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Novo BioPower (formerly Snowflake White Mountain) is a 27-megawatt biomass power facility in Snowflake, Arizona located about 180 miles northeast of Phoenix, and the only one in Arizona.
Opened in 2008, the facility generates baseline power for 20,000 homes and employs 36 workers. It’s fueled primarily by small trees, tree tops, limbs, and logging byproducts from nearby National Forests, as well as from sawmills, collection yards, and orchard trimmings.
A portion of its fuel is sourced from the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI), a collaboration between federal and state land managers, the forest products industry, and some conservationists to conduct forest restoration, wildfire fuel reduction, and commercial logging in the Coconino, Kaibab, Apache-Sitgreaves, and Tonto National Forests in Arizona.
Launched in 2011, the largest restoration undertaking in the country—targeting 1 million acres over 20 years—4FRI intends to provide lumber, furniture, soil amendments, and bioenergy.
Since its inception, 4FRI has been critiqued from all sides.
The forest products industry has been frustrated with the slow pace of logging. Despite $84 million in federal funds, thus far only 80,000 acres have been thinned.
Conservationists participating in the collaborative are uneasy because of limited protection for old-growth trees. Meanwhile, other environmentalists have opposed the project from the beginning, pointing out ecological impacts and questioning the efficacy of wildfire prevention through logging.
A partnership between Concord Blue and Good Earth was originally slated to turn trees and woody residue from 4FRI logging into jet fuel, a process that has yet to be achieved on a commercial scale.
Instead, Concord Blue has just broken ground on a biomass gasification project that would convert wood into a combustible syngas to generate 1 megawatt of power.
More than just of local interest, the story of 4FRI, Novo BioPower, and biomass energy in Arizona is of national importance.
The majority of new biomass power facilities in the western U.S. are being built near National Forests in order to make use of wood from wildfire fuel reduction. In many cases, this logging would not be undertaken without a destination for the wood. How things play out for biomass in Arizona may very well be a litmus test for the rest of the country.
Unlike most media outlets, The Biomass Monitor is uniquely equipped to get to the heart of this far-reaching story. With a command of the best available science and knowledge of the many players on all sides of the issue, we promise to get you the real, balanced scoop.
All that’s missing is the funding. And that’s where you come in.
For a tax-deductible donation of $25, $50 or $100, you can help The Biomass Monitor raise the $1,500 needed to make this in-depth, feature length article come to life, including the ten hour drive from Denver, Colorado to visit the Novo BioPower facility, interviewing several key players, touring and photographing forests both before and after 4FRI logging, room and board for three days, and then writing, editing, publishing, and distributing the article.
If you’re tired of biased and superficial mainstream media and want to support independent, investigative journalism, here is your opportunity to get to the bottom of this story by making a tax-deductible donation to The Biomass Monitor.
Editor, The Biomass Monitor