Sometimes it seems utilities just can’t get away from burning things for power, even when pursuing additional renewable energy capacity. In an effort to meet the state’s renewable portfolio standard, Arizona’s major utility APS, flipped the switch on a biomass plant that will use trees cleared from Arizona’s highly combustible forests will provide the fuel for a power plant that produces enough electricity for up to 3,000 homes and businesses.Eagar, Arizona – February 23, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] In a state with aboundant solar and wind resources, the biomass plant might not be exactly what proponents of the state’s RPS had in mind, but it still counts towards the requirement. The Eagar Biomass Project, which came on line last week, will help improve the health of the nearby Apache-Sitgreaves forest by thinning Ponderosa Pine growth, while generating electricity using renewable biomass, according to APS, Arizona’s largest utility. Eagar is located about 200 miles northeast of Phoenix. This is the first biomass plant in Arizona that addresses the state’s forest health issues, said APS. This project is significant for APS as it lays the foundation for future endeavors in this field. APS is paying the majority of the approximate US$4 million cost of the construction of the plant, which will be operated by Western Renewable Energy. While APS will get the green credits to apply to the Arizona Environmental Portfolio Standard — which, by 2007 will require APS to generate 1.1 percent of its power through renewable sources — it’s the experience the company is gaining with biomass that may prove most beneficial. The Eagar plant helps APS develop a template to build biomass plants that use similar technology in other parts of the state. Biomass technology converts vegetation waste such as forest and agricultural byproducts — even yard trimmings — into clean fuel to power generators. The Eagar Biomass Project will help reduce future forest fire threats by converting the trees and other vegetation removed during forest thinning into electricity. By using the wood chips that are produced from the forested trees, APS expects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 15,000 tons per year. Trees that in the past would have been burned in the forest, now will be burned in a boiler under controlled conditions, thereby producing less emissions, said APS. Western Renewable Energy began construction of the plant in August 2001 while seeking a financial partner. APS agreed to participate in the project in February 2002.