to harness the power from a demonstration biomass plant that would be built by someone else, and to do so for 10 years. That decade long commitment may make the demonstration project more attractive to investors.
“From Colorado’s traditional timber industry to biomass energy projects, Colorado is showing the nation how we can turn brown trees into a new kind of green. This new proposal from Xcel Energy is the latest example of how Colorado is a model for a balanced and innovative energy policy — and smart forest management,” Udall said. “I look forward to seeing this idea considered further and I applaud Xcel Energy’s work to create jobs and improve the health of our spectacular national forests.”
Udall has been a strong proponent of woody biomass projects. Last year, he welcomed the U.S. Forest Service’s partnership with J.R. Ford and the Pagosa Land Company to extract forest material designated by the U.S. Forest Service for removal to promote forest health and convert the material into electricity. Udall also has heralded the efforts of private companies, like Montrose Forest Products, that are creating jobs by turning beetle-kill and other forest products into commercial lumber.
The president and CEO of Public Service Co. of Colorado, Xcel’s Colorado operation noted that his company has looked at small forest biomass projects since 2007.
“Because the overall health of Colorado forests has degraded due to drought and infestation, there has been increasing interest among various stakeholders to pursue this type of demonstration project,” said David Eves.
“Xcel Energy would gain valuable experience concerning the potential use of biomass for future electricity generation, and we would be able to determine whether this type of technology is a reasonable and promising way to address the health of our Colorado forests,” he added.
The U.S. Forest Service also is curious whether its “woody biomass byproducts” from cut trees can be feasibly used for heat and electricity.