Arizona Biomass Facility to Burn Ponderosa Pine Trees

– by Ryan Randazzo, February 9, 2016, Arizona Republic

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Photo: Mark Henle/The Republic

A power plant in Northern Arizona that will run on trees thinned from the forest to prevent fires has received an air-quality permit from the state, officials said Monday.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality issued the permit to Concord Blue Eagar, an affiliate of a larger company called Concord Blue Energy.

The company must secure contracts for wood fuel from the surrounding forests, which are part of a major restoration project that aims to thin out overgrown Ponderosa pine in Arizona to reduce the threat of wildfire. The plant should be complete this year, according to Concord.

The plant will use 75 tons of wood fuel per day, according to Concord.

Previously, the company said it would attempt to make jet fuel from wood. Now, however, the company plans to use the wood to create a natural-gas-like fuel by heating it to as much as 650 degrees Celsius in the absence of oxygen, preventing it from burning. The gas can then be burned to generate electricity and the “char” left behind can be sold for other products, such as fertilizer, according to the company.

The power plant will have a capacity of 1 megawatt, which is enough electricity to power about 250 homes at once while the plant is running. The power will be sold to Navapache Electric Cooperative Inc., according to Concord.

Already a similar project in Snowflake burns thinned trees to generate electricity, with a capacity of about 24 megawatts.

The Concord plant is expected to create 12 new jobs once it is running, and require about 30 people to construct, according to ADEQ.

“The Concord Blue facility in Eagar, Arizona, offers the potential to increase the market value for small-diameter Ponderosa pine stands that we need to thin in order to create fire-adapted communities and resilient ecosystems in the forested regions of our state,” Arizona State Forester Jeff Whitney said in a prepared statement.
Concord Blue submitted an application to Apache County in December for a conditional use permit and height variance at its property. The ADEQ processed its air-quality permit in 85 days.

“Concord’s plan to use wood from forest thinning would help foster healthy forests, reduce excess wood that could fuel larger forest fires, clean up unwanted wood debris, and promote community safety,” ADEQ Director Misael Cabrera said in a prepared statement.

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