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Science and Innovations

AZ Coal Plant Will Test Burning Biomass to Accelerate Forest Restoration

Salt River Project

Arizona’s first attempt to generate electricity with a mix of biomass and coal will take place later this year, using debris from forest thinning projects in northern Arizona.

The test run will take place at the Coronado Generating Station in eastern Arizona, operated by the Salt River Project. Officials plan to burn coal mixed with more than 2,600 tons of wood chips. That’s about the amount of biomass produced by thinning 250 acres of forest.

Bruce Hallin is the water supply director for SRP. He says biomass is not the most efficient option for generating electricity, nor is it as cost-effective as coal, “but again our motivation here is, let’s see if we can help accelerate some of these forest restoration efforts, so we can get those forest thinned and protect that watershed.”

Hallin says small trees and slash piles need to be removed from Arizona’s forests to reduce wildfire risk. The test run will show whether or not the coal plant’s infrastructure can handle burning biomass.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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